Wyoming coal plant chosen for Gates-backed advanced nuclear reactor project

Nuclear startup TerraPower has selected Kemmerer, Wyoming, as its preferred site for its Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project, one of just two projects the federal government has chosen to help fund in support of advanced reactor development.

The Bill Gates-founded company and utility partner Pacificorp announced the selection on Tuesday. Subject to final permitting, the nuclear plant will be built at the coal-fired Naughton Power Plant, whose two remaining coal units are scheduled to retire in 2025.


“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,” said Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower. “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.”

Three other Wyoming cities with existing coal-fired plants — Glenrock, Gillette, and Rock Springs — competed alongside Kemmerer for the project, as TerraPower sought to use the existing infrastructure and workforces there.

The Natrium reactor is a 345-megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system and, coupled with advanced storage technology, is designed to put out up to 500 megawatts of power, or enough energy to power roughly 400,000 homes.

TerraPower’s Natrium reactor project secured years’ worth of new funding in the bipartisan infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed Monday. The bill allocates about $2.5 billion over six years to fund the research, development, and demonstration of advanced nuclear reactor technology through the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

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The department awarded TerraPower and X-energy $80 million each in initial awards last October as part of the program to support their reactor projects. As a condition of the funding, the projects must be commercially operative in the next seven years.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm praised TerraPower’s selection as a way to support regions, such as Wyoming, the nation’s top coal-producing state by far, as fossil fuel use declines.

“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,” Granholm said in a statement.

TerraPower said it anticipates submitting the demonstration plant’s construction permit application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in mid-2023.

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