A nuclear energy venture founded by Bill Gates said Thursday it hopes to build small advanced nuclear power stations that can store electricity to supplement grids increasingly supplied by intermittent sources like solar and wind power. Reuters reports:
The effort is part of the billionaire philanthropist’s push to help fight climate change, and is targeted at helping utilities slash their emissions of planet-warming gases without undermining grid reliability. TerraPower LLC, which Gates founded 14 years ago, and its partner GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, plan to commercialize stations called Natrium in the United States later this decade, TerraPower’s President and Chief Executive Chris Levesque said.
Levesque said the companies are seeking additional funding from private partners and the U.S. Energy Department, and that the project has the support of PacifiCorp, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, along with Energy Northwest and Duke Energy. If successful, the plan is to build the plants in the United States and abroad, Levesque said. By 2050 “we would see hundreds of these reactors around the world, solving multiple different energy needs,” Levesque said. The 345-megawatt plants would be cooled by liquid sodium and cost about $1 billion each.
The new plants […] are designed to complement a renewable power because they will store the reactor power in tanks of molten salt during days when the grid is well supplied. The nuclear power could be used later when solar and wind power are low due to weather conditions. Molten salt power storage has been used at thermal solar plants in the past, but leaks have plagued some of the projects. Levesque said the Natrium design would provide more consistent temperatures than a solar plant, resulting in less wear and tear.