Washington State-based joint action agency Energy Northwest on Jan. 10 announced an agreement with Puget Sound Energy to accelerate the agency's program examining the feasibility of developing and deploying a next-generation nuclear energy facility.
The agreement, a $10 million investment by Puget Sound Energy in Energy Northwest's new nuclear project feasibility phase, will guide future participation and investment decisions.
The collaboration does not obligate Puget Sound Energy to any future financial commitment nor signify an ownership interest in a developed project.
State policies requiring a substantial increase in clean electricity are leading utilities to evaluate potential sources of new clean energy generation “and nuclear energy possesses many of the key attributes vital to establishing a reliable, emissions-free electric grid,” Energy Northwest said.
New nuclear energy technologies, such as advanced small modular reactors, are approaching commercial readiness and feature enhanced safety systems, simplified, standardized, and scalable designs and the ability to both swiftly integrate with renewables and provide around-the-clock electricity, the JAA said.
“Energy Northwest is committed to developing clean energy resources capable of helping Washington state meet its climate and carbon reduction goals. As we de-carbonize the electric grid, it is increasingly evident new sources of carbon-free, reliable, and affordable electricity must be deployed -- and advanced nuclear energy technology can play a vital role in this transition," said Bob Schuetz, Energy Northwest CEO, in a statement.
“Energy Northwest's partnership with Puget Sound Energy underscores our shared commitment to address the climate challenge and meet the region's future clean energy needs with the help of new and innovative carbon-free nuclear energy technologies," he said.
Energy Northwest has been at the forefront of explorations into the viability of building a next generation nuclear energy plant in central Washington for several years.
“Such a facility could prove invaluable in meeting the state's climate goals without jeopardizing the reliability and affordability of the electric grid,” Energy Northwest said.
As the owner of Columbia Generating Station, the Pacific Northwest's only commercial nuclear power plant, as well as the developer and operator of a full suite of renewable and energy storage resources, Energy Northwest is well-positioned to investigate and facilitate a potential project, it said.
The financial commitment by Puget Sound Energy will supplement the approximately $10 million contributed to date by Energy Northwest and supporting entities, including nearly $1 million in combined investment from 17 Northwest public utilities.
For over two years Energy Northwest thoroughly investigated numerous emerging nuclear energy technologies, arriving at the determination X-energy's advanced small modular reactor – known as the Xe-100 – is the design best tailored to the region's specific needs.
The ongoing analysis of project structures, schedules, and overall viability will inform future project investments and ultimately the prudency of a final investment decision.
Energy Northwest comprises 28 public power member utilities, serving more than 1.5 million customers.
Washington State-based Puget Sound Energy serves approximately 1.2 million electric customers and 900,000 natural gas customers in ten counties over 6,000 square miles.