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NuScale Power, an Oregon company, wants to build a massive 12-reactor nuclear power plant in Idaho to provide electricity to the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS). Energy Northwest, a Washington company, would operate the nuclear power plant. The Dirty Dozen would be the largest power plant in Idaho. 

The power plant and radioactive waste from the reactor project would be located indefinitely on the Snake River Plain and above the Snake River Aquifer. The Aquifer provides the sole source of drinking water for more than 300,000 people in Idaho and serves as the economic lifeblood of much of southern Idaho, irrigating three million acres of farmland on the Snake River Plain.

The nuclear energy industry is dying at an accelerating rate due to the industry’s own fatal flaws: nuclear disasters like Fukushima in 2011 and Chernobyl in 1986, decades of delay in efforts to build new plants, massive cost overruns, and overwhelming dependence on record-breaking taxpayer subsidies. Meanwhile, the rise of cheaper, safer, renewable energy has eroded the markets and interest in new nuclear plants.

The Dirty Dozen campaign coincides with the Snake River Alliance’s 40th Anniversary, just as the Three Mile Island site is set to close this year (its partial nuclear meltdown in 1979 galvanized the grassroots advocacy that led to the Alliance’s formation). The proposal to build and operate this massive nuclear power plant above a world-class aquifer and then leave radioactive waste in perpetuity presents an unacceptable and unnecessary threat to Idaho and our people. In short, the Alliance has been here from the beginning and no group is better suited to confront this latest nuclear threat!

The Dirty Dozen is the Alliance’s multi-year campaign aimed at stopping the project in its tracks! We are educating the public and decision-makers about the adverse impacts of this dangerous and unnecessary proposal and mobilizing grassroots activism to prevent Idahoans from having to bear this nuclear waste burden for generations to come. 


Dirty Dozen Overview

The Department of Energy’s efforts to construct the NuScale-designed 12 nuclear reactor array at Idaho National Laboratory aims to revive the nuclear mission (at overwhelming taxpayer expense). The Dirty Dozen aims to stop this dangerous, expensive, wasteful, and unnecessary project!

For more than 20 years, nuclear proponents have promised a “nuclear renaissance,” but energy markets have all but stopped large nuclear reactor construction and are forcing aging, unprofitable reactors to close worldwide. In response, the nuclear industry began touting small modular reactors, hoping that the lower initial purchase price plus the potential for mass production would launch new opportunities. The industry is banking on Idaho to serve as a test case for this novel, never before tested technology. 

NuScale Power nuclear plant would be built on public land at Idaho National Laboratory. The nuclear power plant would be owned by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), a Utah political subdivision and a 45-member energy collective. UAMPS wants to build and operate the first reactor by 2024, with the entire array scheduled to be online by 2027. 

According to NuScale Power’s application, the nuclear power plant would consist of as many as twelve reactor modules with a total output of 720 MW of electricity (each reactor would have a 60 MW output). Energy Northwest, which operates a full-sized nuclear power reactor in Richland, Washington, would operate the proposed nuclear power project. The Department of Energy has chipped in $225 million for the design so far.

Dirty Dozen Fact Sheet

Nuclear power costs an enormous amount of money, consumes massive amounts of  water, and ultimately produces nuclear waste that future generations will have to address for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years. The Dirty Dozen proposal is based on a new, untested type of nuclear reactor that relies on the same basic technology and fuel as traditional reactors to generate electricity. Per unit of electricity, however, small modular nuclear reactors use more water and produce more spent nuclear fuel than traditional large nuclear reactors.

Idaho’s Largest Power Plant
The Dirty Dozen nuclear power plant is not small.  At 720 MW, it would be the largest power plant in Idaho and would produce more electricity annually than the entire Hells Canyon complex (the dams at Hells Canyon, Oxbow, and Brownlee combined).

Enormous Consumption of Idaho Water
Of all the ways to generate electricity, nuclear power generation is the most water intensive. The only reason proponents can claim small modular reactors use less water is because they are smaller. NuScale officials acknowledge that this type of reactor would be even less thermally efficient than traditional reactors. The Dirty Dozen might use as much as 25% more water to produce the same amount of electricity. If the reactor complex is built, water users downstream from INL would have yet another reason to worry about adverse impacts on the Snake River Aquifer.

Even Dirtier Than Traditional Reactors
The Dirty Dozen nuclear reactors would use 40% more enriched uranium fuel to produce a megawatt of electricity than regular reactors. This means the reactors would produce even more intensely radioactive spent fuel than traditional nuclear technology. Our country still has no final repository for all of the nuclear waste we already have, meaning the radioactive waste from the Dirty Dozen would stay in Idaho (and above the Snake River Aquifer) for thousands of years!

Threats to Idaho’s Public Health and Safety
History proves nuclear accidents happen even under the best of circumstances, and the Dirty Dozen reactors would be new and untested. To reduce nuclear’s enormous costs, developers of the new nuclear reactors, including NuScale, rely on cost-cutting measures that will cut safety margins as well. The Fukushima disaster was exacerbated by the fact because there was no electricity to run the pumps for the water that cooled the reactors. NuScale claims its passive design is inherently safe and it does not even need pumps, so it will not need emergency generators. NuScale also wants the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shrink the emergency planning zone to the facility’s fence line. The Dirty Dozen’s effort to cut corners and reduce costs means that a nuclear accident further amplifies the risk to our entire region.

Nuclear is Expensive
A recent independent study compared the cost of small modular nuclear reactors to comparable portfolios of low or non-carbon emitting resources. The study found that alternative scenarios that include various combinations of wind, solar, energy storage, market purchases, and small amounts of natural gas were roughly 40% cheaper than small modular nuclear reactors. The alternative scenarios represent hundreds of millions of dollars in savings over a 20-year period in comparison to projects like the Dirty Dozen. As the costs of solar, wind, and battery storage continue to decline, these resources will be much less costly than the new reactors.

Taxpayers Bail Out the Nuclear Industry (Again)
To date, the Utah group has only been able to convince its own member utilities to sign up for 150 MW of the expensive nuclear electricity, meaning the electricity from just two of the 12 planned modules. As a result, taxpayers will have to pay for the remaining power. The Utah group wants to lock in inflated nuclear costs for the next 40 years, rather than the current limit of 10-year contracts for federal agencies. Idaho National Laboratory has plans to sign up for two of the new nuclear modules (one for research and the other for electricity), which together would produce 120 MW–more than four times as much electricity as INL uses in an average year–and the power will cost more than INL currently pays.