Legislature(2021 - 2022)ADAMS 519

02/08/2022 10:15 AM House ENERGY

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10:19:51 AM Start
10:20:25 AM HB299
11:34:42 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
               HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ENERGY                                                                              
                        February 8, 2022                                                                                        
                           10:19 a.m.                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Calvin Schrage, Chair                                                                                            
Representative Chris Tuck                                                                                                       
Representative Matt Claman                                                                                                      
Representative Tiffany Zulkosky                                                                                                 
Representative Zack Fields                                                                                                      
Representative George Rauscher                                                                                                  
Representative James Kaufman                                                                                                    
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 299                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to microreactors."                                                                                             
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB 299                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: MICROREACTORS                                                                                                      
SPONSOR(s): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                                                                    
02/04/22       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/04/22       (H)       ENE, RES                                                                                               
02/08/22       (H)       ENE AT 10:15 AM ADAMS 519                                                                              
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
GWEN HOLDMANN                                                                                                                   
Alaska Center for Energy & Power                                                                                                
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided a PowerPoint presentation titled,                                                               
"Small Scale Nuclear Power an option for Alaska?"                                                                               
ASHLEY FINAN, PhD, Director                                                                                                     
National Reactor Innovation Center                                                                                              
Idaho National Laboratory                                                                                                       
Idaho Falls, Idaho                                                                                                              
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions  during the hearing on HB
BRUCE MCDOWELL, Advisor                                                                                                         
Pacific Northwest National Lab                                                                                                  
Richland, Washington                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions  during the hearing on HB
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
10:19:51 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  CALVIN  SCHRAGE  called the  House  Special  Committee  on                                                             
Energy meeting  to order at  10:19 a.m.   Representatives Claman,                                                               
Zulkosky, Kaufman, Tuck, and Schrage  were present at the call to                                                               
order.    Representatives  Fields  and Rauscher  arrived  as  the                                                               
meeting was in progress.                                                                                                        
                      HB 299-MICROREACTORS                                                                                  
10:20:25 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SCHRAGE announced that the  only order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 299, "An Act relating to microreactors."                                                                         
10:21:15 AM                                                                                                                   
GWEN  HOLDMANN, Alaska  Center  for Energy  &  Power, provided  a                                                               
PowerPoint  presentation titled,  "Small Scale  Nuclear Power  an                                                               
option  for  Alaska?"  [hard  copy   included  in  the  committee                                                               
packet].   She began on slide  2 and introduced the  national lab                                                               
technical experts.                                                                                                              
10:23:29 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLDMANN  moved on to  slides 3 and  4, on the  Alaska Center                                                               
for Energy and Power (ACEP), and  talked about the history of the                                                               
center and the  current size of its organization.   She explained                                                               
that ACEP  looks "broadly" at renewable  and non-renewable energy                                                               
sources statewide.                                                                                                              
10:24:54 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  HOLDMANN  turned to  slide  5,  addressing partnerships  and                                                               
funding, and emphasized that ACEP  works closely with the private                                                               
sector and  is currently  working on about  40 projects  that are                                                               
funded through the private sector.   She explained ACEP's primary                                                               
funding sources are  the U.S. Department of Defense  and the U.S.                                                               
Department of Energy.                                                                                                           
10:25:30 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLDMANN continued  to slide 6, explaining that  in 2011 ACEP                                                               
released a report  that reviewed the history  of nuclear projects                                                               
in  Alaska and  the feasibility  of the  technology at  the time,                                                               
which did  not "really  clearly fit" but  has "come  along" since                                                               
10:26:31 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLDMANN  advanced to  slide 7,  detailing updated  report to                                                               
the  legislature.     She  explained   that  there  has   been  a                                                               
"renaissance" in  the technology.   She talked about  an interest                                                               
group  ACEP formed  six months  earlier, and  the recommendations                                                               
that  came from  it, which  resulted  in review  and revision  of                                                               
Alaska statutes relating to nuclear energy.                                                                                     
10:27:56 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLDMANN provided a background  on nuclear energy on slide 8.                                                               
She explained  that nuclear energy  amounts to around  20 percent                                                               
of  the national  energy supply.    She talked  about the  safety                                                               
record of the nuclear power  industry in America, referencing the                                                               
three  significant accidents  in  history and  pointing out  that                                                               
only Chernobyl resulted in deaths.                                                                                              
10:29:13 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLDMANN  defined microreactors on  slide 9 and spoke  to her                                                               
experience  flying  over a  "legacy  reactor."   She  said  micro                                                               
reactors have  a very small  amount of nuclear  material, produce                                                               
around one  to "a couple  dozen" megawatts, and would  be smaller                                                               
than the  University of Alaska  Fairbanks power plant.   They are                                                               
capable of  "load following"  and producing  heat.   Ms. Holdmann                                                               
stated that they are also factory  made and can be transported to                                                               
the site more  contained.  She emphasized  the difference between                                                               
micro reactors and  small modular reactors, and  she talked about                                                               
the  autonomous  control  system  responsible  for  the  reactors                                                               
10:33:23 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  FIELDS requested  more detail  on load  following                                                               
and the time it takes to scale up or ramp down the reactors.                                                                    
MS. HOLDMANN  replied that  the power  generation aspect  is like                                                               
conventional steam generation; some have  a storage unit for heat                                                               
that then use  that heat to drive  a turban and ramp  up and down                                                               
within a minute or two.   She said she wonders about the economic                                                               
viability of using it in that capacity.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  asked how  fast a source  must be  able to                                                               
respond to qualify as load following.                                                                                           
MS.  HOLDMANN answered  that  if a  source can  ramp  up or  down                                                               
within a minute or two, that is load following technology.                                                                      
10:36:06 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLDMANN resumed the presentation  on slide 10, which modeled                                                               
small nuclear reactors  on a chart.  She explained  that there is                                                               
a  "break" in  the  sizing  of the  reactor  technology below  50                                                               
megawatts of power.                                                                                                             
10:37:23 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  asked where ACEP  was on its  "roadmap" of                                                               
potential applications.                                                                                                         
MS.  HOLDMANN replied  that ACEP  was limited  in its  ability to                                                               
make  determinations   on  where  one  would   go,  citing  state                                                               
regulation  and  statute  would  be  the  responsibility  of  the                                                               
Department of  Environmental Conservation  (DEC).   She expressed                                                               
hope for separate  funding through the university  to support the                                                               
10:39:48 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  HOLDMANN,  in response  to  a  question from  Representative                                                               
Rauscher,  explained  that  the  confines  of  releasing  reactor                                                               
technology is  licensing through  the federal  Nuclear Regulatory                                                               
Commission (NRC).   She said  the technologies  under development                                                               
are  going through  the  licensing  process.   In  response to  a                                                               
follow-up  question,  she  explained   that  the  list  comprises                                                               
vendors  actively planning  to seek  NRC  licensing approval  for                                                               
their  design.   She added  that  any reactors  developed out  of                                                               
country  without  seeking  approval  by  the  NRC  would  not  be                                                               
eligible for the U.S. market.                                                                                                   
10:41:53 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK asked  if  ACEP was  limiting  itself to  10                                                               
MS. HOLDMANN answered yes.                                                                                                      
CHAIR SCHRAGE noted that federal  requirements for small reactors                                                               
have a threshold of 50 megawatts.                                                                                               
10:42:25 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  referred  to  the  earlier  questions  on                                                               
peaking loads,  baseline loads,  and the  quick ramping  power of                                                               
hydro  power  compared to  the  steadier  output of  fossil  fuel                                                               
sources, and he asked where nuclear fits on that spectrum.                                                                      
MS. HOLDMANN, in  response, said that sometimes hydro  is used as                                                               
a  baseline source  because of  economic feasibility,  and fossil                                                               
fuels are often used for  peaking demand.  She said microreactors                                                               
would not be much different from hydro power plants.                                                                            
10:44:42 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  HOLDMANN resumed  the  presentation on  slide  11, with  two                                                               
examples  of  microreactors  under  development  that  have  both                                                               
expressed interest in the Alaska market.                                                                                        
10:45:39 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  ZULKOSKY  asked  about  the  capacity  needed  to                                                               
manage  such systems,  specifically what  is needed  in terms  of                                                               
staff oversight and management.                                                                                                 
10:46:26 AM                                                                                                                   
ASHLEY FINAN, PhD, Director,  National Reactor Innovation Center,                                                               
Idaho National  Laboratory, explained  that the  National Reactor                                                               
Innovation  Center  (NRC)   provides  regulatory  oversight  with                                                               
resident   inspectors  and   personnel   on   sight  at   nuclear                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ZULKOSKY  inquired about communities off  the road                                                               
system and how  operations would affect the safety  of locals and                                                               
environmental conditions.                                                                                                       
10:49:52 AM                                                                                                                   
DR. FINAN  replied that  the key  regulator is  NRC.   She stated                                                               
that many designs do not require  intervention; in the case of an                                                               
emergency, reactors shut down on  their own.  She emphasized that                                                               
regardless, all  aspects would be  evaluated and approved  by the                                                               
10:51:00 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLDMANN  added that  NRC licensing  is a  two-phase process:                                                               
one for  the technology,  and one  for the  site.   She proffered                                                               
that APEC  is looking  at applications  for "hub  communities" in                                                               
rural scenarios.                                                                                                                
10:52:51 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLDMANN resumed the presentation  on slide 12 that explained                                                               
the  idea  of "passive  safety."    She  explained that  the  50-                                                               
megawatt output  is arbitrary; microreactors are  more associated                                                               
with  "advance reactors"  with a  passive  safety component  that                                                               
will automatically  cool the  reactor.   She also  explained that                                                               
the fuel itself is being  designed to minimize the possibility of                                                               
release into the environment.                                                                                                   
10:55:23 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER asked whether  reactors are tested before                                                               
MS.  HOLDMANN  said  many  reactor  technologies  are  tested  at                                                               
national reactor test  sites, and she deferred to  Dr. Finnan who                                                               
is on site of one of the test facilities.                                                                                       
10:56:07 AM                                                                                                                   
DR.  FINAN confirmed  that many  are  pursuing the  demonstration                                                               
process, including in Idaho,  Wyoming, Washington, and Tennessee.                                                               
Approximately nine  projects are moving  forward.  She  said that                                                               
many  developers don't  see  Alaska  as a  place  for an  initial                                                               
demonstration  but   think  it  would   be  a  great   place  for                                                               
10:57:02 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  asked if  the fuel configuration  had been                                                               
tested or  will be tested and  if every reactor goes  through the                                                               
safety process.                                                                                                                 
DR. FINAN answered  that there are several  different fuels being                                                               
used,  but many  are using  tri-cell fuel,  which has  been going                                                               
through  a decade-long  process to  ensure  its safety.   In  the                                                               
event  of loss  of coolant,  the fission  products are  contained                                                               
within  the fuel  rather than  being released.   She  said around                                                               
half of the projects are using that design.                                                                                     
10:59:15 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  asked if all  the companies are  using the                                                               
same fuel.                                                                                                                      
DR.  FINAN  answered  that  there   are  several  types  of  fuel                                                               
11:00:39 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  assumed that  passive cooling  designs are                                                               
DR. FINAN  confirmed that  the reactors do  get validated  by the                                                               
national laboratory  and tests are  run.  She explained  that the                                                               
test  facility in  Idaho  has  the capability  to  test fuels  in                                                               
multiple accident  conditions, more  extreme than have  ever been                                                               
encountered,  to "make  the fuel  fail."   She explained  that by                                                               
observing  the failure,  the laboratory  can  understand what  it                                                               
looks like  and how it  happens, so  it can adjust  its operating                                                               
parameters.    She  noted  that  China  has  confirmed  that  the                                                               
reactors shut  themselves down, and  she emphasized that  the lab                                                               
is not in charge of the regulatory approval.                                                                                    
11:02:42 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN asked about encapsulated fuel technology.                                                                
MS.  HOLDMANN   said  the  fuel   is  an  important   piece,  and                                                               
fabricating fuel is important in raw deployment.                                                                                
11:04:21 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN  asked about the diagram  of the emergency                                                               
and control drum driver on slide 11.                                                                                            
MS. HOLDMANN deferred to Dr. Finan.                                                                                             
DR.  FINAN explained  that nuclear  reaction is  essentially shut                                                               
down by inserting a material that absorbs neutrons.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  KAUFMAN   offered  his  understanding   that  the                                                               
smaller compact nature  is inherently better in  terms of seismic                                                               
11:06:58 AM                                                                                                                   
BRUCE   MCDOWELL,  Advisor,   Pacific  Northwest   National  Lab,                                                               
explained that  NRC does both  a safety and  environmental review                                                               
for any  site, including the  potential for ground movement.   He                                                               
explained that  during the design  type review, NRC looks  at the                                                               
operating  parameters  and  checks  to see  if  the  designs  can                                                               
withstand those.   He  said seismic  activity is  considered when                                                               
choosing and approving of a site.                                                                                               
11:09:05 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  HOLDMANN resumed  the presentation  on slide  13 and  talked                                                               
about the use of heat pipes in passive heat extraction.                                                                         
11:10:24 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLDMANN showed  slides 14 and 15, which listing  some of the                                                               
statutes  that relate  to nuclear  energy that  could be  updated                                                               
based  on  the  updated  technology.   She  explained  that  they                                                               
propose an  addition of a  legal definition of  a "Microreactor",                                                               
as well  as an  update to the  wording around  advanced reactors.                                                               
She  continued   to  the  second  proposal   for  two  additional                                                               
requirements,  citing   interviews  she  conducted   with  former                                                               
legislators around any nuclear project  in Alaska.  She described                                                               
the  requirements as  "Honorius"  and proposed  an exception  for                                                               
microreactors.  She finished the  list by highlighting the unique                                                               
legislative  authority for  nuclear  reactors,  and she  proposed                                                               
microreactors be exempt from it.                                                                                                
11:15:06 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE ZULKOSKY  expressed appreciation for  the dialogue                                                               
around diversifying  Alaska's energy portfolio.   She asked about                                                               
what impact these  plants may have on the  warming of permafrost,                                                               
impacting infrastructure and the environment.                                                                                   
MS.  HOLDMANN   addressed  the  uncertainty  and   expressed  her                                                               
excitement about  the possible certainty pertaining  to long-term                                                               
price  structures and  delivery that  microreactors could  bring.                                                               
She recommended  that from standpoint  of energy  security, these                                                               
would be  worth exploring for  hub communities like Bethel.   She                                                               
asked Mr. McDowell to address  the possible negative impacts of a                                                               
11:18:30 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. MCDOWELL addressed  the potential for reactors  in Alaska and                                                               
the unique challenges  for NRC.  He explained  that the footprint                                                               
is smaller, there is no  water-based coolant, and the foundations                                                               
will be  unique due to the  permafrost.  He talked  about how NRC                                                               
regards climate  change as  a change  to baseline  conditions and                                                               
the potential environmental impact 40 years from now.                                                                           
11:21:51 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS inquired about  price per kilowatt hour and                                                               
ways to  reduce that price  to remain competitive with  the Lower                                                               
48, citing projected costs for Valdez.                                                                                          
MS.  HOLDMANN  responded  that  the  economics  of  a  system  is                                                               
difficult, and  there are still  many open questions in  terms of                                                               
costs  and  requirements   from  NRC.    She   talked  about  the                                                               
information  that  the  Eielson   Air  Force  Base  project  will                                                               
11:24:33 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  FIELDS  mentioned that  the  city  of Valdez  has                                                               
testified  to their  interest in  a small-scale  reactor, and  he                                                               
asked   who  could   provide   consulting   services  for   local                                                               
MS. HOLDMANN  answered that  ACEP has been  careful not  to enter                                                               
NDA  with  any  particular  vendor   to  remain  a  resource  for                                                               
stakeholders  with questions  about  this technology.   She  said                                                               
very few  people in  Alaska are  knowledgeable about  this space.                                                               
National labs and  the U.S. Department of  Energy provide support                                                               
to this  Alaska, as  well as 20  participants from  national labs                                                               
who regularly  inform Alaskans  through the  working group.   She                                                               
addressed  Valdez specifically  and talked  about the  internship                                                               
that specifically investigated the  feasibility of a microreactor                                                               
in Valdez.   She also expressed  interest in how a  micro reactor                                                               
could, for example, make the Railbelt system more robust.                                                                       
11:27:38 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN asked if the  Eielson project would require                                                               
any  statutory  change,  or  if the  legislature  would  need  to                                                               
approve a citing location chosen by the Air Force.                                                                              
MS. HOLDMANN explained  that it would be subject  to any relevant                                                               
state law if  HB 299 is not  passed.  If the bill  does pass, the                                                               
Fairbanks  NorthStar  Borough  would  still  have  authority  for                                                               
11:28:52 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  SCHRAGE asked  whether  other  states require  legislative                                                               
approval for siting.                                                                                                            
MS.  HOLDMANN offered  her understanding  that Alaska  is unique,                                                               
and she deferred to Dr. Finan.                                                                                                  
11:29:34 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HOLDMANN  said there are a  variety of other laws  around the                                                               
country;  some have  voter approval  and others  have legislative                                                               
11:30:26 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  HOLDMANN  resumed the  presentation  on  slides 20  and  21,                                                               
addressing the Eielson  project.  She then moved to  slide 23 and                                                               
summarized her  personal interest in small  reactors and provided                                                               
her  background.    She  emphasized   the  need  for  a  path  to                                                               
competitive  pricing.    She  also  stated  her  appreciation  of                                                               
protecting the  sensitive environment in Alaska  and talked about                                                               
an   ongoing  project   to  estimate   the  environmental   costs                                                               
associated with  status quo.  She  opined that HB 299  would keep                                                               
the door  open to  exploring the technology  and for  industry to                                                               
consider this as a potential option.                                                                                            
11:34:21 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SCHRAGE thanked the presenters.                                                                                           
[HB 299 was held over.]                                                                                                         
11:34:42 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no further business before the committee, the House                                                                 
Special Committee on Energy meeting was adjourned at 11:35 a.m.                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 299 ACEP Presentation.pdf HENE 2/8/2022 10:15:00 AM
HB 299
HB 299 Sectional Analysis version A.pdf HENE 2/8/2022 10:15:00 AM
HENE 3/1/2022 10:15:00 AM
HRES 3/11/2022 1:00:00 PM
HB 299
HB 299 Research & Background.pdf HENE 2/8/2022 10:15:00 AM
HENE 3/1/2022 10:15:00 AM
HRES 3/11/2022 1:00:00 PM
HB 299
HB 299 Testimony - Received as of 02.07.22.pdf HENE 2/8/2022 10:15:00 AM
HENE 3/1/2022 10:15:00 AM
HB 299
HB 299 APA Letter of Support.pdf HENE 2/8/2022 10:15:00 AM
HENE 3/1/2022 10:15:00 AM
HRES 3/11/2022 1:00:00 PM
HB 299