© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

North Dakota's Dept. of Commerce looking at nuclear power to meet the increasing demand for electricity

Rich Garman, ND Commerce Dept., talks to interim Energy Development and Transmission Committee
ND Legislature
Rich Garman, ND Commerce Dept., talks to interim Energy Development and Transmission Committee

North Dakota’s Commerce Department has begun studying whether nuclear power could be used to help meet the increasing demand for electricity.

That demand is being driven – in part – by new data centers, that are using a lot of power.

"The ramp-rate of the need for baseload power is increasing, every time we pick the phone up and talk with another project," said Rich Garman, the director of Economic Development and Finance for the Commerce Department. He told the Legislature’s interim Energy Development and Transmission Committee the state’s coal fired power plant fleet is aging, and new coal plants aren’t being built.

Garman said the state is now exporting less power than it used to, and is generating a little less.

"In 2010, North Dakota exported about 63 percent of its production," Garman said. "In 2023, that's down to 30 percent."

Garman said in a way, that's a good story.

"That means we're finding ways to utilize that power in-state," Garman said. "But in another way, it's showing that we're walking towards a wall that we need to get around — we're eventually going to run out of the power we want to continue to utilize to bring new industry to the state. That's the wall we're concerned with."

Garman said it appears the long-term solution will be nuclear. He said the Department is trying to learn as much about the nuclear options as possible. He said Wyoming could be a good example to follow, as coal plants are transitioning to nuclear and other fuels, and cities such as Gillette and Kemmerer are working to embrace nuclear.

"We have a lot to learn from Wyoming," Garman said. "We want to associate ourselves with the Wyoming Energy Authority — we want to learn what they're doing, what's working and what isn't working, and bring that back to North Dakota."

Garman said Commerce has an "incredible lift" ahead on educating the public, the Legislature, and ourselves, on what nuclear power is, and how North Dakota can effectively use it.

Related Content