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Bill Gates now glum about the prospects for his nuclear power company TerraPower

Bill Gates faces “daunting” nuclear energy future, Amy Harder  AXIOX 15 July 19 ,The optimism usually radiating from billionaire Bill Gates when it comes to climate change is starting to fade on one of his biggest technology bets: nuclear power.

Driving the news: The Microsoft co-founder has focused much of his time lately on climate change and energy innovation. In an exclusive interview with Axios, Gates said that setbacks he is facing with TerraPower, a nuclear technology firm he co-founded in 2006, has got him questioning the future of that entire energy source.

……It’s declining in most places around the world, including the U.S., due to aging reactors, cheaper energy alternatives and public unease about radioactive risk ……

  • The industry’s future is riding on largely unproven technologies like that of TerraPower because they’re smaller and deemed safer than today’s huge reactors.

“Without this next generation of nuclear, nuclear will go to zero,” Gates said during an interview in Washington last month. Germany is shutting 22 nuclear plants, France — a leader in clean-burning nuclear power — has plans to shut down some of its reactors and a similar trend is underway in the U.S. due to economic conditions, said Gates, before adding with a sigh: “So yes, it is daunting.”

Flashback: Gates announced in December that TerraPower was scrapping plans to build a demonstration reactor in China, largely due to the Trump administration deciding that fall to crack down on technological agreements between the two nations.

“There are times like when TerraPower gets told not to work in China, you’re thinking, ‘Boy, is this thing going to come together or not?’ ” Gates said in what are his first public comments on the matter since it happened. “That was a real blow.”

Where it stands: Gates is now trying to build TerraPower’s demonstration reactor in the U.S., calling on the Energy Department and Congress to more aggressively support advanced nuclear power through more funding and new legislation. Such a plant could cost anywhere between $3-$6 billion, say experts and Gates’ energy advisers.

  • Bellevue, WA-based TerraPower is opening a new 65,000-square foot facility in the same region later this year to expand its research and testing, which is currently done in a lab 1/6th that size.
  • Gates, whose net worth is roughly $100 billion, hasn’t disclosed how much money he has put toward the company, but experts think it’s at least $500 million.

“If at the end of the day we don’t find a country that wants to build an advanced nuclear power plant, then TerraPower will fail. I’m going to keep funding it for a period of years. And working with the U.S. is our strategy right now.”

— Bill Gates   ………‘TerraPower’s traveling wave may prove to be an example of a very ambitious attempt to solve a very challenging problem that has turned out to be too expensive and too difficult,” said Chris Gadomski, head of nuclear research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.   ………

July 16, 2019 - Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA

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