Alaskan Governor introduces legislation on microreactors

8 February 2022

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy on 1 February introduced the first bill in a package of energy legislation intended to promote energy independence, long-term cost reductions, and competitive markets in both urban and rural Alaska. 

Senate Bill 177 will allow communities across Alaska to explore new opportunities related to microreactors. Two significant projects are already being planned at Eielson Air Force Base and in Valdez with the support of the Copper Valley Electric Association.

Dunleavy noted that 12% of the world’s sustainable microgrid power “is produced right here in the Last Frontier”. He added: “No one out-innovates Alaskans. For communities seeking more options to end their dependence on diesel and heating oil, we want to ensure that our statutes give them the opportunity to explore what many experts believe may be a generational leap forward in terms of clean, reliable, and cost-effective off-grid power.” 

Copper Valley Electric Association CEO Travis Million said “Copper Valley Electric Association supports the governor’s legislation to streamline the State’s permitting process for microreactors. With a feasibility study already underway in Valdez, this legislation ensures Alaska remains on track to be an early leader in microreactor technology.” 

Copper Valley teams up with USNC for fesibility study

Meanwhile, Copper Valley Electric Association (CVEA), which provides electrical and heat services to more than 3800 business and residential customers, announced that it is collaborating with US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) to determine the feasibility of building the first commercial installation of a Micro Modular Reactor (MMR®) Energy System in Alaska.

CVEA is not interconnected to any other electric utility and is dependent on expensive and volatilely priced liquid fossil fuels to provide 30% of its annual generation requirements, virtually in all the winter months when less hydropower is available.

The study is designed to determine the technical feasibility, social acceptance, location, cost, and operating specifics of what is projected to be a 10MWe high-temperature, gas-cooled microreactor. 

“We want to prove to Alaskans that our technology can meet Alaska’s unique energy needs by providing reliable and clean power to small populations dispersed across vast distances, despite harsh climate, geography, and other environmental conditions,” said USNC CEO, Francesco Venneri.

He added that CVEA is an ideal utility for the MMR site as it is an islanded electric system that is on the state’s road system, which will facilitate access during construction and eventually make it easier for onsite observations, staffing, and high-speed broadband communication necessary for security and operations.

Million said: "Priorities for CVEA are to study the application of MMR technology in decarbonising the utility’s energy portfolio, increasing efficiency, lowering the cost of operations and stabilizing winter rates when an increase in diesel generation would be necessary.”

This project is intended to replace liquid fossil fuel generation and result in a significant reduction of CO2 and other pollutants. 

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