Wyoming site chosen for Natrium reactor

November 17, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Bellevue, Wash.–based TerraPower has selected Kemmerer, Wyo., as the preferred site for its Natrium reactor demonstration project, the company announced yesterday.

The selection of Kemmerer—located near the Naughton power plant, a 448-MW coal-fired facility whose two remaining operating units are scheduled for retirement in 2025—followed an extensive evaluation process and meetings with community members and leaders, according to TerraPower. 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.

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.

The project: TerraPower’s demonstration plant is intended to validate the design, construction, and operational features of the Natrium technology, developed in collaboration with GE Hitachi. The plant will feature a 345-MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt–based energy storage system designed to boost the reactor’s output to 500 MW of power when needed to integrate with variable renewable energy sources.

The decision to go with Kemmerer is subject to the finalization of definitive agreements on the site and applicable permitting, licensing, and support. TerraPower anticipates submitting the construction permit application for the demonstration plant to the NRC in mid-2023. Demonstration is to be at full commercial scale, as TerraPower hopes to deliver an NRC–licensed, grid-scale reactor ready for commercial service at the project’s end in 2028.

The company anticipates a construction workforce of approximately 2,000, with some 250 workers needed once the plant is operational.

What they’re saying: “People across Wyoming welcomed us into their communities over the past several months, and we are excited to work with PacifiCorp to build the first Natrium plant in Kemmerer,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower’s president and chief executive officer. “Our innovative technology will help ensure the continued production of reliable electricity while also transitioning our energy system and creating new, good-paying jobs in Wyoming.”

Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of the plant’s intended owner, Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, remarked that the Natrium project “is an exciting opportunity to explore what could be the next generation of clean, reliable, affordable energy production while providing a path to transition for Wyoming’s energy economy, communities, and employees.”

Funding: In October 2020, the Department of Energy, through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial funding to demonstrate its Natrium technology. And in May of this year, the company signed a cost-shared cooperative agreement with the DOE that calls for startup within seven years.

TerraPower noted in its announcement the importance of the infrastructure bill signed by President Biden on Monday, which allocates nearly $2.5 billion in new funding for the ARDP. “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. “TerraPower will match this investment dollar for dollar.”

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