home Nuclear Attitude, Nuclear Technology, Pending Reactors, U From Virginia To Alaska, Gov. Mark Gordon Touts Wyoming’s Nuclear Revolution

From Virginia To Alaska, Gov. Mark Gordon Touts Wyoming’s Nuclear Revolution

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has been going national this month pushing Wyoming’s desire to be ground zero for America’s next nuclear revolution, from Virginia to Alaska.

Just over two weeks ago, Gordon jetted off to southwestern Virginia to see firsthand the corporate headquarters of BWX Technologies Inc. and discuss the company’s collaboration with the Cowboy State on its nuclear microreactor system work.

The May 15 visit was not advertised in advance, possibly meant as a low-key effort to not bring attention to it back home, where the state’s facing existential threats from the federal government on its once thriving thermal coal industry in the Powder River Basin.

The coal heartland in northeastern Wyoming produces more than 40% of the nation’s supply of coal for burning at power plants needed for electrical generation, but it may have seen its better days as the Biden administration has made clear its intent to end coal-burning plants by the early 2040s.

For sure, Gordon is taking to the stump to push the state’s nuclear friendliness.

Wyoming’s feather in the cap on its sales pitch is the Bill Gates-backed TerraPower Natrium reactor demonstration plant coming to tiny Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Groundbreaking on the plant is scheduled for June 10, with billionaire Gates expected to attend the ceremony that has attracted the world’s attention on what the United States is doing in the nuclear field.

TerraPower isn’t the only game in town, either.

Also making its presence known in Wyoming is Lynchburg, Virginia-based BWX Technologies, where Gordon visited to kick the tires on the company’s miniaturized reactors that it builds mostly for the U.S. Navy.

“As a recipient of Wyoming Energy Authority (WEA) Energy Matching Funds, BWXT nuclear microreactor system engineering work has incredible potential to contribute to the state’s energy economy and our country’s energy security,” said Gordon’s office in a recent newsletter mailed to constituents, and his only announcement on the visit.

Gordon’s entourage to Lynchburg included WEA Executive Director Rob Creager and Randal Luthi, the new policy director with Gordon’s office, who met with Joe Miller, president of BWXT’s advanced technologies business unit.

Last fall, BWXT Technologies announced a two-phase, two-year contract with the WEA to assess the viability of deploying small-scale nuclear reactors in the state as a source of reliable energy to augment existing power generation sources.

Part of that contract involved helping WEA understand the state’s “supply chain” of businesses that could lead to establishment of a nuclear components factory somewhere in Wyoming.

Closer BWXT Ties

A second phase of the WEA contract is expected to be announced soon.

In this next phase, BWX Technologies will further the design of its emerging BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor, or BANR, that could meet the specific needs of potential Wyoming end users, like southwestern Wyoming’s trona mining operations.

BANR is a modular, factory-fabricated system that is small and light enough to be transported by rail, ship or truck and generate about 50 megawatts of nuclear power, or enough to light up about 9,000 homes.

In this next phase, a demonstration of the capabilities of Wyoming manufacturers would also be performed to “validate the supply chain activities” completed in the first phase.

Parts of this supply chain already is taking shape.

Gillette-based L&H Industrial, a 60-year-old industrial machinery company in the heart of northeastern Wyoming’s coal mines that dot the region’s open grassland landscape, announced last month that it’s jumping into the nuclear business.

L&H CEO Mike Wandler and Marcio Paes Barreto, managing director of a new L&H business unit, Evercore Energy, told Cowboy State Daily in April that L&H had partnered with nuclear technology innovator BWX Technologies as part of a blockbuster deal to launch a multibillion-dollar industry in the micro nuclear reactor field.

The plan is to build a one-stop shop in Wyoming for everything from manufacturing reactor vessels, specialized fences and electrical control panels to piping, wires and pouring concrete needed to build a containment building.

The partnership also has plans to provide consulting services, operate and lease energy generated from the micro-nuclear reactors.

Virtually To Alaska

The state of Wyoming has been out in front on building up a nuclear reactor infrastructure, though competition has been fierce with rival states like Alaska, Louisiana, South Dakota, Texas and even Virginia, all of which want to get a leg up on a nascent nuclear industry that had been nearly moribund in its growth for decades.

Other states have tossed their names in the hat to express interest in disparate parts of the reemerging nuclear reactor business, including Kentucky, North Dakota, Montana and Utah.

The horse race to get a piece of the nuclear action has been intense, with even some of the senior officials in Wyoming traveling out of state to energy conferences to participate in the public policy taking shape.

For instance, Virginia is not the only hot spot visited by Gordon to make a Wyoming pitch for the work his state is pursuing in the nuclear field.

Gordon, Creager and state Rep. Jon Conrad, director of governmental affairs with Tata Chemicals Soda Ash Partners LLC, recently virtually attended an Alaska sustainable energy conference in Anchorage to discuss all things nuclear in Wyoming.

In a May 23 statement, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said that Gordon presented virtually at the May 20-22 Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference about how Wyoming successfully “attracted investment for advanced nuclear power.”

The company that employs Conrad, who works with a major trona mining operation in southwestern Wyoming and is a Republican state representative from Mountain View, has spoken previously about the potential of powering a nuclear reactor in Wyoming’s trona industry to lower energy costs and lower carbon emissions.

Tata announced last September that it would study using a micronuclear reactor to power its trona facility in Green River.

Gordon plans to continue taking the message across the U.S. with a panel discussion that he’ll moderate at the annual meeting of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) in Olympic, California, on June 11.

He plans to lead the panel discussion on a report he worked on with WGA, where he’ll present key findings and recommendations from his “DeCarbonizing the West” initiative.

Source: Cowboy State Daily