Power companies run by billionaire friends Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have chosen Wyoming to launch the first Natrium nuclear reactor project on the site of a retired coal plant.
TerraPower, founded by Gates about 15 years ago, and power company PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, said on Wednesday that the exact location of the Natrium reactor demonstration plant should be announced by end of the year.
Small advanced reactors, which run on fuels different from traditional reactors, are seen by some as a critical carbon-free technology that can complement intermittent energy sources like wind and solar as states work to reduce emissions that cause climate change.
“We believe Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Gates said at a press conference to launch the project in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
“This is our fastest and clearest route to going carbon negative,” Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said. “Nuclear power is clearly part of my overall energy strategy” in Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state.
The project includes a 345 megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with molten salt energy storage that could increase the system output power to 500 MW during peak power demand. TerraPower said last year that the plants would cost around $ 1 billion.
Late last year, the U.S. Department of Energy granted TerraPower $ 80 million in seed funding to demonstrate Natrium technology, and the department committed additional funding in the coming years subject to Congress credits.
Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower, said construction of the demonstration plant would take about seven years.
“We need this kind of clean energy on the grid in the 2030s,” he told reporters.
Nuclear power experts have warned that advanced reactors could pose higher risks than conventional reactors. The fuel for many advanced reactors is expected to be enriched at a much higher rate than conventional fuel, meaning the fuel supply chain could be an attractive target for activists seeking to create a brute nuclear weapon, according to one. recent report.
Lévesque said the plants would reduce the risk of proliferation because they would reduce overall nuclear waste.