Advanced nuclear company TerraPower and utility PacifiCorp want to bring five additional advanced nuclear reactors to the western U.S. by 2035.

The announcement Oct. 27 kicks off a joint study by the partners to evaluate deploying TerraPower’s Natrium reactor and integrated energy storage systems to PacifiCorp’s service territory – which includes Oregon, Washington, California, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.

With partner GE-Hitachi, Bill Gates-founded TerraPower plans to build the natrium reactor system in Kemmerer, a southwestern Wyoming city of 2,600 where the coal-fired Naughton power plant operated by PacifiCorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power is set to close in 2025. The Wyoming reactor will get about half its funding from the federal government.

Proponents of the project, featuring a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor and molten salt-based energy storage, say it would perform better, be safer and cost less than traditional nuclear power.

The high-operating temperature of the Natrium reactor, coupled with thermal energy storage, would allow the plant to provide flexible electric output that complements variable renewable generation such as wind and solar.

The joint study to come will evaluate, among other things, the potential for advanced reactors to be located near current fossil-fired generation sites, enabling PacifiCorp to repurpose existing generation and transmission assets.

The specific locations of the future Natrium plants will be thoroughly explored through this study process. TerraPower said the partners will engage with local communities before any final sites are selected. 

A Department of Energy (DOE) study found hundreds of coal power plant sites could convert to nuclear, dramatically increasing dispatchable, carbon-free energy as the country strives to meet its net-zero emissions goal by 2050.

According to the DOE study, a coal-to-nuclear transition could increase nuke capacity in the U.S. to more than 350 GW.

“With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and recent studies on the opportunities of a coal-to-nuclear energy transition, the role for advanced nuclear is clear,” said TerraPower in a released statement.

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