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By Phil Drake, Helena Independent Record

NGE3_0005 NuScale Reactor Building Cross-section

A nonprofit group that studies energy issues said Thursday that a project in Utah using small nuclear reactor technology also being considered in Montana was not feasible and that renewable energy should be considered instead.

“Too late, too expensive and too uncertain” were words used by two members of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) to describe the small nuclear reactors (SMRs) proposed by NuScale Power for the Utah Associated Municipal Power System.

David Schlissel, director of planning and analysis for the Lakewood, Ohio-based group, when asked about Montana considering SMRs to be fitted for Colstrip’s coal-fired power plant someday, warned against it.

“I hope the Legislature goes slowly, cautiously and wisely,” he said.

Schlissel, along with IEEFA energy analyst Dennis Wamsted, held a news conference discussing their 39-page report that states rising costs, likely delays and more competition cast doubt on the Utah project, which they said would begin operations in 2029. They noted there were risks involved in going with SMRs, and said promises of smarter, cleaner, safer and cost competitive technologies have been made and broken throughout the history of the nuclear power industry.

Diane Hughes, vice president of marketing and communication for NuScale, criticized the claims.

“It’s unfortunate when a report is entered into the public discourse when it is factually inaccurate and inherently flawed in its assumptions and conclusions,” she said in an email, adding it was a “wholly uninformed view of the value of advanced nuclear energy technology in meeting our energy needs and climate goals.”

The NuScale design is the only small-scale reactor to win safety approval so far from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the agency is poised to issue a rule this summer that would fully certify it, the Associated Press reported.

LaVarr Webb, spokesperson for the Utah energy cooperative, told the AP the IEEFA report omitted important facts, including the federal government’s strong support for the project. The Energy Department approved a cost-sharing arrangement in 2020 that could provide up to $1.4 billion. The plans called for 12 reactors, but the cooperative said last year that it needs only six.

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