Galena Nuclear Project

This project has been tabled

Project Outline

In May of 2003, Toshiba and the City of Galena began discussing the implementation of a nuclear reactor power plant to provide the islanded community of Galena with cheap and reliable energy. Galena is located 270 miles west of fairbanks on the Yukon River and has a population of around 600 year round residents1. Electricity is currently produced by a diesel powerhouse. Galena’s location off the road system means that diesel and all other supplies must be shipped by barge. There is a very narrow window during the summer month in which the river is navigable, this makes the cost of living especially high. Because of the high cost of transportation, the cost of electricity is also quite high. At the time of the proposed reactor in 2003 prices were 25 cents per kWh before Power Cost Equalization (PCE) and 17.69 cents after PCE, and the average household use was 215 kWh per month2. In 2010 the prices were 56.33 cents kWh before PCE, and around 24 cents after PCE and the average electricity usage was 115 kWh per household with an approximate load of 1 MW3. Diesel costs are expected to continue rising, increasing the cost of electricity in the future. The installation of a small modular reactor (SMR) was supposed to lower and keep prices stable at a rate of 10 cents a kWh for 30 years, when refueling would need to take place.4


The objectives of the Galena project were to provide residents with a cheap, reliable source of power for 30 years. The City of Galena was working with Toshiba to install a Small Modular Reactors (SMR) in the city to provide residents with electricity. It was originally thought that Toshiba would be willing to give a reactor to Galena, thus eliminating some of the serious costs of implementing new reactors.5


The Toshiba 4S unit (Super-safe, small, simple) has two designed capacities, 10 MW and 50 MW. This is a liquid-metal fast neutron reactor which uses sodium as a coolant allows the reactor to run at hotter temperatures that would vaporize water, and build pressure that would be cause the system to be under high pressure. Sodium boils at higher temperatures, allowing the reactor to be unpressurized. This reactor is designed to be encased in concrete and be 30 meters underground, with no direct access to the reactor and its uranium-zircon fuel rods. The operator and the steam turbines will be located in a separate building, located above ground. This reactor is designed to be fully operational for thirty years before it requires being refueled. It is designed to need fewer operators and security personnel than conventional reactors because the reactor will inaccessible. Furthermore, unlike other SMRs The fuel rods last 30 years meaning that there would be no storage of dangerous radioactive materials onsite in pools or other storage facilities. Toshiba plans on seeking preliminary Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) permits in 2012.6


Proposed Toshiba 4s Small Modular Reactor

Image: New York Times


Costs associated with this project became too great to make it feasible. Originally the reactor would have been given to Galena. However prices rose significantly over the course of the proposal. The city of Galena did receive a $500,000 from the state legislature in 2005 that paid for meetings with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to develop documents on preliminary site proposals.7


This project has been tabled Original costs of the reactor would have been minimal, had Toshiba donated the reactor. However the permitting costs with new nuclear technology could be as high as 600 million. In 2005, Toshiba raised the price of the reactor to 25 million, then 200 million in 20088. The NRC costs for site permitting would be at least 50-70 million dollars. Fuel costs would be around 100 million. According to a report written by the Arctic Energy office, the reactor became uneconomical if the price was over 25 million.9

While this project was uneconomical in Galena when these small reactors have gone through the permitting processes required by the NRC. SMRs may be applicable in the state, however, it would likely be more feasible to build them on the railbelt grid where they could be utilized to their full potential, thus bringing costs down10.

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