Can a coal state go nuclear?

Nicole Pollack 307-266-0509,

Wyoming is a coal state. It’s an oil and gas and trona and bentonite and — tenuously — uranium state. And with the help of a Bill Gates-fronted technology company, it could soon become a nuclear state.

Five months have passed since nuclear developer TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, Wyoming’s largest utility, revealed plans to build a 345-megawatt demonstration reactor at one of four retiring Wyoming coal plants. They’re partnering with the federal government, which will pay half the costs, up to a $1.6 billion ceiling, but that money comes with a time limit: The plant must be operational by 2028.

It’s an ambitious target. Achieving it would be groundbreaking. No U.S. nuclear project has been completed on schedule, or on budget, in decades.

Still, to communities faced with impending, irreplaceable job losses, the proposal offers a lifeline. Leaders from Glenrock, Gillette, Rock Springs and Kemmerer have all asked TerraPower the same question: “How do we make sure it’s built here?”

In short, they can’t. Enthusiasm doesn’t hurt, but as long as the infrastructure meets TerraPower’s standards, the decision comes down to factors like geology, seismology, meteorology and hydrology, in accordance with the standards of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

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