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posted by martyb on Monday November 22, @08:08AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Bill Gates' nuclear power company selects a site for its first reactor

On Tuesday, TerraPower, the US-based nuclear power company backed by Bill Gates, announced it has chosen a site for what would be its first reactor. Kemmerer, Wyoming, population roughly 2,500, has been the site of the coal-fired Naughton Power Plant, which is being closed. The TerraPower project will see it replaced by a 345 megawatt reactor that would pioneer a number of technologies that haven't been commercially deployed before.

These include a reactor design that needs minimal refueling, cooling by liquid sodium, and a molten-salt heat-storage system that will provide the plant with the flexibility needed to better integrate with renewable energy.

While TerraPower is the name clearly attached to the project, plenty of other parties are involved, as well. The company is perhaps best known for being backed by Bill Gates, now chairman of the company board, who has promoted nuclear power as a partial solution for the climate crisis. The company has been selected by the US Department of Energy to build a demonstration reactor, a designation that guarantees at least $180 million toward construction and could see it receive billions of dollars over the next several years.

Also at Ars Technica.

Previously: Bill Gates & Warren Buffet to Build Nation's First Natrium Reactor in Wyoming


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Bill Gates & Warren Buffet to Build Nation's First Natrium Reactor in Wyoming 65 comments

Wyoming has selected billionaire Bill Gates's company TerraPower LLC and Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway's owned power company PacifiCorp to build the nation's first Natrium reactor. As reported by Reuters:

TerraPower, founded by Gates about 15 years ago, and power company PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N), said the exact site of the Natrium reactor demonstration plant is expected to be announced by the end of the year. Small advanced reactors, which run on different fuels than traditional reactors, are regarded by some as a critical carbon-free technology than can supplement intermittent power sources like wind and solar as states strive to cut emissions that cause climate change.

"This is our fastest and clearest course to becoming carbon negative," Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said. "Nuclear power is clearly a part of my all-of-the-above strategy for energy" in Wyoming, the country's top coal-producing state.

The project features a 345 megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with molten salt-based energy storage that could boost the system's power output to 500 MW during peak power demand. TerraPower said last year that the plants would cost about $1 billion.

[...] Chris Levesque, TerraPower's president and CEO, said the demonstration plant would take about seven years to build.

"We need this kind of clean energy on the grid in the 2030s," he told reporters.

Also seen over at ZeroHedge.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @10:57AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @10:57AM (#1198554)

    I hate Bill Gates.
    I want him to make me look like an asshole by creating stuff like clean energy and toilets etc.
    I will still hate him, and I think it's a lot more about ego than about helping people, but I want to live in a world where people can point to objects and say "look, bill gates is a good person".
    I'll never know if he's doing it because he has a genuine shame/guilt he's trying to get over, or because he's a lot more visible and he's forced by circumstances to do what other rich assholes don't.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by nitehawk214 on Monday November 22, @02:42PM (3 children)

      by nitehawk214 (1304) on Monday November 22, @02:42PM (#1198569)

      This is why there are so many libraries and university buildings with Andrew Carnegie's name on it. He literally had striking workers killed, so maybe it was part guilt, part ego.

      He was still an asshole, but we did get some stuff out of it. Not the best use of funds, since he did it to plaster his name all over it and a lot of the stuff is needlessly frivolous. (The Cathedral of Learning is cool, but ultimately one of those kind of useless gilded age buildings.)

      Any time I see a college building named after a person, I just assume that person was a rich asshole. Still glad to have the stuff, though.

      --
      "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @04:38PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @04:38PM (#1198598)

      Gates not only gives directly to charity but helps persuade other wealthy people around the globe to do likewise
      https://givingpledge.org/About.aspx [givingpledge.org]
      Is a wealth tax better? Maybe but then that money is subject to government inefficiency and waste

      • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @06:01PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @06:01PM (#1198619)

        lmao. it must be nice to be such a fucking idiot.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @01:14PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @01:14PM (#1198561)

    they should just build it here:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Susana_Field_Laboratory [wikipedia.org]
    afterall the place is harmless...
    also: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=i-jdhorGtQI [youtube.com]

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Muad'Dave on Monday November 22, @02:00PM (11 children)

    by Muad'Dave (1413) on Monday November 22, @02:00PM (#1198563)

    I'm all for next-gen nuclear power, but why have they decided on using liquid sodium??? As the article states that has been tried before, but disingenuously the article doesn't mention that most/many suffered multiple sodium fires or leaks [osti.gov] and had either significant downtime or outright mothballing of the reactor as a result.

    I know LFTRs aren't the panacea they're hyped to be, but at least they could've lifted (har har) the best part of the design - the FLiBe coolant, or at least a fluoride salt variant that doesn't hate water like sodium.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Monday November 22, @02:14PM (9 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday November 22, @02:14PM (#1198565)

      And they're siting this in OIL country. What do you think the odds are of a sabotage event? Do you think the strategy is to blame the first sodium fire on sabotage then attempt to learn from it and maybe perfect the tech using the insurance settlement as development funding?

      --
      John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @02:45PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @02:45PM (#1198570)

        You don't know how insurance works do you ...

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @03:32PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @03:32PM (#1198580)

          That's that socialism stuff I keep hearing about on Fox News?

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday November 22, @05:51PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday November 22, @05:51PM (#1198614)

          I know how pride and selective perception works. Insurers in the area would be too prideful of the "good folk" in their part of the country to ever rate the risk of sabotage upwards due to local sentiments.

          --
          John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
      • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday November 23, @02:19AM (5 children)

        by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday November 23, @02:19AM (#1198784) Homepage

        My Cynical Little Voice RTFA, and the sodium-fires document someone linked above, then opined that this is more about siphoning the equivalent of venture capital out of the government... because the project itself is a failure waiting to happen. And if that contaminates a few million acres of formerly good grazing land.. oh well, you didn't need to eat all that meat anyway, Bill Gates says as much.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday November 23, @03:01PM (4 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday November 23, @03:01PM (#1198889)

          There's also the possibility that they can proceduralize and train and design a system that works properly without fires, the first time. Bill Gates would seem to be the last person on Earth I would nominate to lead such an effort, but maybe he's stepped back from the day to day management and learned a thing or two with his big BSOD presentations. Maybe, probably not, but maybe.

          --
          John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
          • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday November 23, @04:08PM (3 children)

            by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday November 23, @04:08PM (#1198921) Homepage

            And that doesn't, as mentioned somewhere in yesterday's reading, make the sodium become radioactive, so you've got =another= disposal problem...

            ...yeah, I'm hopin' regulatory red tape strangles this one in its crib. Cuz otherwise it might well be the glowing blue screen of death.

            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday November 23, @05:41PM (2 children)

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday November 23, @05:41PM (#1198953)

              Oh, just keep the whole thing in a double-walled pressure cylinder with pure chlorine gas in the middle layer- if the sodium gets out of hand we'll just have some radioactive salts (water soluble to boot, hello water table!) What could possibly go wrong?

              Sadly, Gates may have the connections (appropriate bribes paid in advance) to slice through the red tape, and I bet the venue was chosen in part because of the economical nature of the local regulation costs.

              --
              John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
              • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday November 23, @06:08PM (1 child)

                by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday November 23, @06:08PM (#1198967) Homepage

                Oh, that sounds even safer! And glowing blue salt is sure to be a hit in the gourmet market!!

                Yeah, good bet they plan to take advantage of Wyoming's relatively streamlined regulations, but won't help 'em with federal regs. But as you say, a campaign contribution here and there, and those problems go away.

                • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday November 23, @07:06PM

                  by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday November 23, @07:06PM (#1198979)

                  An IP attorney and I were onboarded at a Texas company on the same day in 2003. Little did I know at the time, said atty was the campaign treasurer of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He thought he and I would be working together drafting and submitting patents. Little did he know, he would spend the next 18 months lobbying his buddy Tom virtually non-stop, ultimately resulting in some kind of unpleasant pressure being brought to bear on the FDA - coercing them to approve our new indication for use, but not stopping them from publicly squealing like a kicked dog over the move. Said squeal was all the excuse the insurance carriers needed to deny coverage for the new indication, but the CEO's golden parachute clause didn't say anything about getting insurance reimbursement, only FDA approval so he took a $5M exit a few months later.

                  It really happens.

                  --
                  John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by PinkyGigglebrain on Monday November 22, @07:19PM

      by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Monday November 22, @07:19PM (#1198637)

      Thorium Fluoride gets along with water pretty well, the problem it has that is holding it back is that in a liquid state they are very corrosive. Because of this it's easier to build a container for molten Sodium that will last 50 years than it is to make one for molten Fluoride salts with the same lifespan.

      There are alloys that can handle the molten fluoride salts but they are difficult to form into the shapes needed and work with in general so it's been a stalling point for the molten Fluoride salts concept. The people who worked on the original prototype LFTRs back at Oakridge National Laboratories were confident that it could be resolved given time.

      I know it's not going to happen but a "Manhattan Project" or "Man on the Moon" level push to develop MSRs and other safer nuclear reactors would probably get a really good and safe design done within a decade. I mean they went from first self sustaining chain reaction in hand built reactor pile on December in 1942 to an implosion* type nuclear device using Plutonium in just 2 and a half years.

      * imagine uniformly crushing a grapefruit to the size of a baseball using explosives. Easy concept, very hard in practice.when starting from scratch

      --
      "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @03:43PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @03:43PM (#1198584)

    limited to the PC screen. It will now be available in the real world too

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by istartedi on Monday November 22, @06:41PM (1 child)

    by istartedi (123) on Monday November 22, @06:41PM (#1198627) Journal

    We're going to have nuclear plants with the security and reliability of Windows. It was nice knowing you all.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Entropy on Monday November 22, @07:23PM (1 child)

    by Entropy (4228) on Monday November 22, @07:23PM (#1198638)

    If it's similar to some of the russian reactors one issue is the liquid sodium becomes radioactive... So the heat carrier in the reactor system becomes a massive radioactive sludgefest in any kind of malfunction. The water used in the reactors doesn't. Naturally it had advantages as well such as superior heat conduction to the turbines and such.

    Either way--I'm glad to see further adoption of nuclear power. It's a great technology that we need to perfect...even if it is coming from gates. Hopefully Windos doesn't control the reactor. (and hopefully common core educated don't design it.)

    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday November 23, @04:10PM

      by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday November 23, @04:10PM (#1198924) Homepage

      Ah, was you mentioned that. So... in the event of a Fail, how do they dispose of the now-radioactive sodium sludge, and keep it from dissolving into the ground water??

  • (Score: 0, Redundant) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @07:49PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, @07:49PM (#1198650)

    Bill Gates Nuclear Reactor? Failstate is a Blue screen of Death? Or the Eleven Black screen of Death? Grey Radioactive Sky of Death? Color me not confident.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, @04:12AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, @04:12AM (#1198807)

    That sounds nuts. lol. I'm not a nuclear physicist or engineer; but, molten sodium sounds pretty dangerous. Not to mention the radioactive bits powering the whole thing..?

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