Ketchup and conversations: Sustainable energy with more justice

The conference took place in Juneau shortly after the Alaska Legislature closed its regular session. A bill, HB273, that was passed calls for the creation of a Green Bank as a subsidiary of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. The fund would support loans for energy efficiency improvements in homes and businesses.

“This is just the beginning. There is still so much we can do politically to unlock Alaska's enormous resource potential,” Dunleavy said. “I have to give credit to the legislature and state departments. They came together on some of these critical issues, and the result is what we have today.”

The new legislation commemorates the first Sustainable Energy Conference, where Dunleavy signed a bill that simplified state regulations for the next wave of nuclear energy technology. At the time, nuclear energy was on the verge of coming to Alaska; two years later, it still is.

Gwen Holdmann, founding director of ACEP and now associate director of research at UAF, calls it a “ketchup bottle problem.” Holdmann says, “You shake the ketchup bottle and think, 'It's almost there. It's coming out.' I think there's a point where a lot is happening, and we're close to it.”

Signs of this turning point include the impending completion of the Alaska Advanced Nuclear Energy Roadmap, a guidance document launched two years ago. Richelle Johnson, senior analyst at the University of Alaska's Center for Economic Development, says the roadmap is almost complete.

Eielson Air Force Base remains on schedule to build the state's first commercial nuclear power plant in 2027. The U.S. Air Force has awarded California-based Oklo a preliminary contract to build the 5-MW plant.

The U.S. Department of Defense is leading the development of a similar transportable reactor. Virginia-based BWX Technologies has been selected to build it as part of Project Pele. Jeff Waksman, program manager in the department's Strategic Capabilities Office, told conference attendees that the final design will be finalized later this year and the project is on track to receive its full TRISO fuel supply. The multi-layered enriched uranium pellets are key to passively safe reactor designs.

Anna Harden

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