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USA: The Bill Gates nuclear power plant is planned in Wyoming

At the political level, nuclear energy will not be an issue in Germany after the energy transition. The last power plants in Germany will go offline by the end of 2022. In the UK or United States It looks different in some other countries as well. There, new types of furnaces help produce low-emission energy and support energy sources such as wind and sun. President of the United States Joe Biden It hopes to get environmentally friendly electricity from so-called small module reactors (SMRs). Such relatively small reactors need to be built quickly and cheaply, and research is being carried out on a number of projects around the world.

U.S. Startup Terrapower at Microsoft Founder Company bill Gates One of the major investors in such SMR. As it is now known, a furnace will be built by the company in the US state Wyoming Built – At the site of the coal burning power station, it is to be shut down. The exact location will not be announced until the end of the year.

The molten salt reactor is planned, which can be cooled with sodium and generate 345 MW of power, but can operate at speeds of up to 500 MW in the upper range. For the project in Wyoming Terrapower, the utility wants to work with Pacific Corp, a part of Warren Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway. Terrapower boss Chris Levsky says it will take seven years to build the demonstration plant. Last year his company put the cost of such a project at about $ 1 billion.

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“This is our fastest and clearest way to go carbon negative,” said Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon. Nuclear power is part of the overall energy strategy in Wyoming, which has the highest coal production in the country. In addition to climate-friendly energy, he expects other effects. It could renew a uranium mine in Wyoming.

Terrapower was founded 15 years ago and is located in the state of Washington. The company’s mission is to create a rotating shaft and molten salt furnaces, both of which operate according to a concept similar to the well-known fast grower, some of which are currently in operation. Since the neutrons produced during the fission reaction are not slowed down, these newly built energy and heating reactors can run on fuel rods or even nuclear bombs spent with uranium. In theory, they could help reduce the mountain of access.

Compressed water furnaces in the swimming pool

Mini-furnaces are not yet fully developed, and work is underway to upgrade the cooling circuit for devices that can reach temperatures of up to 1000 degrees (among other things). Read here). Last year, the Gates-funded company received $ 80 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to demonstrate sodium technology.

Apart from TerraPower, other companies operate on SMRs, which, by the definition of the International Atomic Energy Agency, provide a maximum output of 300 MW, while conventional large-scale systems reach values ​​of more than 1000 MW. Russian Nuclear Power Station »Academic LomonosoSM is one of the first SMRs. The prototype provides accessible areas with electricity and heat.

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In the United States, Nuskel plans to build several small pressurized water reactors, each with a power of about 60 MW, to cool the water bed. This should also increase the safety of the furnaces because the water must still be adequate even if the emergency systems of the individual furnaces fail. Larger systems are planned by Rolls Royce. With more than 400 MW, they can already supply large cities, and can sometimes be built quickly and flexibly in modular construction. Because the biggest problems with conventional plants, in addition to their poor image and safety concerns in some places, include investment costs in the billions and long construction periods.

Are currently available worldwide Some conventional nuclear power plants Is under construction. Looking for cheap and CO2Proponents of the technology claim that free electricity would not work without nuclear power. Here are some experts pointing out the potential of SMRs. As promised by companies like Terrapower, such systems will eventually be more fully open to whether they will be safer, more cost-effective, and available as climate-friendly energy.

Some experts consider the cost argument to be too weak because it has already been shown that the development of new technology costs more money than planned. There are also reasonable doubts about security. Because individual systems generate less power, a large number of such SMRs are required – which increases the risk of potential complications.

Not even a barn question was answered. This is because rubbish will also arise in some models of small systems. This should be stored somewhere for a very long time. At this point, the United States is no better than Germany, for example, the Yucca Montape depot in the US state of Nevada has been under discussion for years. A few days ago, the Biden government announced that it would finally submit new plans in this regard in the coming months.

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The Gates Foundation funds journalism work around the world. At SPIEGEL he supports the “Global Society” project, which reports on social injustice in the context of globalization. Editorial content is created from the ground up without any influence.