Governor Gordon Announces Historic Nuclear Facility in Wyoming

Governor Gordon Announces Historic Nuclear Facility in Wyoming

Governor Mark Gordon, President and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power Gary Hoogeveen, and Senator John Barrasso discuss the new nuclear power plant to be built and operated in Wyoming. Wyoming PBS photo

CHEYENNE — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon announced Wednesday that Wyoming will be home to an advanced nuclear power plant.

TerraPower, Rocky Mountain Power with PacifiCorp announced today efforts to advance a Natrium™ reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming. The nuclear power plant is on a seven-year schedule.

The nuclear plant will replace one of the coal fired plants in the Wyoming PacifiCorp system, according to Governor Gordon. He said he set a goal to be a carbon negative state while still continuing the use of fossil fuels.

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“I am not going to abandon any of our fossil fuel industries. It is absolutely essential to our state,” Gordon said.

Gordon said he believes this plant will help Wyoming meet both his goal of being carbon negative, while also meeting the Biden Administration’s direction of the United States having net zero emissions by 2050.

Gary Hoogeveen, President and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, acknowledged that everyone must be wondering which of the the four coal plants will be retired and replaced with this nuclear plant. However, he said that has not been figured out yet.

Rocky Mountain Power will work with TerraPower to figure out which site is the best Hoogeveen said. “And we have a target to do that by the end of the year.”

Hoogeveen said this may leave cities like Kemmerer, Rock Springs, and Glenrock with concerns over what will happen “if and when these retire”. However, he said the solutions are already put into place.

“I couldn’t be more excited for you, those cities, those employees. There is a solution and it’s coming, and TerraPower, I believe, is it. And we’re going to work as hard as we possibly can to make it happen,” he said.

According to Gordon, the development of a nuclear energy facility will bring welcomed tax revenue to Wyoming’s state budget, which has seen a significant decline in recent years. This project creates opportunities for both PacifiCorp and local communities to provide well-paying and long-term jobs for workers in Wyoming communities that have decades of energy expertise.

Governor Gordon also announced that Wyoming’s own uranium will be used to run the plant.

It makes sense to use Wyoming uranium to furnish the feed stock for this plant.

~ Governor Mark Gordon

He added that along with reaching those emission goals, it will be hugely beneficial to the state by creating hundreds of well-paying jobs through construction and through the operation of the nuclear power plant. He said salaries and benefits will be comparable to the existing jobs within the current coal plants.

Additionally, he said Wyoming’s students and workforce can be trained for the changing energy industry through the Wyoming Innovation Network (WIN). WIN calls for closer collaboration between the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges and an emphasis on developing innovative solutions that will support and enhance Wyoming’s economy and workforce.

Wyoming to Lead the US into Clean Energy Future

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said this power plant will help Wyoming lead the country into the future of clean energy.

“This reactor is going to boost the flexibility with GridScale energy storage, and it’s going to allow for improved integration with renewable power to drive clean energy forward across the country,” she said.

Granholm said the bills that went into creating this reactor program was supported by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.

“We should all want our neighbors and our communities to have access to clean energy. That leaves our children healthier and our planet safer and our wallets fuller and our homes more reliably powered. And this reactor and this program is one step in that direction, and I have no doubt it will be a boom to the Wyoming residents who draw power from it,” Granholm said.

Bill Gates, Founder of TerraPower, praised Governor Gordon and Senator John Barrasso for their dedication to encouraging nuclear energy in Wyoming.

“Governor Gordon understands the potential of nuclear, and congress, with Senator Barrasso’s leadership, created the program responsible for this project: The Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. Without that program, we wouldn’t be here today,” Gates said via video.

Chris Levesque, President and CEO of TerraPower said this program is crucial to helping the United States lead nuclear and clean energy development.

The Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program is essential in establishing the United States as a leader in nuclear and clean energy technology development.

~ Chris Levesque, President and CEO of TerraPower said

Hoogeveen said the energy industry has been changing, and it has been particularly hard on Wyoming. He said everyone in the energy industry knows that it is not realistic to move to 100 percent renewable and battery power, and still be able to serve all hours of the day.

“That’s what’s so exciting about today. Because this technology can allow us to provide carbon-free electricity 24/7, 365. And that is amazing,” Hoogeveen said.

Senator Barrasso said Wyoming has provided energy for the country for decades and decades, and that with this nuclear power plant, the state can continue to do so using all of Wyoming’s resources.

“We have all the energy sources here. Everything, oil, gas, coal, the renewables, and of course, uranium for nuclear power,” Barrasso said. “So this country is going to continue to depend on Wyoming energy for decades and decades to come.”

More About the Project

Wyoming’s Governor Gordon committed in early 2021 to lead the state in becoming carbon net negative while continuing to use fossil fuels through the advancement and utilization of next-generation technologies that can provide baseload power to the grid, including nuclear and carbon capture solutions. Wyoming is the largest net energy exporter in the United States and finding carbon solutions will ensure the state continues to provide energy to consumers across the nation while decreasing CO2 emissions.

In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial funding to demonstrate the Natrium technology. TerraPower signed the cooperative agreement with DOE in May 2021. Next steps include further project evaluation, education and outreach as well as state and federal regulatory approvals, prior to the acquisition of a Natrium facility.

Learn more about this project and the Natrium technology at wyadvancedenergy.com.