Neither solar panels, nor biomass, nor nuclear fission projects, Bill Gates is clear: the energy source of the future is Natriuma reactor that seeks produce nuclear power based on salts.
This ambitious and innovative concept has been launched by TerraPower (company founded by the tycoon himself in 2006) and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (partner company of Nuclear Forum) with the purpose of generate and store nuclear sodium energy.
The world needs to make a big bet on nuclear powerGates writes on his personal blog (gatesnotes.com), where he also confirms that the construction of Natrium will employ 1,600 workers from Kemmerer, Wyoming (USA).
What exactly is Natrium?
In the words of Gates and Nuclear Industry Forum, Natrium is a future reactor that will use a sodium fluoride salt core to produce clean, safe and cheap nuclear power.
In simple words, it is a fast and advanced nuclear plant that will use sodium salts for cooling, generating and storing energy. Terra Power, the company running the project, indicates on its website that this plant will operate at higher temperatures than conventional nuclear plants.
Is Natrium safe?
As we well know, nuclear energy does not enjoy a good reputation after the disasters that occurred in Chernobyl and Fukushima. That fear of nuclear accidents (mainly caused by human errors) demonize an energy that does not generate gas emissions.
Debates aside, Natrium promises to change this vision, since its creators assure that the reactor will be cooled with liquid sodium, a material capable of absorbing up to eight times more heat than conventional cooling water. Consequently, decreases the possibility of explosionas confirmed by a report from World Energy Trade.
TerraPower illustration of what the Natrium facilities will be like.
Taking advantage of an abundant and non-polluting material
Another of the reasons why Gates would have opted for Natrium is because of its energy source. Sodium is everywhere and in great abundance. In fact, it is the fourth most abundant chemical element on our planet and the most common alkali metal.
Compounds of great industrial importance such as common salt (sodium chloride), sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium percarbonate, sodium citrate, sodium hydroxide, among others, are obtained from sodium.
How does Natrium work?
As indicated from Forum of the Spanish Nuclear IndustryNatrium combines a fast sodium reactor with a molten salt storage system capable of producing 345 megawatts of electricity.
They also state that this new technology is intended to simplify conventional reactor types by having non-nuclear equipment located at separate sites, which will reduce their installation complexity and cost.
Regarding your functioning, indicate that Natrium needs a small amount of depleted uranium or natural uranium as fuel to achieve optimal operation and a power of 345 MWe. For his part, TerraPower ensures that the reactor’s storage system will be capable of increasing output power to 500 megawatts of electricity for more than 5 hours, supplying clean and cheap energy to more than 400,000 homes.
He design of the reactor allows adjusting the energy production based on demand, using a sodium fluoride salt core and a molten salt storage tank.
TerraPower illustration of how Natrium will work.
Bill Gates and nuclear power
Gates is very active in his personal blog, where he indicates the reasons that lead him to bet on nuclear energy based on sodium salts: I am convinced that the installation will be a victory for the local economy, the energy independence of the United States and the fight against climate change..
With this phrase, the tycoon clearly expresses that Natrium was born with the aim of fighting climate change and ensuring the energy independence of the United States. According to Gates himself, this nuclear plant is expected to be inaugurated in 2028. He also assures that it will be the most advanced nuclear facility in the world, the safest and the one that will produce less waste than conventional reactors.
To achieve this, the billionaire would achieve a new feat in his technological career, since he would be responsible for creating a turning point in the energy industry, so exploited and polluting today.
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All about Natrium, the energy source that finances Bill Gates