CASPER, Wyo. — On Monday, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signed legislation that amends the state’s nuclear power and storage regulations into law.
House Enrolled Act 59 includes a variety of provisions related to the production of nuclear energy and storage of nuclear waste as the state works to establish a regulatory framework in anticipation of TerraPower’s planned construction of a new ~$4 billion Natrium nuclear reactor in Kemmerer.
While Wyoming is not directly investing in TerraPower’s Natrium nuclear reactor project, Gordon said last week that the state does have a role to play in terms of making sure regulations are appropriate. The governor said that he thinks House Enrolled Act 59 is largely about ensuring that Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations take precedent over state-level regulations.
The new law allows nuclear waste to be stored in the state if it is stored on the site of a nuclear power facility and the storage facility is licensed through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
In addition to clarifying the requirements to construct and operate “advanced” nuclear reactors in Wyoming, the new law also amends tax exemptions for nuclear operators. Any advanced nuclear reactor operating in the state would be exempt from state taxes until June 30, 2035. Staring July 1, 2035, nuclear reactor operators would continue to receive the tax exemptions only if at least 80% of the uranium used to produce electricity for the month is sourced from uranium mines located in the United States.
Gordon said last week that he is hopeful that the development of advanced nuclear reactors can coincide with a revitalization of Wyoming’s uranium industry. Russia is a major supplier of uranium and the U.S. ban on Russian energy does not include a ban on Russian uranium imports, according to Reuters.
Russian company Tenex is the only company that produces a commercial supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), the type of uranium needed for the Natrium reactor to be built in Wyoming, according to the American Nuclear Society. Limited HALEU fuel is available in the United States through the Department of Energy, and the DOE is working on both short- and long-term solutions to increase the HALEU supply, including a partnership with Centrus Energy to bring an enrichment facility online in Ohio.
Gordon said last week that he thinks it is important that the United States work toward increasing domestic supply and ability to process uranium and other critical minerals along with conventional energy sources such as oil, pointing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as evidence of why self-reliance on energy is important.
House Enrolled Act 59 also includes provisions relating to Wyoming’s Industrial Development Information and Siting Act, law that assesses companies planning major industrial projects based on cost impacts on communities and the environment. The new nuclear law subjects advanced nuclear reactor projects to Wyoming’s industrial siting rules only if those provisions do not interfere with or duplicate any Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements.
Wyoming’s new law requires nuclear reactor operators to provide a report to the state on the number of jobs that will be created “in the planning, licensing, site analysis, preparation, purchasing, construction, transportation, operation and decommissioning of the advanced nuclear reactor and what number of those jobs would be filled by Wyoming residents.”
It also requires operators to report the amount of local and state taxes that it expects will be generated “by all aspects of the construction, operation and decommissioning of the advanced nuclear reactor.” Another reporting requirement includes reporting on benefits and impacts to the state and community where the reactor will be built, including “benefits from job training, education, communications systems, monitoring and security systems.”
The new nuclear law also ensures that nuclear reactors built to replace retiring coal-fired power plants would not be subject to the same cost recovery limitations that apply to electric public utilities built to replace retiring coal-fired facilities.