By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
There has been a mixed response from environmental groups in Wyoming to the recent announcement that the state may be home to a nuclear power plant in six to seven years.
While one environmental group in Wyoming welcomed the news of the proposed “Natrium” nuclear reactor demonstration plant, others were less excited and said their members were looking for more details about the reactor.
On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Gordon, joined by officials with TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, announced they are working to build the reactor 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 Nature Conservancy in Wyoming expressed optimism over the plant, which proponents said would have no harmful emissions.
“This is exciting news,” Hayley Mortimer, state director of The Nature Conservancy, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “TNC Wyoming supports the development of advanced nuclear technologies because we know we need better, safer, cheaper nuclear to meet a net zero carbon goal by 2050. We appreciate the governor’s actions to make Wyoming carbon negative.”
Alan Rogers, spokesman for the Wyoming Outdoor Council, told Cowboy State Daily that his organization is waiting to comment until it can collect more information about the project.
The Powder River Basin Resource Council also had “many” questions about the proposal, noting that the technology was still experimental, according to a group official.
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has yet to license a design, so this announcement appears to be premature, PRBRC chair Marcia Westkott said. “Additionally, we have concerns about the cost to build the facility, how much water will be needed for its operation, and how the waste will be safely stored.”
Westkott said the council supports reducing carbon emissions, but wants more information about the project’s technical details.
“Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this latest claim of a ‘silver bullet’ to save Wyoming’s economy is that it once again diverts attention away from our very real crisis in revenue, jobs and community survival,” she said. “Wyoming’s elected leaders have still not come forward with a real plan to address lost jobs, declining revenues and the dissolution of coal communities. This speculative feasibility study will not do that.”
The Natrium technology has been 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.
In addition to generating 345 megawatts of power, the facility will be able to store enough energy to provide 500 megawatts of power for short periods of time, according to TerraPower.
Before beginning operation, the plant will have to be approved by several regulatory agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.