IDAHO FALLS — During Bill Gates’ visit to the Materials and Fuels Complex at the Idaho National Laboratory Wednesday, the American business magnate and chair of the nuclear reactor startup company TerraPower proclaimed that studies conducted by scientists and engineers are “incredibly important.”
His intention is to engage INL workers in supporting certain aspects of design for his company’s traveling wave reactor. The purpose of the visit was for the TerraPower crew to get a feel for the lab's expertise and capabilities.
When addressing employees after his tour Gates said: “Getting to visit INL was really enlightening. It was amazing to see reactor fuel analysis and how it can be conducted safely in a hot cell environment.”
The formal agreements signed with TerraPower are part of a long Department of Energy tradition to make national lab capabilities available to businesses developing new technologies.
"We enjoyed showing off our experienced researchers and one-of-a-kind
capabilities for Mr. Gates," said Laboratory Director John Grossenbacher. "His interest in nuclear energy and INL's contributions helps the industry's future reinforces the value of DOE's national laboratory complex."
One of INL’s primary missions is to help develop nuclear fuels with significantly improved performance.
As a result, the lab has employed those with extensive expertise in nuclear fuel behavior and design. The Cooperative Research and Development Agreements between INL and TerraPower take advantage of this expertise and cover a number of areas from sharing data and analyses gleaned from operation of the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II, to fabrication and irradiation of advanced nuclear fuel rods followed by post-irradiation examination.
“Terrapower has many cooperative projects and there are lots of partnerships, but our work with INL is singularly important,” Gates said.
TerraPower has gained attention recently for both its traveling wave reactor design and the financial backing of clean technology investors. Several CRADAs established over the past few years enable the company to receive technical insight from the nation’s nuclear energy laboratory and tap into its vast capabilities.
“When a private company, such as TerraPower, shows interest in what INL
does and formalizes a partnership to utilize our expertise and unique infrastructure, we know that we are doing a great job and making a meaningful impact on nuclear energy development, “ said Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, INL’s associate laboratory director for Nuclear Science and Technology.
INL support is available and used by a number of companies within the nuclear energy industry, including other nuclear start-ups such as NuScale Power and veteran companies Babcock & Wilcox, Westinghouse and General Electric.
CRADAs and “Work for Others” agreements are just two of the mechanisms that enable private industry to access the expertise, facilities and capabilities that exist at the DOE’s national laboratory complex.
TerraPower is a nuclear energy technology company, headquartered in
Bellevue, Wash. It is a privately funded company with the mission to advance scalable, sustainable, low-carbon and cost-competitive energy solutions.
INL is one of the DOE's 10 multi-program national laboratories.