Dairyland Power CEO says small modular reactor being considered for Genoa site

GENOA, Wis. – At a recent event where Dairyland Power Cooperative demolished the remains of its 51 year old coal fired power plant in Genoa, CEO Brent Ridge said the cooperative is considering the site as a potential location for a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) or Micro Reactor.

“Yeah, this would be a good site for a small modular reactor or a micro-reactor,” said Ridge. “Those thoughts are all ongoing. Analysis is ongoing and we’re excited about what the future brings and what that would mean for the community, and really carbon free electricity the nuclear brings.”

Ridge said SMR technology has advanced in recent years making it a real possibility for Dairyland.

“That (technology) has come quite a ways,” said Ridge. “We’ve already seen an SMR, Small Modular Reactor, already licensed by the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission). We’ll see more in the coming years. So we think it’s a great opportunity to stay in touch with that as it goes forward. I like to be on the leading edge, not the bleeding edge. So we’d like to see one built somewhere else, and then we’re gonna move forward pretty quickly from our perspective”

That design Ridge mentions that has been licensed in the United States by the NRC comes from the company NuScale for it’s VOYGR SMR power plant.

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) refer to a type of nuclear fission reactor which are smaller than conventional nuclear reactors. These reactors are designed to be assembled in a factory and transported to the site where they will be used. SMRs are considered to be an emerging technology with various designs under development. Here are some of their potential features and benefits:

  1. Modularity: SMRs have a modular design, meaning they can be scaled by installing multiple units to create a larger overall power capacity.
  2. Flexibility: They can be used in locations not suitable for larger reactors, and their output can be scaled up or down based on demand.
  3. Economic: The factory construction promises potential cost savings over the on-site construction of conventional reactor designs.
  4. Safety: Many SMR designs offer advanced passive safety features that could reduce the risk of accidents.
  5. Waste Management: They can potentially reduce nuclear waste, or utilize newer fuel technologies that generate less waste.
  6. Deployment: SMRs can be deployed in remote areas or in regions with less developed infrastructure, providing a cleaner alternative to coal or diesel.
  7. Grid Stability: They can support existing power grids and complement renewable sources, which are prone to fluctuations.

While Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) present various benefits as emerging solutions in nuclear technology, several potential drawbacks exist, including:

  1. Costs: Although SMRs are expected to be more economical due to their modular nature, the initial development, regulatory approval, and infrastructure costs could be high. The economic benefits also depend on the successful mass production of these units.
  2. Public Perception: Nuclear energy can face public opposition related to concerns over radioactive waste, potential accidents, and association with nuclear weapons. Overcoming public perception and local opposition may pose challenges.
  3. Waste Disposal: While SMRs may produce less waste than conventional reactors, the problem of long-term radioactive waste management remains. There is not yet a permanent solution for high-level waste disposal.
  4. Security Risks: Despite their advanced safety features, the widespread deployment of SMRs could potentially increase the risk of nuclear proliferation and require rigorous security measures to safeguard materials that could be used in weapons.
  5. Regulatory Hurdles: SMRs are a new technology and may face a complex and lengthy regulatory approval process, which can slow down development and increase costs.
  6. Technological Maturity: As SMRs are an emerging technology, there may be unforeseen technical challenges and reliability issues that come to light only after extensive deployment.
  7. Integration with the Grid: The ability of SMRs to stabilize the grid alongside fluctuating renewable sources is yet to be proven on a large scale. Their actual performance and adaptability may differ from theoretical advantages.
  8. Supply Chain Limitations: The manufacturing and supply chain required to produce SMRs en masse is not yet fully developed. Creating this infrastructure could be resource-intensive and time-consuming.
  9. Competition with Other Energy Sources: SMRs must compete with the cost and development of other forms of energy, including renewables like wind and solar, which have seen significant cost reductions and have broader public support.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is providing initial funding of $30 million for five SMR developers. This funding is part of a larger $600 million package from the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). The selected companies, including Kairos Power, Westinghouse Electric Company, BWXT Advanced Technologies, Holtec, and TerraPower, are expected to contribute additional funds, resulting in a total investment of around $1 billion. These efforts demonstrate growing support for SMRs in the U.S.

Other countries around the world have also been investing in SMR technology.

Canada has launched a comprehensive 27-point SMR national action plan. This plan aims to demonstrate and deploy SMR technology, update regulations, create employment opportunities, and explore foreign markets.

While not yet deploying SMRs, the U.K. government has expressed interest and support for this technology and has invested in project initiatives to test the feasibility of the technology.

China is actively involved in SMR development. Several SMRs are either under construction or in the licensing stage within the country.

Argentina is also advancing its SMR program and is close to licensing SMR designs.

History of nuclear power at Genoa (According to Wikipedia)

Dairyland Power operated a boiling water reactor (BWR) nuclear power plant at the Genoa site from 1969 until its decommissioning in 1987. In April 1987, LACBWR was shut down due to economic viability concerns. It was placed in SAFSTOR (a deferred decommissioning strategy) in August 1991. The reactor pressure vessel was removed in May 2007 and shipped for disposal.

 The reactor pressure vessel was removed in May 2007 and shipped to Chem-Nuclear’s Barnwell, South Carolina Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) disposal facility. The shipment weighed approximately 310 tons and required a specially designed rail car.

In 2012, spent nuclear fuel from the reactor was sealed into a dry cask storage installation located immediately south of the Genoa Generating Station. Spent reactor fuel continues to be stored on site pending the creation of a national radioactive waste disposal facility such as Yucca Mountain.

In 2016, Dairyland transferred control of the inactive reactor facility to LaCrosseSolutions, a subsidiary of Utah-based EnergySolutions, for the purpose of demolition and decommissioning.

Dairyland Power Cooperative photo

In February 2017, workers spilled about 400 gallons of radioactive wastewater into the Mississippi River after leaving a hose and sump pump in a tank overnight. The wastewater contained Caesium-137 at concentrations greater than allowed under federal regulation for discharge; however, the resulting radiation was below levels considered harmful to human health. In another incident, routine tests from December 2017 to August 2018 detected elevated levels of tritium in groundwater at the site. The tritium was traced to condensation around a vent installed during demolition of the facility and the leak was mitigated before spreading to the Mississippi River.

In 2019, EnergySolutions announced that it had completed the physical demolition of the reactor. The decommissioning of the site was delayed through 2022 pending the evaluation of survey data. In February 2023, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the final decommissioning of the site. This returned the area to unrestricted use, with the exception of the independent spent fuel storage installation maintained by Dairyland Power.

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  • Can you believe this I spent 37 yrs with the REC,s and there not on top of what is going on. They like building fancy new buildings with cheap Fed Money and with high rates for the members. Look at there expanse accounts for meetings and very few with a deg in Electronic just accounting. Compare with Regular Power Company who in under Public Service Comm. not the REC,s.

  • I fear being without power during the coldest nights of the year, when the sun isn’t shining and the wind is nonexistent, more than living next to a next generation Small Modular Reactor. The technology has advanced significantly since the 1960’s and 1970’s when the three nuclear accident plants were designed and built. The poisoning of South American poverty stricken areas due to lithium mining bothers me even more. With new technology under development they will be able to reuse all of the used fuel, that has been slated for disposal, and would never have to mine uranium again. The fear mongering needs to stop, with real, practical, and sustainable solutions being moved forward.

  • The federal government says that the half-life of plutonium waste from nuclear reactors is 24,000 years. Look at the bright side. If the contract specifies that a Vermon County insurance company has to be awarded the policy for insuring the safety of nuclear waste for the next 24,000 or more years, the dollar and susbequent currencies amount would be sizable.

    • You don’t need to worry about half-lives and waste if it is recycled and reused. It is a limitless power source.

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