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Wyoming partnering with TerraPower, PacifiCorp for nuclear power project

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Brianna Kraemer | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) — The state of Wyoming announced the development of a new nuclear energy facility in partnership with Bill Gates-founded TerraPower and Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp.

The Natrium reactor demonstration project will use a retiring coal plant site in the state to bring cleaner energy with the updated nuclear technology while also generating economic benefits including jobs and increased tax revenue, Gov. Mark Gordon's office said Wednesday. 

Natrium is a type of technology developed by TerraPower and GE Hitachi that uses advanced reactors to enhance reliability and stability of the grid while also reaching decarbonization and emissions-reduction goals, President and CEO of TerraPower Chris Levesque said. The design is reported to reduce complexity and cost in a variety of ways by housing non-nuclear mechanical and electrical equipment in separate structures. This will reduce the amount of nuclear-grade concrete by 80% as compared to large reactors, according to World Nuclear News

A specific location in Wyoming has not yet been selected but is likely to be announced by the end of the year. 

“I am thrilled to see Wyoming selected for this demonstration pilot project, as our great state is the perfect place for this type of innovative utility facility and our coal-experienced workforce is looking forward to the jobs this project will provide,” Gordon said in a press release

Founded in 2006 and chaired by Gates, TerraPower is a nuclear innovation company with a focus on environmental sustainability. PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, provides electricity to over two million customers in the western United States. 

In October 2020, TerraPower was awarded $80 million in initial funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. The cooperative agreement with the DOE was signed by TerraPower in May, which has prompted upcoming steps including project evaluation, and state and federal regulatory approvals.

“This project is an exciting economic opportunity for Wyoming. Siting a Natrium advanced reactor at a retiring Wyoming coal plant could ensure that a formerly productive coal generation site continues to produce reliable power for our customers,” said Gary Hoogeveen, the president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp.