Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and Chair of the Gates Foundation, walks to a morning session during the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 08, 2022 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images
Bill Gates’ nuclear innovation company, TerraPower, announced Monday it has secured at least $750 million in new funding.
The funding was co-led by Gates and SK. Gates is the founder and chairman of TerraPower. SK, one of South Korea’s largest energy providers, invested $250 million.
The money will be used to develop nuclear energy technology and innovations in nuclear medicine, according to a statement from TerraPower.
“Whether it’s addressing climate change with carbon-free advanced nuclear energy, or fighting cancer with nuclear isotopes, our team is deploying technology solutions and investors across the world are taking note,” Chris Levesque, the CEO of TerraPower, said in a statement.
Nuclear energy has been undergoing a renaissance because the energy created by nuclear reactors doesn’t release the greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. There is, however, long-lasting nuclear waste that has to be stored carefully.
An artist rendition of the Natrium nuclear power plant.
Photo courtesy TerraPower
TerraPower is working with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a division of General Electric, to commercialize the Natrium system. It includes a smaller reactor than the conventional ones used in the United States and a molten salt energy storage system that allows the microreactor to boost its energy output for short periods of time as needed.
TerraPower is currently working to demonstrate its Natrium reactor technology at a soon-to-be-retired coal plant in Wyoming. The project is a collaboration with the federal government as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).
TerraPower also wants to commercialize a kind of molten salt reactor technology that could be used to provide carbon-free energy to heavy industrial operations, like water treatment plants, chemical processors and heavy industrial users. And the company is building the Traveling Wave Reactor, which it says will use mined uranium 30 times more efficiently and greatly reduces nuclear waste.
The firm also hopes to help treat cancer with its TerraPower Isotopes program.
Small amounts of slightly radioactive material can be used to help treat certain cancers. One such radioactive material, Actinium-225, can be used to help treat prostate cancer, lymphoma, melanoma and other cancers. TerraPower is working to innovate in the process to extract Thorium-229, which is needed to create Actinium-225, from sources of Uranium-233 that are being managed by the Department of Energy.
There is not enough Actinium-225 right now to meet demand, so TerraPower says it will use its “unique access” to Actinium-225 to bring the isotope to the pharmaceutical community.