Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are teaming up with TerraPower to build a state-of-the-art nuclear power plant in Wyoming. It will replace an existing coal plant in the area and provide enough clean energy to power 250,000 homes.
What makes this project special is that the plant will be much safer than traditional nuclear plants, which are already pretty safe. It will also produce less radioactive waste. Construction is set to begin in 2024, while the coal plant will close in 2025.
The last nuclear plant built in the US was the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Unit 2 in 2016.
What Makes This Natrium Reactor Special?
Nuclear power plants are very complicated, so trying to understand what makes this one special is difficult, but I’ll give it a shot.
This plant utilizes a sodium-cooled fast reactor as a heat source, where the heat is transported out of the reactor by molten salt. The molten salt (liquid sodium) can then be moved around freely to generate electricity when needed.
For those unaware, the heat generated by nuclear power plants is how they produce electricity.
It is safer than traditional reactors because it does not rely on an outside source for energy. Most nuclear reactors get the energy for the cooling system from a separate source. Instead, it will come from natural circulation in the system.
The result of this is that the cost of building a plant with this technology is much cheaper than a traditional nuclear plant because less of the equipment needs to meet nuclear safety guidelines. Thus, it lowers the cost of nuclear power.
That said, it will still cost several billion dollars to fund the project. This will come from backers like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, but an additional $1.5 billion will come from the federal government.
Why Bill Gates?
Bill Gates is famous for creating Microsoft, so it might seem odd that he is now building nuclear power plants.
Bill Gates is no stranger to creating companies, and TerraPower is another on that long list.
Thus, the team-up makes perfect sense. Bill Gates has also spoken up about the importance of fighting climate change, so retiring a coal plant in favor of a clean nuclear energy plant, makes sense.
The company stands to make a lot of money if more plants use this technology.
Nuclear Is Gaining Support
In the beginning, the focus has been on expanding renewable energy sources like solar and wind. However, it’s become clear that nuclear energy is important in achieving net-zero emissions.
Unlike renewable energy sources, nuclear energy is reliable. Currently, 20% of the United States gets its power from nuclear. Surprisingly, even though the number of plants is shrinking, the total energy output is increasing.
This is all thanks to innovations in nuclear technology.
During the COP26 conference, many protesters were wearing a #NetZeroNeedsNuclear t-shirt. In the past, many activists lumped nuclear in with fossil fuels, but it is now clear nuclear is necessary to achieve our climate goals.
Advancing the technology further is imperative for success.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.