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Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) - operator of the Cooper nuclear power plant - has begun the process to identify sites that have the potential to host small modular reactors (SMR) after receiving state-allocated funding for the study.

Cooper (Image: NPPD)

The State of Nebraska allocated USD1 million of funding under the American Rescue Plan Act - a wide-ranging economic stimulus package signed into law in 2021 to support the USA's recovery from the effects of the COVID pandemic and the ongoing recession - to complete a siting study for SMRs.

Applicants for the Nuclear Plant Siting Feasibility Study Program were required to own or operate a nuclear power plant in Nebraska. NPPD said its application for funding was approved by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development on January 6: Cooper is the state's only currently operating nuclear power plant.

The first part of the two-phase study will involve a state-wide assessment to determine 15 "best locations" for siting SMRs based on geographic data and preliminary licensing criteria. This is expected to be completed this Spring.

An in-depth evaluation including detailed field environmental and constructability evaluations based on US Nuclear Regulatory Commission plant licensing criteria will then aim to reduce the 15 sites to four. It is estimated that this second phase of the study will take about a year to complete.

Engineering firm Burns & McDonnell will be assisting NPPD with the study, it said.

NPPD Generation Research Senior Program Manager Roman Estrada said the company is "very excited" to be part of the SMR siting process. "This study will not result in the immediate construction of an advanced small modular reactor, but it will give us a great look at potential areas in the state where this technology could be sited," he said.

Cooper, a 769 MWe (net) single-unit boiling water reactor, has been in commercial operation since 1974 and is currently licensed to operate until January 2034. The NPPD-owned plant was operated by Entergy from 2003 until March 2022, when the two companies mutually agreed to end the arrangement. NPPD said at that time it intends to look into the pursuit of a second licence renewal which would extend the operating licence by a further twenty years.

Cooper has been the only nuclear plant operating in Nebraska since the closure in 2016 of Omaha Public Power District's Fort Calhoun. According to information from the US Nuclear Energy Institute, nuclear power now provides nearly 18% of Nebraska's electricity, and over 38% of its carbon-free electricity.

NPPD is a publicly owned utility and a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Tuesday, 17 January 2023
Original article: world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Nebraska-begins-SMR-siting-study