Gates’ nuclear reactor design company TerraPower, which was founded about 15 years ago, along with PacifiCorp power company, which is owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, are partners on the Natrium nuclear reactor pilot project, the companies said in a statement.
“We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Gates said by video link to a news conference hosted by Republican Gov. Mark Gordon. “Wyoming has been a leader in energy for over a century and we hope our investment in Natrium will help Wyoming to stay in the lead for many decades to come.”
Wyoming is the top uranium-mining state, and the reactor would use uranium from “in situ” mines that extract the heavy metal from networks of water wells on the high plains, officials said.
TerraPower says its Natrium reactor, designed in partnership with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, is more fuel-efficient, cost-effective and safer than traditional nuclear reactors.
“Today I announced that Wyoming will host a first-of-its-kind nuclear power plant. It will be located at the site of one of our current coal-fired power plants, with an exact location to be announced by the end of the year.” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon Tweeted.
Some scientists have expressed concern over the safety of nuclear reactors versus traditional ones; the Union of Concerned Scientists in a recent report said “newly built reactors must be demonstrably safer and more secure than current generation reactors,” but that most “advanced” nuclear reactors “are anything but.”
“In fact, certain alternative reactor designs pose even more safety, proliferation, and environmental risks than the current fleet,” the report states.
TerraPower said its specialized storage technology can likely power about 400,000 homes.
“Together with PacifiCorp, we’re creating the energy grid of the future where advanced nuclear technologies provide good-paying jobs and clean energy for years to come,” TerraPower’s CEO Chris Levesque 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.”
Levesque added that the project will take about seven years to build.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said the project will create hundreds of jobs in the state and that an exact location for the project will be announced by the end of the year.