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Bill Gates-Backed Firm Raises $750M To Develop Small Nuclear Reactors

TerraPower, a company working on small-scale nuclear reactor development backed by Bill Gates, has raised $750 million in investment, including from South Korea's second-largest conglomerate, to pursue its plan to manufacture mini-reactors.

TerraPower, a nuclear energy technology company, raised the funding co-led by Bill Gates to manufacture nuclear reactors that would be cheaper than conventional reactors.  

SK Inc, part of South Korea's SK Group, invested $250 million in TerraPower in the fundraising, the company said on Monday.

As the world looks to cut carbon emissions from energy sources, Gates has been betting on small nuclear reactors that could have lower costs than the typical reactors used in nuclear power generation plants. At the same time, nuclear energy generation is zero-emission.

Last year, TerraPower picked a remote coal town in western Wyoming as the site of its first innovative nuclear power plant. The U.S. Department of Energy welcomed the plans and said last November it was "extremely excited about this project."

The DOE plans to invest nearly $2 billion to support the licensing, construction, and demonstration of this first-of-a-kind reactor by 2028.

Earlier this year, TerraPower said the project was underway. During the first three years of this project, TerraPower is focused on advancing the plant design and submitting the construction permit application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Early construction activities will likely begin in 2024, TerraPower said in May.

Nuclear energy, especially innovative technologies such as small-scale nuclear reactors, could be an important breakthrough in the quest for low-carbon power generation.

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Moreover, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, nuclear power has returned to the spotlight as a way to reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels while keeping emissions in check. Even Germany is debating whether to end nuclear power generation at the end of 2022, as planned, in light of the gas crisis. Germany has three remaining nuclear power plants operating, and they should be shut by the end of this year under a plan the country adopted to stop the use of nuclear energy following the Fukushima disaster. Earlier this month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signaled that "it could make sense" to keep nuclear power plants operating.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Lewis Tucker on November 01 2022 said:
    The KLT-40S Akademik Lomonosov power station is not a serious SMR in any sense, and cannot be used to debunk the logical move towards true SMR's. Part of the SMR model is that they are highly efficient, produce little waste due to their GEN IV mode, produce no economically extractable bomb material, are scalable, and are produced using production line techniques. It is a completely inappropriate comparison, especially considering the scepticism we must now apply to all Russian sourced information.

    If this thinking was applied to new technology in the past, we'd never have aeroplanes. New technology just starting out is always expensive. One has to wonder also, about the ultimate viability of alternative technologies, especially storage, the main driver for SMR's. Is battery tecnology getting any cheaper, as always predicted? Hardly! Check out the accelerating cost of Tesla Powerwall II's! OK, that's not strictly applicable to power utility batteries of course, but it's certainly indicative. There are just as many, and quite huge, assumptions of cost on the non-nuclear technologies, the cost of the massive grid enhancement required in particular. Indeed, for a true distributed power system to work, truly massive investment is required in power grid upgrade (for 24/7 nuclear this is not needed).

    If the world is to focus on low CO2 emitting technology then 24/7, easily variable, almost zero emitting nuclear must be seriously considered, and not casually pushed aside.
  • Moses Shuldiner on August 16 2022 said:
    "Gates has been betting on small nuclear reactors that could have lower costs than the typical reactors used in nuclear power generation plants." I could be the next prime minister of Canada, theoretically. This article is very one-sided. It does not point out that at present there is only one operating SMR in the whole world, KLT-40S Akademik Lomonosov - a floating reactor in Russia that has been active since May 2020. It was way over budget and completed past projected deadline. SMR's are only feasible if many are ordered as they are assembled in an offsite facility that is very expensive to build and run. In addition nuclear power is very costly and SMR's lose the economics of scale, thus their power is even more expensive. It is very likely that by the time many of the projected SMR's are built there will be breakthrough's in renewable energy that will render the SMR's completely uneconomical to complete or operate. However the investments by government, $2 billion by the DOE for the SMR in the article, and industry will lead to the sunk cost fallacy i.e. throwing good money after bad.

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