Will Wyoming Embrace Nuclear Power?

TerraPower, which announced this week it would site a demonstration sodium-cooled fast reactor in the state of Wyoming, contacted the mayors of four potential locations just hours before the announcement, according to the Casper Star Tribune.

Natrum modelAccording to the company, the next generation nuclear power demonstration project could be up and running by 2028 with the potential site selected by the end of the year. As such, the company gave the mayors a quick heads up on the announcement, which has long-term economic and environmental impacts for the state and for well beyond its borders, as well.

Is Wyoming, the seventh-highest oil-producing state that ranks first in coal production, ready to embrace nuclear power?

According to the mayors of the four potential sites, the answer would be yes. The municipalities involved include Gillette, Kemmerer, Glenrock and Rock Springs, towns that stand to lose both jobs and property tax values with the planned closings of coal burning power plants. The mayors of each site said their communities would certainly welcome the economic boost in both construction and long-term jobs. They also touted the ability of their already skilled workforces to switch from coal to nuclear technology.

There have also been calculated statements to the effect that fossil fuels remain an economic power in the state. Gov. Mark Gordon was quick to say the project was not a sign he planned to abandon fossil fuels in any shape or form. It was also announced that all of the uranium used at the sodium-cooled fast reactor would come from Wyoming mines.

Coal-burning plants scheduled to retire include two plants outside of Kemmerer, Wyoming, with a combined capacity of 448 megawatts, These two, at the Naugton Power Plant, are set to retire in 2025.

Beyond that, four units with a combined capacity of 922 megawatts, at Glenrock’s Dave Johnston Power Plant, which first started operations in 1959, are expected to shut down in 2027.

At Rock Springs, one coal-burning unit is scheduled for closure in 2023, while another is to retire in 2028 and two are expected to run until 2037.

At Gillette, meanwhile, the Wyodak plant is not expected to close until 2039. A Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson, David Eskelsen, however, said the plant could retire before then, an indication that the company could be willing to retire the plant early if the right incentives were met.

Quotes from the mayors were all positive. “I’m glad to see they’re looking to do something to keep our economy going, instead of just shutting the plants down and letting them mothball,” the paper quoted Glenrock Mayor Bruce Roumell as saying.

Kemmerer Mayor Bill Thek bemoaned the problem that there did not seem to be any openings for the municipalities to make their case about having their towns selected. “I’m real excited about something like this. I just wish there was a way we could lobby to be the municipality to get this,” he said.

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