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Bill Gates To Be In Kemmerer For Groundbreaking Of TerraPower’s Nuclear Plant

Billionaire Bill Gates plans to visit Kemmerer next month for the groundbreaking ceremony of TerraPower’s nuclear reactor project, the company’s president said Wednesday. Gates has spent more than $1 billion of his own money on the project so far.

Billionaire Bill Gates, who is among the richest people in the world, plans to visit Kemmerer next month for a groundbreaking ceremony for one of his largest investment projects that could reshape the landscape of nuclear energy development in America for decades to come.

TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque, a former naval submarine officer and now top executive with the Bellevue, Washington, nuclear reactor company, said that Gates would visit Kemmerer on June 10 to mark the beginning of construction on the multibillion-dollar project that his company is spending roughly $2 million daily on.

That clip of daily spending involves roughly $1 million from Gates with the rest from the U.S. Department of Energy, which has kicked in upward of $2 billion on the demonstration plant, Levesque said.

Gates has forked out $1 billion on the project so far.

Levesque made his remarks Wednesday before the Rotary Club of Cheyenne at the Little America Hotel and Resort where about 100 business and civic leaders were in attendance.

‘It’s A Win-Win’

Levesque described Kemmerer as a very “energy literate” community with a rich history in coal mining and people who work in the nearby Naughton coal-fired power plant, many of whom will be tapped to work at TerraPower’s plant once operational in 2030.

“It’s a win-win with the workforce,” said Levesque of the job creation possibilities of transitioning workers from the 60-year-old Naughton plant to the nuclear reactor.

This assumes that everything goes as planned with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is expected to approve the construction permit application sometime in the next few years on the nuclear reactor portion of the project.

And while a technical review of TerraPower’s novel nuclear reactor design will get intense review by the NRC, construction on some of the nonnuclear elements is expected to begin by the end of this month.

The workforce demands are immense.

Levesque said that the community is handling the expected infusion of up to 1,600 workers on the construction project over the next several years, including the provision of housing and improvements to the area’s sewage and water infrastructure.

Additionally, more than 1,000 engineers from TerraPower are working on the project, he said.

Gates Has Been There Before

On March 29, TerraPower filed a 3,400-page construction permit application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build the nuclear reactor in Kemmerer, the first commercial nuclear reactor to be built in the United States in more than a dozen years.

Gates is not unfamiliar with Kemmerer, which had beat out rival communities Glenrock, Rock Springs and coal town Gillette for the nuclear reactor project, Levesque said.

Gates, who also is chairman of TerraPower, last visited Kemmerer a year ago and is “looking forward to coming back to Kemmerer next month for the groundbreaking,” Levesque said.

A TerraPower spokeswoman downplayed the visit, noting that the billionaire hasn’t yet confirmed the visit after Levesque’s speech to the Rotary crowd.

“We are going to build more than one Natrium reactor in Wyoming,” said Levesque, who met privately Tuesday with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon to get an update on the Natrium reactor project.

Already Moving

Wyoming companies are already getting involved, with Gillette-based Earth Work Solutions set to begin dirt work this month.

TerraPower has largely been financed by Gates with a private investment of $250 million from diversified conglomerate SK Inc. of South Korea.

The nuclear fleet in the United States stands at 94 commercial reactors. But TerraPower will add to that mix its 345-megawatt Kemmerer Unit 1, though Levesque said the land bought in southwestern Wyoming is big enough for Kemmerer Unit 2, which is now on the drawing board.

The Natrium nuclear plant proposed for Kemmerer could be a game-changer for the nuclear power industry.

The Natrium plant will use liquid sodium as a cooling agent instead of water. Sodium has several safety advantages over water. A higher boiling point means it can soak up more heat than water with less risk of explosion.

Source: Cowboy State Daily