17 Comments

Summary:

TerraPower, the nuclear power startup backed by Bill Gates, has now brought on another couple of high-profile investors. According to the company this afternoon, TerraPower has raised another $35 million from Khosla Ventures — Vinod Khosla’s venture fund — and Charles River Ventures.

TerraPower, the nuclear power startup backed by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, has brought on another couple of high-profile investors for its second round of funding. According to the company this afternoon, TerraPower has raised another $35 million from Khosla Ventures — Vinod Khosla’s venture fund — and Charles River Ventures, in addition to being supported by Gates and the investors at Intellectual Ventures, which was founded by former Microsoft chief technology officer, Nathan Myhrvold.

TerraPower has developed a “traveling wave nuclear reactor design” — technology that’s been researched since the 1990′s. But TerraPower has been one of the first companies to develop a practical design that it plans to commercialize. The company says its reactor can provide an almost infinite amount of power by utilizing a small amount of enriched uranium at the beginning of the process (see slides at the bottom of the post); the nuclear reactor can then run on its own waste product, making and consuming its own fuel.

The benefits of the design are that the reactor doesn’t have to be refueled or have its waste removed until the end of its life (theoretically a couple hundred years). Using waste uranium also reduces the amount of waste in the overall nuclear life cycle, and extends the available supply of the world’s uranium for nuclear by many times.

How close to reality is this technology? According to this presentation by TerraPower CEO John Gilleland,, “operation of a traveling wave reactor can be demonstrated in less than ten years, and commercial deployment can begin in less than fifteen years.” TerraPower has also reportedly been in talks with Japanese giant Toshiba to jointly develop a small nuclear reactor.

Not surprisingly, with its Microsoft connection, TerraPower has leaned heavily on supercomputing to design and model the reactor and the life cycle of the fuel. The TerraPower team is using “1,024 Xeon core processors assembled on 128 blade servers,” which is a cluster that is “over 1000 times the computational ability as a desktop computer.”

Gates has been touting the innovation behind TerraPower over the past couple of months, and has recently been calling for the federal government to invest some $16 billion per year into sparking energy innovations like that of the company’s. Gates is also a limited partner in Khosla Venture’s fund (I spotted him briefly at the Khosla Ventures annual partners meeting last month in Sausalito, Calif.)

For more research on cleantech financing check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Cleantech Financing Trends 2010 and Beyond

Images courtesy of TerraPower.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

By Katie Fehrenbacher

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

Related stories

  1. What we’re reading… – SmartPlanet Monday, June 14, 2010

    [...] Bill Gates-backed nuclear startup TerraPower lands another $35 million for its traveling wave nuclear reactor [...]

  2. Is this really the best Gates can do as far as energy bets goes? This one is still in simulation mode with a best ‘estimate’ they might be able to demonstrate a prototype plant by 2020? Surely there are some more ‘realistic’ energy start-ups Gates could also be ‘pushing’ as well.

    1. This is Gates we are talking about! simulation mode and estimate? do you think Gates is a child excited on seeing pacman and thinking its true? cmon man! he is intelligent far more than you! simulations are necessary to eliminate errors and failures in such sensitive plans

  3. trends: TerraPower lands $35M to launch a new era of nuclear | fashionandbeauty.co.cc Monday, June 14, 2010

    [...] A lot of the company’s success seems to step from Gates’ support. The Microsoft chairman has been very outspoken about the need to come up with practical clean sources of energy, combined with energy efficiency strategies that go beyond anything we’ve done before. He champions nuclear as one of the most feasible sources of energy in the next decades, and has — together with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr — been after the U.S. Department of Energy to invest up to $16 billion every year in R&D in the ar…. [...]

  4. Bill Gates-Backed Nuclear Startup TerraPower Piles on Investors « Belray | Investment and Wealth Management Monday, June 14, 2010

    [...] June 14, 2010 by Belray Asset Management Leave a Comment TerraPower, the nuclear power startup backed by Microsoft (s msft) Chairman Bill Gates, has brought on another couple of high-profile investors for its second round of funding. According to the company this afternoon, TerraPower has raised another $35 million from Khosla Ventures — Vinod Khosla's venture fund — and Charles River Ventures, in addition to being supported by Gates and the investors at Intellectual Ventures, which was founded by fo … Read More [...]

  5. Christina MacPherson Monday, June 14, 2010

    Hmmm – Bill Gates has a fine reputation for real charity work.
    But this pro nuclear fantasy of his could do some damage to that image.
    As the Internet communities become more savvy about Climate Change and the supposed “nuclear solution”, the tide of enlightened, informed, progressive thinkers might well turn against Bill Gates and his products.

  6. TerraPower raises $35M to launch a new era of nuclear | News@KRK Monday, June 14, 2010

    [...] A lot of the company’s success seems to step from Gates’ support. The Microsoft chairman has been very outspoken about the need to come up with practical clean sources of energy, combined with energy efficiency strategies that go beyond anything we’ve done before. He champions nuclear as one of the most feasible sources of energy in the next decades, and has — together with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr — been after the U.S. Department of Energy to invest up to $16 billion every year in R&D in the ar…. [...]

  7. Bill Gates promoting untested and unlikely, nuclear technology « nuclear-news Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    [...] Bill Gates-Backed Nuclear Startup TerraPower Piles on Investors [...]

  8. I think that, despite everyone fearing the “nuclear option”, this could be part of our future: A source of power non impacting at environmental level (at least in a reasonable amount of time).

    On the other side, I don’t understand if this will create a problem of waste or at least of maintenance, but if benefits are obvious in the quite immediate timeframe, on the problems side we are moving the problem to future generations and this is nor fair nor smart.

    Another possible problem could arise from those having access to this technology and, more in general to nuclear activities. This could be overrun by limiting the market by regulating it very strictly.

    Overall I’m positive on this solution, while I think a set of measures should be put in place to ensure a sustainable and safe approach is guaranted.

  9. The personal nuclear plant « How I see the world Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    [...] The personal nuclear plant Katie Fehrenbacher at earth2tech (http://earth2tech.com/author/katiefehren/) reports that “[...] TerraPower, the nuclear power startup backed by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, has brought on another couple of high-profile investors for its second round of funding. According to the company this afternoon, TerraPower has raised another $35 million from Khosla Ventures — Vinod Khosla’s venture fund — and Charles River Ventures, in addition to being supported by Gates and the investors at Intellectual Ventures, which was founded by former Microsoft chief technology officer, Nathan Myhrvold [...]” (full article at http://earth2tech.com/2010/06/14/bill-gates-backed-nuclear-startup-terrapower-piles-on-investors). [...]

  10. The concept of less waste sounds cool, and also that they used simulation computing to get there is awesome, too bad it’s a couple decades away if at all.

Comments have been disabled for this post