Bill Gates' US start-up Terrapower is building its first mini nuclear power plant – without even a building permit. The reactor is scheduled to be completed in 2023. The background.

The US start-up Terrapower has broken ground on its first mini nuclear power plant. Also present in the US state of Wyoming: Microsoft founder and Terrapower investor Bill Gates. However, a building permit has not yet been issued.

Mini nuclear power plant: Bill Gates' start-up breaks ground

According to Gates, the power plant will be “the most advanced nuclear facility in the world” and will go online in 2030. Terrapower plans to operate the planned molten salt reactor using sodium as a coolant. The output will be 345 megawatts and can be expanded to up to 550 megawatts.

The mineral will be heated in the reactor's so-called Nuclear Island and then fed into a storage facility. In order to generate steam, the start-up wants to extract the heated sodium from this Energy Island when needed and use it to drive a turbine.

Sodium as a coolant

The boiling point of sodium is significantly higher than that of water. According to Terrapower, the use of the mineral as a coolant should increase safety. This is because the company can do without various structural components that a reactor would need if it were cooled with water.

These include a protective cover, a cooling water circuit and corresponding safety systems. This should also shorten the construction time and require less building material. However, Terrapower does not yet have a building permit for its mini nuclear power plant.

According to Bill Gates, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as the responsible authority, has already accepted a corresponding application for review. Until approval is granted, the company initially only wants to build the non-nuclear part of the power plant.

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