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1 Jan, 2022 12:31

Japan to assist Bill Gates in building experimental nuclear reactor

Construction work for the new natrium power plant will start in two years
Japan to assist Bill Gates in building experimental nuclear reactor

Two Japanese industrial majors are reportedly planning to team up with Bill Gates’ venture company to provide technical support for a high-tech nuclear reactor that will be built in the US state of Wyoming.

The parties are expected to sign an agreement in January for the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to provide industrial assistance and data from Japan’s own advanced reactors, Japanese daily Yomiuri reported on Saturday, citing multiple sources close to the matter.

TerraPower, a nuclear power venture established by Gates, is planning to open its Natrium plant in Wyoming as early as 2028, with the US authorities to provide funding to cover half of the project estimated at $4 billion.

Construction work for a fast reactor with an output of 345,000 kilowatts using sodium as a coolant will start in 2024.

Gates’ venture firm was initially planning to work with state-owned China National Nuclear, but restrictions on nuclear deals with Beijing introduced by former US President Donald Trump forced the company to abandon the plan. The US has a long history of rivalry with China and Russia, which is also mulling plans to build and export advanced reactors.

The JAEA, which has vast experience operating sodium-cooled fast reactors, such as the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture and the Joyo experimental fast reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture, will repeatedly provide operational data and designs to TerraPower.

Japan had the bitter experience of decommissioning its Monju prototype advanced reactor in 2016, a project which cost $8.5 billion but provided little results and years of controversy. The Monju facility saw accidents, regulatory breaches, and cover-ups since its conception. The reactor was shut down after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

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