Wyoming to build nuclear reactor in partnership with Rocky Mountain Power

Utah power and jobs engaged in the process, governor’s adviser says.

(TerraPower via PacifiCorp press release) A screenshot of a projection of the Natrium reactor demonstration project that will be built in Wyoming.

The Bill Gates-backed company TerraPower, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and PacifiCorp announced plans June 2 to build a uranium-fueled Natrium reactor at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming, which will use nuclear power to produce carbon-free energy and benefit Rocky Mountain Power, a supplier of electricity in Utah.

Gov. Spencer Cox’s energy adviser, Thom Carter, was present at the June 2 press conference, and said in an interview with FOX 13 that Utah power and Utah jobs will be “engaged in this process.” Gov. Cox also commended the venture in a statement.

“I support an all-of-the-above energy plan, which includes nuclear power. Utahns need reliable energy sources and this new facility in Wyoming will provide that in an environmentally sustainable manner,” Cox said in a statement to Fox13. “Coal communities have powered our state and this country for generations and have enabled the tremendous economic growth we have seen across the West. By siting this project at a retiring coal plant, Rocky Mountain Power and their partners, TerraPower and the Department of Energy, are demonstrating that these same communities can power our economic growth for generations to come.”

Rocky Mountain Power, which provides energy to a majority of Utah, is a division of the Berkshire-Hathaway owned PacifiCorp.

TerraPower, founded by Gates, and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy will produce the Natrium reactor which “offers carbon-free energy at a competitive cost and is ready to integrate seamlessly into electric grids with high levels of renewables.”

According to the release, the project features “a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system,” and the storage technology can “boost the system’s output to 500 MW of power for more than five and a half hours when needed, which is equivalent to the energy required to power around 400,000 homes.”

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded TerraPower $80 million of initial funding in October 2020 to “demonstrate the Natrium technology,” the release stated. This May, the company signed an agreement with the Department of Energy and the department has “committed additional funding in the coming years, subject to appropriations.”

“Nuclear power is the only carbon-free energy source we have that can deliver large amounts of power, day and night, through every season, almost everywhere on Earth. And it’s been proven to work on a large scale,” Gates said in a video during the June 2 press conference. “Nuclear power, like every other technology, needs to innovate and adapt … Natrium is designed to make a dramatic change in performance, safety and cost. We think Natrium will be a game changer for the energy industry.”