CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A next-generation, small nuclear plant will be built at a soon-to-be retired coal-fired power plant in Wyoming in the next several years, business and government officials said Wednesday.
The plant featuring a sodium reactor and molten salt energy storage system will perform better, be safer and cost less than traditional nuclear power, Microsoft co-founder and TerraPower founder and chairman Bill Gates said.
Bellevue, Washington-based TerraPower is working with Rocky Mountain Power, an electric utility serving Wyoming and other Western states, to put the Natrium reactor at one of four of the utility’s power plants in Wyoming, with the location to be decided later this year.
“We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Gates said by video link to a news conference hosted by Gov. Mark Gordon. “Wyoming has been a leader in energy for over a century, and we hope our investment in Natrium will help Wyoming to stay in the lead for many decades to come.”
Wyoming is the top uranium-mining state, and the reactor would use uranium from remote mines on the high plains, officials said.
Wyoming also is the top coal mining state. But the industry has suffered a dramatic downturn over the past decade as utilities switch to cheaper and cleaner-burning gas to generate electricity.
Several coal-fired power closures are planned in the West in coming years, including some in Wyoming. A nuclear plant with hundreds of well-playing jobs, sending power over transmission lines already in place, could offset the economic blow of a coal plant retirement.
The plant will be a “multibillion-dollar project” with costs to be split evenly between government and private industry, TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque said.