ROCKS SPRINGS — Representatives from Rocky Mountain Power and TerraPower met with elected officials and area business leaders last night to outline the plans for a new nuclear power plant in Wyoming.
Governor Mark Gordon announced earlier this month that the two companies along with Pacificorp will advance a Natrium™ reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming. The project has been narrowed down to four sites including the Jim Bridger Power Plant near Point of Rocks.
Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO Gary Hoogeveen said the eventual location must meet important criteria such as an integrated workforce, utilities, and retraining programs for RMP employees to become employees of the Natrium project.
As RMP looks to build renewable energy into the future, Hoogeveen said that source of power “can only take you so far” and that “there can’t be enough batteries built to keep the lights on.”
“So what’s the rest of the answer?” Hoogeveen asked the group. “I’m hear to tell you today that I think we’ve found it, and that’s advanced nuclear.”
TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque said nuclear power has zero emissions, and that the reactor will be cooled with a new technology using liquid sodium. Liquid sodium allows plants to operate at very low pressure “which provides for a much safer reactor because its not pushing anything out into the environment,” and a much more economical process “because you don’t need the heavy components and the heavy structures.”
The project is estimated to cost roughly $4 billion and take about seven years to complete once construction permits are granted. Tara Neider, Senior Vice President at TerraPower, said employment levels at nuclear sites typically have higher numbers than at the existing sites the company has visited.
“We’re talking about 150 to 200 full-time operations personnel on the site,” Nieder said. “There will be retraining and those kinds of things needed. And some jobs we will be able to fill locally, but there will be jobs in the area.”
Nieder also said comparatively nuclear power plant jobs pay higher than other energy source incomes, and Levesque said the company has received overwhelming support for unions for the project.
Bechtel Construction, which also built the Jim Bridger Plant and the Naughton Plant near Kemmerer, will be partnering with TerraPower to build the new nuclear plant. Nieder said the project will require about 1,500 craft and 500 non-craft workers at its peak over a 2 1/2 to 3-year period.
She also said its important to understand that TerraPower will not be retrofitting the existing plant to meet the needs of a nuclear site. Nieder said they’d like to use the existing transmission and water lines, “but we want to locate the reactor adjacent to the existing site.”
TerraPower is expected to announce its decision by the end of the year. Hoogeveen said even if Rock Springs doesn’t get the project, there is a good possibility that it will in the future as TerraPower expands its nuclear power program across the country.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is the founder and Chairman of the Board at TerraPower. Nieder and Levesque told the group they were meeting with Gates today to share their discussions with the Wyoming communities they visited. Gillette, Kemmerer and Glenrock join Rock Springs as possible locations for the reactor.
SEDC Plan of Action
Sweetwater Economic Development Coalition (SEDC) is currently drafting a proposal to submit to Sharon Fain, Vice President of Rocky Mountain Power – Wyoming. The proposal will outline the benefits of locating the reactor at the Jim Bridger site.
SEDC is planning to have its proposal complete and submitted to RMP by July 8, according to Economic Development Specialist Kayla McDonald.