Reject $25 Million for new nuclear power at Hanford

Washington’s pro-nuclear agency, Energy Northwest has asked the Washington state legislature for a whopping $25 million to support misguided plans to build new small modular nuclear reactors (SMNRs) at Hanford, already the Western Hemisphere’s largest nuclear cleanup site.

This request, opposed by the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, would allow siting of SMNRs and their radioactive waste at Hanford, already the Western Hemisphere’s largest nuclear cleanup site.

Take action: Tell Washington state legislators to reject Energy Northwest’s $25 million budget request for new nuclear reactors at Hanford

To: Washington State Legislators:

I urge you to oppose Energy Northwest’s budget request for $25 million toward the development of small modular nuclear reactors (SMNRs) at the Hanford nuclear site. The science is clear: nuclear power is a dirty, dangerous, and expensive form of energy. Taxpayer dollars are better spent on renewables, storage, energy efficiency, and Tribally led projects that we know are part of a just transition to a clean energy future. 

Some of the problems with SMNRs include:
  1. SMNRs pollute and burden Tribal communities. The nuclear industry is far from “clean.” It is an extremely dirty technology, beginning with uranium mining which decimates Indigenous lands, and ending with radioactive waste that will be with us for generations. SMNRs produce two to thirty times the radioactive waste per unit of electricity generated than older nuclear designs. Since we have no national nuclear waste repository, the waste from any new reactor at Hanford would be stored at Hanford, already the most contaminated place in the Western Hemisphere. The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation oppose this budget request.

  2. SMNRs are too costly and take too long to come online. Nuclear energy now costs five times more than renewable energy options such as solar and wind. Nuclear power plants are notorious for their outrageous cost overruns and project delays. The International Panel on Climate Change’s latest report states that we only have eight years before we reach our global warming tipping point. We must focus our attention on affordable and immediate options, not gamble our future on the distraction of a nuclear pipe dream. Just look at the recent collapse of Oregon-based NuScale’s plans to build SMNRs; the project was seven years behind schedule and had doubled its price tag.

  3. SMNRs are dangerous. High-temperature gas reactors, such as X-Energy’s design proposal, are susceptible to failures such as water or oil intrusion, and Hanford is vulnerable to earthquakes, floods, and fires—all of which may lead to nuclear accidents. We can’t afford this risk to the Columbia River, the region’s lifeblood.

For these reasons, we ask you to reject Energy Northwest’s budget request of $25 million for SMNRs. 

Background

New Nuclear Reactors (and waste) at the Hanford Nuclear Cleanup Site? No Way!

After backing out of a similar plan a year ago, nuclear company X-energy, is back at it with a new plan to build SMNRs at the Hanford nuclear cleanup site near the Columbia River in Washington. At the same time, the US Dept. of Energy has announced that it will begin leasing land at Hanford for so-called “clean” energy projects that by its definition, includes nuclear energy production. Adding more nuclear waste to the Western Hemisphere’s most toxic cleanup site is a bad idea. In addition to adding more waste to the site, an accident at any of Hanford’s facilities could mean losing access to them all, making this an exceptionally unsafe location to site any new nuclear reactor. 

Oregon Nuclear Company’s Major Project Fails

Meanwhile, Oregon-based nuclear company, NuScale, recently pulled the plug on its plans to build SMNRs at Idaho National Laboratories near the Snake River, when a consortium of small Utah utilities who were backing the project saw the writing on the wall and backed out from the project.There is now a class action lawsuit against NuScale because it was "materially misleading and/or lacked a reasonable basis" for the positive outlook it gave to investors.  NuScale’s stock has plunged and it has laid off at least 28% of its staff.  Notably, the project was seven years behind schedule and had doubled its price tag.

Some of the problems with new nuclear power include:
  • SMNRs pollute and burden Tribal communities. While the nuclear industry claims to be “clean,” it is an extremely dirty technology, beginning with uranium mining which decimates Indigenous lands. SMNRs produce two to thirty times the radioactive waste of older nuclear designs. The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians has adopted a resolution supporting the basic principle that new nuclear power plants must demonstrate the availability of a deep geologic repository for high level waste before gaining approval, and identified that nuclear waste often places a disproportionate pollution burden on tribal communities. Since we have no national nuclear waste repository, the waste from any new reactor at Hanford would be stored on site, already the most contaminated place in the Western Hemisphere. The last thing we need to do is produce more nuclear waste that will burden future generations for thousands of years.

  • SMNRs are too costly and take too long to come online. Nuclear energy now costs five times more than renewable energy options such as solar and wind. Nuclear power plants are notorious for their outrageous cost overruns and project delays. The International Panel on Climate Change’s latest report states that we only have eight years before we reach our global warming tipping point. We must focus our attention on affordable and immediate options, not gamble our future on the distraction of a nuclear pipe dream. Just look at the collapse of NuScale’s plans to build SMNRs after the project was seven years behind schedule and had doubled its price tag for a recent example of how SMNRs fail to deliver.

  • SMNRs are dangerous. High-temperature gas reactors, such as the X-Energy’s design, are susceptible to “minor” failures and the Hanford site is vulnerable to earthquakes, floods, and fires—all of which may lead to nuclear accidents. We can’t afford this risk to the Columbia River, the region’s lifeblood.

Fortunately, we can meet our clean energy goals without new nuclear power. Instead of wasting taxpayer money on experimental new nuclear projects, we urge you to promote policies that invest in proven technologies such as energy efficiency and truly renewable solutions to the climate crisis that protect our communities and the Columbia River from the threat of thousands of years of more radioactive waste.

Nuclear energy: A false solution

"New” nuclear energy is a false solution to the climate crisis