Project developers reveal plans at Kemmerer/Diamondville meeting
Hundreds of Lincoln County residents, county and city officials and guests from surrounding counties gathered at the Lincoln County Training and Events Center to hear from developers of specific projects happening in the county.
At a three and a half hour meeting on Thursday, Oct. 6, attendees received a boxed supper during a meet and greet and then listened to presentations given by executives of five companies: Williams Resources; RAIN FIRE/Canyon Road Holdings; TriSight, LLC; TerraPower/Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project; and Bechtel — Engineering, Construction & Project Management.
Kemmerer Mayor Bill Thek opened the formal meeting, thanked everyone for coming and explained that each speaker would get 10 minutes to present and Sharon Fain with Pacific Power Corporation would be the timer. He then introduced Rita Meyer, Wyoming Energy Futures, who would in turn introduce the speakers.
Meyers thanked all of the people who helped to make the meeting a success and addressed the crowd, “I want to let you know the purpose of this meeting. I would bet there are a lot of people in Lincoln County who are unaware of all of the projects that are taking place and many have lots of questions. We decided to provide this opportunity for that to happen. Our first speaker is Ty Peck with Williams Resources, who does a lot of investments for the company.”
Peck said the Williams Companies are a 100-year-old company that also operates under the name of Williams Northwest Pipeline located in Kemmerer; which operates primarily in the pipeline/natural gas business industry. Their focus is to provide reliable low cost and environmentally-friendly energy to make clean energy happen.
“Our company provides 1/3 of U.S. energy with our products; with pipelines being our main focus. We partner with solar, wind, and nuclear companies,” Peck said. “In Opal and Parachute Willow Creek we partner with the University of Wyoming to determine availability and suitable resources. Our new energy venture is with hydrogen and growing existing customer relations by providing hydrogen access. Wyoming can be THE exporter of hydrogen and make a big impact.”
David Jackson, with RAIN FIRE/Canyon Road Holdings told the audience his company came to the Kemmerer/Diamondville area because they saw a need and the community was open and friendly. They wish to become part of the community; their office is in the old town hall in Kemmerer and they have a facility at the airport.
RAIN FIRE specializes in aerial and interface firefighting globally with an office in Afton. The company is comprised of industry veterans experienced in aerial and interface firefighting, with a big fleet, and the ability to deploy services faster and farther than any other firefighting organizations.
“Our time is made up of 90% planning and training and 10% the mission,” Jackson said. “We work with other projects and developers to provide services for them. We hope to have 450 employees in 4 years and a big percentage of them will be veterans.”
TriSight LLC President and Chief Strategy Officer Bradley Barham said his company is committed to putting a new face on coal. Barham said they promote zero carbon coal by utilizing the hidden secret resources in coal.
“We have discovered a process to unlock the key to the pantry of resources in coal,” Barham said. “The Kemmerer coal is premium coal and a treasure chest. Inside coal are substances used for skin care, for fire retardant, graphite, for agricultural fertilizer, folic acid and more. Mother Nature has given us a gift in coal and we plan to utilize it in products that are carbon free and environmentally friendly.”
Representing TerraPower and the Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project were Chris Levesque, President/CEO TerraPower; Tara Neider, Natrium Project Director; and Mark Romano, Project Manager/Bechtel Corporation.
“We have been working on getting permits, biological surveys, safety features, and sodium testing,” Neider said. “The Natrium plant will be much smaller than most conventional nuclear plants and is safer as we will be using molten salt tanks to store the reactor’s heat. The plant both enhances safety and can reduce costs. I will stand behind that our reactor is safe.”
Neider turned the time over to Romano who has worked for Bechtel for 32 years and with nuclear power since the 1960s. Bechtel will celebrate its 125th year of being in business in 2023.
“We have completed the subservice work and drilling for testing the soil,” Bechtel said. “So, what’s coming next? We will be starting next year, sometime in late April or June, on building the testing and fill facility and a support facility. We hope to hire Wyoming workers; subcontractors, general electricians, HVAC, excavation and mechanical.”
Romano explained that the buildup of employees will be spread out over a 2 ½ year period with 150 to 200 construction jobs. He showed a slide of the approximate timeline for the buildup which started with the site selection in 2021. In 2022, the MET tower was installed and the subservice investigations were completed. In 2023, the nuclear construction permit application will be presented to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the sodium test and fill facility will be completed; in 2024, early non-nuclear construction begins and first concrete is completed; in 2025, the nuclear island construction begins; in 2026, the operating license application will go to the NRC; in 2027, Natrium Plant construction will be completed; and in 2028, fuel load will bbe startedd as well as the completion and startup of the commercial plant.
Levesque said, “We don’t expect you to understand all of this overnight, we’ve been doing this for years. We want to build your trust. We have 800 engineers working on this project with Terra Power and we believe in the technology. We feel a heavy weight to get it right for you, for us and for the taxpayers as federal dollars are going into this as well.”
Kelley King, with KING Electric, Inc. & Construction Group, from LaBarg,e who was in the audience, told the Herald, “I’m excited about the TerraPower project. I sat in on their webinar for contractors some months ago and have submitted my application to them. If my company gets hired on, then when the plant is completed, maybe I can retire.”
City Administrator Brian Muir said he had attended a conference in Salt Lake City recently and people there made him realize “the eyes of the world and the nation are on Kemmerer.”
Muir said in the spring of 2023, there will be an additional 120 job oppportunities when a carbon capture project starts up in Kemmerer and the solar project in Cokeville that is going forward will add another 100 jobs in two years.
The evening ended with a question-and-answer period. Questions were centered mostly around infrastructure needs and the fears of residents that city water and sewer fees would increase due to the influx of workers and the development.
Responses from the speakers focused on the fact that project developers and the city grant writer, Mary Crosby, were actively soliciting grants and federal dollars to improve infrastructure. Also, as Muir reminded the audience, when the population increases and there is an influx of people to an area, sales tax revenue also increases.
“We really need to work with the legislature on a sixth-penny tax,” Muir said. “That would really help communities deal with infrastructure needs.”
As far as the heavy use of water, Neider told the audience that TerraPower’s startup of operations would coincide with the closure of the Naughton Plant and they have plans to build a pipeline to transport the water from that site to the Natrium reactor. She added that the Natrium reactor will also use much less water than the Naughton Plant did.
Another major concern was where Terra Power would get uranium for the nuclear plant.
Neider received a round of applause when she answered emphatically, “We are not dealing with Russia. The federal government is funding development of a fuel fabrication facility to do the enrichment of uranium, possibly one in Ohio and one in New Mexico, and the E.U. (European Union) supports the development of uranium in the world.”
Levesque added, “The federal government is appropriating lots of dollars to make this project successful. Communities where there have been nuclear plants have nice facilities and good paying jobs. We need to get this project right in order to go on from here. There has been $500 million already invested by our major investors and it will be ten-plus years before they make a profit on their investment.”
County Commissioner Kent Connelly stood up to speak, “The key element to this meeting was the timeline Terra Power put on the screen. This is not a boom-and-bust project. We have already seen $2 million in revenue from all of these projects last year.”
Mayor Thek thanked everyone for coming and suggested if anyone had further questions, they could talk to the company representatives personally after the meeting.
Uinta County Commissioner and member of Uinta County Economic Development Commission (UCEDC) Brent Hatch attended the meeting in Kemmerer and later gave his comments about the meeting.
“All of southwest Wyoming will benefit from the activities of TerraPower and the other projects that are happening in Lincoln County,” Hatch said. “I think, as the Uinta County Commission, we are excited to see the growth there and the movement from stagnant to a progressive future.”
Owen Peterson, also a member of the UCEDC, attended the meeting and expressed his response to the Herald.
“It was an excellent meeting and very informative. All of the different entities from the different businesses gave an overview of their projects. I had no idea about the Williams Pipeline and the other companies that are in Kemmerer,” Peterson said. “The timeline that TerraPower outlined was very important information. One aspect to be addressed is the issue of infrastructure needs, big time!”