Bill Gates Company Chooses Wyoming City for Sodium Nuclear Power Plant | Your money

CHEYENNE, Wyoming (AP) – A small town in Wyoming, America’s largest coal mining state, will host a Bill Gates-backed experimental nuclear power project near a soon-to-close coal-fired power plant, announced Tuesday officials.

TerraPower, based in Bellevue, Wash., Will build its Natrium plant in Kemmerer, a town of 2,600 people in southwestern Wyoming, where the Naughton coal-fired power plant operated by PacifiCorp’s subsidiary, Rocky Mountain Power , is expected to close in 2025.

“Our innovative technology will help ensure continued reliable electricity production while transitioning our energy system and creating new, well-paying jobs in Wyoming,” said TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque. , in a press release.

The project will employ up to 2,000 people during construction and 250 once operational in a state where the coal industry has lost jobs.

If as reliable as conventional nuclear power, the 345 megawatt plant would produce enough climate-friendly electricity to serve around 250,000 homes. The announcement came days after officials from the United States and other countries pledged at a global climate change summit in Scotland to continue working to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and chairman of TerraPower, in June announced plans for the Wyoming project with officials from Rocky Mountain Power, President Joe Biden’s administration and the state which produces about 40% of the coal of the country. Four cities in Wyoming were in contention for the project after the announcement.

The pool of similarly sized workers with experience in operating the coal-fired power plant was a determining factor in the decision to locate the plant in Kemmerer, Levesque told reporters.

“We believe these workers are fully prepared to operate Natrium. Of course, they will have to take refresher training, ”said Lévesque.

The development of a simulator to train workers to operate the nuclear power plant will be part of the project’s seven-year development, with construction scheduled to begin in 2024, Lévesque said.

Supporters of the project comprising a sodium-cooled fast reactor and molten salt energy storage say it would perform better, be safer and cost less than traditional nuclear power.

“Natrium will be the next improvement in safety. It is important to note that it will not depend on external energy sources, pumps and additional equipment to help the plant recover in an emergency, ”said Levesque, referring to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011 caused by a tsunami that destroyed emergency generators.

The high heat transfer properties of sodium will allow the Natrium plant to be air cooled. This will allow the plant to be quickly shut down in an emergency, and the absence of emergency generators and pumps will save costs, Levesque said.

Others are skeptical of the advantages of sodium over water for cooling as in conventional nuclear power plants.

“The use of liquid sodium poses many problems. It is a very volatile material that can ignite if exposed to air or water, ”said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear security for the Union of Concerned Scientists on Tuesday.

Countries, including the United States, have experimented with sodium-cooled fast reactors for decades, but only Russia has put such a reactor into service on a large scale, Lyman said.

“Honestly, I don’t understand the motivation,” Lyman said. “There are people who are just big supporters of this and they kind of won the day here by convincing Bill Gates that this is good technology to pursue. “

Other sites considered for the plant were the Wyodak plant near Gillette in coal-rich northeast Wyoming, Jim Bridger’s plant outside Rock Springs in southwest Wyoming, and the Dave Johnston’s factory near Glenrock in east-central Wyoming.

The closure of the Naughton coal-fired power plant in Kemmerer in a few years jeopardizes a local mine that supplies coal to the power station alone.

Kemmerer, located approximately 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Salt Lake City, is a destination for fossil enthusiasts near the Fossil Butte National Monument and private fossil quarries. It is also home to the first JC Penney store, a store called The Golden Rule opened by James Cash Penney in 1902.

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