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TerraPower, LLC
IndustryNuclear power
FounderBill Gates
United States
Key people
Bill Gates
Chris Levesque
(President & CEO)
ProductsTraveling wave reactor
Websiteterrapower.com Edit this on Wikidata

TerraPower is a nuclear reactor design company headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, United States. TerraPower is developing a class of nuclear fast reactors called the traveling wave reactor (TWR).[1]

The TWR concept places a small core of enriched fuel in the center of a much larger mass of non-fissile material, in this case depleted uranium. Neutrons from fission in the core "breeds" new fissile material in the surrounding mass, producing Pu239. Over time, enough fuel is bred in the area surrounding the core that it begins to undergo fission as well, sending neutrons further into the mass and continuing the process while the original core burns out. Over a period of decades, the reaction moves from the core of the reactor to the outside, thus giving the name "travelling wave".

In September 2015, TerraPower signed an agreement with the China National Nuclear Corporation to build a prototype 600 MWe reactor unit at Xiapu in Fujian province, China during 2018 to 2025.[2] Commercial power plants, generating about 1150 MWe, were planned for the late 2020s.[3] However, in January 2019 it was announced that the project had been abandoned due to technology transfer limitations placed by the Trump administration.[4]

Traveling wave reactor[edit]

TerraPower has chosen traveling wave reactors (TWRs) as its primary technology. The major benefit of such reactors is high fuel utilization in a manner that does not require nuclear reprocessing and could eventually eliminate the need to enrich uranium.[5] TWRs are designed to convert typically non-fissile fertile nuclides such as U-238 into fissile nuclides like Pu-239 in-situ and then shift the power from the highly burned region to the freshly bred region, as an integrated breeder reactor. This allows the benefits of a closed fuel cycle without the expense and proliferation-risk of enrichment and reprocessing plants typically required to get them. Enough fuel for between 40 and 60 years of operation could be in the reactor from the beginning. The reactor could be buried below ground, where it could run for an estimated 100 years.[6] TerraPower described the concept of its main reactor design as a "Generation IV, liquid sodium-cooled fast reactor".[7]

Environmental effects[edit]

By using depleted uranium as fuel, the new reactor type could reduce stockpiles from uranium enrichment.[8] TerraPower notes that the US hosts 700,000 metric tons of depleted uranium and that 8 metric tons could power 2.5 million homes for a year.[9] Some reports claim that the high fuel efficiency of TWRs, combined with the ability to use uranium recovered from river or sea water, means enough fuel is available to generate electricity for 10 billion people at US per capita consumption levels for million-year time-scales.[10]

Research and development[edit]

The TWR design is still in the research and development phase. The conceptual framework of the TWR operations was simulated by supercomputers with an empirical evidence for theoretical feasibility. US regulators postponed the construction of the experimental reactor for a decade over extended documentation for its certification process.[6] On November 6, 2009, TerraPower executives and major investor Bill Gates visited Toshiba's Yokohama and Keihin Factories in Japan, and concluded a non-disclosure agreement with them on December 1.[11][12][13][13] Toshiba had already developed an ultracompact reactor, the 4S, that can operate continuously for 30 years without fuel handling and generates 10 megawatts.[13][14][15] Some of the technologies used in 4S are considered to be transferable to TWRs.[12]

Alternative designs[edit]

As of October 2015, the company is also investigating a molten salt reactor design with Southern Company as an alternative technology.[16] [17]

Company information[edit]

TerraPower is partly funded by the US Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Laboratory.[18] One of TerraPower's primary investors is Bill Gates (via Cascade Investment). Others include Charles River Ventures and Khosla Ventures, who reportedly invested $35 million in 2010. TerraPower is led by chief executive officer Chris Levesque. In December 2011 India's Reliance Industries bought a minority stake through one of its subsidiaries. Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani will join the company's board. Other TerraPower participants include[19] scientists and engineers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Fast Flux Test Facility, Microsoft, and various universities, as well as managers from Siemens A.G., Areva NP, the ITER project, Ango Systems Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Company objectives include:[20]

  • Exploring significant improvements to nuclear power using 21st century technologies, state-of-the-art computational capabilities and expanded data.
  • Evaluating the impact of new concepts on the entire fuel cycle, from mining to spent fuel disposal.
  • Pursuing an independent, privately funded path.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ RIL buys stake in US's Terra Power , www.moneycontrol.com
  2. ^ "Fast Neutron Reactors". World Nuclear Association. September 2016.
  3. ^ "TerraPower, CNNC team up on travelling wave reactor". World Nuclear News. 25 September 2015.
  4. ^ Xuewan, Chen; Yelin, Mo; Tan, Jason; Ziwei, Tao (5 January 2019). "Nuclear Power Trial in China Will 'Not Proceed'". Caixin.
  5. ^ Wald, Matthew L. (2009-02-24). "TR10: Traveling-Wave Reactor". Technology Review. Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  6. ^ a b Gurth, Robert (February 27, 2011). "A Window Into the Nuclear Future". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  7. ^ "The Design". TerraPower. Retrieved 2016-12-23.
  8. ^ Michal, Rick; Michael Blake (April 2010). "The nuclear news interview. John Gilleland. On the traveling-wave reactor". Internationale Zeitschrift für Kernenergie. 41 (25): 249–252. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  9. ^ "Depleted Uranium as Fuel Cuts Path to Less Waste". Intellectual Ventures Management, LLC. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  10. ^ Ellis, T.; R. Petroski (2010). "Traveling-wave reactors: A truly sustainable and full-scale resource for global energy needs". American Nuclear Society. 42 (44): 546–558. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  11. ^ Bill Gates, Toshiba in early talks on nuclear reactor, Sydney Morning Herald, March 23, 2010
  12. ^ a b "ゲイツ、原発挑戦の真相". The Nikkei. 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2010-03-24.
  13. ^ a b c "東芝、ゲイツ氏と次世代原発開発へ 維持コスト管理を低減". The Sankei Simbun. 2010-03-23. Archived from the original on 2010-03-26. Retrieved 2010-03-25.
  14. ^ "次世代原子炉:100年連続運転の開発、ゲイツ氏が東芝とタッグ 私財数千億円投じ". Mainichi Newspapers. 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2010-03-24.[dead link]
  15. ^ "ゲイツ氏と東芝、原発開発でタッグ? 米企業が協力要請". The Asahi Simbun. 2010-03-24. Archived from the original on March 26, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-24.
  16. ^ "Southern Company and TerraPower Prep for Testing on Molten Salt Reactor". Department of Energy.
  17. ^ Martin, Richard (2015-10-21). "TerraPower Quietly Explores New Nuclear Reactor Strategy". Technology Review. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  18. ^ Delacruz, Vanessa (August 2012). "Fiscal Year 2012 Institutional Commitments Midyear Progress Report". Energy Citation Database: 1–37. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  19. ^ TerraPower Team Bios, www.TerraPower.com
  20. ^ The TerraPower Initiative Archived 2009-07-31 at the Wayback Machine, berkeley.edu

External links[edit]