Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are teaming up to turn an old Wyoming coal plant into a billion-dollar nuclear reactor. Known as an advanced nuclear reactor, it will be a carbon-free power source that’s said to be safer and cheaper than old-school reactors, according to the World Nuclear Association.
The new project will be called Natrium, and it brings together TerraPower, Gates’ company, with PacifiCorp, Buffett’s power company. They plan to produce 500 megawatts of power at peak demand times and foresee powering 400,000 homes. “We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Gates said in a press briefing. The companies expect to announce the exact location of the site by the end of the year. The demonstration plant will take approximately seven years to build, according to TerraPower’s president and CEO, Chris Levesque.
Wyoming Governor Mark Jordan has embraced the project, both for creating energy while reducing CO2 emissions as well as for the hundreds of operation and construction jobs the project promises. “This is our fastest and clearest course to becoming carbon negative,” Gordon said in the press briefing. “Nuclear power is clearly a part of my all-of-the-above strategy for energy.” Wyoming Senator John Barrasso also suggested the new reactor could revive the state’s uranium mines.
But not everybody is celebrating. Greenpeace has come out strongly against nuclear power, calling it expensive, dirty and dangerous and insisting it does not belong in a sustainable energy future. The environmental nonprofit looks to the disasters in Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011 to highlight the dangers of nuclear meltdowns. In addition to the chance of meltdown, there’s the problem of disposal. Humans have still not figured out how to safely dispose of radioactive waste.
Around the world, approximately 450 nuclear reactors are responsible for 11% of the global electricity supply. The U.S. is already the top generator of nuclear power, followed by France, China, Russia and South Korea.
Image via Markus Distelrath