Bill Gates’ $1B Commitment to Nuclear Energy Needs to Be a Wake-Up Call to Climate Progressives

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Jun 28, 2024

Since the world learned about the devastating effects of climate change, people, governments, and companies have been working tirelessly to find alternative energy sources that will save the planet from its seemingly inevitable destruction.

One idea for sustainable energy, nuclear power, has been met with significant resistance from progressive environmentalists, but many, like Bill Gates, are arguing they need to wake up: Nuclear power is the future.

What Is Nuclear Power?

Before diving into Bill Gates’s $1 billion announcement, it’s first crucial to understand what nuclear power is and why there is such a heated debate surrounding this sustainable energy source.

A digital illustration of two atoms colliding to create nuclear fusion

Source: Adobe Stock

Nuclear power is a zero-emission, plentiful energy source that is created through nuclear or atomic reactions, otherwise known as nuclear fusion. However, nuclear power isn’t yet ready to completely replace fossil fuels.

Nuclear Power Is Still Being Perfected

Harnessing nuclear power is no easy feat. It’s a complicated and irritatingly difficult process, but scientists around the world have been working to finalize a way to use nuclear fusion to power the planet.

A photograph of a large nuclear energy plant

Source: Pexels

And they’ve certainly made headway. In 2020 alone, enough nuclear energy was created and used to reduce global carbon emissions by 470 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s the equivalent of removing 100 million cars from the roads.

Environmentalists Against Nuclear Power

Even before they had reached this milestone, many scientists all around the world knew that nuclear power was the future; they simply had to work to find safe and sustainable ways to harness it.

Several people hold cardboard signs at a climate change protest

Source: Freepik

However, many environmentalists have been vehemently opposed to the research and use of nuclear power as the energy source to replace toxic fossil fuels.

Environmentalists Prefer Solar or Wind Energy

What’s interesting is that while millions of people want desperately to find renewable or sustainable energy sources to replace the existing fossil fuel methods that they know are dangerous, few are excited about nuclear power.

A photograph of a large wind turbine farm in the countryside

Source: Freepik

Instead, they’ve placed their faith, money, and energy into highly unreliable sources like solar or wind farms. Progressives in the field, like Bernie Sanders or Ed Markey, have both publicly supported solar and wind energy and rallied against nuclear fusion.

There Will Never Be Enough Sun or Wind to Replace Fossil Fuels

Michael Shellenberger, the founder of the pro-nuclear non-profit Environmental Progress, used to be an anti-nuclear activist, but he recently changed his tune. He said in his TED Talk: “It’s natural that those of us that became very concerned about climate change would gravitate towards really romantic solutions like harmonizing human civilization with the natural world using renewable energies.”

A photograph of several oil drills at sunset

Source: Freepik

Schellenberg continued, “[But] over time, it gradually struck me that there was really no amount of technological innovation that was going to make the sun shine more regularly or wind blow more reliably.”


Bill Gates Invested $1 Billion Into Nuclear Power

Schellenberg is not the only person who has recently realized the immense benefits of nuclear power; Microsoft founder, philanthropist, and multi-billionaire Bill Gates has also embraced the newest form of zero-emission energy.

A photograph of Bill Gates speaking about nuclear power

Source: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

In fact, Gates recently announced that he donated a whopping $1 billion to the research and generation of nuclear power, explaining, “[Nuclear power] is a big step toward safe, abundant, zero-carbon energy, and it’s important for the future of this country that projects like this succeed.”


TerraPower Will Be the Next Big Name in Sustainable Energy

Gates gave his money to the growing Wyoming-based company TerraPower. The new company estimates that building the plant and nuclear reactor will cost an almost unbelievable $4 billion, so Gates’ $1 billion is just 25% of the funding it needs to complete construction.

A photograph of the founders of TerraPower breaking ground on the new nuclear power plant in Wyoming, USA

Source: TerraPower

However, they recently announced that construction is well underway and that they expect to be up and running by the end of 2024.


The TerraPower Natrium Reactor Could Change the World

They plan to build and use a Natrium Reactor within the giant TerraPower nuclear plant to provide millions of Americans with zero-emission and environmentally friendly energy. In addition to being wildly powerful, the 345-megawatt Natrium Reactor is also supposed to be much safer than previous generations as it uses sodium to cool the reactor.

A photograph of the TerraPower Natrium Reactor that will be built at the new plant in Wyoming

Source: TerraPower

According to TerraPower, the Natrium reactor “redefines what nuclear technology can be: emissions-free, competitive and flexible. Built for the 21st-century grid, TerraPower’s Natrium technology is one of the fastest and lowest-cost paths to advanced, zero-carbon energy.”


The Nuclear Energy Institute Is Extremely Excited About TerraPower’s Plan

Although TerraPower has yet to be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the company, Gates, and even the Nuclear Energy Institute are confident that it will pass with flying colors.

The logo for the Nuclear Energy Institute against a white background

Source: Wikipedia

Nuclear Energy Institute president Maria Korsnick explained, “[TerraPower] marks a significant step forward for the future of nuclear energy. We are shaping a brighter, cleaner future for our nation.”


Some Countries Have Abandoned Nuclear Energy

It’s no secret that fossil fuels are killing the planet, but with so many people still opposed to nuclear energy, countries and corporations around the world are struggling to find ways to produce enough sustainable energy to eliminate hazardous fuels like gas, oil, and coal for good.

The Grafenrheinfeld Nuclear Power Plant in Germany, which was shut down in 2015

Source: Wikipedia

What’s especially frustrating for many scientists in the field is that some countries have abandoned nuclear research in order to appease the environmentalists. In fact, Germany has shut down all of its nuclear power plants since the Green Party prompted them to do so.


Environmentalists Can and Should Change Their Minds

As Shellenberger explained in his TED Talk, “As the facts have come in, many of us have started to question our prior beliefs and change our minds.” In other words, many environmentalists and scientists who were previously anti-nuclear have since seen its many benefits.

A photograph of hands holding a miniature planet Earth above forest greenery

Source: Freepik

Science is constantly changing, and people need to be able to adjust their previous opinions to find the best possible solution for the future. In this case, those who have historically been against nuclear power can and should change their minds if they want to save the planet as they say they do.