TerraPower, PacifiCorp work with Wyoming government to explore nuclear reactor at retiring coal plant

Published on June 04, 2021 by Chris Galford

© PacifiCorp

A collaboration between TerraPower, PacifiCorp, and the Wyoming state government will pursue a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in the state, with a specific location expected to be announced by the end of the year.

When finished, the project will be a fully functioning nuclear power plant and, the companies hope, a validation of the design, construction, and operational capabilities of Natrium technology. Natrium was developed by TerraPower and GE Hitachi technology. Utilizing a sodium-cooled fast reactor, the technology also operates with liquid metal as a coolant, rather than the water traditionally used in most U.S. nuclear power plants.

“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,” Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower, said. “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 in specific will produce a 345 MW reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. Due to the facility’s storage system, it would be able to theoretically boost that output to 500 MW of power for more than five and a half hours if needed.

“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,” Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, said. “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 companies maintain Natrium plants would allow for seamless integration with renewable resources and more cost-effective decarbonization efforts. Further, the technology provides reduced complexity, cost, and construction schedules, while maintaining reliability, as compared to other power plants.

“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,” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said. “I have always supported an all-of-the-above energy portfolio for our electric utilities.”

Regulatory approvals will still be required at the state and federal levels before any acquisition of a Natrium facility is completed.