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Nuclear fusion company exploring Lewis County coal plant property

TransAlta must shut down coal burning in 2025.

LEWIS COUNTY, Wash. — A power plant in Lewis County has to shut down coal-related operations by the end of 2025, but the location could end up as a site for a new form of energy production.

Zap Energy, a Seattle-based company researching nuclear fusion as an electricity generator, received a $1 million grant to potentially occupy a portion of the rural Lewis County property.

“Fusion has the potential to be a clean, safe, on-demand source of electricity for the future,” said Zap Energy’s Ryan Umstattd.

He said the company is researching fusion technology at an Everett lab, but they need more space.

An eight-acre portion of the TransAlta property, formerly used as a gas production plant, has a larger warehouse, cooling towers, and transmission lines.

Umstattd said the site is promising for Zap Energy.

“It feels like it’s possible,” said Umstattd, who added the company will likely spend another 18 months studying the site.

A state law passed in 2011 requires TransAlta to halt all coal burning at the plant, but that does not mean the company has to abandon the property.

“We’ve looked at wind, we’ve looked at solar, at other opportunities whether we partner or whatnot, we would like to stay here,” said TransAlta Centralia Vice President Mickey Dreher.

The company has used coal to generate power for the northwest, and in markets around North America since 1971. It currently employs 120 people, said Dreher.

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