© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

The Kemmerer nuclear project looks to Ohio for their fuel problem

A mockup of the Terrapower nuclear plant layout.

The nuclear facility project that is planned for the Kemmerer area has a key issue: it lacks a fuel source. But officials say they now have an answer to that problem.

The opening date for TerraPower’s facility, called Natrium, was pushed back two years, from 2028 to 2030, due to the fuel issue. They need a special kind of highly enriched Uranium called HALEU.

“That type of fuel is not produced yet in the U.S.,” said Chris Levesque, CEO of TerraPower. “There's lots of uranium mining going on – and in places like Wyoming – but the enrichment of uranium…was only happening in one place in the world, and that was Russia.”

But because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the company will not be using that fuel. Over the last year and a half, TerraPower has been trying to find an alternative.

They are now partnering through a memorandum of understanding with Centrus, a company in Ohio that will likely be the first in the U.S. to make the fuel on a commercial scale.

“That will get us material in time to support making fuel for Natrium in Kemmerer and maintaining our schedule of 2030 completion for Natrium in Wyoming,” Levesque said.

Interestingly enough, the U.S. likely had the technology to make this fuel years ago.

But Levesque said the U.S. did not have a reason to implement it, as Russia was “dumping” the fuel in the U.S.

“‘Dumping’ is a term referring to an anti-competitive process,” he said. “So they (Russia) were selling fuel in the U.S. at really low prices, which caused American companies not to invest in the capability.”

Levesque said the U.S Department of Energy is now investing in creating that fuel domestically, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has licensed Centrus to move forward with producing HALEU.

In regards to the Kemmerer project, major construction will begin next summer. Originally, groundbreaking on one of the facilities was supposed to begin this year, but the company is still finishing environmental review processes on the land.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
Related Content