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Bechtel’s Impact Report

What’s New About America’s Next Nuclear Power Plant? Everything

  • By
    portrait of Craig Albert
    Craig Albert, Craig Albert, President and COO of Bechtel
  • 10 June 2024

Groundbreaking ceremonies are familiar for Bechtel. Along with our customers and labor partners, we’ve participated in this custom hundreds of times all over the world. These are always special. But even more so when the groundbreaking is truly breaking new ground for our society and environment.

And that’s exactly what we did today at the site of the Natrium Demonstration Plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming. Not just for a single new project, but an entire new industry.

Located near a retiring coal-fired power station, Natrium is an advanced nuclear reactor that uses a sodium-based technology developed by TerraPower, a start-up funded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently took the milestone step of accepting a construction permit application from TerraPower — the agency’s first review of a commercial advanced-reactor design.

Just as significant, the Natrium reactor’s innovative design will launch a new approach to nuclear plant construction that is designed to be safer, cleaner, faster to construct, and more efficient than many energy source alternatives.

Working together, the combination of advanced technology and streamlined constructability has the potential to diversify the U.S. power generation industry. The option of deploying smaller advanced nuclear plants that can work in concert with other clean energy sources will help speed our progress toward net-zero emissions.

Here’s why:

First, the Natrium reactor does not need the complex containment structures, cooling water circulation, and redundant safety systems necessary for conventional nuclear generation, allowing a much smaller footprint and a reduced need for expensive concrete and steel.

What’s more, TerraPower extended their visionary approach to the building of the plant itself. Their involvement of Bechtel from the very beginning means the entire project lifecycle, including construction, has been optimized at every stage, making the entire process cost-effective, fast, and repeatable.

Natrium will be the first nuclear project where the execution of those plans will benefit from Bechtel’s suite of digital tools and systems, which have been proven to deliver exceptional results on other large energy facilities.

Finally, one of our goals at Bechtel is always to work with the surrounding communities and leave a positive legacy. Our company already has a history at the Natrium site in Kemmerer. Back in the early 1960s, we built the Naughton power station that is now being retired. Originally constructed as a “mine mouth powerhouse” for a coal strip-mining operation, it too was a cutting-edge solution for what was considered an essential energy resource at the time.

We take pride now in having the opportunity to help the Kemmerer community transition away from that past to a cleaner energy future.

We know the world is watching what happens with the Natrium Plant. We’re excited to be part of demonstrating the transformative value of TerraPower’s advanced reactor design. And we’re committed to building a facility that can bring prosperity to Kemmerer for decades to come.

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