Xcel Energy explores small nuclear reactors

Xcel Energy has announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with NuScale Power, a company that is developing small modular nuclear power plants. The announcement is great news for the reliability and affordability of our electric grid because nuclear power is the only source of around-the-clock electricity that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide emissions.

Under the MOU, the two companies will examine the potential for Xcel to work to provide a suite of power plant services to NuScale’s customers based on Xcel’s exceptional nuclear operational management systems. Xcel Energy was chosen because of its excellent track record operating nuclear power plants, which are some of the most productive, lowest-cost producers of electricity in the country.

According to NuScale’s press release, Xcel understands the important role nuclear power will play in the future:

“As the first major energy provider to announce a 100 percent carbon-free vision, we understand the need for new technologies to meet the need for always on, carbon-free electricity,” said Pete Gardner, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, Xcel Energy. “We’re excited to explore a potential partnership with NuScale that advances the next generation of nuclear energy, a technology that has the potential to provide the reliable, carbon-free electricity needed for a clean energy future.”

Reading between the lines, we can see that Xcel understands that its current plan to build thousands of megawatts of wind turbines and solar panels is not a long-term, sustainable solution for keeping the grid reliable.

Perhaps the electricity shortages plaguing California and Texas have nudged Xcel into taking a leading role on new nuclear power, even though building new nuclear power plants is currently illegal in the state of Minnesota.

Minnesota must legalize new nuclear power because nuclear power plants are the only source of on-demand carbon-free power. Lifting the moratorium would allow Xcel Energy to build a new nuclear power plant at the site of the Sherburne County coal-fired power plant, as American Experiment recommended to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission earlier this year.

Xcel’s agreement with NuScale is also a watershed moment because it makes their aspiration to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050 possible, rather than public relations. Xcel should be applauded for this decision, and I wish them the best in this endeavor.