(The Center Square) – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee would be fine with his state replacing the power currently generated by four lower Snake River dams with new small nuclear reactors, according to his office.
"The governor has been consistent that all zero-emission options are on the table," including nuclear, Inslee communications director Jaime Smith said in an email to The Center Square.
She said Inslee had supported modular nuclear technology being pioneered by a Corvallis, Oregon, company called NuScale since at least the middle of the last decade.
"Nuclear power was one of the topics the governor and trade mission delegates discussed last week in Finland, and it's one of the sectors included in our state Department of Commerce's new cluster innovation program," Smith added Monday.
Inslee came out in favor of breaching the dams to help salmon runs in August after teasing the policy evolution for some time.
He publicized a study jointly with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and said in a news release, "The state and federal governments should implement a plan to replace the benefits of the Lower Snake River Dams to enable breaching to move forward."
One of the benefits that the state would need to replace is the dams' hydroelectric power.
The dams currently produce about 1,000 megawatts of power a year and have the capacity of putting out about 3,000 megawatts annually, according to a Bonneville Power Administration fact sheet.
NuScale's small reactors are capable of generating about 77 megawatts of electricity yearly, according to the company's website.
NuScale reactors are stackable. Up to 12 units can be joined into a larger station, which could come close to making up for the dams at their current capacity. However, there is a catch.
"Small nuclear is a nice advance because it is more flexible than traditional nuclear," Todd Myers, environmental director for the Washington Policy Center, told The Center Square. "Nuclear today is base power - steady, consistent, and reliable. But it can't follow the ups and downs of demand during the day."
Myers allowed, "small nuclear can do some of that, but still not as well as hydro."
"Adding small nuclear will help stabilize energy supply in Washington but given the increased demands for electricity in the future, [but] it can't replace the Snake River dams," he said.