Wyoming Coal Plant Selected As Site For Gates-Founded Nuclear Reactor Project

Nuclear startup TerraPower has picked Kemmerer, Wyoming, as the location for its Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project, one of only two projects that the federal government has decided to sponsor in support of developing advanced reactors. The Bill Gates-founded firm and utility partner PacifiCorp announced the decision earlier this week. Pending final permits, the nuclear plant will be built at the coal-fired Naughton Power Plant, whose two remaining coal units are set to retire in 2025.

The Natrium reactor is a 345-megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system that can provide up to 500 megawatts of power. That is enough energy to power more than 400,000 homes when combined with modern storage technologies. Other Wyoming cities, including Glenrock, Gillette, and Rock Springs, bid alongside Kemmerer for the project, as TerraPower planned to employ existing infrastructure and workforces.

According to the Washington Examiner, Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower, said:

“People across Wyoming welcomed us into their communities over the past several months, and we are excited to work with PacifiCorp to build the first Natrium plant in Kemmerer. Our innovative technology will help ensure the continued production of reliable electricity while also transitioning our energy system and creating new, good-paying jobs in Wyoming.”

President Joe Biden’s recently signed infrastructure bill included increased money for TerraPower’s Natrium reactor project.

The package invests nearly $2.5 billion over six years to finance advanced nuclear reactor technology research, development, and demonstration. As part of the initiative to assist their reactor projects, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program granted TerraPower and X-energy each $80 million last October, under the condition that the projects must be commercially viable within the next seven years.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm hailed TerraPower’s pick as an excellent strategy to sustain coal-producing regions like Wyoming as fossil fuel consumption decreases.

She stated, “The energy communities that have powered us for generations have real opportunities to power our clean energy future through projects just like this one, that provide good-paying jobs and usher in the next wave of nuclear technologies.”

TerraPower plans to submit a building permit application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the demonstration plant in mid-2023.

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