Wyoming panel considers nuclear energy, waste storage

A Wyoming Legislature task force is examining a proposal that would allow the storage of high-level radioactive waste in the state if a nuclear power plant is established there.

The two bills recommended by the Task Force represent pre-planning in the area of nuclear energy, according to a summary provided by Republican State Sen. Stan Cooper. Cooper was to help brief other state lawmakers on the panel’s work Oct. 16.

“The Task Force finds that in addition to the proposed legislation, it is important to continue to explore the area of nuclear energy and uranium production for Wyoming’s future,” according to the summary. “The Task Force recommends that the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee look into consideration of these issues going forward.”

The bill for the authorization of certain radioactive waste facilities would remove the existing legislative approval requirement in an effort to remove an impediment which could potentially discourage nuclear energy production within the state.

The Task Force on Nuclear Energy Production was created through 2011 House Bill 129 and then continued for another year through 2012 Senate File 12. The Task Force met for two days in August and then held a final one day meeting in October.

“The facility shall only be authorized if it is operated in conjunction with and on the site of a nuclear power generation facility operating within the state,” according to the draft proposal.

A draft proposal from the task force last year “would have, potentially, authorized a standalone facility which may have accepted waste from other locations while this draft would require the storage to be done on-site and in conjunction with the operation of the nuclear facility,” according to the draft proposal.

Companies, researchers, interest groups weigh in

PacifiCorp, which is part of MidAmerican Energy Holdings (MEH), could consider nuclear power in the 2025 to 2030 timeframe when some existing coal plants are retired, company official  Ian Andrews has told the panel.

Cost recovery is one of the reasons why PacifiCorp is not at the forefront in the nuclear area, Andrews said. The PacifiCorp official also noted that the Department of Energy will soon be making financial awards on small modular reactors.

Ken Vaughn of Cameco (TSX:CCO) (NYSE:CCJ) noted that the company goal is to double its uranium production worldwide. Historically Cameco has produced approximately two million pounds of uranium per year in Wyoming and its expansion projects would at least double that amount.

The Task Force on Nuclear Energy Production held a public meeting Oct. 11 in Casper, Wyo. Speakers included former governor Michael Sullivan, a Democrat, and an official from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

In prior meetings the panel also heard testimony by officials from the Idaho National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory. Argonne official Paul Dickman noted that there have been a couple of non-commercial nuclear reactors in Wyoming previously, owned by the military and a university.

The panel has also heard from uranium producers, business and environmental groups.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.