Two grants totaling $150,000 have been awarded to the LENOWISCO Planning District Commission for site and supply chain studies related to the small modular nuclear reactor proposed for Southwest Virginia.
A grant for $100,000 will be used to “examine the feasibility of developing multiple Small Modular Reactor site locations,” while the second grant for $50,000 will be used to pay for an SMR supply chain analysis, according to a news release from Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
The projects were two of 17 that received more than $8.1 million in the most recent round of GO Virginia awards focused on creating talent pipelines and accelerating economic growth, Youngkin said.
The grants represent the first real public signs of steps being taken toward establishing an SMR in the coalfields region. Last October and again on Thursday, Youngkin vowed that Virginia will be the first state to launch an SMR in the United States, and he said it will be located in Southwest Virginia.
SMRs are smaller, simpler versions of traditional nuclear reactors and would produce about a third of the power produced by the big reactors. They have been touted as a safe and efficient way to generate zero-carbon electricity, although concerns have been raised about the waste and some say they are risky and unproven.
The governor has said the SMR would likely be located on a former coal mine site in Southwest Virginia, although no specific sites have been discussed. LENOWISCO serves the counties of Lee, Scott and Wise and the city of Norton.
For the SMR site feasibility study, LENOWISCO will work with “independent subject matter experts” to examine developing multiple locations within the Lonesome Pine Regional Industrial Facilities Authority’s geographic footprint, the news release states. That footprint covers the same area as LENOWISCO, plus Dickenson County.
The SMR supply chain analysis will be done by LENOWISCO in partnership with the Lonesome Pine authority. They will prepare a report that will be used to identify “existing businesses for retooling and recruiting new businesses to provide the basis for manufacturing jobs needed to support the small modular reactor supply chain,” according to the release.
Duane Miller, LENOWISCO’s executive director, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment late Friday.
All of the projects awarded grants will support the growth of select industries across the commonwealth by training and connecting talent to employers, supporting entrepreneurs seeking to start companies and creating supportive economic environments for the targeted industries to grow, the release states.