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A Bill Gates company is about to start building a nuclear power plant in Wyoming

George Glover   

A Bill Gates company is about to start building a nuclear power plant in Wyoming
  • TerraPower, which Bill Gates founded, plans to build its first nuclear power plant in the US.
  • CEO Chris Levesque told the Financial Times it wants to start work on a site in Wyoming in June.

A company cofounded by Bill Gates is about to start building next-generation nuclear power plants in the US.

Chris Levesque, CEO of TerraPower, told the Financial Times that his firm will start building at a site near a coal plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming in June, even if it hasn't received a construction permit from regulators by then.

The company plans to bring the nuclear plant online in 2030, he added.

TerraPower, which has raised $1 billion from backers, will use liquid sodium rather than water to cool its Natrium reactors, making them cheaper to run.

Most of the initial work at the Kemmerer site won't be related to nuclear activity, Levesque said.

"When you use liquid sodium as a coolant instead of water it's a game changer," he told the FT.

"Natrium plants will cost half of what light water reactor plants cost … and we are moving our project along pretty aggressively."

Gates helped found TerraPower in 2006 and has been its chairman since then. The company has said its aim is to provide the world with a more affordable, secure, and environmentally friendly form of nuclear energy.

Its Natrium reactor is expected to cost $4 billion, with about half the cost being met by the Department of Energy. CRV and Khosla Ventures are among the company's VC backers, Reuters reported.

While Russian and Chinese state-controlled companies have already managed to launch smaller nuclear reactors, progress in developing similar tech in the US has stalled in recent years.

High interest rates have made it tougher for startups to draw in funding, while Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subsequent exclusion from financial markets has made it tougher for companies to get the uranium needed for their reactors.

In December 2022, TerraPower pushed back the launch of its flagship project by at least two years, which Levesque attributed to the war in Ukraine hitting supplies of high-assay, low-enriched uranium.

In October last year TerraPower missed out on making the shortlisted for the next round of the UK government's competition for small nuclear plants. Rolls-Royce is one of the leading contenders with its small modular reactor (SMR) designs and has already secured more than £200m of government funding in Britain.

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