Central Washington could see up to 12 new nuclear reactors

Joint development agreement could lead to development of small modular reactors, potentially generating up to 960 megawatts of “carbon-free” electricity

By Logan Washburn | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Two energy companies have agreed to develop up to 12 nuclear reactors in Central Washington.

“I look forward to seeing the great benefits this project will bring,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., in a news release. “It is exciting to see Energy Northwest and X-energy keep Central Washington at the forefront of energy innovation.”

Energy Northwest and X-energy announced a joint development agreement today for up to 12 Xe-100 advanced small modular reactors near Richland, potentially generating up to 960 megawatts total of “carbon-free” electricity. The companies have been planning these facilities since 2020, and Energy Northwest hopes to launch the first module by 2030.

“Our partnership is expected to help meet growing commercial and household demand for reliable carbon-free energy across the state,” said J. Clay Sell, X-energy CEO, in the news release.

The companies expect to develop the Xe-100 project on an Energy Northwest site near the Columbia Generating Station, the region’s only nuclear power plant.

“Energy Northwest’s experience as a leading nuclear operator in the region uniquely positions it to showcase the benefits and scalability of advanced nuclear,” Sell said.

Each plant could potentially employ more than 1,000 people during construction and hundreds of people during operation and maintenance, Jason Herbert, Energy Northwest’s senior director of external strategy, told The Center Square.

He said these numbers are not yet certain.

“We’ll be using a lot of union labor, which is big in the Northwest,” Herbert said.

The project will provide clean energy and offer jobs to hundreds of workers, said Nickolas Bumpaous, president of the Central Washington Building and Construction Trades Council, in the news release.

“On behalf of the [sic] over 20,000 working families, their unions and our partner contractors, we are excited to be a part of this extremely important project,” Bumpaous said.

The plants include safety features like fuel that cannot melt under reactor temperatures, quick cooling and shutdown without operator intervention, according to Herbert.

Each module can provide 80 megawatts of full-time electricity or 200 megawatts of high-temperature steam, according to the news release. X-energy designed them to be road-shippable, scalable, cost-manageable during construction and quickly built.

The companies are planning to start with fewer than 12 reactor modules, but planned licensing so they could potentially expand to that number, Herbert said. They are working together to navigate licensing, regulations and project delivery, according to the news release.

“Energy Northwest’s mission is to provide the region with clean, reliable and affordable electricity,” said Bob Schuetz, Energy Northwest CEO in the news release. “X-energy’s innovative advanced reactor technology will be a valuable addition.”