SMR Tech in Indiana? Dare We Hope?

I recently learned about Indiana Senate Bill 271. This is a bill that would add small modular reactor (SMR) technology to a list of low-emissions sources, including wind, solar, “clean coal,” and certain gas-based generation, which are all eligible to apply for CWIP (construction work in progress) incentives — subsidies, in a word. Here is a link to the bill.

Anyway, the bill is short — five pages, including the digest. (Senate-approved version as of 14 Feb 2022) The main body of the bill’s text would add Indiana Code 8-1-8.5-12.1 as a new Section, effective July 1st, 2022. I will summarize my thoughts here:

The target is fossil fuels. (Page 2, line 26.) The public utilities commission shall consider whether and to what extent the SMR project “will replace a loss of generating capacity… resulting from the retirement or planned retirement of… facilities that… use coal or natural gas as a fuel source.”

This wins it from a climate perspective. Direct replacement a high-emission generation plant with a low-emission one. I asked about this possibility last September at the Association of Indiana Counties conference, session on energy. It seemed at the time that the presenters, at least, weren’t really thinking about this, but clearly that was not the case.

Existing infrastructure is utilized. (Page 2, line 31) The committee is also to consider whether a new facility will be located at or near the retiring/retired one, and thus “make use of any land and existing infrastructure or facilities” controlled by the public utility.

Use what is already there. The land, the buildings, the steam generators, the transmission lines will all still be good.

The existing workforce is, or can be, preserved. (Page 2, line 34.) The committee must consider whether the new facility will “create new employment opportunities for workers who have been, or would be, displaced as a result of the retirement of an existing facility.”

This is a priority. Indiana currently, like it or not, runs on coal, and that means many, many families depend on coal. They must not be left out to dry.

Nuclear energy production is already in statute, along with such other low-emissions sources as “clean coal” and renewables. (Pages 4 and 5.)

Let’s face it, the only way Indiana will get a new nuclear project is if that project is or starts out small, and most importantly, if someone else does it first. And only once the price comes down. A large, $20+ billion project like the Vogtle expansion in Georgia is never going to happen here. We’re a stingy state, and not necessarily to a fault. (Yes, this may be arguable.) If projects in other states work out, we will hopefully have a few examples to follow. Such as:

NuScale, Idaho
Nuclear Field Activities Completed for Idaho NuScale SMR Project (Power Magazine, 2/3/2022)
DOE Awards UAMPS $1.355 Billion for NuScale SMR in Idaho (NeutronBytes, 10/16/2020)

TVA, Clinch River, Kentucky
Largest US public power company launches new nuclear program (AP News, 2/10/2022)
TVA Unveils Major New Nuclear Program, First SMR at Clinch River Site (Power Magazine, 2/10/2022)


In sum, Indiana SB adds small modular reactor technology to what already enjoys eligibility for the existing subsidies offered to other promising (or even not-so-promising) new sources of energy. Renewables like wind and solar are subsidized. “Clean coal” can be subsidized. Even a gas-fired generator can replace a retiring coal plant and be subsidized. Non-emitting nuclear power is worthy of the same support. The time to lay that foundation is now. That is what SB 271 does. That is all that it does.

But that is a lot. And it is worth it.

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