Microsoft co-founder and Gates Foundation chair Bill Gates attends the morning session during Allen & Company’s Sun Valley conference July 8, 2022 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Kevin Diesch | Getty Images
TerraPower, Bill Gates’ nuclear innovation company, announced Monday that it has secured at least $750 million in new funding.
The funding was led by Gates and SK. Gates is the founder and chairman of TerraPower. SK, one of South Korea’s largest energy suppliers, invested US$250 million.
According to TerraPower, the funds will be used to develop innovations in nuclear energy technology and nuclear medicine.
Chris Levesque, CEO of TerraPower, said in a statement, “Whether it’s fighting climate change with zero-carbon advanced nuclear power or fighting cancer with nuclear isotopes, our team deploys technology solutions around the world. Investors around the world are paying attention.”
Nuclear power is experiencing a renaissance because the energy produced by nuclear reactors does not release the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. However, there is long-lived nuclear waste that needs to be stored carefully.
An artist’s rendering of the Natrum nuclear power plant.
Photo courtesy of terrapower
what is terapower working on
GE is working with Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a division of General Electric, to commercialize the TerraPower sodium system. These include a smaller reactor than conventional ones used in the United States and a molten salt energy storage system that allows the microreactor to ramp up its energy output for a shorter period of time than necessary.
TerraPower is currently working to demonstrate its sodium reactor technology at a soon-to-be-decommissioned coal-fired power plant in Wyoming. The project is a collaboration with the federal government under the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).
TerraPower also wants to commercialize a type of molten salt reactor technology that can be used to provide carbon-free power for heavy industry operations such as water treatment plants, chemical processors, and heavy industry users. And the company is building a traveling wave reactor that should use mined uranium 30 times more efficiently and greatly reduce nuclear waste.
The company also hopes to help treat cancer with its TeraPower Isotope program.
A small amount of radioactive material can be used to help treat some types of cancer. One of these radioactive substances, Actinium-225, can be used to treat prostate cancer, lymphoma, melanoma, and other cancers. TerraPower is innovating the process of recovering thorium-229, needed to manufacture actinium-225, from uranium-233 sources managed by the Department of Energy.
There just isn’t enough actinium-225 to meet demand, so TerraPower says it will leverage its “unique reach” for actinium-225 to bring the isotope to the pharmaceutical community.