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TerraPower selects Kemmerer as preferred site for new Natrium nuclear reactor in Wyoming

Bill Gates, founder of TerraPower, in a recorded announcement that a new Natrium nuclear reactor will be built in Wyoming. (Screenshot from Wyoming PBS, Youtube)

CASPER, Wyo. — TerraPower announced in a press release Tuesday that Kemmerer, Wyoming has been selected as the preferred site for the new Natrium nuclear reactor demonstration project.

TerraPower said that a location near the Naughton Power Plant has been selected as its preferred site after “an extensive evaluation process and meetings with community members and leaders.” Two coal units are scheduled to retire at the Naughton plant in 2025. TerraPower said that factors in the decision to select the site “included community support, the physical characteristics of the site, the ability of the site to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), access to existing infrastructure, and the needs of the grid.”

The finalization of the site selection depends on establishing definitive agreements and permitting, licensing and support. The company plans to apply for the construction permit with the NRC in mid-2023. The plant is expected to be operational within seven years.

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

The project aims to validate the viability of the Natrium technology and will feature “a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system,” according to TerraPower. It is expected to be able to produce up to 500 MW, capable of powering 400,000 homes.

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

TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque also commented on the selection in the press 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,” he said. “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.”

The Natrium project aims to build a reactor using TerraPower and GE-Hitachi technology. It is “one of two competitively-selected advanced reactor demonstration projects (ARDP) supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE),” according to TerraPower.

“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,” Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO Gary Hoogeveen said.

TerraPower added in the release: “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.”