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For Bill Gates, the energy of the future does not involve renewables or nuclear fusion: it involves Natrium, a nuclear plant based on salts, which allows it to operate at higher temperatures than conventional nuclear plants.

Written by Noel Budeguer
Published 18/05/2024 às 19:27
renewable energy - nuclear energy - Bill Gates -

Energy of the future by Bill Gates: Natrium from TerraPower, a sodium reactor that promises clean and safe energy. See how this technology works!

    Bill Gates has a clear vision. The energy of the future passes through Natrium, the nuclear reactor project of sodium driven by his company TerraPower.

    Neither solar panels nor nuclear fusion projects like Helion. The solution to clean, safe and cheap energy is this technology that the tycoon has been working on for decades.

    Salt-based nuclear energy

    Natrium is a reactor that uses a sodium fluoride salt core. It is a salt-based nuclear plant, which allows it to operate at higher temperatures than conventional nuclear plants. Instead of using water to control the nuclear reaction, liquid sodium is used, a material capable of absorbing up to 8 times more heat than water.

    Sodium is everywhere

    There are countries that don't have sun. Others that don't have wind. But they all have sodium. The Earth's crust is made up of 2,6% sodium. We are talking about the fourth most abundant element on our planet and the most common alkali metal. It is important to mention that the nuclear reactor part still needs some uranium as fuel. But the fact that it is based on a material as basic as salt is what makes this project attractive.

    The big advantage: it allows you to store this energy

    Where Natrium stands out is not only because it is clean energy, but also because it allows you to store it in a simple way. The project is not only based on the reactor part, but also on an energy storage system based on molten salts.

    According to TerraPower, its first plant will be 345 megawatts and will offer a capacity of up to 500 MW for more than 5 and a half hours when needed, with a gigawatt-hour storage scale. Enough to supply 400.000 homes. One of the problems with wind or photovoltaic energy is that the batteries are not yet efficient enough and there are large losses. With Natrium, we have a plant capable of storing energy for a period without significant losses.

    The first plant will be in Wyoming

    The first reactor Sodium it will be in Wyoming, United States. This May, it received a visit from Bill Gates himself, who points out that it should potentially start production by 2030. It is not the only project, as the company works together with PacifiCorp and GE-Hitachi to develop up to 5 reactors Natrium before 2035. Three of them are already underway, with the intention of reaching a total of 1.500 MW before 2033.

    More than 750 million dollars raised

    In addition to the United States, TerraPower signed an agreement with the government of South Korea and the SK and Korea Hydro & Nuclear (KHNP) groups to expand this technology. The company has already raised $758 million in four separate financing rounds. $250 million comes from SK Group, South Korea's largest energy company.

    Up to 25 times cheaper than a nuclear reactor

    According to CNBC, the cost of a nuclear reactor is around 25 billion dollars in the United States. According to TerraPower, the cost of a Natrium reactor is around 1 billion dollars. This large difference is due to the fact that the plants operate at a lower pressure, due to the use of liquid sodium. Therefore, the materials needed for the entire plant are more economical and require less quantity.

    “The most advanced nuclear energy in the world”

    This is how Bill Gates describes the project. “Natrium was designed to solve these problems and more,” he explains. What are these problems? One is cost and the other is security. We are still talking about a variant of nuclear energy, but the tycoon is convinced that it offers enough advantages to convince many detractors.

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    Noel Budeguer

    Of Argentine nationality, I am a news writer and specialist in the field. I cover topics such as science, oil, gas, technology, the automotive industry, renewable energy and all trends in the job market.

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