TerraPower wins $8.5 million for nuclear fuel recycling

BELLEVUE, Wash. — TerraPower, the Bellevue-based nuclear power venture co-founded by Bill Gates, has won an $8.55 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to work on safer methods to recover uranium from used nuclear fuel.

TerraPower’s recycling process is among 11 projects that will receive a total of $36 million in federal funding from the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E. The grants are aimed at supporting technologies that would limit the amount of waste produced by advanced nuclear reactors.

““Developing novel approaches to safely manage nuclear waste will enable us to power even more homes and businesses in America with carbon-free nuclear energy,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said today in a news release. “ARPA-E is doing just that by supporting companies and universities that are working on next-generation technologies to modernize advanced reactors and strengthen the nation’s clean energy enterprise.”

TerraPower’s grant is the largest of the 11 announced today for ARPA-E’s ONWARDS program. The acronym stands for “Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems.”


Bill Gates plugs energy research agency

Power pole
ARPA-E works on technologies ranging from the power grid to fusion. (ARPA-E via Twitter)

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is putting in a plug for the federal government’s energy research agency, ARPA-E, just when it’s in need of a power surge.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy was created in 2009 within the U.S. Department of Energy to support technology development in the energy realm. The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (a.k.a. DARPA) serves as its model.

ARPA-E has funded initiatives ranging from improvements in electric grid management and power conversion, to more energy-efficient windows, to lower-cost solar power systems, to plasma research for nuclear fusion power.

The beneficiaries of the fusion research program include the University of Washington and Redmond, Wash.-based Helion Energy.

ARPA-E’s work strikes a chord with Gates because of the billionaire’s involvement in Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a $1 billion investment fund that Gates (and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, among others) bought into last year to back commercial energy initiatives.

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