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In Wyoming, Bill Gates Advances Nuclear Project to Revolutionise Power Generation

Bill Gates and TerraPower have started building on a next-generation nuclear power project in Wyoming. The project's goal is to revolutionise power generation by employing an improved reactor that uses sodium for cooling. The location is close to PacifiCorp's Naughton Power Plant, which will switch to carbon-free energy sources. Bill Gates and TerraPower are building a next-generation nuclear power plant in Wyoming.

Gates and his energy firm have begun building of a next-generation nuclear power station in Wyoming, which he hopes will "revolutionise" the way electricity is generated.

On Monday, the small community of Kemmerer held a groundbreaking ceremony. TerraPower applied for a construction permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in March for an advanced nuclear reactor that uses sodium instead of water for cooling. If approved, this reactor would operate as a commercial nuclear power plant.

The chosen site is adjacent to PacifiCorp's Naughton Power Plant, which is set to cease burning coal in 2026 and natural gas a decade later. By utilising nuclear reactors, which emit no greenhouse gases, PacifiCorp aims to obtain carbon-free power and is currently evaluating the inclusion of nuclear energy in its long-term plans.

The construction work initiated on Monday aims to prepare the site for the rapid deployment of the reactor if the permit is granted. Russia is now leading the development of sodium-cooled reactors.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Gates voiced confidence that the project would set the groundwork for America's energy future. He remarked, "This is a big step toward safe, abundant, zero-carbon energy. And it's important for the future of this country that projects like this succeed."

TerraPower is developing an advanced reactor that uses coolants other than water and operates at higher temperatures and lower pressures. While this technology has existed for decades, the United States has primarily depended on massive, traditional water-cooled reactors for commercial power generation. The Wyoming project marks the first attempt in approximately forty years to establish an advanced reactor as a commercial power plant in the country.

Chris Levesque, the president and CEO of TerraPower, emphasised the need for innovation in the nuclear industry. He stated, "The industry’s character hasn’t been to innovate. It’s kind of been to repeat past performance, you know, not to move forward with new technology. And that was good for reliability. But the electricity demands we’re seeing in the coming decades, and also to correct the cost issues with today’s nuclear and nuclear energy, we at TerraPower and our founders really felt it’s time to innovate."

While the expansion of Plant Vogtle in Georgia, which involved the construction of two traditional large reactors, incurred cost overruns of nearly $11 billion, the TerraPower project is expected to cost up to $4 billion, with half of the funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. Levesque clarified that the estimated cost includes expenses related to the design and licensing of the reactor, indicating that future projects would be significantly more cost-effective.

The majority of advanced nuclear reactors in development in the United States employ high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel, which contains more uranium-235 than normal reactor fuel. TerraPower has pushed the start date of its Wyoming project to 2030 because to a restricted commercial supply of HALEU, which is currently exclusively available in Russia. However, the company is working with other companies to develop domestic alternatives.

Concerns have been raised about the potential use of HALEU in nuclear weapons. Edwin Lyman, head of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, emphasised the significance of tightening security measures around this fuel as advanced reactor programmes grow and require bigger volumes of HALEU.

Scott Burnell, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokesperson, expressed confidence in the agency's present criteria, claiming that they will safeguard the security and public safety of any reactors and their fuel.

Bill Gates founded TerraPower in 2008 with the goal of pushing advanced nuclear energy ahead to deliver safe, abundant, and carbon-free electricity. The company's 345-megawatt reactor has the capacity to generate up to 500 megawatts at its peak, which is enough to power about 400,000 households. While the first focus is on providing power, TerraPower envisions future reactors being erected near industrial sites to deliver high heat for various processes that are currently dependent on fossil fuels.

John Kotek, senior vice president for policy at the Nuclear Energy Institute, underlined the importance of Gates' support for nuclear power in combating the climate catastrophe. He remarked, "I think this has helped open people's eyes to the role that nuclear power does play today and can play in the future in addressing carbon emissions. There's tremendous momentum building for new nuclear in the U.S. and the potential use of a far wider range of nuclear energy technology than we've seen in decades."

  • Bill Gates and TerraPower have begun construction on a next-generation nuclear power plant in Wyoming.

  • The project aims to revolutionise power generation by utilising an advanced reactor that uses sodium for cooling.

  • The site is adjacent to PacifiCorp's Naughton Power Plant, which will transition to carbon-free power sources- Bill Gates and TerraPower are constructing a next-generation nuclear power plant in Wyoming.

Source: AP NEWS

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