I just discovered that Bill Gates is funding a nuclear power startup.
The “Secret Sauce” is that it uses a molten salt for thermal storage, so that it can respond quickly to shifts in demand.
This from the guy Microsoft®, so if your alarm bells are going off over the thought of the inevitable system crash, it gets even better.
The reactor in question is a fast fission breeder reactor using using liquid sodium as a coolant, so it produces large quantities of Pu239 and uses a coolant that ignites upon contact with air, and cannot be extinguished with water.
All this from the mind that gave us “Blue Screen of Death”.
Nuclear power is the Immovable Object of generation sources. It can take days just to bring a nuclear plant completely online, rendering it useless as a tool to manage the fluctuations in the supply and demand on a modern energy grid.
Now a firm launched by Bill Gates in 2006, TerraPower, in partnership with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, believes it has found a way to make the infamously unwieldy energy source a great deal nimbler — and for an affordable price.
The new design, announced by TerraPower on August 27th, is a combination of a “sodium-cooled fast reactor” — a type of small reactor in which liquid sodium is used as a coolant — and an energy storage system. While the reactor could pump out 345 megawatts of electrical power indefinitely, the attached storage system would retain heat in the form of molten salt and could discharge the heat when needed, increasing the plant’s overall power output to 500 megawatts for more than 5.5 hours.
The use of molten salt, which retains heat at extremely high temperatures, as a storage technology is not new. Concentrated solar power plants also collect energy in the form of molten salt, although such plants have largely been abandoned in the U.S. The technology could enjoy new life alongside nuclear plants: TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear are only two of several private firms working to develop reactor designs that incorporate molten salt storage units, including U.K.- and Canada-based developer Moltex Energy.
Edwin Lyman, the director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, suggested on Twitter that the nuclear designs used by TerraPower and GE Hitachi had fallen short of a major innovation. “Oh brother. The last thing the world needs is a fleet of sodium-cooled fast reactors,” he wrote.
Yeah, this makes me feel safe an secure.