TerraPower, a firm Bill Gates established to create an advanced nuclear reactor “demonstration” project in Wyoming, gets a huge subsidy in the Inflation Reduction Act.
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Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was persuaded by Bill Gates to support this year’s Democratic climate spending spree as a means of hiring unemployed coal miners to construct advanced nuclear reactors. Lately, we’ve learned that these projects would cost taxpayers more than anticipated and depend on Russia for their fuel.
The Energy Department granted up to $2 billion last year for TerraPower, a firm Mr. Gates established, to create an advanced nuclear reactor “demonstration” project in Wyoming. Because they require substantially less area than standard reactors and have the potential to employ reprocessed nuclear fuel, these advanced reactors have received promotion.
Additionally, it is claimed that TerraPower’s reactors will be able to ramp up and down to balance the grid’s inconsistent solar and wind power. But for the time being, the technology is not commercially viable without substantial government subsidies. Due to stringent licencing procedures and environmental reviews, reactors also take far longer to construct than renewable and fossil fuel plants.
Assuming no delays, TerraPower aimed to finish the Wyoming generator by 2028. There are always. The news that TerraPower released this month that the project’s completion will be delayed by at least two years wasn’t a surprise. However, the explanation was alarming: TerraPower relied on Russia to provide it with high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel.
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“In February 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused the only commercial source of HALEU fuel to no longer be a viable part of the supply chain for TerraPower, as well as for others in our industry,” CEO Chris Levesque said, adding “it has become clear that domestic and allied HALEU manufacturing options will not reach commercial capacity in time.”
Following that, Wyoming’s Republican senator John Barrasso wrote to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to inquire as to why she hadn’t taken action to “accelerate the availability of commercially enriched HALEU.” She may have had more pressing needs for the political venture capital money Congress has provided her.
As a result, TerraPower petitioned Congress last month for an additional $2.1 billion to promote the development of HALEU fuel. The omnibus allocates $1.8 billion for nuclear programmes, of which HALEU is to receive some. How much more will the taxpayers have to pay so that Mr. Gates’ investments can be supported?
Advanced nuclear reactors are eligible for large tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and these subsidies are much more generous for reactors constructed next to coal plants that are shutting down, as TerraPower’s in Wyoming. Why would Mr. Gates advocate for the bill? This summer, according to Bloomberg, Mr. Gates lobbied Mr. Manchin on the legislation by stating that coal miners who lose their jobs due to the move to a greener economy may find work building reactors similar to TerraPower’s.
Another example of what happens when the government decides who wins and loses is TerraPower’s plant. Taxpayers pay a high price for these subsidies, which can skew private investment and may lead investors to ignore economic risks. TerraPower announced that it had raised $750 million from backers including Mr. Gates shortly after Congress enacted the IRA.
The biggest winners of the law might be Messrs. Manchin and Gates. Mr. Gates-backed grid storage company Form Energy announced on Thursday that it would build a $760 million plant in West Virginia with funding from the federal government and the state totaling about $290 million. IRA tax credits are also applicable to its batteries. “The good-paying jobs and new economic opportunities this will bring are exactly what I had in mind as I negotiated the Inflation Reduction Act,” Mr. Manchin boasted.
And to think that he exchanged his vote for the still-unapproved permitting reform. It turns out that he sold it to benefit corporations in his state. Bill Gates using tax dollars for his company.