Kemmerer, population 2,800, was selected as the host community for TerraPower's Natrium nuclear reactor power plant. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

A proposal before the Wyoming Legislature to exempt nuclear power plants from current laws and statutes is a fool’s errand. The proposed legislation House Bill 131 – Nuclear power and storage amendments only serves to further enrich billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who are the primary investors of the proposed Natrium nuclear power plant in Kemmerer.

Opinion

The legislation has Wyoming bending over forward and backwards to unnecessarily relax our long-standing Industrial Siting Act, which protects our small communities from the serious socio-economic impacts resulting from the construction of large scale industrial facilities. Adding insult to injury, HB 131 also proposes tax breaks for nuclear plants by exempting them from a generation tax that was put in place to ensure Wyoming would get some economic benefit if nuclear power comes to the state — bolstering the state’s revenue base if nuclear displaces coal or natural gas for power generation.

The ISA was adopted in the 1970s to address the significant, unintended impacts boom development was having on small rural communities. The act has been a savior to Wyoming communities by requiring companies planning and building large-scale facilities to address the socio-economic impacts these facilities will bring when they draw thousands of out-of-state workers to a small community to construct these plants.

The ISA has been very effective in addressing the impacts of housing shortages, increased crime, emergency services, education and other infrastructure impacts to small Wyoming communities. But HB 131 as originally proposed will remove those protections. The proposed new nuclear project in Kemmerer will result in significant socio-economic impacts that won’t be addressed without the Industrial Siting Act regulations.

Let’s protect our Wyoming taxpayers and communities first, not out-of-state billionaires.

Jill Morrison

To make matters worse, backers of HB 131 are considering eliminating the $5-per-megawatt-hour tax for experimental nuclear plants. There is no justification for providing nuclear generation a free ride — especially when the proposed plant is already receiving billions of dollars in subsidies from the U.S. Department of Energy, which is, in fact, footing half the construction cost.

Wyoming does not need to provide further tax breaks to the billionaire proponents behind these projects.

The $4 billion nuclear project proposed for Kemmerer will certainly bring jobs, but also will bring costly socio-economic impacts to the area, and if HB 131 passes those costs will not be borne by the billionaires but will fall on the citizens of the state of Wyoming.

HB 131 passed the House Tuesday and is headed to the Senate, so call your legislators and ask them to vote no on HB 131 to keep our Industrial Siting Act in place and to maintain a revenue tax on nuclear generated electricity.

Let’s protect our Wyoming taxpayers and communities first, not out-of-state billionaires.

Jill Morrison

Jill Morrison worked for the Powder River Basin Resource Council for 31 years., first as a community organizer and later as the executive director.

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  1. Events unfolding in Ukraine should serve to remind us how rapidly the illusion of safety and security can deteriorate where nuclear power generation is involved. Neither Buffett nor Gates would ever dream of building one of these things in his own backyard. Why should we be so smitten with the idea of letting them build it in ours?

  2. Great comments. This is an “experimental” project. The two billionaires involved have track records that include fraud and government money handouts. We cannot afford to let them experiment on Wyoming with no skin in the game. Aristocrats living off of your taxes.

  3. HB 131 is just plain wrong and certainly does not benefit Wyoming residents. The elected officials are selling out Wyoming residents. This is so sad for Kemmerer and other small Wyoming communities. Please vote ‘no’ on HB 131.

  4. The introduction of this bill just shows the true colors of those in the WY Legislature.. We, as a State are hurting since the major slowdown in the coal industry. The State wants to keep spending like a bunch of drunken sailors and expects the residents of Wyoming to bear the brunt of their spending spree.
    Let these Billionaires pay their way. I’m not sure who’s bread they’re buttering in Cheyenne to push this through, but WE as a STATE need to wake up and hold these Legislators accountable!
    We didn’t vote these guys in to make them wealthy through bending over to Lobbyists!!
    VOTE NO ON HB 131

  5. Nuclear power is not the cure all. In fact it is the opposite. If Gates and Buffet want to have an experiment, they can pay for it. Whose stands to make the most money off this power plant/nuclear waste dump? Who pays the price when there is a radioactive cloud released when something fails? Who pays for the radioactive leak into the ground water when the spent fuel storage leaks? It sure isn’t going to be Buffet or Gates, history has proved that time and time again. Wyoming legislators are ill equipped to handle this deal. They need to look at history, Starting with the communities who have lived through the nightmare of a nuclear waste storage facility that has leaked. Check out Hanford Washington radioactive water leaking.

  6. Reading to learn more. Gates and Buffet are not the worst of the lot regarding billionaires. Can I take any comfort in that?

  7. Right on, Jill! Passing this bill would constitute an unforced error. Whatever puny incentives it might provide pale against the billions in federal subsidies and the lure of future markets.