Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Team Up for $1 Billion Next-Gen Nuclear Reactor

The small, modular Natrium plant is due to be safer, perform better, and be less expensive than a traditional plant.
Fabienne Lang
Warren Buffett (left) and Bill Gates (right)Borsheims Jewelry/Flickr

On June 2 ,Bill Gates' advanced nuclear reactor company TerraPower, and Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp announced that they've chosen Wyoming as the state to launch their Natrium advanced nuclear reactor project.

Small, modular advanced nuclear reactors run on different fuels than traditional reactors, and the hope is that they will help lower carbon emissions all while supporting intermittent power sources like wind and solar, ultimately helping to curb climate change, reported Reuters.

As Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower, said "The Natrium technology was designed to solve a challenge utilities face as they work to enhance grid reliability and stability while meeting decarbonization and emissions-reduction goals."

The precise site of the Natrium reactor demonstration plant has yet to be decided, but the team expects to have found a site by the end of the year. 

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Team Up for $1 Billion Next-Gen Nuclear Reactor
Rendition of the Natrium advanced nuclear reactor future site. Source: PacifiCorp

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon showed his enthusiasm for the decision when he said in his Wyoming Energy Announcement, "I am thrilled to see Wyoming selected for this demonstration pilot project, as our great state is the perfect place for this type of innovative utility facility and our experienced workforce is looking forward to the jobs this project will provide."

What the Natrium demonstration project will create

The Natrium system was first announced last year by Bill Gates. Natrium's demonstration project will feature a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The storage technology has enough energy to have the ability to power the equivalent of 400,000 homes. 

This innovation enables a Natrium power plant to easily integrate with renewable resources, and lead more quickly to more cost-effective decarbonization of electricity generation. The fact that the power plant is also simpler, modular and smaller means that the costs for its construction are minimal, TerraPower and PacifiCorp said. 

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On top of that, as Gov. Gordon mentioned in a Twitter post that constructing and operating the Natrium plant in the state will provide hundreds of jobs for residents, and will help reduce Wyoming's overall CO2 emissions. 

Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded TerraPower $80 million to demonstrate the Natrium technology, said the company. The next steps of the project further project evaluation, education, and outreach, as well as state and federal regulatory approvals before a Natrium facility is acquired.

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