Bill Gates, Warren Buffett building nuclear reactor in Wyoming

June 4, 2021 | 1:08pm | Updated June 4, 2021 | 1:17pm

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Bill Gates is teaming up with Warren Buffett to build a nuclear reactor in Wyoming. zz/PBG/AAD/STAR MAX/IPx

Billionaire buddies Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are teaming up to build a nuclear reactor — on the site of a coal plant that’s being phased out in Wyoming.

Nuclear reactor design company TerraPower, which Gates founded about 15 years ago, and power company PacifiCorp, which is owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, are partners on the Natrium nuclear reactor pilot project, the companies said.

The Department of Energy is also involved in the project through funding and a cooperative agreement.

TerraPower claims its Natrium reactor, which was designed in partnership with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, is more fuel-efficient, cost-effective and safer than traditional nuclear reactors, Gates said by video earlier this week at a news conference in the state capital, Cheyenne.

A rendering of the Natrium power plant illustrated in a photo. TerraPower A computer image of the power plant. TerraPower

“We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” said Gates, who’s going through a high-profile divorce. He appeared to be wearing his wedding ring in the video. 

“Wyoming has been a leader in energy for over a century and we hope our investment in Natrium will help Wyoming to stay in the lead for many decades to come,” he added.

But some scientists have expressed concern that there’s little evidence that advanced nuclear reactors are safer than traditional ones.

A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists noted that the supply chain for advanced reactors could be a target for terrorists looking to create a crude nuclear weapon. “In fact, certain alternative reactor designs pose even more safety, proliferation, and environmental risks than the current fleet,” the report states.

The specialized storage technology of the Natrium system can boost its output to the amount of energy required to power about 400,000 homes, TerraPower said.

PacifiCorp is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Star Max/IPx TerraPower founder and chairman Bill Gates speaks to the crowd in a recorded video message during the press conference in the Wyoming Capitol on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Cheyenne, Wyo., announcing efforts to advance a Natrium reactor demonstration project. Michael Cummo/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon praised the jobs that the project will bring. Michael Cummo/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP

“Together with PacifiCorp, we’re creating the energy grid of the future where advanced nuclear technologies provide good-paying jobs and clean energy for years to come,” TerraPower’s CEO Chris Levesque said. “The Natrium technology was designed to solve a challenge utilities face as they work to enhance grid reliability and stability while meeting decarbonization and emissions-reduction goals.”

Today I announced that Wyoming will host a first-of-its-kind nuclear power plant. It will be located at the site of one of our current coal-fired power plants, with an exact location to be announced by the end of the year. 1/3

— Governor Mark Gordon (@GovernorGordon) June 2, 2021

Levesque added that the project will take about seven years to build.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said the project will create hundreds of jobs in the state. He added that an exact location for the project will be announced by the end of the year.