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America's Energy Department Works With Bill Gates To Test Mini Nuclear Reactors

An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Examiner: The Energy Department is participating in a major push with electric utility Southern and a company founded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to develop small nuclear power reactors that are less expensive and more efficient than their much larger cousins. "Molten salt reactors are getting a reboot," the Energy Department tweeted late Wednesday, offering a schematic of a battery-like power plant module that "could power America's energy"... The Department of Energy linked to a detailed description of how its Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other federal labs are teaming up with Southern Company, a big coal utility with several nuclear plants, and Gates' TerraPower to test and develop a type of reactor that uses liquefied sodium "as both coolant and fuel." These liquid-metal reactors are sometimes referred to as nuclear batteries because they are small, self-contained units, which theoretically can be deployed anywhere, although the version being tested at Oak Ridge appears to be one requiring a permanent structure and housing. TerraPower was awarded a $40 million award by the Energy Department in 2016 to pursue the project. Currently it's in the "early design phase" to assess commercial viability, but testing will begin in 2019, "which will help validate the reactor's safety systems for license certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

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