TerraPower, a start-up co-founded by Bill Gates to modernize nuclear reactor designs, has selected Kemmerer, a small coal-mining town in Wyoming, as the ideal location for its first demonstration reactor. It intends to construct the facility in the frontier-era coal town by 2028. According to TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque, the plant’s construction will employ 2,000 employees at its height from Kemmerer. In addition, it will create new clean-energy employment in an area dominated by the coal and gas industries. Today, a local power plant, a coal mine, and a natural gas processing facility give more than 400 employment – a sizable amount for a region with a population of just about 3,000 people.
Details on the Wyoming nuclear plant
TerraPower chose a location based on geological and technical variables like seismic and soil characteristics, as well as community support, according to Levesque. Once completed, the facility will have a baseload capacity of 345 megawatts with the ability to increase to 500 megawatts. The facility will cost roughly $4 billion to complete, with TerraPower funding half of the way and the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program funding the other half. The Kemmerer plant will be the first to deploy Natrium, an advanced nuclear design developed by TerraPower in collaboration with GE-Hitachi.
Instead of water, natrium plants employ liquid sodium as a cooling agent. Because sodium has a greater boiling point and can absorb more heat than water, high pressure does not accumulate inside the reactor, lowering the chance of an explosion. “China and Russia are continuing to develop new facilities using sophisticated technology similar to ours, with the goal of exporting such plants to a variety of different nations across the world.” “As a result, the US administration was worried that the US had not been pushing forward in this manner,” Levesque explained.