TerraPower Expects To Start Building Wyoming Nuclear Site In June

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that it expects TerraPower to file a construction permit within days. The company plans to start building its small nuclear power plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming, in June.

Pat Maio

March 19, 20243 min read

A Natrium nuclear power plant by TerraPower will replace the Naughton power plant near Kemmerer when it's decommissioned.
A Natrium nuclear power plant by TerraPower will replace the Naughton power plant near Kemmerer when it's decommissioned. (Getty Images)

The Bill Gates-backed TerraPower LLC is expected to hit a major milestone within days when it applies for a construction permit for its small nuclear power plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming, a spokesman with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

The confirmation of the filing comes amid a media report in which CEO Chris Levesque said that his Bellevue, Washington-based company would apply for a permit with U.S. regulators before the end of March and that construction would begin in June.

“We expect the TerraPower application soon,” an NRC spokesman told Cowboy State Daily in a statement.

The NRC regulates nuclear reactors in the United States.

Levesque told the Financial Times that TerraPower planned to bring the plant online in 2030.

The spokesman said that once the application is submitted, NRC staff will determine whether the application is complete enough for a full technical review. That determination usually takes several weeks.

If the application is complete, the NRC will begin its technical work and give TerraPower an estimated schedule for reaching a decision on the permit.

“Our generic goal for completing the technical review is 36 months,” the spokesman said.

Ready To Start

As to construction, the NRC's authority extends to structures, systems and components necessary for nuclear safety. The permit, if issued, requires TerraPower to build its proposed nuclear reactor to the specifications submitted to the NRC.

“Other activities, such as site grading, fencing, road work or buildings and structures not related to nuclear safety can be done at TerraPower's own risk,” the spokesman said.

For decades, there have been very few new reactors to come online in the United States, but the concept of building small reactors seems to be catching on, especially in Wyoming where there’s serious discussions taking place to build an infrastructure to assemble the plants in the state.

Radiant Industries Inc., a nuclear technologies business, recently stated that it was selected Wyoming as one of five finalists to locate a factory to build portable micro-nuclear power plants that can power anything from mining and drilling operations to military equipment or large subdivisions of homes.

TerraPower’s reactor would serve as a demonstration project but become a full-scale commercial plant upon completion.

TerraPower and its utility partner PacifiCorp, a unit of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, said they would study the feasibility of deploying another five reactors by 2035. Earlier this year, a PacifiCorp spokesman told Cowboy State Daily that an update on the study could shed light on additional plants under consideration in PacifiCorp’s territory.

Last November, Uranium Energy Corp. announced that it had signed an agreement with TerraPower to become part of the uranium fuel supply chain for the proposed Natrium reactor.

As the TerraPower nuclear demonstration plant prepares to break ground in Kemmerer, the town of 2,500 is preparing for up to 1,600 jobs that could come with it.

The Natrium nuclear plant proposed for the town is a novel concept that could be a game-changer for nuclear power.

The Natrium plant will use liquid sodium as a cooling agent instead of water. Sodium has several safety advantages over water. A higher boiling point means it can soak up more heat than water with less risk of explosion.

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.