Kemmerer, Wyoming, has been chosen as the home to a Bill Gates-backed experimental nuclear power plant project near a coal-fired power plant scheduled to close in 2025.
TerraPower, based in the Seattle area, considered 3 other Wyoming sites near closed or to-be-closed coal plants in Gillette, Rock Springs, and Glenrock for its Natrium plant, which create up to 2,000 jobs during construction and 250 when operational.
If the Kemmerer plant proves to be as reliable as conventional nuclear plants, it would produce enough climate-friendly power to run about 250,000 homes a year.
TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque says the innovative technology of the sodium-cooled fast reactor with molten salt energy storage will perform better, be safer, and cost less than traditional nuclear power plants.
Levesque says it will “help ensure the continued production of reliable electricity while also transitional our energy system and creating new, good-paying jobs in Wyoming” – where downturns in the energy industry have devastated the economy.
He also says the 345-megawatt Natrium plant will be safer than traditional nuclear plants because the high heat-transfer properties of sodium will allow it to be air-cooled, allowing for a quicker shutdown in case of an emergency.
Opponents are skeptical, saying such reactors aren’t as safe or practical as claimed because liquid sodium is very volatile and can catch fire if exposed to either fire or water. They also point to history with few sodium plants built and even fewer successful.