Nuclear central in Virginia's energy plan

05 October 2022

The 2022 Virginia Energy Plan, announced by Governor Glenn Youngkin, calls for a nuclear innovation hub to be established in the state and for a commercial small modular reactor to be deployed in southwest Virginia within the next decade.

Governor Youngkin launching the 2022 Virginia Energy Plan at electrical equipment manufacturer Delta Star Inc's Lynchburg facility (Image: Governor of Virginia / YouTube)

As directed by the Virginia General Assembly, every four years the Virginia Department of Energy develops a comprehensive Virginia Energy Plan.

In the foreword to the latest plan, Youngkin said: "We must reject the mindset that it is 'either/or', and embrace the reality that it is 'both/and'. In fact, the only way to confidently move towards a reliable, affordable and clean energy future in Virginia is to go all-in on innovation in nuclear, carbon capture, and new technology like hydrogen generation, along with building on our leadership in offshore wind and solar."

The plan calls for Virginia to make strategic investments in innovative, emerging technologies, including hydrogen, carbon capture, storage and utilisation, and, particularly, small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs).

The plan notes, "Today, the Commonwealth [of Virginia] is a welcome home to nuclear energy and its innovations, and two nuclear power stations - the Surry and North Anna Power Stations - produce roughly 95% of the Commonwealth's reliable, clean electricity."

In addition, Virginia is home to two of the world's largest nuclear companies, BWXT and Framatome, located in Lynchburg. Two of the 30 nuclear engineering programmes in the USA are at Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech. Six universities in Virginia offer degrees in nuclear engineering and advanced physics.

"The Commonwealth should take advantage of this incredibly competitive position on the forefront of nuclear energy research and development to become the nation's leader in SMR technology." the plan says.

"Accordingly, this plan advocates for the development of the first commercial SMR in the US in southwest Virginia and calls for developing spent nuclear fuel recycling technologies that offer the promise of a zero-carbon emission energy system with minimal waste and a closed-loop supply chain."

Introducing the latest plan on 3 October in Lynchburg, Youngkin said: "We have to be all-in in nuclear energy in Virginia. When it comes to reliability, affordability. When it comes to clean power. When it comes to the abundant nature of growing power demand, absolutely nothing beats nuclear energy. It is the baseload of all baseloads.

"I want to plant a flag right now. I want to call our moonshot. Virginia will launch a commercial small modular reactor that will be serving customers with baseload power demand in southwest Virginia within the next 10 years.

"Energy innovation - like small modular reactors - will not just honour our calling to environmental stewardship, it will also deliver economic development opportunities, job creation and a tremendous place to live, work and raise a family across the entire Commonwealth."

The plan also recommends the state collaborates with the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium - established in 2013 to represent stakeholders invested in the development of nuclear energy in the state - and higher education institutions to establish a nuclear hub in Virginia.

"A growing Virginia must have reliable, affordable and clean energy for Virginia's families and businesses," Youngkin said. "We need to shift to realistic and dynamic plans. The 2022 Energy Plan will meet the power demands of a growing economy and ensures Virginia has that reliable, affordable, clean and growing supply of power by embracing an all-of-the-above energy plan that includes natural gas, nuclear, renewables and the exploration of emerging sources to satisfy the growing needs of Commonwealth residents and businesses."

The plan says its "does not attempt to predict every technological innovation or long-term change in the production and consumption of energy". It "embraces flexibility and supports multiple technologies as a path to providing the appropriate balance of baseload and growing clean energy generation at a reasonable cost".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News