TerraPower $1 Billion Prototype Reactor Project is Suspended

Terrapower and Bill Gates are pulling back from a pilot project in China because of the trade war and bad US-China relations.

TerraPower has a traveling-wave reactor (TWR) which would run on depleted uranium. It could be dramatically safer and substantially cheaper than current nuclear reactors.

In 2019, Bill Gates will speak out more about how the U.S. needs to regain its leading role in nuclear power research.

Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day. The problems with today’s reactors, such as the risk of accidents, can be solved through innovation.

56 thoughts on “TerraPower $1 Billion Prototype Reactor Project is Suspended”

  1. The underground mapping tech that is apparently slashing the risk of dry wells in the oil business will surely help here.

  2. You’re right, and it’s too bad. NRC regs are designed for pressurized water reactors, which are still dangerous. They need to be altered right now so we can build and test some prototype Gen. 4 reactors. We’ve known how to build/run much safer molten salt reactors, e.g., since the 1960s, and they have all kinds of advantages, one of which is that we have thousands of years of fuel already stored; they can burn thorium or burn up the 96% of the fuel left as “waste” by solid fuel PWRs. No need to dig up Bears Ears or Grand Staircase Escalante for uranium–which is one reason the uranium mining industry might be in the way.

    Anyone know if those same regs are in the way of fusion?

  3. Portland, OR, PGE wants to build two new gas-fired power plants a couple hundred miles away so Portlanders won’t have to see them. Line losses will waste 10% of the energy. Portland is 46 miles from Mt St. Helens, the same from Mt. Hood. There is hot rock close under both. Iceland pipes steam miles without losing significant heat; a well-designed and carefully-sited GT plant need neither spoil the view nor emit any pollution. Expensive up front, but you don’t have to buy a 100 car, 90-ton/car trainload of coal or three per day, or equivalent gas, to run it, so over time it should cost no more.

    Mapping the hot rock under either would teach us a lot about volcanoes; maybe enough to learn to control them. That would be a good thing for people who live downstream of either; but it’s absolutely essential that we learn to control Mt. Rainier, if that’s possible, or one fine day the millions of residents of the greater Seattle metro area and all the little towns all around the mountain are gonna have a really bad day. We would not spend the money just to save millions; but as a side benefit of developing clean, carbon-neutral energy? Solving for pattern….

  4. That might work in a comic book.

    Except it would awaken an ancient creature sleeping beneath the fault line with resulting destruction of cities and a fist fight with flying superheroes. But you get that.

  5. Oil isn’t scared of nuclear. Coal is scared of nuclear. Gas is scared of nuclear. Oil doesn’t give a damn about electric power until a reactor is made that will fit under a bonnet.

    You are getting your bogey men mixed up.

  6. Geothermal is kind of like hydro in that you need geology on your side.

    However, unlike hydro, improved drilling tech means that more and more places become viable as tech improves.

    And the tech has billions of dollars of R&D poured into it by the oil and gas industry, who might just be financing their own future rival (gas at least).

    Sadly, the number of places that, right here and now, is suitable (both a large heat source and close to a large market) is not really enough to get the industry up and running.

  7. To be honest, it had a few teething problems. Similar design to this Terrapower TWR. Maybe they should have had lower expectations for FOAK.

  8. It wasn’t the Greenwar guy with the bazooka, or the rioters, who shut down Superphenix – it was the Socialists needing to get the Green party support to form a government. ( The rioters in Brittany and the Loire area stopped a couple of plants, though – otherwise France would have had no coal power plants at all for the last thirty years.)

  9. Mr Windows most certainly could reboot nuclear energy. Problem is that he is too cheap to reboot it with his own money.

  10. Seems likely, all of the info coming out of Terrapower for the last year or so indicates that the R&D efforts have pivoted to an MCFR design rather than the TWR.

  11. It stopped being viable once the reactor design wasn’t really a traveling wave design anymore, it was just in zombie mode since.

  12. That’s very interesting news thanks – the first announced builds to start since 2016 and all six are VVER-1200.

    It seems China has settled on a tentative Gen3 reactor design winner, unless the Hualong One builds go under budget. If they don’t announce more we’ll see 12 under construction now drop to these 6.

  13. Actually since the gas industry hasn’t broken even after yet after 10 years of fracking much less made their usual 25% return on investment , seems unlikely that vaporware like this will ever see the light of day.

  14. Notorious anti nuke website. 100% nonsense end to end. But the kind of thing our Big Oil spokesperson would be quoting.

  15. Actually, he could join the 10 or so startups on the go in Canada. He seems to be thinking about it, from other reports.

  16. Didn’t India’s prime minister ask U.S.for nuclear tech.They will take the lack of proof if safety-hell,they even knowingly used imminent domain to give land at unbelievably low cost near chenai,India. to a factory that recycles lead acid batteries and has been spewing lead in the atmosphere around the factory!

  17. Their project in the U.S. is at a much earlier stage. It’s very difficult to actually build new types of nuclear reactors in the U.S. since NRC regulations are so unfriendly to such projects.

  18. Also look at Moltex Energy – they have a prototype approved to in Canada by 2030. New molten salt reactor.

  19. More likely – this a cover story for the fact that Terrapower could not make this design work in real life. Note that they are exploring other concepts in the US and not indicating they will try to move this project out of China.

    New nuclear’s biggest “technical” problem is that it isn’t competitive with solar, wind, and storage designs that are being built in increasing number at decreasing price today.

  20. Actually significantly cheaper if a country has either coal or gas – gasifying the coal and burning it in an Allam cycle plant with CO2 capture is still significantly cheaper than nuclear.

  21. China hasn’t approved a new reactor since 2016. They’ve gone from 29 under construction at peak to 12 now. They cancelled their high temperature gas reactor commercial build due to cost overruns (so it will just be the one prototype).

    Nuclear is currently commercially dead, even in China. It is sliding steadily into research only, just like in the USA.

  22. It’s rare to get temperatures high enough with geothermal to use supercritical CO2. They actually usually use organic rankine cycle because the temperatures are low (and run at like 18% efficency vs. SCO2 at 50%+).

    That being said geothermal is underutilized. The main problem with it is project risk – you can drill 10 holes and strike out or find a good spot on your first drillhole. The government could shared pool/fund that could solve this problem; it would facilitate high-risk financing capital.


  23. “Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day.”

    An Allam cycle natural gas plant with carbon capture is a “scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day.”

    And significantly cheaper in countries with a domestic natural gas source.

  24. Suspended? Not as of this moment. Either Wang has inside information or he’s just making stuff up.

  25. Suspended? Not as of this moment. Wang either has inside information that the rest of us do not or he does not know what he’s talking about.

  26. Just wait until the end of January for the latest “Rossimabob”.
    He indicates that his contraption will produce electricity for $.01/kwh

  27. Geothermal only works where lots of hot rock is close enough to the surface to be economic- and then only till you’ve leached all the heat out of it, and have to drill another area. And supercricitical CO2 has been proposed for geothermal, but not, I think, used. For one thing, the depth hot rocks are found at means that if sCO2 was used as the fluid, the pressure would be a lot higher at the bottom of the circuit than at the top, meaning you’d have to compress it more on the way down, to keep it moving, and you’d lose energy on the way up. Incompressible water is easier to work with, though it doesn’t get into tiny pores as efficiently. In any case, a controlled fission reaction gets a hundred times as much energy out of uranium as does the natural decay to lead, and it’s almost instantaneous, compared to the thousands of years for uranium-bearing granite to heat up.

  28. The Grand Oil Party oil guys fear nuclear… it is only one million times cheaper than oil.
    The dems fear a restart of the arms race and like punishing nuclear anything.

  29. No there is Terrestrial Energy and Thorcon Power, and a few others.
    Check the Sept 2018 MIT future of nuclear report.
    Korea can also build just fine. That’s what Thorcon will do.
    ANd Terrestrial is in Canada. And it’s easy to ship power across the border.

  30. Too bad we cannot do this important research here.
    This tech is bound to break out somewhere else.
    I blame radical zealots.

  31. Just like the most effective contraceptive is abstinence,
    The most effective way to protect your technology is to make sure you don’t have any.


  32. Now Gates has just suspended the program, that’s all there is to it.

    Like it or not China is the only country on the planet who has the policy support, financial resources and most importantly construction know-how to help them build the prototype.

    All this means is the program is dead and the US lost it’s only hope of obtaining next gen nuclear technology.

  33. Why not just use an enhanced geothermal system? Saw 3.9¢/kWh quoted. With supercritical CO2 as a working fluid your Carnot efficiency is higher and you’re carbon-negative.

  34. You’re talking about a country that uses bureaucracy as a weapon to destroy things they don’t like, and they decided they don’t like nuclear power 40 fucking years ago. It takes a decade and half a billion dollars to pass the regulatory gauntlet before even starting construction on an old-fashioned LWR, let alone an experimental reactor. Even then, no one should trust American engineering these days. It would go way over budget in both time and cost, and then end up melting down because of a construction flaw anyway, dooming the project and setting back nuclear power by a century.

  35. Nuclear regulations here are too tight. bill has said that he would rather build in America but it is too hard

  36. What a hypocrite, he wants the US to regain it’s lead in nuclear research, and then plans to build it in China. Thankfully, Trump put the kibosh on that, and now Gates is looking at building it in the US.

  37. The US no longer posses the necessary the competence to do high engineering. It would be folly for Gates to attempt to continue development in the US now that the China pathway was blocked by the irrational and inept.

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