Nebraska eyes small nuclear

Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) is searching for sites that have the potential to host small modular reactors (SMR). 

The move follows funding from the State of Nebraska to complete a study for SMRs.

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 and environmental 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.

Nebraska’s existing nuclear power plant 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. 

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 the US Nuclear Energy Institute, nuclear power provides nearly 18% of Nebraska’s electricity, and over 38% of its carbon-free electricity.