Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are prominent power brokers, and now their power companies are teaming up to build a nuclear reactor in Wyoming.
The billionaires’ plan is for a seven-year, $1 billion build on the site of a retiring coal plant and combines the resources of Gates’ nuclear reactor design company TerraPower with Buffett’s power company PacifiCorp.
The Department of Energy is also involved in the project through funding and a cooperative agreement.
TerraPower, founded by Gates about 15 years ago, said its Natrium reactor is more fuel-efficient, cost-effective and safer than traditional nuclear reactors.
“We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Gates said Wednesday at a news conference in Cheyenne. “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.”
The U.S. Department of Energy is on board, too, having awarded TerraPower $80 million in funding last year to expand and demonstrate the Natrium technology – with the promise of more funding if Congress goes along.
“This is our fastest and clearest course to becoming carbon negative,” Wyoming’s governor, Mark Gordon, said.
Critics say the project could be dangerous to national security.
A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists says this supply chain could attract terrorists seeking nuclear materials for weapons: “Certain alternative reactor designs pose even more safety, proliferation, and environmental risks than the current fleet.”
These reactors, which use different fuels from traditional ones, are regarded by some as a critical carbon-free technology that will complement sources such as wind and solar.
“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.