Power companies run by billionaire friends Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have chosen Wyoming to launch the first sodium nuclear reactor project at the site of a retiring coal plant.
TerraPower, founded by Gates about 15 years ago, and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway-owned electric company PacifiCorp said Wednesday that the exact location of the sodium reactor demonstration plant was expected to be announced by the end of the year.
Small advanced reactors, running on different fuels than traditional reactors, are considered by some to be a critical carbon-free technology that can complement intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar, as states strive to reduce emissions. that cause climate change.
“We believe sodium will be a game changer for the energy industry,” Gates said at a news conference to launch the project in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
“This is our fastest and clearest path to going carbon negative,” Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said. “Nuclear power is clearly a part of my all-out energy strategy” in Wyoming, the nation’s leading coal-producing state.
The project features a 345 megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with molten salt energy storage that could increase the system’s power output to 500MW during peak power demand. TerraPower said last year that the plants would cost about $ 1 billion.
Late last year, the US Department of Energy awarded TerraPower $ 80 million in seed funding to demonstrate sodium technology, and the department has committed additional funding over the next several years subject to Congressional appropriations.
Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower, said the demonstration plant would take about seven years to build.
“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 carry higher risks than conventional ones. Fuel for many advanced reactors would have to be enriched at a much higher rate than conventional fuel, meaning the fuel supply chain could be an attractive target for militants looking to create a crude nuclear weapon. a recent report said.
Levesque said the plants would reduce proliferation risks because they reduce nuclear waste overall.