Wyoming May Be Home For Up To Five More Nuclear Reactors

in Energy/News

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By Kevin Killough, energy reporter

PacifiCorp and TerraPower are initiating a joint study to evaluate the feasibility of building five more Natrium reactors by 2035, in addition to a planned reactor in progress in Kemmerer. 

This is only a study, and the companies are still determining the exact locations of the five additional reactors, which may or may not be in Wyoming. 

Larger Transition

The reactor demonstrations are tied into a goal of transitioning from fossil fuel-powered generation to nuclear energy, which produces energy without carbon dioxide emissions. 

Kemmerer was chosen as the location for the first Natrium project in part because of its proximity to the PacifiCorp coal-fired Naughton Power Plant, which is slated for retirement. 

TerraPower and PacifiCorp want to find carbon-free solutions to producing energy while maintaining grid reliability by integrating baseload power with intermittent wind and solar. If the Natrium reactor demonstration goes well, it could be that solution. 

“We have been impressed and humbled by our work with the Kemmerer community and PacifiCorp. We look forward to evaluating new potential sites for Natrium plants that have the same energy expertise and capabilities as our demonstration site,” said TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque in a statement on the study. 

Path To Net-Zero

Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, said advanced nuclear reactors like the planned Natrium demonstration model in Kemmerer need to be evaluated through the company’s resource planning process and also would need regulatory approval. 

“It’s an exciting opportunity that advances us down the path to a net-zero energy future,” Hoogeveen said. 

Long Process

Permitting nuclear reactors is notoriously difficult, however. According to the Energy Information Administration, only one new reactor has come online since 1996. In February 2012, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission permitted two new reactors for the Vogtle plant in Georgia. Neither has come online yet. They were the first reactors to receive construction approval in more than 30 years. 

The joint study between PacifiCorp and TerraPower will evaluate the potential for reactors to be located near current generation plants that are powered by natural gas or coal, which will allow PacifiCorp to repurpose existing transmission lines and generation infrastructure. 

In a statement on the study, the companies said they will engage local communities before any final sites are selected. 

Natrium technology uses heat at high temperatures from the reactor to power a molten salt storage system, The process can retain greater amounts of energy that can be stored in typical battery facilities.

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