(NEWSnet/AP) — Bill Gates and his energy company are starting construction at a Wyoming site for a next-generation nuclear power plant.

Gates, chairman of TerraPower, was in Kemmerer on Monday to break ground for the project.

In March, the company applied to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in March for a construction permit for an advanced nuclear reactor that uses sodium for cooling, instead of water. If approved, it would operate as a commercial nuclear power plant.

The site is adjacent to PacifiCorp’s Naughton Power Plant, which will stop burning coal in 2026 and natural gas a decade after, the utility said.

PacifiCorp plans to get carbon-free power from the reactor and says it is assessing how much nuclear to include in long-range planning.

Work that began Monday is aimed at having the site ready so TerraPower can build the reactor as quickly as possible if its permit is approved.

Gates told the audience at the groundbreaking they were “standing on what will soon be the bedrock of America’s energy future.”

“This is a big step toward safe, abundant, zero-carbon energy,” Gates said. “And it’s important for the future of this country that projects like this succeed.”

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