Science, Health and Technology
5:36 pm
Tue October 30, 2012

Ameren rallies support for nuclear plans

Originally published on Tue October 30, 2012 5:27 pm

The St. Louis-based utility company Ameren is continuing to rally support for its plan to build small modular nuclear reactors in Missouri.

Together with its partner in the venture, Westinghouse Electric Company, Ameren held what it called a “supplier summit” today in St. Louis.

Ameren Missouri president and CEO Warner Baxter says the purpose of the meeting was to introduce the concept of small modular reactors to companies that could supply the parts to build them.

“What we’re trying to do here is begin that partnership process, giving them information that will help them make better decisions down the road, to help support this new technology,” Baxter said.

Summit keynote speaker, Boise State University economist Geoffrey Black, says no one has ever built a small modular nuclear reactor.

But the idea is that it would be small — with about one-fifth the power output of existing nuclear power plants — and modular, with standardized, factory-made components.

Black says that would make it a lot easier to build.

“The construction time’s much shorter, and the cost is much less, and so in terms of financial risk and capital requirements, it’s a much better way to go for utilities,” Black said.

Building a small modular reactor would still cost at least a billion dollars.

In April, Ameren and Westinghouse applied for $452 million in federal matching funds to help them build up to five small modular reactors at Ameren’s Callaway nuclear power plant.

In the long term, the companies hope to turn Missouri into a worldwide hub for producing them. But even if everything goes their way, the first one wouldn’t go online in Missouri until at least 2021.

Opponents of more nuclear development in Missouri say the plan is too costly and that there is no safe way to dispose of radioactive waste.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

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