Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, two billionaires, are teaming up to build a nuclear reactor — on the site of a coal plant in Wyoming that is being phased out.
TerraPower, a nuclear reactor design company founded by Gates about 15 years ago, and PacifiCorp, a power company owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, are partners on the Natrium nuclear reactor pilot project, the companies announced.
The Department of Energy is also a partner in the project, funding it and collaborating on it through a cooperative agreement.
TerraPower asserts that its Natrium reactor, developed in collaboration with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, is more fuel-efficient, cost-effective, and safe than conventional nuclear reactors, Gates said via video earlier this week during a news conference in the state capital of Cheyenne.
“We believe Natrium will revolutionize the energy industry,” said Gates, who is currently undergoing a high-profile divorce. In the video, he appeared to be wearing his wedding ring.
“Wyoming has been a leader in energy for more than a century, and we hope our investment in Natrium will help the state maintain that position for many decades to come,” he added.
However, some scientists have expressed concern about the lack of evidence that advanced nuclear reactors are safer than conventional reactors.
According to a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, terrorists seeking to build a crude nuclear weapon could target the supply chain for advanced reactors. Indeed, the report states that certain alternative reactor designs pose greater safety, proliferation, and environmental risks than the current fleet.
The Natrium system’s specialized storage technology enables it to boost its output to the equivalent of about 400,000 homes’ worth of energy, TerraPower said.
Berkshire Hathaway, which is controlled by Warren Buffett, owns PacifiCorp.
“Together with PacifiCorp, we’re building the energy grid of the future, one that will provide years of good-paying jobs and clean energy,” TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque said. “The Natrium technology was developed to address a challenge faced by utilities as they strive to improve grid reliability and stability while also meeting decarbonization and emissions-reduction targets.”
Levesque added that the project’s construction will take approximately seven years.
Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming stated that the project will result in the creation of hundreds of jobs in the state. He added that the project’s precise location will be announced by the end of the year.