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Half of the US’s peak coal-fired power plant capacity, reached in 2011, will be retired by 2026. Amid this decline, coal-fired facilities that could eventually be used as infrastructure for new nuclear reactors now outnumber operational coal plants. The first such transition, currently being undertaken by TerraPower, is scheduled to be up and running by 2030 after a groundbreaking in Wyoming this week. The 345 megawatt reactor’s output would be enough to power more homes than all of the households in the state.

The problem is, thousands of kilograms of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) will be required annually to run the reactor and the US has just passed a law barring all imports of Russian uranium by 2028. Russia is currently the sole commercial supplier of HALEU and, despite recent developments, the US has thus far only been able to ramp up domestic production to 900 kg per year. If the US is to truly commit to advanced nuclear reactors, it will also need to scale up its uranium mining and processing capacity.

Related ETFs & Stocks: Sprott Uranium Miners ETF (URNM), Global X Uranium ETF (URA), Centrus Energy Corp. (LEU)

Ground was broken on the world’s first potential coal-to-nuclear power plant transition this week. Existing transmission lines and water infrastructure (necessary for cooling both coal-fired power equipment and nuclear reactors), means developers could cut significant time and costs off of plant construction. The World Nuclear Association finds that costs associated with the lifespan of nuclear plants are heavily weighted toward the capital required to construct the facility, making up at least 60% of their levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). A 2022 Department of Energy (DoE) report found that new nuclear power plants could cut construction costs by more than a third.

It was way back in 2021 that MRP first highlighted the potential for idle coal-fired power plants to serve as the foundation for new nuclear capacity. Back then, nuclear power firm TerraPower was evaluating four coal plants owned by PacifiCorp’s Rocky Mountain Power unit as potential sites for its first 345 megawatt (MW) demonstration reactor. The Natrium nuclear reactor plant, as its now known, will be home to a sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. According to Electrek, storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MW of power when needed. That level of output is enough to power around 400,000 homes. That would be a massive power source for Wyoming, as the US Census bureau’s 2022 data tallied just 234,156 households in the entire state. TerraPower plans to hire the 110 former coal workers from the retiring Naughton coal-fired power plant, potentially saving half of the 200-250 existing staff, to tap into their transferrable skills.

Per the DoE, more than 300 coal power plant sites in the US (much greater than the 216 which remain operational today) are suitable to host advanced nuclear power plants. Each plant could match the size of the site being converted and help increase nuclear capacity by more than 250 gigawatts (GW) —nearly tripling its current capacity of 95 GW. In terms of power generation, retirements of coal plants, which have continued apace for the past decade, are likely to…

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