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TerraPower nuclear power plant breaks ground in Kemmerer

A group of company and government representatives break ground in a ceremony marking the start of construction on a nuclear power plant in Kemmerer, on Monday, June 10, 2024. (Courtesy Photo)

CASPER, Wyo. — A groundbreaking ceremony for a new nuclear power plant took place in Kemmerer on Monday, June 10.

The much-discussed plant promising to use innovative tech to make power from nuclear energy is being built by TerraPower, a firm founded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and based in Washington state.

“This groundbreaking represents the beginning of the next era of nuclear energy. The Natrium reactor is more than a design, it’s a plant coming to life that will support both the clean energy transition and our historic energy communities,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower president and CEO, in a press release issued on Monday. “Our innovative Natrium technology will provide dispatchable carbon-free energy, gigawatt-scale energy storage, and long-term jobs to the Lincoln County community.”

According to the release, Wyoming government dignitaries and TerraPower leaders joined in the ceremonial groundbreaking to mark the start of construction.

TerraPower Chairman and Founder Bill Gates said in the release, “I’m proud of all the partners and people who helped get the most advanced nuclear project in the world built in Kemmerer, Wyoming. I believe that TerraPower’s next-generation nuclear energy will power the future of our nation — and the world.”

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said in the release, “This project also demonstrates how good things can happen when the private and public sectors work together to solve problems. Advances made here will bolster Wyoming’s ability to produce another source of dispatchable power securely. In Wyoming we know energy — and we will continue to provide it to help keep our nation competitive and safe.”

The company says some 1,600 workers will be needed during the five-year-long construction at the project’s peak. The plant will employ about 250 people when it’s complete and operational.

“Upon completion, the Natrium demonstration plant will be a fully functioning commercial power plant,” the release said. “It is being constructed near a retiring coal-fired power plant and is the only coal-to-nuclear project under development in the world.”

The plant features a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt–based energy storage system, said the release. The storage tech is said to boost the system’s output to 500 MW when needed, or about enough energy to run 400,000 homes. Storage capability allows the plant to integrate with renewable energy sources, and the reactor is claimed to be the only one of its kind, according to the release.

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