The Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) wants to build 12 nuclear power reactors at the Idaho National Laboratory with a total capacity of 600 MW. UAMPS is a political subdivision of the State of Utah, and most of the reactors’ electricity would go out of state. But the project will cost the people of Idaho a lot anyway. Now, two bills in the Idaho Legislature would offer new state tax benefits to nuclear power developers.

Nuclear power uses more water than any other electricity source and produces dangerous nuclear waste. It costs more money, too. Per kilowatt, the math for the kind of small modular reactors UAMPS wants to build is even worse.

MORE WATER Nuclear power is a water hog. Of all the ways to make electricity, nuclear is the most water intensive because it uses so much for cooling. UAMPS says it has not decided on a cooling technology, but water is the likely choice. The 12-reactor power plant would use 18,000 acre feet of water per year from the Snake River Aquifer. Per kilowatt, that’s 25% more water than even full-sized nuclear reactors use. If the reactors are built, water users downstream from INL will have yet another reason to worry about nuclear impacts on the aquifer.

MORE NUCLEAR WASTE UAMPS’ modular reactors would use 40% more enriched uranium fuel than regular reactors to produce a kilowatt. That means UAMPS would produce more intensely radioactive spent nuclear fuel. There is no final repository for the spent fuel already in Idaho, and what UAMPS would produce would stay here, too.

MORE MONEY So far, the plan has cost $700 million, and if the reactors are built, the total cost will reach $3 billion. But UAMPS claims it will sell the electricity for 6.5c per kW to municipal power systems. To help get to that rate, which is still substantially higher than other electricity, UAMPS is counting on federal, state, and local subsidies. This is a well-worn path for nuclear power.

NuScale, the reactor designer, has already gotten hundreds of millions of dollars from US taxpayers. UAMPS is now looking to get federal money for half the cost of licensing the reactors. If the reactors ever go online, UAMPS will seek federal nuclear production tax credits. It will sign a 5-year lease with the Idaho National Laboratory to use 2 of its 12 reactors for research.

The Idaho State Legislature passed two bills that would give tax breaks for UAMPS should the facility be built and is considering a concurrent resolution on the project.

  • HB 591 would cap UAMPS’ county property assessment at $400 million, far less than the projected value.
  • HB 592 would exempt 1/6 of the whole plant from sales taxes because of INL’s plan to lease 2 of the 12 reactors.