Kemmerer Selected As Location For Nuclear Power Plant Project

Kemmerer has been selected as the preferred site for the proposed nuclear power plant project, officials from TerraPower announced on Tuesday.

Ellen Fike

November 16, 20215 min read

Nuke power plant part 2
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Kemmerer has been selected as the preferred site for a proposed nuclear power plant project, officials from TerraPower announced on Tuesday.

TerraPower selected a site near the Naughton Power Plant as the location for its advanced reactor demonstration project supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, officials announced in a news release.

“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.”

In June, Gov. Mark Gordon, joined by officials with TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, announced the “next generation” uranium plant would be built 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 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.

“This project is an exciting opportunity to explore what could be the next generation of clean, reliable, affordable energy production while providing a path to transition for Wyoming’s energy economy, communities and employees,” said Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp.

Determining Factors

The demonstration project team evaluated a variety of factors when selecting the Naughton Power Plant, where the remaining two coal-fired electrical units are scheduled to retire in 2025.

Factors included community support, the physical characteristics of the site, the ability of the site to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, access to existing infrastructure and the needs of the power grid.

“Just yesterday, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and today DOE is already putting it to work with more than $1.5 billion heading to Wyoming,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “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.”

The Natrium reactor demonstration project’s preferred siting is subject to the finalization of definitive agreements on the site and applicable permitting, licensing and support.

Next Steps

TerraPower anticipates submitting the demonstration plant’s construction permit application to the NRC in mid-2023. The plant is expected to be operational in the next seven years, aligning with the advanced reactor demonstratin project schedule mandated by Congress.

According to project estimates, approximately 2,000 workers will be needed for construction at the project’s peak. Once the plant is operational, approximately 250 people will support day-to-day activities, including plant security.

“On behalf of Kemmerer and surrounding communities, we are pleased and excited to host the Natrium demonstration project. This is great for Kemmerer and great for Wyoming,” said Bill Thek, Kemmerer’s mayor.

The demonstration plant is intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology. The plant’s storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 megawatts of power when needed, which is equivalent to the energy required to power around 400,000 homes.

Renewable Resources

The energy storage capability allows the plant to integrate its power with power from renewable resources.

Through the recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, DOE worked with Congress to allocate nearly $2.5 billion in new funding for ARDP.

This allocation, along with previous funding, will cover DOE’s commitment to TerraPower for the first five years of a seven-year, $2 billion agreement.

TerraPower will match this investment dollar for dollar. Federal funding is provided for the demonstration activity under a cost-shared cooperative agreement and the result of the project will be a commercially-owned generating asset.

Best Choice

After the announcement, Cowboy State Daily spoke with nuclear energy expert and former state legislator Dave Miller, who felt Kemmerer was the best choice of the four options in Wyoming.

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

The location was picked after the company conducted an extensive evaluation process and met with community leaders and members.

Congressional Reaction

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a strong advocate for U.S. energy independence applauded Tuesday’s announcement as a win for Wyoming.

“Wyoming powers America, and I’m so excited for the way that advanced nuclear energy production is going to play a role in our state’s energy sector and economy for years to come,” Lummis said in a statement.

“TerraPower and PacifiCorp’s decision to build their new Natrium reactor in Kemmerer is a huge boon not only to Kemmerer, but to Wyoming’s and America’s future energy independence,” she said.

“I look forward to watching this plant come to fruition, and am proud to support Wyoming’s continued place as the number one net energy exporter in the nation.”

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Ellen Fike