Billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have chosen a remote Wyoming town to build a new small nuclear power plant to help replace the state’s coal-fired plants.
TerraPower will build the $4 billion, 345-megawatt facility in Kemmerer, Wyoming, about 130 miles northeast of Salt Lake City, pending federal and local approval, the company announced Tuesday.
“Our innovative technology will help ensure the continued production of reliable electricity while also transitioning our energy system and creating new, good-paying jobs in Wyoming,” said Chris Levesque, the CEO of TerraPower, the company behind the project that was founded by Gates about 15 years ago.
Natrium nuclear plant will be a 345-megawatt sodium-cooled reactor that will allow the plant to quickly shut down in the event of a catastrophic “Chernobyl” kind of emergency, making it safer than conventional reactors.
The project will employ up to 2,000 people during construction and 250 once operational in a state where the coal industry has struggled economically. Kemmerer has a population of 2,600 people and is one of four cities competing for the project.
If the plant is as reliable as conventional nuclear power, it could provide enough climate-friendly energy to serve about 250,000 homes in the Kemmerer area.
“We think Natrium will be a gamechanger for the energy industry,” Gates said during the project’s launch event in June.
However, some people are pretty sceptical of the benefits of this new nuclear power plant.
“Honestly, I don’t understand the motivation,” said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety with the Union of Concerned Scientists science advocacy non-profit. “There are some people who are just strong advocates for it, and they’ve sort of won the day here by convincing Bill Gates that this is a good technology to pursue.”
Irrespective of the criticism, it’s perplexing to see two of the world’s most powerful billionaires constructing a nuclear power plant in a small town; if successful, this might pave the way for greener energy, but it’s also pulsing immense mischievous energy.