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A recent article in the Cardinal News (“Advocates worry residents are being left out of conversations about where to build Virginia’s first small nuclear reactor,” October 24, 2023) gets a number of critical facts wrong and may leave readers with misconceptions about the development of small modular reactors in the Commonwealth. We certainly understand the concerns voiced by Wally Smith in the article and want to set the record straight.
The study referenced in the article was merely to identify potential options that may be available, but no site has been selected. When a site is eventually proposed, several factors will be considered. Among these are public support for the project, proximity to population centers, and safety of both the public and the facility.
In the case of any site eventually considered, there will be ample time for public comment. Both the state and federal permitting processes allow and require public engagement to ensure the voices of all are heard. Communities in the area will absolutely have an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed project and raise any concerns they may have. I know firsthand that the opportunity for public comment on nuclear facilities is considerable and anyone who wants to speak up will have that chance.
It is important to understand that this process is just beginning. Public engagement and outreach will certainly be part of the process. Given that it may be 10 years between now and when the first SMR is potentially placed into service, and no sites have been selected yet, there have not yet been open forums to discuss a specific project.
It is worth mentioning, also, that one of the primary criteria for site selection will be the local workforce. As we deploy clean energy solutions to decarbonize the grid, many of the skills of those in the energy field will translate to jobs in supporting SMRs.
As an industry, we look forward to these conversations. We welcome the opportunity to engage with the public in an open and transparent manner to hear concerns and allay any misconceptions about SMRs or the siting process, and to discuss the benefits of these new technologies to the region.
As we move closer to site selection, and eventually to construction and operation, the community will have ample time to engage in the process and we, as an industry, will provide public notice of hearings, and welcome engagement.