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Joe Manchin, Bill Gates Visit Old Coal Plant That Could Go Nuclear

Sen. Joe Manchin and philanthropist Bill Gates visit the decommissioned Kanawha River Plant in Glasgow, West Virginia.
Sen. Manchin's office

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, brought philanthropist Bill Gates to West Virginia on Monday.

Before they held a town-hall event at the Clay Center in Charleston, Manchin and Gates went to Glasgow, in eastern Kanawha County.

They visited the site of the Kanawha River Plant, an Appalachian Power facility that operated from 1953 until 2015.

Gates is an investor in TerraPower, a company that plans to put small modular nuclear reactors at sites like the Kanawha River Plant, giving them new life and bringing jobs back to the community.

Manchin said that has big potential for places like Glasgow.

“This will be much cleaner. And it will be extremely safe, in that footprint,” he said after the town hall. “So once they understand, and there will be a lot of education, a lot of community involvement to see if that or any other place in West Virginia would be receptive towards this type of technology.”

State lawmakers created that possibility last year when they repealed a decades-old ban on nuclear power.

It could take five or 10 years to make a nuclear plant in West Virginia a reality. The site would need extensive remediation. But it also has something that a nuclear plant needs: a connection to the grid.

“Providing the site, preparing the site, getting it ready and building the site,” Manchin said. “That’s all tremendous for the communities, wherever it happens.”

Manchin said the Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress passed last year, provides numerous incentives for energy companies to come to West Virginia.

“And you had, oh, probably 20 or 30 CEOs here that have made decisions to either invest or are looking very strongly to invest in West Virginia,” he said.

Gates is also an investor in Form Energy, a battery manufacturer that last month announced it would build utility scale storage batteries in Weirton.

Eventually, the Kanawha River Plant – a symbol of the state’s old energy economy – could be part of its future.