Wyoming Nuke Expert: Kemmerer Is Best Choice for Nuclear Power Plant

One of Wyoming's leading experts in nuclear energy said Kemmerer should be at the top of the list for the new nuclear power plant.

Ellen Fike

June 07, 20213 min read

Downtown Kemmerer Lincoln County custom
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Although all four potential Wyoming sites for proposed nuclear power plant are great options, one of Wyoming’s leading experts in nuclear energy said Kemmerer should be at the top of the list.

Former State Rep. Dave Miller, the sponsor for legislation that cleared the way for TerraPower and its partner Rocky Mountain Power to propose construction of a next-generation nuclear power plant in Wyoming, said Kemmerer needs the economic boost that could be provided by the reactor.

“I don’t think there are cons to any of the proposed cities,” Miller said. “I’d love it to be in Fremont County [where he lives and the area he represented in the Wyoming Legislature], but we don’t have the infrastructure for it here. I think Kemmerer makes the most sense, though.”

Last week, Gov. Mark Gordon, joined by officials with TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, announced they are working to build the reactor at one of Rocky Mountain Power’s four retiring coal-fired power plants by 2027 or 2028. The reactor will generate 345 megawatts of power using Wyoming uranium.

The plant will be built at one of Rocky Mountain Power’s existing coal power plants near Rock Springs, Glenrock, Kemmerer or Gillette, according to Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of the power company. The location should be decided by the end of the year.

Miller, who has been a major proponent of the state being home to nuclear energy, told Cowboy State Daily last week that he favors Kemmerer over Gillette or Rock Springs because there is enough economic activity in those communities to keep their economies afloat

The proposed “Natrium” reactor would use technology developed by TerraPower, a nuclear power innovation company founded by software developer Bill Gates, and GE Hitachi. The technology results in a smaller nuclear power plant than has previously been built, along with improved safety measures and a power storage system.

“A small modular reactor is a perfect fit when we take these coal plants offline,” Miller said. “The infrastructure is already there. The spending is already there. You can seamlessly place one of these reactors in a former coal plant and the workers can transition from coal to nuclear power.”

In addition to generating 345 megawatts of power, the facility will be able to store enough energy to provide 500 megawatts of power for short periods of time, according to TerraPower.

Before beginning operation, the plant will have to be approved by several regulatory agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A bill that Miller and former Wyoming Sen. Eli Bebout co-sponsored during the 2020 legislative session is likely the impetus for the nuclear power plant coming to Wyoming, Miller told Cowboy State Daily last week.

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Ellen Fike