As coal-fired power generators in Wyoming continue to go offline, one legislator is hoping to bridge the gap with small nuclear reactors.

If passed and signed into law, House Bill 74 would allow power plants in Wyoming to replace their natural gas and coal-fired generators with small nuclear reactors that have similar output.

Riverton Republican Rep. David Miller, the bill's primary sponsor, said the legislation would help keep several Wyoming power plants open as their conventional generators are taken offline. 

"The infrastructure is all still there -- powerlines, cooling, roads, office buildings -- how about replacing them with this fifth-generation nuclear reactor design?" Miller asked. "This will hopefully will spur the utilities that operate in Wyoming to think a little bit.

"They need something that actually can generate electricity when the wind's not blowing and the sun's not shining. This is a way to do it and keep the grid stable as they take the generators offline."

Small modular reactors are factory-made, unlike traditional nuclear plants that are "one-off copies." No two are the same, Miller said. Because of those similarities, repairs and upkeep would be a universal process.

And they're built for "no human error input," the legislator said. They shouldn't have problems such as those faced by Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

HB74 also includes a provision to tax power generated from small modular reactors at a rate of $5 per megawatt-hour. Miller said that's his way to counter a decline in state revenue from ad valorem and severance taxes from the minerals industry.

Miller also said the proposal would keep people employed at Wyoming's power plants as they transition out of coal.

The 2020 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature begins Feb. 10.

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