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Bill Gates-Backed Firm to Start Building First U.S. Advanced Nuclear Reactor

TerraPower, a company working on small-scale nuclear reactor development backed by Bill Gates, plans to begin construction on its next-generation nuclear reactor in the United States as soon as June, TerraPower’s president and chief executive officer Chris Levesque has told the Financial Times.

TerraPower has been developing the Natrium technology for advanced reactors, which features a sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The Natrium demonstration plant will be built near a retiring coal facility in Kemmerer, Wyoming.   

The company will apply this month with U.S. regulators for a construction permit to build its next-generation reactor in Wyoming’s coal county, Levesque told FT, adding that construction work near the chosen site would start in June regardless of whether TerraPower would have obtained a Nuclear Regulatory Commission permit by then.

The company expects to bring the next-generation nuclear power plant online in 2030, according to the executive.

“Natrium plants will cost half of what light water reactor plants cost . . . and we are moving our project along pretty aggressively,” Levesque told FT in an interview published on Tuesday.

Last month, TerraPower announced the selection of five suppliers to support the design, fabrication, testing, and qualification of various parts of the nuclear reactor.

Nuclear energy, especially innovative technologies such as small-scale nuclear reactors, could be an important breakthrough in the quest for low-carbon power generation. The U.S. is backing next-generation nuclear projects, including TerraPower’s Natrium reactor development.

In an updated post about TerraPower’s next-generation reactor, the U.S. Department of Energy said in November that it was “extremely excited about this project and plans to invest nearly $2 billion to support the licensing, construction and demonstration of this first-of-a-kind reactor.”

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TerraPower leads one of two teams awarded initial funding through DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to test, license, and build the next generation of advanced U.S. nuclear reactors.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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