A discussion on the future of nuclear energy

June 22, 2020

By Idaho National Laboratory

Nuclear Energy Agency Director-General William (Bill) Magwood recently offered a positive assessment of a small modular reactor project proposed to be built at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory Site.

The featured speaker at an ‘Up ’n Atom’ breakfast sponsored by the Partnership for Science and Technology in Idaho Falls on May 3, the former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission member called the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) Carbon Free Power Project “crucial” to the future of nuclear energy and INL.

“You need a critical mass of people with the right expertise, with a focus on the future of nuclear energy, to foster a culture of innovation,” Magwood said.

The Carbon Free Power Project is a collaboration between NuScale Power and UAMPS, which represents 44 municipalities in eight western states and whose largest member is Idaho Falls Power. DOE awarded NuScale a $217 million in matching funds to support the NRC’s design certification and licensing process for the SMR. The plant could be operated for UAMPS by Energy Northwest, which runs the Columbia Generating Station, a nuclear power plant in Richland, Washington.

Nuclear Energy Agency Director-General William (Bill) Magwood

In his remarks prior to visiting INL, Magwood spoke about his vision of reducing carbon emission by 80 percent, noting that “this can’t happen without sustained effort. Take nuclear energy away, it can’t happen.”

Magwood has considerable experience with the regulatory and developmental aspects of nuclear energy, and has served as the director-general of the Nuclear Energy Agency since 2014. NEA is an intergovernmental agency that facilitates cooperation among countries with advanced nuclear technology infrastructures to seek excellence in nuclear safety, technology, science, environment and law.

From 2010 to 2014, Magwood served on the NRC as one of five commissioners appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Prior to his time at the NRC, he was the director of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy from 1998 to 2005.

Speaking to the media following the breakfast, INL Laboratory Director Mark Peters introduced Magwood as “a longtime friend of INL,” and spoke about his involvement in re-establishing and moving forward the nuclear energy program in the U.S.

“Bill has long championed nuclear energy — nationally and internationally — and is one of the people most responsible for the growing realization, across the political spectrum, that it must play a prominent role in helping power our future and combating climate change,” he said.

The significant growth of INL over the past 10 years in infrastructure, capabilities and expertise puts the lab in a prime position to address these challenges and sustain its leadership in the competitive global nuclear energy market, Magwood noted.

Nuclear Energy Agency Director-General William (Bill) Magwood shaking hands with INL Lab Director Mark Peters.

One example of INL’s leadership role in nuclear energy is the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative. The multilab initiative is led by INL, in cooperation with organizations across the nuclear community, and will provide the nuclear industry with the research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) required to meet the nation’s energy, environmental and national security needs in an economical and timely manner.

Magwood said the NuScale-designed SMR is proof that initiatives such as GAIN will help innovative technology designs become reality. Development of the SMR would help maintain INL’s status as a powerhouse for developing clean, affordable nuclear power. He stressed that INL’s role is imperative to the success of nuclear energy, and its contributions to providing a cleaner and safer future.

The SMR is projected to receive design certification by 2020, and the plant could be operational by 2024.

“We have great confidence this will be handled the right way, protecting the environment, protecting the people of Idaho, and further cementing this laboratory’s role as the premier nuclear facility in the world,” Magwood said.



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About Idaho National Laboratory

Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, celebrating 75 years of scientific innovations in 2024. The laboratory performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. 

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Posted June 22, 2020

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