Red flags fly over Wyoming’s nuclear power ‘quick fix’ | Notice
I’m not going to invest in Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s plan to install a nuclear power plant in Wyoming. I would also prefer not to see taxpayers like me forced to shell out hard-earned money on such a risky business for the environment.
No, I plan to spend any excess money I can muster to corner the red flag market. Demand is about to skyrocket. As residents reflect on what it means to have an experimental nuclear reactor in their backyard, they will greet them in droves.
In fact, I’m throwing up half a dozen red flags in this single column, and hope to see many more readers in the comments section below.
Red Flag # 1: Rapid Heart Melt
Gates says TerraPower’s Natrium reactor is more fuel efficient, cost effective and safer than the current generation of nuclear reactors.
Are we supposed to take Gates’ word, or should we turn to the scientists of the world and see what they have to say? The Union of Concerned Scientists has strong reservations about the sodium-cooled Natrium design.
In its 140-page report in March on “advanced” nuclear reactor designs like Natrium, UCS pointed out that such facilities could experience safety issues that are not an issue in the current fleet of nuclear reactors. The organization said the United States would be better off trying to improve on existing technology rather than drastically changing course.
“Sodium coolant can burn when exposed to air or water, and a sodium-cooled fast reactor could experience uncontrollable power increases that would cause the core to melt quickly,” according to UCS.
The phrase “rapid core fusion” having something to do with Wyoming gives me chills.
Red Flag # 2: Accelerated Safety Testing
The UCS report said it could take at least 20 years and billions of dollars for federal regulators to demand the safety demonstrations necessary to commercialize the type of nuclear power plant that is planned for Wyoming.
“Commercial deployment in the 2020s would require bypassing the prototype stages that are essential to ensure safety and reliability,” UCS concluded. The group called on Congress to require the Department of Energy to convene an independent commission to study the technical merits of these proposed reactors.
But TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque is leading an entirely different discussion. “The motivation is that we need this clean energy on the grid by the 2030s,” he said at Cheyenne’s press conference announcing the project. “Congress created a real sense of urgency with this. “
Unfortunately, the White House apparently agrees with such an acceleration. “As with the president’s proposal, the US Jobs Plan, this administration will ensure that we launch more nuclear power demonstration projects across the country,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer. Granholm, via a video link to the press conference.
Red Flag # 3: Why Wyoming? Why now?
The people of Wyoming have reason to ask, “Why are we hearing about this now? “
The promoters of the project didn’t just blindly throw a dart at the map and land in Wyoming. The state has exactly what energy entrepreneurs want: desperation. The state and our politicians are eager to find new ways to compensate for the loss of income from an industry that the market drives out of existence.
Not exactly a strong negotiating position.
Renewable energies like wind and solar are much cheaper, only take a fraction of the time to connect, and also offer well-paying jobs. If Wyoming officials aggressively recruited manufacturers to build wind turbines and solar panels, two new industries could flourish in the state.
It is true that the legislator was interested in creating a regulatory framework to replace coal-fired power plants with precisely the type of small nuclear reactors that are now on the drawing board.
But this effort received little coverage in the Wyoming media, and I am as guilty as anyone for neglecting it. It may not be as popular to write or read as the proposed abortion, guns and gambling regulations, but the consequences of introducing nuclear power to the state will be enormous. whether it succeeds or fails.
Is anyone worried about the amount of federal money that will be invested in this project? The Department of Energy has given TerraPower an $ 80 million grant to begin operating the first business unit of its kind by 2027.
But that’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to a public-private demonstration project that will cost billions.
If they were allowed to fund only the Wyoming Experimental Project with their own money, TerraPower and PacifiCorp probably wouldn’t make the investment. Public dollars significantly reduce their financial risks. In contrast, Toshiba-owned Westinghouse Electricity Company filed for bankruptcy in 2017 due to delays in building nuclear facilities in Georgia and South Carolina.
Red flag n ° 5: who benefits?
Radiant governor Mark Gordon announced that Wyoming’s public-private partnership will create “hundreds of high-paying jobs” by removing a coal-fired power plant and replacing it with a multi-billion dollar nuclear power plant.
The specific facility has yet to be chosen, but it will be one of four factory units: Jim Bridger near Rock Springs, Naughton in Kemmerer, Dave Johnson near Glenrock, and WyoDak in Campbell County. The “losers” may get lucky in the end.
Gates’ company, TerraPower, is developing the experimental technology for use at the nuclear power plant. Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns PacifiCorp, whose subsidiary, Rocky Mountain Power, operates in Wyoming.
Wait a minute – are these billionaire buddies ready to add bundles to their fortunes while Wyoming gets a few hundred jobs?
Marcia Westkott, Chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, noted that this “silver bullet” for Wyoming’s economy “once again distracts attention from our very real crisis in income, jobs and community survival.” .
His argument is correct: in all three areas, nuclear power is lacking compared to the historical contributions of coal.
Red flag n ° 6: the blindness of billionaires
We might be listening to the bad billionaires if we buy Gates and Buffett’s siren song about nuclear power. Why not log in instead to what the revolutionary Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX is working on?
I’ll admit I’m not a fan of Musk’s bizarre decision to send a Tesla Roadster into space. But here on dry land, he’s working on an impressive battery storage technology that could be the energetic ‘game changer’ he wants, according to Gordon, a disruptive experimental technology that is safer and much cheaper than that. ‘nuclear energy.
In 2017, Musk began construction in Australia on what was then the world’s largest large-scale battery project, the Hornsdale, which had a capacity of 100 megawatts thermal. It is adjacent to a wind farm and can store excess electricity generated at night gusts for daytime demand.
Today there are over 40 large battery projects completed or planned across Australia with a total capacity of over 7,000 MWt.
And Musk is just getting started. He recently turned his attention to his new home state of Texas, where he is busy developing commercial-scale battery storage units to thwart the kind of power outages that have ravaged the country’s power grid. Lone Star State in February.
That same month, U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) Tweeted an invitation to Musk to move to Wyoming and take advantage of its business-friendly Bitcoin laws.
Whether you see him as a mad inventor or a geeky playboy, it’s worth inviting Musk to explore the Wyoming wilderness and see what he could dream of. Maybe he could help extend the state’s long history of delivering energy to the nation, without all the red flags.
Veteran Wyoming reporter Kerry Drake covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and can be contacted at [email protected]