As the Energy Council kicked off in 2020, we set our minds on trying to work through the Energy Top 10 strategies identified during the original myTRI 2030 planning sessions to identify our first priorities. We quickly settled on three outcomes as instrumental to achieving several of the Top 10 items.
The three outcomes are
Establish the Tri-Cities as a national leader for energy storage research and development, manufacturing, and deployment (Energy Top Ten Item: Research and develop energy storage capacities)
Establish the Tri-Cities as a hub for advanced reactor research and development, manufacturing, and deployment (Energy Top Ten Item: Small modular reactors – build and manufacture)
Establish the Tri-Cities as an advanced nuclear fuel research and development and manufacturing center (New Outcome – Supports SMR/advanced nuclear supply chain)
With PNNL being named as the “energy storage lab” for the national laboratory system, energy storage is an exciting opportunity for economic development in the Tri-Cities. The energy storage sub-team has hosted a series of meetings with guest speakers educating them on a diverse set of storage technologies. They have now begun developing a strategic plan to help narrow the focus onto a subset of those options and provide specific steps to be taken to move us forward.
A review of the original data from the myTRI 2030 Big Vision workshop quickly reveals one area that had some of the strongest alignment among the participants: We want to build a new nuclear plant in the Tri-Cities and bring some of the supporting supply chain business to our community as well. Well 2020 saw some exciting developments in this area that have moved this vision significantly closer to reality. On October 13, the US Department of Energy announced that they had selected two applications for award of a 50% cost share (up to $4B per project!) to build two new commercial nuclear plants in the US in this decade, leveraging advanced nuclear technologies. Energy Northwest was a key utility partner in both awards and both applications listed sites north of Richland, next to Columbia Generating Station, as the primary site options. The selected technologies are the TerraPower/General Electric Hitachi “Natrium” sodium fast reactor and the X-energy “Xe-100” high temperature gas reactor. The Natrium design is based on the Tri-Cities’ own Fast Flux Test Facility that operated north of Richland for decades! The new nuclear team is now focused on supporting the development of these projects and working on a strategic plan for pursuing the supply chain opportunities that should come with these projects.
With advanced nuclear reactors potentially coming to the Tri-Cities, and given the nuclear fuel expertise that exists here, led by Framatome and PNNL, looking ahead to the advanced nuclear fuel needs of the industry makes good sense for us. The advanced fuel team sent out a survey to potentially interested parties to identify needs and has created a report to summarize the results. This will be used to develop a plan that identifies the priorities and steps to make it happen.
It was quite a first year for the Energy Council and our team has a lot of excitement about the possibilities for the Tri-Cities to be a key part of helping the region achieve its clean energy goals and build upon our community’s legacy of nuclear and technology development.