Technology

Natrium: The revolutionary nuclear power plant could be ready by 2030

TerraPower, a company started by Bill Gates in 2008, has designed a next-generation nuclear power plant, called the Natrium plant, that could be a game-changer for the energy sector. The plant, which is expected to begin operating by 2030, uses liquid sodium to cool the nuclear reactor instead of water, making it safer and more efficient.

“The world needs to make a big bet on nuclear,” Gates said in a blog post. “None of the other clean sources are as reliable, and none of the other reliable sources are as clean.”

The use of nuclear power is crucial for meeting the world’s growing energy needs while also reducing carbon emissions. Nuclear is a reliable source of clean energy, but it can be expensive to build and human error can cause accidents. The Natrium facility solves many of these problems with its advanced technology.

What sets the Natrium plant apart?

According to Gates, the Natrium plant will be much safer than conventional reactors. The plant uses liquid sodium as a coolant instead of water, which is much better at absorbing heat and maintaining consistent pressure. Unlike water, sodium doesn’t need to be pumped, because as it gets hot, it rises, and as it rises, it cools off. Even if the plant loses power, the sodium just keeps absorbing heat without getting to a dangerous temperature that would cause a meltdown. The Natrium plant is also unique because it includes an energy storage system that allows it to control how much electricity it produces at any given time. This is essential for integrating with power grids that use variable sources like solar and wind.

The digital design process used by TerraPower is also a significant advantage of the Natrium plant. Using supercomputers, TerraPower has digitally tested the Natrium design countless times, simulating every imaginable disaster, and it showed very good results. TerraPower’s work has drawn interest from around the globe, including an agreement to collaborate on nuclear power technology in Japan and investments from the South Korean conglomerate SK and the multinational steel company ArcelorMittal.

According to Gates, the facility’s construction would take several years and it would bring roughly 1,600 workers to Kemmerer, Wyoming, where it will be located.

 

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