Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is basically a group of cities that provide electrical service to their residents. These cities have banded together to produce, purchase, and distribute electrical power to their members throughout Utah and surrounding areas.

UAMPS was established in 1980 under the Utah Interlocal Cooperation Act, Title 11, Chapter 13, Utah Code Annotated 1953, as amended, and is a political subdivision of the State of Utah. Its 45 members (the “members”) include public power utilities in eight states: Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming. Each of the Members has entered into the UAMPS Agreement for Joint and Cooperative Action, which provides for the organization and operation of UAMPS. UAMPS’ purpose include the planning, financing, development, acquisition, construction, operation and maintenance of various projects for the generation, supply, transmission and management of electric energy for the benefit of the Members.

UAMPS is a project-based organization and presently operates 16 separate projects that provide a variety of power supply, transmission and other services to the Members that participate in them. The Members make their own elections to participate in UAMPS’ projects and are not obligated to participate in any particular project. In general, UAMPS and its Members that elect to participate in a project enter into a contract that specifies the services or product to be provided by UAMPS from the project, the payments to be made by the participating Members in respect of the costs of the project and other matters relating to the project.

UAMPS has recently made some preliminary movement towards producing power with nuclear energy. Here is part of their press release on the subject:

Nuclear energy has long been attractive because it emits no carbon or pollutants and produces massive amounts of reliable, stable energy, decade after decade. But the promise of a “nuclear renaissance” was dramatically interrupted by the March, 2011, catastrophic failure at the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear plant. Today, however, a new generation of small, modular reactors promises a new phase of the nuclear renaissance. We believe the technology being developed by NuScale Power, of Oregon, will produce small modular reactors (SMRs) that are safe, cost-effective, and simple. SMRs are as different from the enormous large-reactor plants built in the 1960s as a 2015 Prius hybrid is to a1960s-era Cadillac with its enormous fins and terrible gas mileage.

UAMPS has entered into a Teaming Agreement with NuScale and Energy Northwest outlining the parties’ intent to investigate developing a Carbon-Free Power Project using SMR technology, possibly at the Department of Energy’s Idaho Laboratory (INL) near Idaho Falls. It could be the first SMR project in the world. INL, whose mission is the development and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, has immense reactor experience, sufficient water resources, access to transmission lines, environmental data needed in the DOE permitting process, and strong local political support.

The Carbon-Free Power Project could consist of up to twelve 50 MW SMRs (600 MW total). Each reactor sits within a containment vessel measuring 76 feet tall x 15 feet in diameter. Each reactor and containment vessel operates independently of the other reactors inside a water-filled 8-million gallon water pool that is built below grade.

The reactor operates using the principles of natural circulation; hence, no pumps are needed to circulate water through the reactor. The system uses the natural physics convection process, providing the ability to safely shut down and self-cool, indefinitely, with no operator action, AC or DC power, and no additional water. The design simplicity allows the NuScale Power Module to be factory-built, and transported to the site on trucks. The design makes the plants faster to construct, and less expensive to operate. The footprint of a 600 MW plant is small, only 44 acres. NuScale recently won a $217 million DOE grant to develop the SMR and apply for NRC design certification approval.

No final decision regarding a Carbon-Free Power Project should be expected before 2017. But the UAMPS Board of Directors has directed management and staff to carefully investigate the possibilities and to monitor the certification and licensing process. A plant would likely not be operational before the end of 2023, when UAMPS coal plants will likely need to be retired.

Publicly-owned utilities like UAMPS are under tremendous pressure to provide cleaner energy and reduce reliance on carbon-based fuels. UAMPS believes it is prudent and wise to carefully investigate a Carbon-Free Power Project as a possible source of safe, clean, emission-free, reliable, baseload energy.

As you may know, the NuScale approach to nuclear power is to use existing light water fuel and technology (ceramic uranium oxide fuel pellets and zirconium cladding), but with much smaller reactor sizes (50 megawatt electric) that can cool completely passively in case of station blackout.

I think this is great, and if the reactors are every built at INL, I would actually get to use nuclear generated electricity at my home!

I intend to write to the city council and mayor of Brigham City to ask that they support UAMPS with this projects.  I will keep you updated.


Congratulations to Atomic Insights!

Recently, Rod Adam’s website, Atomic Insights celebrated its 20th anniversary. A hearty congratulations to Rod for his tireless work in promoting nuclear energy!

As part of the celebration, Rod republished electronically the first paper issue of his newsletter.

Here are a few samples from the newsletter:

One pound of uranium contains as much energy as 2 million pounds of oil. Releasing that energy from the uranium results in less than one pound of waste material that can be stored in a simple container for decades with no effect on the environment.

A pound of uranium is easy to move while transporting 2 million pounds of oil requires the service of about thirty standard sized tanker trucks.

People in industrialized countries are told that their way of life is wasteful and that there is not enough fossil fuel in the world to allow developing nations to duplicate our kind of prosperity. We are rarely told that the world’s stockpile of uranium and plutonium represents many decades worth of energy resources or that extensive deposits of uranium exist in the United States, Australia, and Canada. The fact that thorium, an element that is more common than uranium, has been used to fuel certain kinds of reactors is virtually unknown.

Many Americans believe that nuclear reactors are too big or too expensive. Nuclear power plants the same size as a truck engine have been built for space applications.

At least five of the 25 lowest cost electricity producers in the United States are nuclear plants.

The nuclear industry in the United States has amassed an incredible safety record of zero deaths caused by radiation. Nuclear powered submarines, cruisers and aircraft carriers have combined for over 100 million miles of ocean travel during a forty year period. The energy source has proven its merit and deserves to be carefully considered and discussed.

The newsletter concludes with this:

A New Era

It is time to begin a new discussion about energy in America, one that is based on facts and comparisons instead of one based on fear, vested political interests and ignorance. Since our government has abdicated its role in educating and moderating active debate in favor of subsidizing the interests of narrowly focused groups, we will take on the responsibility for bringing you information and discussion.

We encourage your participation in this newsletter. With the help of your questions and our attempts at response, we expect to produce a lively source of information unavailable elsewhere. Let the fireworks begin.

So, again, Congratulations Rod!


The Oracle of Omaha

There is a large and contentious ongoing debate about alternative energy, wind power being one of those alternatives. Much has been written about wind power being unpredictable and fickle,well, like the wind. This is certainly true.

I have considered economics to be the bigger issue with regard to the alternatives.  Are they really cost effective? After all, in this world, resources (time, money, and raw materials, etc.) really are scarce.  If you eat all your seed corn over the winter, when it comes time to plant in the spring, there is nothing to plant and then you are going to starve.

If wind mills are built instead of reliable nuclear power plants, we will have less energy and less money to do other things.

Well, none other than Warren Buffet has weighed in on the economics of windmills.  Here is what he says,

“I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

That pretty much puts the issue to bed for me. It’s not that I admire Mr. Buffet all that much, but I acknowledge that from an investing and financial perspective, he certainly knows what he is talking about. Windmills do NOT make sense without the tax credit.

Anti-nuclear forces have worked for decades to increase the costs of nuclear power providers, while working to get very generous subsidies for alternatives. Then they say that nuclear can’t compete with alternatives. Please!

End the subsidies to windmills, or give the same subsidies to all energy sources. After all, don’t we pretend to believe in equal protection under the law?