Bill Gates’ TerraPower company could build a next generation nuclear reactor in Wyoming with Warren Buffett’s help.
TerraPower plans to spend $4 billion to build a demonstration version of its Natrium nuclear reactor in Kemmerer. The Natrium reactor is an experimental model that uses liquefied sodium or salt as a coolant. In contrast, water cools most nuclear reactors.
TerraPower and PacifiCorp, a Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.B) subsidiary will build and operate the reactor, Business Insider claims. TerraPower executives hope to begin construction on the reactor in 2024 and complete it by 2028.
Nuclear Power Plant coming to Wyoming
The Kemmerer reactor could generate 345 to 500 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough electricity to power 400,000 homes, TerraPower claims. The reactor will combine TerraPower and GE-Hitachi technology.
They will build the reactor, or Advanced Reactor Demonstration Projec,t at the old Naughton Power Plant in Kemmerer, a TerraPower press release states. Kemmerer is an old coal mining town in Western Wyoming. The Naughton Power Plant is an abandoned coal burning power plant.
Kemmerer’s most famous resident was retail legend J. C. Penney, the founder of the department store company. The first Penney’s store was in Kemmerer. Kemmer is around 130 miles northwest of Salt Lake City.
Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, will feed the power into the grid. Rocky Mountain Power serves customers in Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. PacifiCorp is part of Berkshire Hathaway Energy which is part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRKA).
Can Bill Gates and Warren Buffett make money from Nuclear Power?
Hence, Gates and his friend Warren Buffett are teaming up to build a new nuclear reactor. The Natrium reactor uses liquefied sodium to absorb heat, allowing air to cool the reactor.
Gates and Buffett’s efforts are not entirely altruistic. Berkshire Energy could reduce costs and make more money if it could replace coal and natural gas power plants with nuclear reactors. Notably, Berkshire Energy would not have to pay for coal or natural gas or all the equipment and employees needed to move coal around.
TerraPower could make money by selling Natrium plants to other utilities, governments, and industry.
A New Nuclear Power Plant in the United States
Private investors will put up around $2.3 billion to build the reactor. The US Department of Energy will put up $1.7 billion to finance it.
TerraPower is the nuclear energy company Gates has funded for years. Its projects include the Natrium reactor, a Molten Chloride Fast Reactor Design, and a Traveling Wave Reactor Design.
If it succeeds, the TerraPower facility in Kemmerer will be the first new nuclear reactor in the US since the Tennessee Valley Authority built a reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tennessee, online in 2016. Thus, Natrium’s success could determine whether America sees a nuclear renaissance, or if nuclear power is a dead end.