Bill Gates Could Unlock The Ultimate Nuclear Technology By 2030
Natrium is a game-changer.
In 2008, Bill Gates founded TerraPower to develop the next generation of planet-saving nuclear technology. The fruit of his company’s labour is Natrium, a liquid sodium-cooled fast reactor that is over 50% cheaper, safer, and even more environmentally friendly than current nuclear power. As such, it is poised to revolutionise the energy industry and provide abundant carbon-neutral energy to the world. Moreover, we won’t have to wait long for this revolution, as Gates recently announced that Natrium will be ready by 2030. So the question has to be asked: Is Natrium the future of nuclear power?
Before we dive into Natrium, I feel compelled to explain that current nuclear power is one of our safest and most planet-friendly energy sources. It averages only 4g of carbon dioxide emissions per kWh of energy produced, which is the same as wind power and less than solar’s 6g of carbon dioxide emissions per kWh. Furthermore, despite what pop culture tells you, nuclear power is incredibly safe. Yes, there have been some large-scale incidents, such as those at Chernobyl and Fukushima, but under normal circumstances, nuclear energy is far safer than any other energy source. This means that, on average, nuclear power has a death rate of only 90 deaths per 1,000 TWh. Compare that to wind power’s 150 deaths per 1,000 TWh, solar’s 440 deaths per 1,000 TWh, or coal’s 1,000 deaths per 1,000 TWh. (Read more here.)
These factors, combined with the fact that nuclear power is an on-demand energy source that is more reliable than intermittent renewables and has rich uranium deposits in the US, Canada, and Australia, mean that nuclear power is an ideal sustainable energy source for the West to use.
But nuclear energy does have its drawbacks. Nuclear power plants take decades to build; they cost tens of billions of dollars to construct; the energy they produce is, by far, the most expensive on the market; and while storing nuclear waste is not as big of a problem as people make it out to be (read more here), it still has some significant storage concerns.
This means that despite nuclear power’s immense environmental and social benefits, the industry is actually in decline due to many seeing it as too expensive and cumbersome.
But this is where Natrium comes in.
Rather than using a water-cooled reactor, like almost every other commercial nuclear reactor, Natrium uses molten sodium as a coolant. This allows the reactor to run at far higher temperatures, as sodium can’t turn into a gas like water. You see, water-cooled nuclear reactors can seriously damage themselves or even explode if too much pressure is built up inside them by their water-coolant turning to steam, which limits how hot they can get.
These higher temperatures allow for more energetic nuclear reactions that will enable Natrium to effectively make its own fuel.
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