By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
News of the possible construction of a demonstration nuclear power plant in Wyoming is being welcomed by the state’s uranium producers.
The plant proposed by TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power is being hailed not only as a new consumer of uranium, but as proof the country can resume development of nuclear power plants, said Travis Deti, director of the Wyoming Mining Association.
“What we see this project doing is jump starting the American nuclear industry,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “This is a great market indictor for uranium producers that the United States is finally getting serious about upgrading its nuclear fleet. More consumers is good news for our producers.”
Gov. Mark Gordon announced Wednesday that TerraPower would begin work to build an $80 million “Natrium” reactor at the site of one of Rocky Mountain Power’s coal-fired power plants.
Officials with Rocky Mountain Power and TerraPower, founded by software engineer Bill Gates, have said they hope to have a site chosen for the plant by the end of this year. Rocky Mountain Power officials said plans call for construction to be completed by 2027 to 2028.
During his announcement Wednesday, Gordon said the plant would use uranium from Wyoming, still the nation’s top uranium producer at 173,000 pounds in 2019.
America’s uranium industry went into a slump in the 1980s with a decline in demand for the radioactive element as fuel for nuclear power plants. Today, most of the country’s uranium comes from Canada and Kazakhstan.
But Deti said the more important aspect of the development is that the plant’s success will encourage the construction of other plants elsewhere.
“Our operations are in a holding pattern to see when markets pick up,” he said. “I think this will be a good shot in the arm, it will show there is going to be a need for this fuel. Once it is up and running and proven successful, we see the construction of a lot more. That means the fuel is going to have to come from somewhere. Wyoming producers are ready, willing and able to meet that demand.”