Calling the news “game-changing and monumental,” Gov. Mark Gordon announced Wednesday morning that Wyoming will be home the nation’s newest nuclear power plant.
Called the Natrium Reactor, the project is a collaboration between Rocky Mountain Power, the U.S. Department of Energy and TerraPower, a green energy company founded by Bill Gates.
The new nuclear plant will be revolutionary in design and operation, Gordon said.
“This plant will be the first of a new generation of nuclear plants that are smaller, modular in design,” Gordon said.
While Wyoming will become home to the first U.S. nuclear plant built since 2016, it remains committed to fossil fuels and to its commitment to be a leader in carbon research and development, the governor said.
“I am not going to abandon any of our fossil fuel industry,” he said, adding that it’s “absolutely essential to our state. It is the bedrock of our economy in many ways.”
The jobs created by the nuclear plant will be comparable in number and pay scale of a coal-fired plant, Gordon said.
The Natrium Reactor will be a 324-megawatt pilot for what could become the next wave of power generation for the United States, said Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy.
“This is such a critical time for our nation,” she said via electronic teleconference. “The future of nuclear energy is here.”
With a smaller design and footprint, the Natrium Reactor will be “an essential tool in the advance of nuclear power,” said Gates, also remotely.
“Wyoming has been a leader in energy for over a century and we hope our investment in Natrium will allow Wyoming to stay in the lead for decades to come,” Gates said.
In cooperation with PacifiCorp and Rocky Mountain Power, the nuclear reactor will replace a Wyoming coal-fired plant upon retirement. A specific location hasn’t been determined, but it will be at one of our of Rocky Mountain Power's plants in Wyoming: the Jim Bridger plant near Rock Springs, the Dave Johnston plant near Glenrock, the Naughton plant at Kemmerer or the Wyodak plant near Gillette.
Rocky Mountain Power had filed plans in 2019 to retire much of its coal-fired power plants by 2030, one of which would happen as early as 2023. In those 2019 plans, Wyodak was scheduled to go offline in two decades.
A timeline for the multi-billion dollar project hasn’t been determined other than it has a seven-year mandate and there are many hurdles to clear, including federal and state permitting.
This is a developing story. See the weekend print edition of the Gillette News Record for more.