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(PHOTOS) Wyoming governor tours Naughton coal plant, Natrium demonstration site

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon visited several energy projects in southwestern Wyoming.

Naughton Power Plant (Office of Gov. Mark Gordon)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Business leaders and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon met Friday to showcase plans for a nuclear power plant in Kemmerer.

Kemmerer is home to the future Natrium reactor and integrated storage system that will be sited near a retiring PacifiCorp coal facility.

Natrium groundbreaking (Office of Gov. Mark Gordon)
Natrium groundbreaking (Office of Gov. Mark Gordon)

The Natrium demonstration project is a public–private partnership and part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, a TerraPower news release said. The project features a 345MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system, which can boost the output to 500 MW, or enough energy to power about 400,000 homes. The storage allows the plant to integrate seamlessly with renewable resources. It is projected to need a peak workforce of 1,600 construction jobs and 250 full-time employees to support day-to-day operations when the plant comes online.

Kemmerer Mine (Office of Gov. Mark Gordon)
Kemmerer Mine (Office of Gov. Mark Gordon)

Gordon and TerraPower Founder and Chairman Bill Gates, TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque, Natrium Project Director and SVP Tara Neider, and PacifiCorp’s Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO Gary Hoogeveen toured the Naughton coal plant and the Natrium demonstration site.

“I am proud to be investing in a next-generation nuclear power plant in Kemmerer and supporting the state of Wyoming as an energy leader in the U.S.,” Gates said. “TerraPower’s Natrium reactor is an example of how energy innovation can create jobs and strengthen the American economy.”

Levesque said TerraPower is proud to add the project to Wyoming’s rich history of energy production.

PacifiCorp and TerraPower are committed to providing low-cost, carbon-free energy solutions while ensuring the energy grid is reliable and integrating dispatchable power that can support intermittent energy resources, Hoogeveen said.

In fall 2022, TerraPower and PacifiCorp announced they want to develop up to five more Natrium reactors by 2035. PacifiCorp’s 2023 Integrated Resource Plan included plans for two Natrium reactor and energy storage systems to be online by 2033. This would total 1,500 megawatts of advanced nuclear energy from three total Natrium reactors, including the plant in Kemmerer. TerraPower and PacifiCorp are also considering deploying more Natrium units by 2035.

Levesque said in December 2022 that TerraPower’s timeline for completing the reactor through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program was delayed because it assumed the use of nuclear fuel from high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU, from Russia, since the U.S. isn’t producing its own on a commercial level. The company will be able to update its schedule once it knows the results of the Fuel Availability Program’s request for proposals, the availability of DOE material for downblending into HALEU and other Congressional actions. The company said it expects at least a two-year delay before the reactor can become operational, but work will still begin in spring 2023 on the large sodium facility, he said.

On May 5, Gordon also visited with coal miners at the Kemmerer Mine and toured the Exxon helium plant, the largest carbon capture sequestration facility in the world, in La Barge, spokesperson Ivy McGowan-Castleberry said May 9.

Shute Creek in La Barge (Office of Gov. Mark Gordon)
Shute Creek (Office of Gov. Mark Gordon)