CHEYENNE – TerraPower and PacifiCorp announced efforts to advance a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming. The companies are evaluating several potential locations in the state.
“I am thrilled to see Wyoming selected for this demonstration pilot project, as our great state is the perfect place for this type of innovative utility facility and our coal-experienced workforce is looking forward to the jobs this project will provide,” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said. “I have always supported an all-of-the-above energy portfolio for our electric utilities. Our state continues to pave the way for the future of energy, and Wyoming should be the place where innovative energy technologies are taken to commercialization."
The development of a nuclear energy facility will bring welcome tax revenue to Wyoming’s state budget, which has seen a significant decline in recent years, according to a press release. This demonstration project creates opportunities for both PacifiCorp and local communities to provide well-paying and long-term jobs for workers in Wyoming communities that have decades of energy expertise.
“This project is an exciting economic opportunity for Wyoming. Siting a Natrium advanced reactor at a retiring Wyoming coal plant could ensure that a formerly productive coal generation site continues to produce reliable power for our customers,” said Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a business unit of PacifiCorp. “We are currently conducting joint due diligence to ensure this opportunity is cost-effective for our customers and a great fit for Wyoming and the communities we serve.”
“I commend Rocky Mountain Power for joining with TerraPower in helping Wyoming develop solutions so that our communities remain viable and continue to thrive in a changing economy, while keeping the state at the forefront of energy solutions,” said Wyoming Senate President Dan Dockstader.
TerraPower was founded by Bill Gates and others in 2008 in a step toward developing nuclear energy in the private sector “to meet growing electricity needs, mitigate climate change and lift billions out of poverty” with advances in nuclear technology and computing previously unavailable to the industry, according to the company’s website.
“Wyoming has long been a headwaters state for baseload energy. This role is proving to be ever more important. This effort takes partnerships, and we welcome those willing to step up and embrace these opportunities with us,” Wyoming Speaker of the House Eric Barlow said.
The location of the Natrium demonstration plant is expected to be announced by the end of 2021. The press release said the demonstration project is intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology, which is a TerraPower and GE Hitachi technology.
“Together with PacifiCorp, we’re creating the energy grid of the future where advanced nuclear technologies provide good-paying jobs and clean energy for years to come,” said Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower. “The Natrium technology was designed to solve a challenge utilities face as they work to enhance grid reliability and stability while meeting decarbonization and emissions-reduction goals.”
Gordon committed in early 2021 to lead the state in becoming carbon net negative while continuing to use fossil fuels through the advancement and utilization of next-generation technologies that can provide baseload power to the grid, including nuclear and carbon capture solutions. Wyoming is the largest net energy exporter in the United States and finding carbon solutions will ensure the state continues to provide energy to consumers across the nation while decreasing CO2 emissions.
In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial funding to demonstrate the Natrium technology. TerraPower signed the cooperative agreement with DOE in May 2021. Next steps include further project evaluation, education and outreach as well as state and federal regulatory approvals, prior to the acquisition of a Natrium facility.
Learn more about this project and the Natrium technology at wyadvancedenergy.com.
WYOMING MINING ASSOCIATION RESPONSE
Wyoming Mining Association Executive Director Travis Deti responded to the announcement.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Wyoming to open a new chapter in the nuclear power industry. Advanced nuclear generation clearly fits the bill for zero-emission, reliable and dispatchable electricity necessary to power our country into the future. Wyoming is the nation’s leader in the production of domestic uranium. Our producers stand ready, willing and able to safely and responsibly provide the vital fuel for America’s next generation of nuclear power,” he said.
The Wyoming Mining Association (WMA) is a statewide trade organization that represents and advocates for 28 mining company members producing bentonite, coal, trona (natural soda ash), and uranium, according to a press release. WMA also represents 120 associate member companies, one railroad, two electricity co-ops, and 200 individual members.