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Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba is a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. She has extensive experience writing and editing environmental features, travel pieces, local news in the…

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Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Team Up to Transform Nuclear Power

  • Bill Gates is pledging billions to promote next-generation nuclear power through TerraPower, focusing on innovations that could make nuclear a key player in global decarbonization.
  • Increasing energy demands from the AI sector prompt tech leaders like Sam Altman and Bill Gates to advocate for nuclear power as a sustainable solution.
  • Innovations in nuclear technology, including smaller, more standardized reactors, aim to reduce construction costs and compete with natural gas.
Nuclear Energy

Bill Gates is ready to sink billions into getting next-generation nuclear energy off the ground in the United States. The world’s sixth richest man has been a staunch nuclear supporter for years now, and has already sunk over a billion dollars of his own money into his innovative nuclear power start-up TerraPower LLC. But according to Gates, that cool billion is just the beginning. “I put in over a billion, and I’ll put in billions more,” Gates was recently quoted by Bloomberg. 

Nuclear power has been gaining traction around the globe as a viable option for national and private decarbonization strategies. Nuclear advocates argue that we can no longer afford to ignore nuclear’s immense clean energy potential, as it is a proven technology with plenty of existing infrastructure, legal precedent and huge output capacity. While it is not considered to be a renewable energy, nuclear energy emits zero carbon emissions and could be a key part of a viable pathway to meeting global emissions targets. 

Finding new ways to drum up a whole lot of clean energy output in a hurry has become increasingly urgent as the tech sector, and Artificial Intelligence in particular, suck up rapidly increasingly colossal amounts of energy. In fact, the increased demand from the tech sector has become so extreme that, for the first time in years, energy demand growth from the developed world has surpassed that of developing countries, flipping a long-running script on its head. 

“Currently, the entire IT industry is responsible for around 2 percent of global CO2 emissions,” Science Alert reported in 2023. And that’s just the beginning. Technological research and consulting firm Gartner projects that without major industry and policy changes, the AI sector will be solely responsible for 3.5 percent of global electricity consumption as soon as 2030. 

As a result, tech bigwigs are getting serious about finding new sources of carbon-free energy to power their companies’ insatiable demand. And some of the biggest names in the biz are looking to nuclear to fill that need. Bill Gates’ TerraPower, which he co-founded and co-funded with fellow multi-billionaire Warren Buffett (the two men have estimated net worths of $140 billion and $103 billion, respectively), will likely directly supply nuclear energy to power Microsoft’s own massive Artificial Intelligence ambitions. TerraPower aims to make nuclear safer and less controversial by piloting a new kind of reactor that uses liquid sodium as a coolant which allows them to significantly lower their water consumption and potentially even recycle their own spent nuclear fuel, closing a critical hazardous waste loop.

A younger generation of tech whizzes with deep pockets are also showing a keen interest in nuclear energy as a potential saving grace for the runaway train that is AI’s energy demand and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Sam Altman, the founder of OpenAI, best known as the makers of ChatGPT, has publicly opined that nuclear energy will be critical to keeping AI’s carbon footprint in check. Altman, too, has founded a start-up specializing in “nuclear microreactors.” Oklo, which is an AI-integrated nuclear energy firm, went public in May.

Altman is also a heavy advocate for nuclear fusion research. “The AI systems of the future will need tremendous amounts of energy and this fission and fusion can help deliver them,” Altman was quoted in the Wall Street Journal last summer.

Not only do some of the biggest names in Big Tech think that nuclear energy is the key to keeping the tech sector’s carbon footprint in check, they also think that it could be a profitable venture, especially with some of the innovations that these disruptors are bringing to their new-age nuclear reactors. Historically, one of the biggest hurdles for nuclear power expansion has been the high construction costs of new plants. But smaller and more standardized reactors could majorly cut down on those costs. 

Bill Gates thinks that making nuclear power  affordable and efficient is within reach, and he plans to keep putting the weight of his wealth behind it until it gets there. “Coal is being outcompeted by natural gas,” Gates told CNN in a recent interview. “And so what we have to do is compete effectively with natural gas.”

By Haley Zarenmba for Oilprice.com 

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  • Bill Jones on June 28 2024 said:
    Rusiia, of course, is about 20 years ahead.

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