Koreans became the largest investors in the “reactor” company TerraPower, behind the financial empire of the billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, founder and long-time leader of Microsoft.
SK Inc and SK Innovation – subsidiaries of SK Group, South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate – have invested $250 million in the US nuclear innovation company, World Nuclear News reported. The TerraPower Natrium project, using molten salts for coolants and thermal accumulators, is one of two promising projects supported by the US federal Advanced Reactor Program (ARDP).
A 345 MWe fast neutron Natrium reactor and a 500 MWe molten salt energy buffer system will be built in Kemerer, Wyoming. Participation in the ARDP program assumes that TerraPower will raise at least 50% of the amount needed to implement the pilot project ($2 billion) from investors.
Negotiations with SK Group have been ongoing since the beginning of the year. The Korean conglomerate’s subsidiaries were expected to buy 10% of TerraPower’s shares. Ultimately, the companies agreed to a $250 million investment by SK Group, the largest fundraising by a single investor. In total, as part of the latest round of fundraising, TerraPower raised $750 million.
SK Group is interested in both the reactor itself and its derivatives. Korean companies are looking for new isotopes to develop cancer drugs. Small modular reactors, such as TerraPower Natrium, are of interest to them as a source of clean and relatively cheap electrical energy. The Koreans are ready to repeat the project in the countries of Southeast Asia and beyond.
Skeptics warn, however, that small modular reactors could end up generating 35 times more radioactive waste than conventional reactors, but the world needs quick access to electricity and has few alternatives.