Company touts benefits of micro nuclear reactors for rural Alaska

Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 6:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaskans looking for clean, safe energy sources should consider nuclear power, according to a company that is working on developing a micro nuclear reactor it says will be particularly suited for rural Alaska.

Westinghouse Electric President Eddie Saab made a presentation Friday in front of Word Trade Center Anchorage, a private non-profit that focuses on trade and business opportunities.

Saab told the crowd that the micro-reactor they’re developing, the eVinci, is small enough to be loaded on a truck or placed on a barge. Perfect, Saab says, to provide stable power for remote locations.

“For those areas that are running on transported diesel or just don’t have strong grid connections, it provides an economical and unique solution, to be able to have the power to provide the electricity they need, without having to give out any carbon emissions,” Saab said.

The company is still working on developing micro-reactors, which have yet to be approved by federal regulators. Saab said they are beginning the licensing phase with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. If all goes well, he said, the reactors could be available commercially towards the end of 2027.

Saab emphasized safety features. He said the micro-reactors use no water for cooling or operations and are completely self-contained. Life expectancy is about 8 years before the unit is completely replaced by the company.

“In terms of the waste, it is our responsibility to take back the waste, recycle it and properly store it,” Saab said.

Some environmental groups have concerns about any type of nuclear reactors.

“They’re really a false solution to the energy and climate crisis,” Pam Miller of Alaska Community Action on Toxics said.

“I think there are low carbon and renewable energy sources which should be given precedence over nuclear reactors, which have a variety of safety and health problems that have not been resolved.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy is in favor of developing the micro-reactor technology. He sponsored SB 177 that would remove some of the hurdles at the state level to positioning the reactors in the state.

“Micro nuclear technology has a potential role to play in creating low cost, reliable power for communities, remote villages, and resource development projects,” Gov. Dunleavy was quoted in a press release.

Dunleavy noted that the technology isn’t likely to be available for several years.