TerraPower, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and PacifiCorp today announced efforts to advance a Natrium™ reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming. The companies are evaluating several potential locations in the state.
“Together with PacifiCorp, we’re creating the energy grid of the future where advanced nuclear technologies provide good-paying jobs and clean energy for years to come,” said Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower. “The Natrium technology was designed to solve a challenge utilities face as they work to enhance grid reliability and stability while meeting decarbonization and emissions-reduction goals.”
“This project is an exciting economic opportunity for Wyoming. Siting a Natrium advanced reactor at a retiring Wyoming coal plant could ensure that a formerly productive coal generation site continues to produce reliable power for our customers,” said Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp. “We are currently conducting joint due diligence to ensure this opportunity is cost-effective for our customers and a great fit for Wyoming and the communities we serve.”
The location of the Natrium demonstration plant is expected to be announced by the end of 2021. The demonstration project will be a fully functioning power plant and is intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology.
“I am thrilled to see Wyoming selected for this demonstration pilot project, as our great state is the perfect place for this type of innovative utility facility and our experienced workforce is looking forward to the jobs this project will provide,” said Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon. “I have always supported an all-of-the-above energy portfolio for our electric utilities. Our state continues to pave the way for the future of energy, and Wyoming should be the place where innovative energy technologies are taken to commercialization.”
The project features a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MW of power for more than five and a half hours when needed, which is equivalent to the energy required to power around 400,000 homes. This innovative addition allows a Natrium plant to integrate seamlessly with renewable resources and could lead to faster, more cost-effective decarbonization of electricity generation. In addition, the technology’s novel architecture separates and simplifies major structures, reducing complexity, cost and construction schedule, while delivering safe and reliable electricity.
In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial funding to demonstrate the Natrium technology. TerraPower signed the cooperative agreement with DOE in May 2021. To date, Congress has appropriated $160 million for the ARDP and DOE has committed additional funding in the coming years, subject to appropriations.
The Natrium system is a TerraPower and GE Hitachi technology. Along with PacifiCorp and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, members of the demonstration project team include engineering and construction partner Bechtel, Energy Northwest, Duke Energy and nearly a dozen additional companies, universities and national laboratory partners.
Next steps include further project evaluation, education and outreach, and state and federal regulatory approvals prior to acquisition of a Natrium facility.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (7011.T) are set to cooperate with the United States and Bill Gates’ venture company to build a high-tech nuclear reactor in Wyoming, the daily Yomiuri reported on Saturday.
The parties will sign an agreement as early as January for JAEA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to provide technical support and data from Japan’s own advanced reactors, the report said citing multiple unidentified sources.
TerraPower, an advanced nuclear power venture founded by Gates, is set to open its Natrium plant in Wyoming in 2028. The U.S. government will provide funding to cover half of the $4 billion project.
Terrapower had initially explored the prospect of building an experimental nuclear plant with state-owned China National Nuclear Corp, until it was forced to seek new partners after the administration of Donald Trump restricted nuclear deals with China.
The United States has been competing with China and Russia which also hope to build and export advanced reactors.
Japan, on the other hand, has a bitter history of decommissioning its Monju prototype advanced reactor in 2016, a project which cost $8.5 billion but provided little results and years of controversy.Report ad
The Monju facility saw accidents, regulatory breaches, and cover-ups since its conception, and was closed following public distrust of nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Both JAEA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries could not be reached for comment, as their offices were closed for the New Year holidays.