Bill Gates Wants To Reinvent Nuclear Power With Company TerraPower
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has a plan to reinvent nuclear power as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global climate change.
Gates-founded nuclear energy company TerraPower, based in Bellevue, Wyoming, intends to construct a nuclear reactor called Natrium, which is cooled by liquid sodium, at the site of the former Naughton coal plant.
Fission, or splitting of enriched uranium atoms, will power the reactor.
Gates has been a long-time proponent of nuclear power as a zero-emissions alternative to traditional fossil fuels. He believes that incorporating nuclear energy into the nation’s power grid is essential for its ambitious goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Gates said over the summer at a virtual conference. “Wyoming has been a leader in energy for over a century. And we hope that our investment in Natrium will allow Wyoming to stay in the lead for many decades to come.”
The project is supported by both private and public funding.
“Since 2009, TerraPower has spent more than $1.4 million on contributions to national campaigns and lobbying, according to Open Secrets, a nonprofit tracking money in politics. “TerraPower has benefitted from bipartisan political support,” wrote The Seattle Times.
“TerraPower’s Wyoming project is projected to cost nearly $4 billion. Taxpayers, under contract terms, pick up half that, matching private-sector spending dollar for dollar,” the paper explained. “Congress already has allocated most of the nearly $2 billion to the Energy Department to spend on TerraPower, much of it in the infrastructure bill signed into law Monday by President Joe Biden. The company’s CEO, Chris Levesque, calls it the largest public investment in an advanced nuclear power project in the nation’s history.”
TerraPower is also expected to create thousands of well-paying jobs, and its developers envision replicating the plant’s model throughout other nuclear power stations across the country.
There are, however, some concerns over the safety of Natrium. While TerraPower has insisted that its reactor’s design is innovative and safe, outside experts are expressing caution.
Past attempts at sodium-cooled nuclear reactors have resulted in meltdowns, which means that the technology has not yet been proven successful in a real-world setting. But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be monitoring every step of the process, from licensing to when the plan finally switches on.