Millions More Given To Build Tiny Nuclear Reactors In Wyoming

The Wyoming Energy Authority has approved second phase of a $10 million effort by BWXT Technologies to determine the viability of building tiny nuclear power plants in the state.

Pat Maio

June 18, 20244 min read

Concept illustration showing a campus of six BWXT micro nuclear power plants.
Concept illustration showing a campus of six BWXT micro nuclear power plants. (BWXT Technologies)

Wyoming, which is scrambling to halt a federal attempt to close down its revenue-producing coal mining industry in the energy-rich Powder River Basin, is stepping up its ties with a major submarine power plant maker to evaluate the viability of building tiny nuclear reactors to augment a power-starved electrical grid.

Wyoming Energy Authority on Monday announced a multimillion-dollar award for Virginia-based BWX Technologies Inc. to begin the next phase of a year-old contract  to further the design of its emerging tiny reactor design that could meet the specific needs of potential Wyoming end users, like southwestern Wyoming’s trona mining operations.

BWX Technologies’ bread and butter business is manufacturing tiny nuclear reactors for the U.S. Navy’s submarines fleet.

The contract was expected as Gov. Mark Gordon had touted the state’s nuclear friendliness to BWX Technologies on a recent visit to Virginia as well as a videoconferencing pitch at an Alaska trade conference, according those familiar with the deal.

Last August, BWX Technologies received nearly $10 million divided between the two phases of the contract awarded by the WEA’s Energy Matching Funds program.

WEA Director Rob Creager was not available for comment on the contract’s significance.


At the time of the initial deal last year, BWXT Technologies announced a two-phase, two-year contract with the WEA to assess the viability of deploying small-scale nuclear reactors in the state as a source of reliable energy to augment existing power generation sources.

The microreactor that BWX Technologies wants to build for the electrical grid is a commercial version of a military model that the Virginia contractor still needs to test out at the Idaho National Laboratory, one of the premier laboratories of the Department of Energy in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The new reactor, called the BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor, or BANR, is a modular, factory-fabricated system that is small and light enough to be transported by rail, ship or truck and generate about 50 megawatts of nuclear power, or enough to light up about 9,000 homes.

"BWXT has been in conversations with representatives from a number of states to talk about how our BANR microreactor could fit into their states’ clean energy plans,” said BWX Technologies spokesman Jud Simmons.

"However, our cost-share contract with Wyoming is the only such formal agreement that we have with a state at this time,” Simmons told Cowboy State Daily.

In this next phase, a demonstration of the capabilities of Wyoming manufacturers would also be performed to “validate the supply chain activities” completed in the first phase.

An illustration of the BWXT Advance Nuclear Reactor, or BANR.
An illustration of the BWXT Advance Nuclear Reactor, or BANR. (BWXT Technologies)

Nuclear State

The announcement comes on the heels of billionaire Bill Gates making a historic visit to Kemmerer, Wyoming, for the groundbreaking ceremony of TerraPower’s $4 billion Natrium nuclear reactor project.

Most everyone in town seems to consider the nuclear reactor that Bellevue, Washington-based TerraPower LLC is building as a beacon of hope for the tiny community of 2,400 people, which is facing the closing of its 60-year-old power plant in the next decade.

The community, which runs the only unionized coal mine in Wyoming, is facing growing pains from a lack of housing for the nearly 1,600 workers coming to town to build the plant, plus permanent housing needed for long-term projects to be located near Naughton and the TerraPower project.

The BWX Technologies reactor project is coming at a tough time for northeastern Wyoming that has come under fire by the federal government to phase out coal-fired power plants and terminate coal mining on public lands by 2041.

This is the second front opened up by Wyoming to bring a nuclear reactor to the state. With BWX Technologies, parts of the microreactor supply chain already is taking shape.

Lining Up

To date, collaborations have been announced with Gillette-based L&H Industrial, a 60-year-old industrial machinery company in the heart of northeastern Wyoming’s coal mines that dot the region’s open grassland landscape, and Tata Chemicals Soda Ash Partners LLC in southwestern Wyoming.

Simmons said that BWX Technologies plans to release at least one competitively bid procurement that will engage Wyoming vendors in activities related to its development program.

L&H CEO Mike Wandler and Marcio Paes Barreto, managing director of a new L&H business unit Evercore Energy, told Cowboy State Daily in April that L&H had partnered with nuclear technology innovator innovator BWX Technologies as part of a blockbuster deal to launch a multibillion-dollar industry in the micro nuclear reactor field.

Wyoming’s ultimate plan is to build a one-stop shop in the Cowboy State for everything from manufacturing reactor vessels, specialized fences and electrical control panels to piping, wires and pouring concrete needed to build a containment building.

L&H also has plans to provide consulting services, operate and lease energy generated from the micro-nuclear reactors.

Pat Maio can be reached at

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Pat Maio


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