HomeEnvironment & Climate NewsNuclear Power Backers Choose Wyoming Town as the Site for Experimental Reactor

Nuclear Power Backers Choose Wyoming Town as the Site for Experimental Reactor

TerraPower has selected Kemmerer, Wyoming as the preferred site for its Natrium reactor demonstration project, reported the American Nuclear Society in a November 17 news release,.

Kemmerer was selected as the site of the experimental reactor followed an extensive evaluation process, which included multiple meetings with community members and leaders, says TerraPower.

Local Need and Support

Factors considered in site selection included community support, physical characteristics of the site, the ability of the site to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, access to existing infrastructure, and the needs of the power grid.

Concerning the latter point, Kemmerer is located near the Naughton power plant, a 448-MW coal-fired facility whose two remaining operating units are scheduled for retirement in 2025.

TerraPower and PacifiCorp, owner of the Naughton plant, announced in June the plan to locate the Natrium project at the site of a retiring coal plant in Wyoming.

TerraPower expects to be able to qualify for as much as $2.5 billion of the funding provided to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) contained in the recently enacted infrastructure law.

“This allocation, along with previous funding, will cover DOE’s commitment to TerraPower for the first five years of a seven-year, $2 billion agreement,” the company said in a press release. “TerraPower will match this investment dollar for dollar.”

‘Natrium Will Be A Game-Changer’

The Kemmerer project will feature a sodium-cooled fast reactor and molten salt energy storage, which backers say would perform better, be safer, and cost less than traditional nuclear power.

The high heat-transfer properties of sodium will allow the Natrium plant to be air-cooled. This will enable the plant to be quickly shut down in case of an emergency. The fact that the Natrium plant will not need emergency generators or pumps to cool the reactor in the case of a failure, will save on costs says Chris Levesque, the CEO of TerraPower, the company behind the project. TerraPower was founded by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates about 15 years ago.

Construction is set to begin in 2024.

This reactor design will launch a resurgence in the nuclear power industry, said Gates at the project’s launch in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Gates said.

Boon to Local Economy

The project will provide as many as 2,000 people relatively high paying jobs during construction, and 250 full and part-time employees once operational in a state where the coal industry has been shedding jobs.

Kemmerer, one of four cities in the running to host the project, is home to 2,600 people and is located about 130 miles (210 km) north-east of Salt Lake City.

Nuclear Outperforms Renewables

Unlike wind and solar power, nuclear generation provides a constant power source not reliant on variable or seasonal weather, which makes it superior as a source of electric power, says Ronald Stein, P.E., engineer and founder of the engineering staffing consultant PTS Advance.

“Worldwide climate conditions over the seasons are not supportive of continuous uninterruptable electricity generation from breezes and sunshine,” said Stein. “Further, the exotic minerals and metals required to build wind turbines and solar panels are being mined in developing countries and exploiting humanity, and causing atrocities and environmental degradation in countries with yellow, brown, and black skinned people.

“Nuclear generation provides a solution to two demands for electric power: the longstanding demand for continuous uninterruptable power, and the more recent demand that power generation emits no carbon dioxide,” Stein said. “Furthermore, the land requirements for nuclear generation are miniscule compared to industrial wind and solar facilities.”

Good Deal for Taxpayers

Stein says although he doesn’t agree will all the spending contained in the recently enacted infrastructure law, including some of the energy focused spending which he says is misguided and unnecessary, the funding for the ARDP is justified. Stein likened the development of safe alternative nuclear energy designs to the space program.

“The government has financed the U.S. space program ever since President Kennedy’s challenge to go to the moon,” said Stein. “Initiating the program was too expensive for private industry, thus governmental financial support was necessary if we were to develop the technologies that were the basis for the future.

“NASA’s achievements have been extremely successful – not only for humanity’s technical achievements – but for mankind in general,” said Stein. “Like the space program, the staggering upfront price tag for nuclear reactors necessitated significant need for government involvement to provide the scale of energy we demand at prices we can afford.

Spending on nuclear power is clearly superior to government support given for other forms of energy generation, says Stein.

“Our future prosperity depends on low-cost, abundant, scalable supplies of electricity,” said Stein. “Nuclear’s power-density advantages and life span simply cannot be denied.

“Policies that promote low-density, expensive energy, like industrial wind and solar, are destined to fail because they ignore both physics and economics,” said Stein. “Promoting these subsidy-dependent sources, crusaders have given momentum to landscape-destroying energy projects that can supply only a tiny fraction of the America’s and world’s electricity needs, as the International Energy Agency reports, and then only when the weather cooperates.”

Kevin Stone (kevin.s.stone@gmail.com) writes from Arlington, Texas

Kevin Stone
Kevin Stone writes from Dallas, Texas.

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