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Wyoming And Idaho Work Together On Creating A Nuclear Corridor

Idaho National Laboratory

A group of Wyoming and Idaho officials have reportedly been meeting recently to map out their ambitions to turn the region into a national center for advanced nuclear technology.

According to a recent article in Cowboy State Daily, the group is vying for $70 million in funding from the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, with another $37 million kicked in from industry partners. The federal decision on making the $70 million award could come as early as June.

An estimated $20 million could be earmarked for the University of Wyoming, which also is part of this advanced nuclear collaborative.

“This group really supercharges what is already happening in our state and throughout the region, and highlights where we are headed with the nuclear program,” said Curtis Biggs, executive director of industry and strategic partnerships in the research and economic development division of the University of Wyoming.

Other vendors are also in collaboration talks with the group including L&H Industrial in Gillette and Disa Technologies Inc. in Casper

Wyoming is currently the largest supplier of coal to power plants in the United States.  Now it’s aiming to expand to other power sources as demand for coal continues to decline.  Leaders within the group say this effort is not only important to our economy, but to the future of the energy industry.

Already, a demonstration reactor is being built in southwestern Wyoming by TerraPower LLC, the company that’s backed by Bill Gates.  The Wyoming-Idaho group is considering other kinds of advanced nuclear reactors and how colleges and universities throughout the region could help train a specialized workforce of engineers and scientists as well as blue-collar laborers like electricians, plumbers and welders.

The group will also need to iron out issues involved in mining uranium and rare earth magnets, remediation of mining sites, building a possible enrichment facility to convert uranium into fuel and raising up a generation of vendors for research and development of key parts of advanced nuclear reactors.

Wyoming and Idaho have already cornered the market on nuclear research and development.  Last year, the corridor received nearly $500,000 from the Commerce Department to begin work on forming a technology hub for advanced nuclear technology work and outlining what it would look like.

There’s a bigger pool of $10 billion for future tech hubs including next-generation geothermal plants, clean hydrogen, carbon management, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing techniques.  But the Wyoming-Idaho nuclear hub is the only one chasing the advanced nuclear field work here in the U.S.

Hope Morrow leads the initiative to seek money funds from the federal government for the Wyoming-Idaho group.  “We are the only advanced nuclear tech hub. We are the horse. We are the only horse.”

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