Wyoming explores replacing coal with advanced nuclear

Wyoming Governor, Mark Gordon, together with a broad coalition of high-ranking federal, state and industry partners, announced that Bill Gates’ advanced nuclear venture, TerraPower, selected Wyoming to be the state in which they will build and operate their advanced nuclear Natrium™ reactor, replacing a coal-fired plant at a yet-to-be-selected Rocky Mountain Power facility.

The project, with a combination of private and federal funding and supported by Wyoming’s legislature, which passed HB 74, will allow the development of a first-of-a-kind, fully functioning advanced nuclear power plant that is expected to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology and enable Wyoming, which leads the country in coal exports, to remain a leader in a form of energy best suited to replace coal.

The Governor, in his remarks, clearly sought to straddle the complexity of competing interests in Wyoming, which is home to some of the largest fossil fuel companies in the country, while announcing this “game-changing and monumental” news.

“Earlier this year, I set a goal for Wyoming to be a carbon negative state, and continue to use fossil fuels. I am not going to abandon any of our fossil fuel industry, it is absolutely essential to our state and we believe very strongly is our fastest and clearest course to being carbon negative.

I do want to say, that it is the bedrock of our economy, in many ways, and as that, it has provided us with enormous amounts of capital and money to be able to do great things with wildlife, our landscape and our environment.

But this historic announcement helps Wyoming meet the first part of that objective. Nuclear power is clearly a part of my “all of the above” strategy, for energy in Wyoming, it will be the first of a new generation of nuclear plants that are smaller, modular in design and are equipped with enhanced safety measures. This facility will also result in an overall reduction of CO2 being released in Wyoming.

You may access the Wyoming PBS video of this announcement by clicking the image below.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial funding from the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) to demonstrate the Natrium technology in October 2020. TerraPower signed the cooperative agreement with DOE in May 2021.

In December, 2020, Staffan Qvist, Paweł Gładysz, Łukasz Bartela and Anna Sowizdzał published at study that looked at the issue of how best to retrofit coal power plants for decarbonization in Poland.  They published their findings in Retrofit Decarbonization of Coal Power Plants—a Case Study for Poland, showing that decarbonization retrofits worked best using high-temperature small modular reactor to replace coal boilers.

Learn more at: GeekWire’s Bill Gates’ TerraPower will build its first next-gen nuclear reactor in Wyoming, by Lisa Stiffler, June 3, 2021 and at TerraPower’s joint announcement with PacifCorp and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, June 2, 2021.