Advanced Reactors

TerraPower / Bill Gates Reactor Company Breaks Ground For Wyoming Nuclear Power Plant

By Kamen Kraev
11 June 2024

Inaugural dig underway at retiring coal site for facility where sodium coolant system will be tested

Bill Gates Reactor Company Breaks Ground For Wyoming Nuclear Power Plant
TerraPower founder and chairman BIll Gates (centre) attended the groundbreaking. Courtesy TerraPower.

TerraPower, the nuclear technology company founded by Bill Gates, has marked with a ceremony the start of construction for its demonstration Natrium advanced nuclear plant complex near a retiring coal plant at Kemmerer, Wyoming.

A spokesperson for TerraPower told NucNet that the inaugural dig, attended by Gates, who is also company chairman, chief executive Chris Levesque and Wyoming governor Mark Gordon, was for the non-nuclear part of the plant, the first part of which will be a sodium test and fill facility.

The Natrium demonstration plant includes three separate project parts: a sodium test and fill facility, the power production or energy island, and the nuclear island with the reactor itself. 

The test and fill facility will be a standalone, non-nuclear building that will provide a testing site for the reactor’s sodium coolant system by receiving, sampling, processing, and storing liquid sodium which will ultimately be delivered to the Natrium reactor.

“Of course, other access roads etc. are required for operation. But the primary focus is on the test and fill structure,” said the spokesperson

The Natrium reactor is a 345-MW electric sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system that is being designed to flexibly operate with renewable power generators to help decarbonise the electric grid.

While the Natrium plant will be built in Kemmerer, the project will need two separate high-assay low enriched uranium (Haleu) fuel fabrication and metalisation facilities. The fuel plant is planned for Wilmington, North Carolina, near existing fuel fabrication facilities of TerraPower’s partner, GE Hitachi. The metalisation plant will be built at Framatome's nuclear fuel manufacturing facility in Richland, Washington.

TerraPower applied for a reactor construction permit to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in April 2024. Last month the NRC said it had accepted the application giving formal start of the licensing process.

Levesque has said that TerraPower is aiming to start nuclear-related works in 2026 subject to receiving a permit from the NRC. The plant is expected to be completed by 2029-2030.

US-based Bechtel has been selected for the construction of the plant and its infrastructure.

The Natrium demonstrator is co-funded by the US Department of Energy under its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) programme.

The DOE has a seven-year, $2bn (€1.86bn) agreement to fund the project, while TerraPower is matching this investment dollar-for-dollar for a total cost estimated at about $4bn.

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