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Nuclear Power Plant, Storage Bill Passes Wyoming Senate, Headed Back To House

in News/Legislature
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would adjust the state’s rules for regulating nuclear power plants and waste storage facilities, prepared in anticipation of the construction of a nuclear power plant near Kemmerer, cleared the Wyoming Senate on Thursday.

House Bill 131 passed the Senate on a vote of 16-13 and is now headed back to the House, where represenatives will be asked to approve any Senate changes to the bill.

The bill won final approval after Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, successfully proposed an a amendment to require a report from the state Department of Revenue on how much income the state would lose from tax exemptions provided for the developers of small nuclear power plants such as the Natrium plant proposed near Kemmerer.

Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, pointed out that no matter what amendments did pass on the bill, it was not going to make a difference to Wyoming’s tax revenue anytime soon.

“This is destined for years of litigation, based on the experience seen elsewhere in the country in recent years on nuclear projects,” Scott said.

Last summer, Gordon, joined by officials with TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, announced the Natrium plant, a “next generation” nuclear plant would be built in Wyoming by 2027 or 2028. The reactor is expected to generate 345 megawatts of power.

The proposed reactor would use technology developed by TerraPower, and would result in a smaller nuclear power plant than has previously been built, along with improved safety measures and a power storage system.

Earlier in the session, Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, along with Reps. Karlee Provenza and Trey Sherwood, both D-Laramie, proposed an amendment to HB131 that would have required the plant to use as much Wyoming uranium as possible while prohibiting the use of Russian uranium.

The amendment failed.

TerraPower officials have said the plant can only use a type of uranium fuel rods made in Russia, although the company is working to cultivate other sources inside the United States.

The Natrium power plant will use fuel rods manufactured with HALEU metallic fluid. This uranium will allow the reactor to operate more efficiently and reduces the volume of waste produced.

In addition to trying to build up American producers of HALEU, TerraPower is investing in an American company to produce the fuel rods, Navin said.

According to project estimates, approximately 2,000 workers will be needed for plant construction at the project’s peak. Once the plant is operational, approximately 250 people will support day-to-day activities, including plant security.

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Wyoming Nuke Expert: Nuclear Reactor On Moon Is Logical Next Step

in Energy/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Photo: Dave Bell, Wyoming Mountain Photography

Although the conversation over the last few months here in Wyoming has focused on the new nuclear reactor scheduled to come to the Cowboy State in a few years, don’t be surprised if the next location discussed will be the moon.

Sure, it may sound like something out of a science fiction film, but Wyoming nuclear energy expert David Miller thinks it is a logical next step for the nation to take.

Last week, NASA announced that it was seeking proposals for a fission surface power system on the moon, as its scientists are looking to establish a sun-independent power source for missions to the moon by the end of the decade, according to ABC News.

“I don’t know what else you would use, because while solar panels could work, there are long periods of time where particular areas of the moon aren’t exposed to sunlight,” Miller said. “If there’s going to be a manned moon base, I would much rather have a nuclear power plant keeping me warm and helping me do whatever I need to do.”

The proposed reactor would be built on Earth and then sent to the moon. If successful in supporting a sustained human presence on the moon, the next objective would be Mars.

Miller did note that an accident involving solar panels would also be more likely on the moon than an accident involving a nuclear power plant.

“It makes sense for us to associate ‘nuclear’ with ‘bomb’ since the 1950s as it did to associate ‘electric’ with ‘chair’ 100 years ago,” he said. “It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind that nuclear is the only way forward from this point. In my opinion, coal has a lot more issues and kills far more people than nuclear ever thought about killing.”

He added that using nuclear energy in space travel is nothing new, as nuclear isotopes were used to power the Voyager probes and others like it that were sent to travel the solar system. It is impossible to send out more fuel for an expedition like that, so nuclear energy is the best choice, he said.

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Kemmerer Selected As Location For Nuclear Power Plant Project

in Energy/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Kemmerer has been selected as the preferred site for a proposed nuclear power plant project, officials from TerraPower announced on Tuesday.

TerraPower selected a site near the Naughton Power Plant as the location for its advanced reactor demonstration project supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, officials announced in a news release.

“People across Wyoming welcomed us into their communities over the past several months, and we are excited to work with PacifiCorp to build the first Natrium plant in Kemmerer,” said Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower. “Our innovative technology will help ensure the continued production of reliable electricity while also transitioning our energy system and creating new, good-paying jobs in Wyoming.”

In June, Gov. Mark Gordon, joined by officials with TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, announced the “next generation” uranium plant would be built 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 proposed “Natrium” reactor would use technology 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.

“This project is an exciting opportunity to explore what could be the next generation of clean, reliable, affordable energy production while providing a path to transition for Wyoming’s energy economy, communities and employees,” said Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp.

Determining Factors

The demonstration project team evaluated a variety of factors when selecting the Naughton Power Plant, where the remaining two coal-fired electrical units are scheduled to retire in 2025.

Factors included community support, the physical characteristics of the site, the ability of the site to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, access to existing infrastructure and the needs of the power grid.

“Just yesterday, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and today DOE is already putting it to work with more than $1.5 billion heading to Wyoming,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The energy communities that have powered us for generations have real opportunities to power our clean energy future through projects just like this one, that provide good-paying jobs and usher in the next wave of nuclear technologies.”

The Natrium reactor demonstration project’s preferred siting is subject to the finalization of definitive agreements on the site and applicable permitting, licensing and support.

Next Steps

TerraPower anticipates submitting the demonstration plant’s construction permit application to the NRC in mid-2023. The plant is expected to be operational in the next seven years, aligning with the advanced reactor demonstratin project schedule mandated by Congress.

According to project estimates, approximately 2,000 workers will be needed for construction at the project’s peak. Once the plant is operational, approximately 250 people will support day-to-day activities, including plant security.

“On behalf of Kemmerer and surrounding communities, we are pleased and excited to host the Natrium demonstration project. This is great for Kemmerer and great for Wyoming,” said Bill Thek, Kemmerer’s mayor.

The demonstration plant is intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology. The plant’s storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 megawatts of power when needed, which is equivalent to the energy required to power around 400,000 homes.

Renewable Resources

The energy storage capability allows the plant to integrate its power with power from renewable resources.

Through the recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, DOE worked with Congress to allocate nearly $2.5 billion in new funding for ARDP.

This allocation, along with previous funding, will cover DOE’s commitment to TerraPower for the first five years of a seven-year, $2 billion agreement.

TerraPower will match this investment dollar for dollar. Federal funding is provided for the demonstration activity under a cost-shared cooperative agreement and the result of the project will be a commercially-owned generating asset.

Best Choice

After the announcement, Cowboy State Daily spoke with nuclear energy expert and former state legislator Dave Miller, who felt Kemmerer was the best choice of the four options in Wyoming.

Miller, who has been a major proponent of the state being home to nuclear energy, told Cowboy State Daily that he favored Kemmerer over Gillette or Rock Springs because there is enough economic activity in those two communities to keep their economies afloat.

The location was picked after the company conducted an extensive evaluation process and met with community leaders and members.

Congressional Reaction

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a strong advocate for U.S. energy independence applauded Tuesday’s announcement as a win for Wyoming.

“Wyoming powers America, and I’m so excited for the way that advanced nuclear energy production is going to play a role in our state’s energy sector and economy for years to come,” Lummis said in a statement.

“TerraPower and PacifiCorp’s decision to build their new Natrium reactor in Kemmerer is a huge boon not only to Kemmerer, but to Wyoming’s and America’s future energy independence,” she said.

“I look forward to watching this plant come to fruition, and am proud to support Wyoming’s continued place as the number one net energy exporter in the nation.”

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Wyoming Nuke Expert: Kemmerer Is Best Choice for Nuclear Power Plant

in Energy/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Although all four potential Wyoming sites for proposed nuclear power plant are great options, one of Wyoming’s leading experts in nuclear energy said Kemmerer should be at the top of the list.

Former State Rep. Dave Miller, the sponsor for legislation that cleared the way for TerraPower and its partner Rocky Mountain Power to propose construction of a next-generation nuclear power plant in Wyoming, said Kemmerer needs the economic boost that could be provided by the reactor.

“I don’t think there are cons to any of the proposed cities,” Miller said. “I’d love it to be in Fremont County [where he lives and the area he represented in the Wyoming Legislature], but we don’t have the infrastructure for it here. I think Kemmerer makes the most sense, though.”

Last week, 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 plant will be built at one of Rocky Mountain Power’s existing coal power plants near Rock Springs, Glenrock, Kemmerer or Gillette, according to Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of the power company. The location should be decided by the end of the year.

Miller, who has been a major proponent of the state being home to nuclear energy, told Cowboy State Daily last week that he favors Kemmerer over Gillette or Rock Springs because there is enough economic activity in those communities to keep their economies afloat

The proposed “Natrium” reactor would use technology 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.

“A small modular reactor is a perfect fit when we take these coal plants offline,” Miller said. “The infrastructure is already there. The spending is already there. You can seamlessly place one of these reactors in a former coal plant and the workers can transition from coal to nuclear power.”

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.

A bill that Miller and former Wyoming Sen. Eli Bebout co-sponsored during the 2020 legislative session is likely the impetus for the nuclear power plant coming to Wyoming, Miller told Cowboy State Daily last week.

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Former Wyo Legislator Who Sponsored Nuke Bill Thrilled About Nuclear Power Plant

in Energy/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Former state Rep. Dave Miller, R-Riverton, was surprised no one from Gov. Mark Gordon’s office called him this week to give him the news.

As someone who has been pushing for nuclear energy in Wyoming for 20 years, he figured someone would give him a heads up when, if ever, there was an announcement that Wyoming could be the home to a nuclear power plant.

Miller has been passionate about nuclear energy for decades and even caused a stir 10 years ago when he managed to amend a bill saying that nuclear energy was technically a renewable resource. More recently, he was the chief sponsor for legislation that would allow the construction of small, modular nuclear power plants at coal-fired power plants.

“I mentioned many times over the years, ‘Why doesn’t Wyoming have a nuclear power plant?'” Miller told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “I’ve been the guy shaking the trees on this.”

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.

Miller believes it was a bill he co-sponsored in 2020 with former Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton — House Bill 74 — that helped bring the “Natrium” nuclear reactor to Wyoming. The bill allowed power plants in Wyoming to replace their natural gas and coal-fired generators with small nuclear reactors that have similar output.

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.

While Miller’s and Bebout’s bill is perfectly aligned to allow construction of the new power plant, Miller was quick to point out that he was never lobbied by TerraPower, or any power company, to create the bill. It’s just a passion of his. However, he said he had great supporters for the idea in the Wyoming Legislature, including Bebout.

“I’ve been getting emails from my friends in the legislature who are telling me that bill is now starting to pay dividends in Wyoming,” Miller said.

Before beginning operation, the plant will have to be approved by several regulatory agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, Miller tried to write HB 74 in a way to reduce the regulatory burden on the project as possible, because he he feels overregulation has caused issues in basically every industry in the state.

Bebout and Miller both told Cowboy State Daily the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be very important in getting the project approved, as well as up and running.

The bill also would assess a $5 per megawatt hour tax on the plant.

Although Miller said he was hesitant to add any tax, he thought $5 was an appropriate number.

“I was trying to figure out the amount of coal that a plant could burn and that tax rate for Wyoming on that coal, and I came up with $5,” he said. “I tried to amend it to $1, but it didn’t happen. However, since 93% of our power is exported out-of-state, 93% of the cost will be borne by out-of-state consumers.”

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Wyoming Enviro Groups Have Mixed Response to Bill Gates’ Nuclear Power Plant

in Energy/News
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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.

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Cheney Questions Wisdom Of Return To Iran Nuke Deal

in News/Liz Cheney
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

America’s return to a nuclear deal with Iran will just put nuclear weapons in the hands of a terrorist regime, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney said Friday.

Cheney released a statement criticizing the administration of President Joe Biden for announcing it would return to the deal abandoned by the administration of former President Donald Trump in 2018.

“Re-engaging with the human rights abusers in Tehran to revive this disastrous, outdated agreement will embolden a ballistic missile-armed, terrorist regime and make us and our allies more vulnerable to their hostile behavior,” Cheney said in a statement.

The deal reaches back to the administration of former President Barak Obama, which joined with other western countries in 2015 to offer Iran an end to international economic sanctions if it would ship 97% of its nuclear fuel out of the country. The objective was to limit the ability of Iran to create nuclear weapons.

Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal, calling it one-sided, and began pushing the United Nations to restore sanctions against the Iranians. The Biden Administration, according to a New York Times report Friday, is backing away from efforts to restore sanctions.

But Cheney agreed that the deal was not a good one.

“The Iran nuclear deal was one of the most flawed agreements ever negotiated,” her statement said. “The Obama Administration sent billions of dollars to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism in exchange for a pathway to obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

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