TerraPower: nuclear breakthrough?

TerraPower was founded in Washington State in 2008, employs around 600 people and has received early and consistent backing from Bill Gates. Our TerraPower technology review is based on its patents.

TerraPower describes itself as a nuclear/energy technology company, whose centrepiece technology is a traveling wave reactor for next-generation nuclear energy. 300-1,000MWe reactors were designed. But a 2015 MoU to develop the TWR technology further, with China’s National Nuclear Corporation, was abandoned in 2019 due to technology transfer limitations from the Trump administration. TerraPower has more recently seemed to de-prioritize the traveling wave reactor, instead developing a 345MWe, sodium fast reactor called Natrium, under a partnership with GE-Hitachi.

Our usual patent search returned 143 distinct patents for TerraPower, which is more than other next-gen nuclear, or other pre-revenue companies we have reviewed.

We reviewed TerraPower’s 20 most recent patent filings, to see where it is currently focused. This shows a large library of process enhancements around different energy technologies, mostly fission technologies, and most recently, sodium fast reactors fueled by the circulating flow of radioactive salts. However, given the broad range of patents, it was difficult for us to identify what is the “front-runner” closest to commercialization, and which patents de-risk it or create a moat around it. Full details are in the data-file.

To read more about our TerraPower technology review, please see our article here.

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