Bill Gates’ TerraPower LLC Seeks New Partner For Nuclear Reactor Trial

Bill Gates attends a forum of the first China International Import Expo
TerraPower LLC was left without a partner for its nuclear energy projects after the U.S. Department of Energy restricted Washington’s technology deals with China in October. (Photo: Matthew Knight/Pool via REUTERS)

TerraPower LLC was compelled to regroup and is now considering looking for a new partner after new U.S. rules restricting partnership with other countries in projects deemed as strategically important to U.S. economy and technology.

The nuclear energy company, chaired by Bill Gates, now needs to find a new collaborator for the early-stage trials of its technology, Reuters reported citing an exclusive interview of TerraPower LLC CEO Chris Levesque with The Wall Street Journal. The problem is that a domestic partner would mean that they will be both restricted by new U.S. laws implemented by the Trump administration.

TerraPower is a company that develops technologies for more environmental and sustainable use of nuclear energy such as medical advancement and energy independence.

Gates and his team established TerraPower in 2006 upon recognizing that the world needs a more sustainable source of energy that only nuclear reactors could bring. At the time, the team projected that the world's population will reach 9 billion by 2040. To address the needs of such a massive number of people, net electricity generation will have to be increased by approximately 48 percent.

The company received $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2017. The budget was for the research, design, and testing of TerraPower's molten chloride fast reactor project.

TerraPower had entered an agreement with state-owned China National Nuclear Corp in 2017 in setting up a testing facility of nuclear reactors south of Beijing. However, since the Trump administration has ruled out partnerships with other countries, Gates said TerraPower had to abandon all its plan, hinting that the company has now to start with a scratch.

At present, TerraPower is left unsure which organization is the best replacement for Beijing. The trials were supposed to test out depleted uranium as fuel for nuclear reactors to improve the safety of the technology. TerraPower, one of the big players in the global nuclear reactor market according to Crystal Market Research, considers losing China as a partner to be a big hurdle in its progress.

Crystal Market Research said the nuclear reactor market is expected to grow by 2022 due to the equally growing need for cleaner sources of energy and demand for renewable energy sources.

The Asia Pacific region possesses the highest market potential for technology and also has the leading number of nuclear plants worldwide.  Specifically, the demand is rising at a rapid pace in Asia Pacific economies such as China and India. North America is second only, along with Africa, in terms of demand for the use of nuclear reactors for cleaner energy supply.

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