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Feds come to Kemmerer to explain the permitting process for proposed nuclear plant 

 Downtown Kemmerer with the original JC Penney ‘Mother Store.’
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media

The proposed nuclear facility near Kemmerer is nearing the construction phase. But it still has to be approved by the feds and they’re holding meetings to let residents in on that process.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is an independent federal agency that oversees all things nuclear, like the TerraPower project near Kemmerer.

Soon they’ll be deciding whether to approve the company’s construction permit, which is expected to be filed in early next year. The commission’s Scott Burnell said they consider safety and environmental impacts when reviewing applications.

“We want to make sure that the design as it’s proposed can remain safe in the case of severe weather, or an earthquake or a volcano,” he said. “The Mountain West is a geologically active area.”

Burnell said it’s during the environmental review that the public can comment.

“So that we understand to the best extent possible, the issues that the community thinks need to be considered when we're doing our work,” he said.

He added that the public comment period will likely be in spring, and they’ll put out press releases and social media posts so people know.

Burnell emphasized that the Commission has certain rules it has to follow when reviewing a nuclear construction permit.

“We have the responsibility of making sure our requirements are met. And if an application fulfills those requirements, then we have a responsibility to issue what's been asked of us,” he said. “There are occasions where people suggest, “You could just say, ‘No,’” – that's not the way the law is written.”

Burnell said they’re holding two informational meetings about the process Tuesday, Nov. 7, afternoon and evening at the South Lincoln event and training center in Kemmerer. The first will be from 1 to 3:30 p.m. and the second from 5 to 7:30 p.m. He said they want the public to come with questions.

If the permit is approved, construction of the nuclear facility will start soon after.

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.
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