Roughly 14% of Ohio’s electricity generation comes from its two operational nuclear plants: the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and the Perry Nuclear Generating Station, which have been online for decades along the shores of Lake Erie in northern Ohio. Now, for the first time in 30 years, new nuclear power is coming to the Buckeye State.
California-based Oklo Inc. has signed an agreement to develop two new advanced nuclear plants in southern Ohio. The plants are to be sited on 3,700 acres south of Piketon, Ohio, formerly home to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PORTS).
PORTS was operational from 1954 to 2001 and enriched uranium for America’s nuclear weapons program. It later went on to enrich uranium for commercial nuclear purposes. The American Centrifuge Project is still located onsite, where nuclear fuel company Centrus is working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), which is needed to power most advanced reactors and whose major supplier is Russia.
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There is a federal effort underway to clean up and repurpose the former PORTS site. In 2018, the DOE began transferring cleaned land parcels to the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI), an economic development initiative. So far, SODI has become the manager for 300 acres within the site.
“This property is huge for us to re-industrialize, and we have been working for many years to basically develop this as an energy product,” explained Steve Shepherd, SODI’s executive director.
SODI’s partnership with Oklo is a step forward in repurposing this land for new energy. Oklo has a history of developing innovative and cutting-edge nuclear technology, and they plan on using this sort of modern nuclear technology for the new reactors.
“This is a community proud of its work and capabilities in supporting industrial activities, including nuclear facilities, and they are eager to bring those skills and capabilities to support the development and deployment of new nuclear technologies as part of the ongoing clean energy transition,” stated Jacob DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of Oklo. “Oklo’s model has long involved a community-centric approach, and Oklo is excited to work with the community in Ohio and tap into this rich legacy of excellence.”
Oklo plans on submitting an application for this project to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by 2025 with the hopes of bringing the two plants online between 2028 and 2033. The company will use its 15-megawatt electric capacity (Mwe) Aurora powerhouse design for a combined 30-MWe, enough to power nearly 25,000 homes. The two reactors will be smaller than a traditional nuclear reactor (which is 1,000-MWe on average) and will have nuclear fuel recycling capabilities, meaning the reactors will produce little to no spent fuel waste.
In the past years, there has been debate over potentially shuttering Ohio’s two nuclear plants. Now, these plants are not only still online, but will be joined by new nuclear power plants. This is a great step forward for clean energy in the Buckeye State.
Kelvey Vander Hart is a native Iowan, a member of the American Conservation Coalition, and a communications specialist at Reason Foundation.