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Economy

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett team up to develop next-generation nuclear energy

Bill Gates is ready to invest billions in advancing next-generation nuclear energy in the United States. As the world’s sixth-richest person, Gates has long been a proponent of nuclear power and has already invested over a billion dollars into his innovative nuclear power start-up, TerraPower LLC.

However, according to Gates, that initial billion is just the start. “I put in over a billion, and I’ll put in billions more,” Gates recently told Bloomberg.

Nuclear power is gaining global traction as a viable option for national and private decarbonization strategies. Advocates argue that the immense clean energy potential of nuclear power can no longer be ignored, as it is a proven technology with substantial existing infrastructure, legal precedent, and high output capacity. Although not classified as renewable energy, nuclear energy emits zero carbon emissions and could play a crucial role in meeting global emissions targets.

The urgency to generate substantial clean energy has increased as the tech sector, particularly Artificial Intelligence, consumes rapidly growing amounts of energy. For the first time in years, energy demand growth from the developed world has surpassed that of developing countries, largely due to the tech sector’s rising consumption.

“Currently, the entire IT industry is responsible for around 2 percent of global CO2 emissions,” reported Science Alert in 2023. Technological research and consulting firm Gartner projects that without significant industry and policy changes, the AI sector will account for 3.5 percent of global electricity consumption by 2030.

In response, tech leaders are seriously exploring new sources of carbon-free energy to meet their companies’ immense demands. Some of the biggest names in the industry are turning to nuclear power. Bill Gates’ TerraPower, co-founded and co-funded with billionaire Warren Buffett, is likely to supply nuclear energy to power Microsoft’s massive AI ambitions. TerraPower aims to make nuclear energy safer and less controversial by piloting a reactor that uses liquid sodium as a coolant, reducing water consumption and potentially recycling spent nuclear fuel.

A younger generation of tech entrepreneurs is also showing keen interest in nuclear energy to address AI’s energy demands and greenhouse gas emissions. Sam Altman, founder of OpenAI, has publicly stated that nuclear energy is essential for managing AI’s carbon footprint. Altman has also founded a start-up specializing in “nuclear microreactors.” His AI-integrated nuclear energy firm, Oklo, went public in May.

Altman is also a strong advocate for nuclear fusion research. “The AI systems of the future will need tremendous amounts of energy, and this fission and fusion can help deliver them,” Altman told the Wall Street Journal last summer.

Big Tech leaders not only see nuclear energy as key to managing the sector’s carbon footprint but also as a profitable venture, especially with innovations in new-age nuclear reactors. Historically, high construction costs have hindered nuclear power expansion, but smaller and more standardized reactors could significantly reduce these costs.

Bill Gates believes that making nuclear power affordable and efficient is within reach and plans to continue investing heavily until it becomes a reality. “Coal is being outcompeted by natural gas,” Gates said. “And so what we have to do is compete effectively with natural gas.”

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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