Bill Gates Visits Planned Site of ‘Most Advanced Nuclear Facility in the World’

Friday Bill Gates visited Kemmerer, Wyoming (population: 2,656) — where a coal plant was shutting down after 50 years. But Gates was there “to celebrate the latest step in a project that’s been more than 15 years in the making: designing and building a next-generation nuclear power plant…”

The new plant will employ “between 200 and 250 people,” Gates writes in a blog post, “and those with experience in the coal plant will be able to do many of the jobs — such as operating a turbine and maintaining connections to the power grid — without much retraining.”

It’s called the Natrium plant, and it was designed by TerraPower, a company I started in 2008. When it opens (potentially in 2030), it will be the most advanced nuclear facility in the world, and it will be much safer and produce far less waste than conventional reactors.
All of this matters because the world needs to make a big bet on nuclear. As I wrote in my book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster , we need nuclear power if we’re going to meet the world’s growing need for energy while also eliminating carbon emissions. None of the other clean sources are as reliable, and none of the other reliable sources are as clean…

Another thing that sets TerraPower apart is its digital design process. Using supercomputers, they’ve digitally tested the Natrium design countless times, simulating every imaginable disaster, and it keeps holding up. TerraPower’s sophisticated work has drawn interest from around the globe, including an agreement to collaborate on nuclear power technology in Japan and investments from the South Korean conglomerate SK and the multinational steel company ArcelorMittal…

I’m excited about this project because of what it means for the future. It’s the kind of effort that will help America maintain its energy independence. And it will help our country remain a leader in energy innovation worldwide. The people of Kemmerer are at the forefront of the equitable transition to a clean, safe energy future, and it’s great to be partnering with them.

Gates writes that for safety the plant uses liquid sodium (instead of water) to absorb excess heat, and it even has an energy storage system “to control how much electricity it produces at any given time…”

“I’m convinced that the facility will be a win for the local economy, America’s energy independence, and the fight against climate change.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Brit Fusion Magnets Set For US Gamma Ray Bombardment Test

UK fusion company Tokamak Energy claims to have made a breakthrough in fusion magnets, developing technology capable of withstanding the electromagnetic bombardment from a fusion reaction while holding the reaction in place. It plans to put its technology to the test at a U.S. gamma ray facility in the desert. The Register reports: At its Oxford headquarters, Tokamak Energy, which is collaborating with the UK government’s nuclear fusion program, has built a specialist gamma radiation cryostat system, designed around a vacuum device which insulates the magnets from fusion energy. The system is now set to be disassembled, shipped, and rebuilt at the Gamma Irradiation Facility based at the US Department of Energy’s Sandia Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tokamak Energy said Sandia was one of the few places in the world capable of housing the system while exposing the company’s superconducting magnets to gamma radiation comparable with the expected emissions of a fusion power plant. Research and analysis on sets of individual magnets will run for six months at the New Mexico facility, which is so powerful it can do a 60-year lifetime test in just two weeks, Tokamak Energy said. The company recently signed an agreement with UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to jointly develop technology, and share resources and equipment for the development of a Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Scientists Discover First ‘Neutron-Rich’ Isotope of Uranium Since 1979

An anonymous reader shared this report from LiveScience: Scientists have discovered and synthesized an entirely new isotope of the highly radioactive element uranium. But it might last only 40 minutes before decaying into other elements. The new isotope, uranium-241, has 92 protons (as all uranium isotopes do) and 149 neutrons, making it the first new neutron-rich isotope of uranium discovered since 1979. While atoms of a given element always have the same number of protons, different isotopes, or versions, of those elements may hold different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei. To be considered neutron-rich, an isotope must contain more neutrons than is common to that element…

“We measured the masses of 19 different actinide isotopes with a high precision of one part per million level, including the discovery and identification of the new uranium isotope,” Toshitaka Niwase, a researcher at the High-energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) Wako Nuclear Science Center (WNSC) in Japan, told Live Science in an email. “This is the first new discovery of a uranium isotope on the neutron-rich side in over 40 years.” Niwase is the lead author of a study on the new uranium isotope, which was published March 31 in the journal Physical Review Letters…

Niwase and colleagues created the uranium-241 by firing a sample of uranium-238 at platinum-198 nuclei at Japan’s RIKEN accelerator. The two isotopes then swapped neutrons and protons — a phenomenon called “multinucleon transfer.” The team then measured the mass of the created isotopes by observing the time it took the resulting nuclei to travel a certain distance through a medium. The experiment also generated 18 new isotopes, all of which contained between 143 and 150 neutrons.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

New York’s First Offshore Wind Farms To Launch This Year

New York will launch the nation’s first major offshore wind farms later this year off of Long Island. CBS News reports: Long Island winds, strong and consistent, will power New York’s first offshore wind farm, and its first power cable has made landfall. Snaking 60 miles, by year’s end it will connect 12 wind turbines being built 35 miles east of Montauk, ushering in clean energy to 70,000 homes. It’s the biggest dive into offshore wind in the nation — a first of many. It’s named South Fork. It will be the first of five wind farms in the works, with four to five more to come. […] New York’s first five wind farms will power 2.5 million homes within five years. Its goal is to produce all electricity with zero emissions by 2040.

“Right now, Long Island is powered about 80% by fossil fuels. And when we go to 2040 it will be 0% for New York. Off shore wind will probably provide 25% of the state’s electricity within the next 10 to 15 years. So it’s a massive, renewable clean source of energy at affordable prices. And it’s located right near where all the electricity demand is,” CEO of LIPA Tom Falcone said. “We need to transition downstate from fossil fuels to renewables. And that’s a great challenge for New York, because we can’t really build anything on the land because there isn’t land. So we have to share the ocean,” said Adrienne Esposito from Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The World Saw a Record 9.6% Growth In Renewables In 2022

By the end of 2022, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 3,372 gigawatts (GW), growing the stock of renewable power by 295 GW or 9.6%, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewables produced an overwhelming 83% of all power capacity added last year. Electrek reports: Renewable Capacity Statistics 2023, released today by IRENA, shows that renewable energy continues to grow at record levels despite global uncertainties, confirming the downward trend of fossil fuels. While many countries increased their renewable capacity in 2022, the significant growth of renewables is concentrated in Asia, the US, and Europe. IRENA reports that almost half of all new capacity in 2022 was added in Asia, resulting in a total of 1.63 terawatts (TW) of renewable capacity by 2022. China was the largest contributor, adding 141 GW to Asia’s new capacity.

Renewables in Europe and North America grew by 57.3 GW and 29.1 GW, respectively. Africa saw an increase of 2.7 GW, slightly above 2021. Oceania continued its double-digit growth with an expansion of 5.2 GW, and South America had a capacity expansion of 18.2 GW. The Middle East recorded its highest increase in renewables on record, with 3.2 GW of new capacity added in 2022, an increase of 12.8%. Although hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total renewable generation capacity with 1,250 GW, solar and wind continued to dominate new generating capacity. Together, both technologies contributed 90% to the share of all new renewable capacity in 2022. Solar led with a 22% (191 GW) increase, followed by wind, which increased its generating capacity by 9% (75 GW).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

PC Maker Acer Is Building a Fancy Electric Bike With Built-In AI

Computer component maker Acer built a lightweight electric bike called the Acer ebii. Electrek reports: This lightweight 35 lb. (16 kg) e-bike features a number of gadgets and gizmos we have yet to spot in the industry, such as built-in AI designed to predictively control the transmission and make use of collision detection sensors for a safer ride. There’s also proximity unlocking feature that the company says “automatically locks your bike when you leave and unlocks it again when you’re nearby.” My Gogoro electric scooter has a similar function, though that’s a highway-capable vehicle.

Tracking capabilities are built into the ebii to help keep tabs on it 24/7. If the bike is ever stolen, it can be locked remotely and tracked using its built-in GPS locator. But don’t think that you won’t find typical bike parts here either, as the Acer ebii still features high-end components like a belt drive instead of a chain drive, 160mm hydraulic disc brakes, and 360-degree LED lighting. Airless tires are designed to remove the chance of flats, and a lefty-style fork does double duty as a conversation piece and a fancy weight saver.

There’s also a 460 Wh electric bicycle battery that is said to offer a range of up to 68 miles (110 km) per charge. A top speed of 15 mph (25 km/h) and a 250W rear hub motor look to keep the bike within European and Asian power and speed limits. There’s no hand throttle, which means riders will have to rely on pedal assist that is activated when the rider spins the pedals. It appears that there’s some confusion about the 2.5-hour charger included with the bike, as some in the industry seem to think it can be used to charge phones and batteries as well. In fact, it’s actually the e-bike’s removable battery itself that can function as a portable power station to charge up your mobile devices. Pricing and availability are not yet available. But there is a launch video to build up excitement.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

400,000 Gallons of Radioactive Water Leaked from a Nuclear Plant in Minnesota

“Minnesota regulators said Thursday they’re monitoring the cleanup of a leak of 400,000 gallons of radioactive water from Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear power plant,” reports the Associated Press, “and the company said there’s no danger to the public.”

“Xcel Energy took swift action to contain the leak to the plant site, which poses no health and safety risk to the local community or the environment,” the Minneapolis-based utility said in a statement. While Xcel reported the leak of water containing tritium to state and federal authorities in late November, the spill had not been made public before Thursday.

State officials said they waited to get more information before going public with it…. “Now that we have all the information about where the leak occurred, how much was released into groundwater, and that contaminated groundwater had moved beyond the original location, we are sharing this information,” said Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesman Michael Rafferty, adding the water remains contained on Xcel’s property and poses no immediate public health risk.

The company said it notified the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state on Nov. 22, the day after it confirmed the leak, which came from a pipe between two buildings. Since then, it has been pumping groundwater, storing and processing the contaminated water, which contains tritium levels below federal thresholds. “Ongoing monitoring from over two dozen on-site monitoring wells confirms that the leaked water is fully contained on-site and has not been detected beyond the facility or in any local drinking water,” the Xcel Energy statement said.

When asked why Xcel Energy didn’t notify the public earlier, the company said: “We understand the importance of quickly informing the communities we serve if a situation poses an immediate threat to health and safety. In this case, there was no such threat.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Can This Company Use Earth’s Heat to Suck Carbon from the Sky?

An anonymous reader shares this report from the Washington Post:

Sucking carbon dioxide out of the sky — or “direct air capture,” as it is known by experts and scientists — is a bit like a time machine for climate change. It removes CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it deep underground, almost exactly the reverse of what humanity has been doing for centuries by burning fossil fuels. Its promise? That it can help run back the clock, undoing some of what we have done to the atmosphere and helping to return the planet to a cooler state.

The problem with direct air capture, however, has been that it takes energy — a lot of energy…. But if the energy powering that comes from fossil fuels, direct air capture starts to look less like a time machine than an accelerator: a way to emit even more CO2. Now, however, a company is working to combine direct air capture with a relatively untapped source of energy: Heat from Earth’s crust. Fervo Energy, a geothermal company headquartered in Houston, announced on Thursday that it will design and engineer the first purpose-built geothermal and direct air capture plant. With the help of a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the company hopes to have a pilot facility online in 3 to 5 years.

If it works, it will be a way to produce carbon-free electricity, while reducing CO2 in the atmosphere at the same time. In short, a win-win for the climate. “You have to have your energy from a carbon-free source” for direct air capture to make sense, said Timothy Latimer, the CEO of Fervo Energy. “Geothermal is a great match….” Geothermal wells don’t, of course, get anywhere close to Earth’s core, but a geothermal well drilled just 1 to 2 miles into hot rocks below the surface can reach temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees. Water is pumped into the well, heated and returned to the surface, where it can be converted into steam and electricity. Even after generating electricity, most geothermal plants have a lot of waste heat — often clocking in around 212 degrees. And conveniently, that happens to be the exact temperature needed to pull carbon dioxide out of an air filter and bury it underground.
The article notes a study which found that if air capture were combined with all the geothermal plants currently in America, the country “could suck up around 12.8 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.”

And “Unlike wind and solar, a geothermal plant can be on all of the time, producing electricity even when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Electric Vehicles Could Match Gas-Powered Cars on Price This Year

This year in America some electric cars could become “as cheap as or cheaper than cars with internal combustion engines,” reports the New York Times, citing figures from the International Council on Clean Transportation, a research and advocacy group.
Prices are likely to continue trending lower as Tesla, General Motors, Ford Motor and their battery suppliers ramp up new factories, reaping the cost savings that come from mass production. New electric vehicles from companies like Volkswagen, Nissan and Hyundai will add to competitive pressure…. Falling prices for materials like lithium and cobalt have also helped. The price of lithium used in batteries has fallen 20% from its peak in November, though the metal still costs more than twice as much as it did at the end of 2021. Cobalt has fallen by more than half since May, in part because carmakers are selling some models that do not require it, reducing demand. New lithium mines are beginning to produce ore, which could keep a lid on prices…

As electric-vehicle sales soar — rising 66% in the United States last year to 810,000, according to Kelley Blue Book — automakers are getting better at making them…. Auto executives say that they are finding it is easier and cheaper to design and build new electric models than gasoline-powered ones. The battery cells made by Ultium, for example, are part of a collection of components that can be mixed and matched in many types of vehicles. Carmakers have long used the same platforms in multiple models, but the strategy works even better with electric vehicles because the cars have far fewer parts than internal combustion vehicles. The Ultium platform cuts the time needed to develop a new vehicle by almost two years, Dan Nicholson, vice president of electrification at GM, said at a Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago conference in January. As a result, GM will be able to introduce three Chevrolet electric vehicles this year: the Equinox, a Silverado pickup truck and a Blazer SUV. “That’s how we get the economies of scale,” Nicholson said.

The article cite’s legislation passed last year subsidizing battery manufacturers, which “could cut the cost of making electric vehicles by as much as $9,000,” as well as the legislation’s tax credits for cars priced below $55,000.
But besides making it cheaper to purchase an electric car, “the car will need less maintenance,” the article points out, “and the electricity to power it will cost less than the gasoline used by its combustion engine equivalent.”
Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader 140Mandak262Jamuna for sharing the article.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.