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  • Writer's pictureThe Clinch Coalition

SMRs in SWVA: "Small" Nuclear is Still Nuclear.

Updated: May 25, 2023

IS THIS A TEN-YEAR "MOONSHOT" COSTING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS RATHER THAN BUILDING STRONG, SAFE COMMUNITIES IN SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA?




Governor Youngkin has previously stated that a"...growing Virginia must have reliable, affordable and clean energy for Virginia's families and businesses" in his efforts to push Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in Southwest Virginia. However, there are a number of considerations when it comes to SMRs that are often either ignored or not approached when the topic of bringing nuclear energy to SWVA arises. The Clinch Coalition has summarized its concerns with this energy plan, as well as SMRs specifically, below.


UNRELIABLE

SMRs - an uncertain road to energy

  • Solar panels are available and being installed NOW on houses, schools, and businesses with utility-level solar farms soon to follow. The Governor states it will be ten years before SMRs generate power in Southwest Virginia.


UNAFFORDABLE

SMRs - a more costly energy

  • Nuclear energy is among the more costly forms of energy production. Dollars from the federal Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund could be immediately applied to land reclamation and repurposing for solar energy. The VA Dept. of Energy's Reenergize Southwest 2021 report recommended "expand existing solar energy programs."

UNSAFE

SMRs - a threat to our future

  • Calling nuclear power "clean" energy is a misnomer when it creates toxic, radioactive waste that can exist for thousands of years. There are no safe disposal solutions. A recent Stanford University study concluded "...small modular reactors may produce a disproportionately larger amount of nuclear waste than bigger nuclear plants."



These points are made even more apparent when viewed in contrast to the Virginia Department of Energy's 2021 comments for their Reenergize Southwest campaign. During this period the VA Dept. of Energy focused SWVA growth around community geared components that would greatly uplift local communities.


"A new vision for Southwest Virginia must include more than jobs" and "...must demonstrate that resources for downtown and community revitalization, site development, availability of goods and services, housing stock and childcare are vital to regional redevelopment efforts."

-VA Dept. of Energy,

Reenergize Southwest 2021


Youngkin's plans for nuclear in SWVA seek less to uplift the Appalachian people and more to turn a profit on an often neglected area. Southwest Virginia has been treated as a means to an end for decades, setting a precedent and history of injustice. SWVA was once a thriving coal region that has since been left economically deprived. The legacy of coal has left nothing but an economically deprived area surrounded by air, soil, and water pollution; increased chances of disastrous flooding; mountaintop removal; abandoned mine lands; ghost towns; decreased biodiversity; an opioid epidemic; and so on. The list of negative consequences for SWVA being a means of profit for corporations far outweigh the little benefits.


Choosing Small Modular (Nuclear) Reactors over a more readily available source of clean energy prioritizes:

Profit over people

Wealth over health

Greed over green


Millions of dollars are already flowing into the coffers of those who will benefit from the research and development of SMRs, and it is not SWVA residents.


Legislation was passed in the 2023 Virginia General Assembly to further the SMRs' development. If this continues, billions of dollars will go to expose SWVA communities to health and safety risks and environmental devastation.


Why should SWVA be forced to endure a new burden of risky and more costly electric energy, subsidized by the state to benefit powerful corporations, which seek to exploit our region and its people?


Sign TCC's petition TODAY to PUSH for public input on putting nuclear reactors in SWVA.



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