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Gov. Nixon: Nuclear Power = Jobs

Scott Kanowsky, KMOX State Capitol Bureau i
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX)  - Missouri will join a coalition of energy firms to apply for a multi-million dollar federal grant that would fund several small nuclear reactors in the state, Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday.

Flanked by a bevy of high-ranking officials from various industries, Nixon said Missouri partnered with energy provider Ameren Missouri and international nuclear technology development firm Westinghouse Company to receive as much as $452 million from the Department of Energy.

“When it comes to creating jobs and transforming our economy, projects just don’t get any bigger than this one,” Nixon said. “This is our moment.”

Officials said funding would go toward building up to five Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, or SMRs, in Callaway Co., Missouri.  These plants would generate as much as 225 megawatts of power, one-fifth of the production of normal nuclear power plants.

One these large nuclear reactors already stands in the county and debate has long waged over the creation of a new plant–known colloquially as “Callaway 2.” Funding, though, has never been secured.

Meanwhile, Ameren Missouri officials said they have delayed a search for legislative action to build Callaway 2 until after federal grant money for SMR development is received.

According to Westinghouse Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Kathryn Jackson, the SMRs must be built at least 24 months after federal funding is received.

“Our long-term plan is to have a global export market to manufacture these modules and ship them,” Jackson said.  “It’s unlikely that the first plant would justify an enormous manufacturing facility investment so that first plant we probably will be proving out that we can build this in 24 months.”

She added that her goal is to put more of these smaller plants in Missouri.  Rules attached to the grant money from the Department of Energy state that these facilities must be operational by 2022.

Ameren Missouri president and CEO Warner Baxter said in an interview he sees benefits from the SMRs being “directly passed onto to ratepayers,” although he did not specifically say how much savings he expects.

If the funding is not secured from the Department of Energy, Westinghouse officials have said they remain strongly committed to continue building SMRs.  Baxter, however, said the company was willing to look into a number of different avenues for renewable energies.

“We strongly believe that when look to the future that maintaining options is the best course of action for our state. Which is why we’ve been so strongly saying that nuclear should be one of the options,” Baxter said.

“But, of course, we look at all kinds of options that are in the best interests of our customers.”

Currently, state law prohibits Ameren from charging rate payers for a project before they see direct benefits from it.  Just how much funding is received from the Department of Energy will not be known until sometime this summer, Baxter said.

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