L&H Says Cheyenne, Laramie On Short List For Headquarters Of New Nuclear Business

Wyoming is becoming the new ground zero for building small nuclear reactors, which has prompted Gillette-based L&H Industrial to launch its new nuclear business, which could be based in Cheyenne or Laramie.

Pat Maio

March 18, 20245 min read

L&H Industrial is branching out with a new arm of its company that will focus on building small nuclear power plants and components.
L&H Industrial is branching out with a new arm of its company that will focus on building small nuclear power plants and components. (L&H Industrial via YouTube)

Cheyenne’s connection to nuclear devices could become something larger than just its association with the F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

The military base is responsible for keeping land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles ready for launch just in case an adversary fires a nuclear salvo somewhere in the world.

Wyoming is fast becoming the new ground zero for building small nuclear reactors to supply energy to industries that run up expensive utility bills on the power they consume.

Cheyenne is on a short list to become the corporate headquarters and spot to build a factory to assemble components for an emerging micro-nuclear reactor business under development by Gillette-based L&H Industrial Inc., which started 60 years ago in the coal-rich Powder River Basin and is looking to diversify its main line of business.

Besides the state’s capital city, Laramie, home of the University of Wyoming, also is under consideration, said Marcio Paes Barretto, the managing director of a new L&H business unit, Evercore Energy, working on the nuclear reactor business.

“I think the momentum is gaining around nuclear, especially for micro nuclear reactors, in Wyoming,” said Barretto in an interview with Cowboy State Daily. “I hate to say this, but it’s Cowboy ethics. Let’s not talk, but just do it and implement it.”

The Nuclear Solution

Late last year, Barretto became the first hire for Evercore Energy by L&H CEO Mike Wandler, who has been scrambling to build up a nuclear services arm of his company from scratch. It’s already made several corporate filings with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office to launch the startup.

Some of the urgency to get the business going is growing momentum in the state for a budding nuclear industry sparked by Bill Gates-backed TerraPower to build a nuclear demonstration plant in Kemmerer, and billionaire friend Warren Buffet’s electric utility giant PacifiCorp looking to add reactors for his Rocky Mountain Power utility in Wyoming.

The state also has attracted interest from several outside nuclear reactor players, including BWXT Technologies Inc., which is participating with the Wyoming Energy Authority (WEA) to understand the state’s “supply chain” of nuclear technology businesses; Maryland-based X Energy LLC; Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. LLC, based in a suburb of Pittsburgh; and Radiant Industries Inc., a $60 million venture capital financed nuclear technologies business based along the suburban coast of Los Angeles that has Wyoming high on its list of finalists to locate a factory to build portable micro-nuclear reactors.

Barretto told Cowboy State Daily that his company is forging deals with vendors to create a kind of one-stop shop for everything from consulting services on rolling out a small, modular nuclear reactor to assembling parts.

Evercore Energy will likely select a headquarters sometime next year after it has brought distribution deals under its belt, Barretto said.

“It could ramp up to hundreds very quickly,” said Barretto of the need to hire software developers and engineers, which is why the business wants to stay close to Colorado’s Front Range.

An industrial lift system for giant machines built by L&H Industrial in Gillette, Wyoming.
An industrial lift system for giant machines built by L&H Industrial in Gillette, Wyoming. (L&H Industrial)

Lots Of Potential

Potential clients include energy-starved critical infrastructure like airports, data centers, heavy manufacturers, hospitals, military bases, mining companies and universities.

In Cheyenne and Laramie, Evercore is already kicking the tires on possible industrial parks to place its startup business, Barretto said.

In Cheyenne, the company is considering industrial parks run by Cheyenne LEADS, the economic development organization operated by Cheyenne and Laramie County. The parks include the 600-acre North Range Business Park, with its own exit to Interstate 80; the 500-acre Bison Business Park; Niobrara Industrial Park in southeastern Cheyenne; Campstool Business Park on the southeastern edge of Cheyenne; and the 900-acre Cheyenne Business Parkway.

In Laramie, the company is looking at the Cirrus Sky Technology Park, a joint venture by the city of Laramie and the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance.

Laramie is under consideration because of its proximity to the research-minded University of Wyoming, while Cheyenne is the largest city in Wyoming and has geographic extension to Denver International Airport, the workforce resources to tap from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, and transportation access to interstates 25 and 80, as well as two freight railroads that traverse through the belly of the city’s railyard -– BNSF and Union Pacific.

Always Wyoming

While Evercore Energy is in an incubator stage now with ties to L&H, the business may eventually become spun off from its parent as the business matures and contracts are signed for work, Barreto said.

“This will be a business in Wyoming No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3,” Barreto said.

There also are plans to possibly create relationships with vendors and suppliers in other Wyoming cities like Casper, Gillette, Rock Springs, Sheridan or even Evanston along the border with Utah.

Barreto is not a stranger to nuclear work.

In the early 1990s, the industrial engineer helped with novel welding designs for steel that were intended for a nuclear reactor in Brazil that never materialized.

He was formerly a director of industrial development with the WEA and helped with economic development for the Wyoming Business Council, which is when he first proffered the idea of diversifying Wyoming’s economy with a white paper presented nearly three years ago to the state’s economic development agency.

A few months later, TerraPower came up with its Kemmerer proposal.

The WEA later embraced the concept with a nuclear energy framework with the Department of Energy’s Idaho Nuclear Laboratories in Idaho Falls.

The business plan is simple for Evercore Energy.

“So, we like to think we build the largest machines on Earth (with L&H), and we’ll power the largest machines on Earth with the smallest reactors,” said Barreto last month on the purpose of Evercore Energy at a meeting on advanced nuclear reactors in Louisiana. “That is what this startup is about.”

Pat Maio can be reached at pat@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Pat Maio


Pat Maio is a veteran journalist who covers energy for Cowboy State Daily.