Readers have been asking questions about the small modular reactor Gov. Youngkin wants to bring to Southwest Virginia since Cardinal News began reporting on it. We’ve been listening. Here is everything we can tell you about some of the most frequently asked questions about the project.
Given its nuclear experience, Virginia is well-positioned to deploy small modular reactors. Leaders from both parties recognize nuclear technology must play a central role in securing America’s clean energy goals and maintaining grid security and reliability.
Both Dominion and Gov. Youngkin’s office included SMRs in their 2022 plans, but expanding nuclear is not as timely and efficient as proponents claim. Solar, wind and new energy storage technologies can address the entire decarbonization problem.
Questions surround the plan for a small modular reactor in Southwest Virginia and many center on waste. Although there aren’t many answers yet, the only approved SMR design’s waste would have a lot in common with spent fuel from today’s nuclear reactors, about which we know a lot.
Panelists debated the SMR that Gov. Youngkin has proposed for Southwest Virginia Thursday. Some residents and environmental agencies say they’ve been left out of the discussion and SMRs are unproven technology, others argue it’s the best way to go carbon-free.
The Richmond based utility is evaluating several sites in Southwest Virginia, including retired fossil fuel plants and former coal mines. Appalachian Power Company says it’s also looking at the new nuclear technology.
Feelings about nuclear energy generally split along left-right lines. But while Gov. Glenn Youngkin is pushing nuclear energy in Virginia, it’s left-of-center governments that are now pushing small nuclear reactors internationally and a conservative state legislator in Southwest Virginia who opposes them.
Youngkin and other nuclear proponents say Southwest Virginia’s abundant abandoned coal mine land and the need for jobs and economic development make the region an ideal spot for a small modular nuclear reactor. Critics say they’ve been left out of the discussion.
Small modular nuclear reactors are about a third of the size of typical reactors. There are no SMRs operating in the U.S., but experts say Virginia is equipped to build one if approvals go through.
The announcement comes after Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared support for such a reactor in Southwest Virginia.