Billionaires say Natrium project will be ‘game-changer for the energy industry’
TerraPower, founded by Gates about 15 years ago, and power company PacifiCorp, owned by Buffet‘s Berkshire Hathaway , said the exact site of the Natrium reactor demonstration plant is expected to be announced by the end of the year.
The small advanced reactors, which run on different fuels than traditional reactors, are a carbon-free technology than can supplement other renewable power sources like wind and solar as states aim to cut carbon emissions.
Wyoming is the country’s top-coal producing state and the reactor is expected to be placed at a retiring coal-plant.
“We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Mr Gates said by video link to a news conference hosted by Republican governor Mark Gordon.
“Wyoming has been a leader in energy for over a century and we hope our investment in Natrium will help Wyoming to stay in the lead for many decades to come.”
The project features a 345 megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with molten salt-based energy storage that could boost the system’s power output to 500 MW during peak power demand. TerraPower said last year that the plants would cost about $1bn (£706m).
Mr Gordon said: “This is our fastest and clearest course to becoming carbon negative. Nuclear power is clearly a part of my all-of-the-above strategy for energy.”
Late last year, the US Department of Energy awarded TerraPower $80m (£56.5m) in initial funding to demonstrate Natrium technology, and the department has committed additional funding in coming years subject to congressional appropriations.
Chris Levesque, TerraPower’s president and CEO, 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.
Mr Levesque said that the plants would reduce proliferation risks because they reduce overall nuclear waste.
In addition to bringing carbon-free power online, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso said construction of the demonstration project could lift up the state’s once active uranium mining industry.
Additional reporting by agencies