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Nuclear energy company co-founded by Bill Gates raises $750M, one of the largest rounds in Seattle tech history

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TerraPower test equipment
TerraPower’s lab tests the equipment and processes for next-generation nuclear reactors. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

TerraPower, a Bellevue, Wash.-based nuclear power company co-founded by Bill Gates, landed $750 million in new funding.

It’s among the largest funding rounds ever for a privately held Seattle-area company, and one of the biggest for a nuclear energy venture.

Gates co-led the latest round with South Korea-based SK Inc. and SK Innovation, which are putting $250 million behind TerraPower. A press release notes that the equity raise “yields a minimum of $750 million.”

TerraPower’s main mission is to develop technologies for nuclear fission reactors that are considered safer and more efficient for carbon-free power generation.

The company is working with GE-Hitachi on a demonstration nuclear reactor funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy that’s due to be built in Wyoming and go into operation by 2028, producing up to 500 megawatts of power.

In addition to working on the reactor concept, TerraPower has a program that focuses on medical applications of nuclear technology — applications that could make use of spent nuclear fuel.

“We are committed to supporting TerraPower’s global deployment of game-changing products,” SK executive Moohwan Kim said in a statement. “We see important synergies in our businesses and this investment reinforces our strategic global carbon reduction goals.”

Nuclear power currently provides nearly 19% of U.S. electricity. Renewable power sources contribute 20.1% and fossil fuels make up 60.8%.

Other companies developing nuclear energy technology include Portland, Ore.-based NuScale Power, Terrestrial Energy, Westinghouse Electric Corporations, and more.

“Whether it’s addressing climate change with carbon-free advanced nuclear energy, or fighting cancer with nuclear isotopes, our team is deploying technology solutions and investors across the world are taking note,” TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque, a former exec at Westinghouse and AREVA, said in a statement.

Gates founded TerraPower in 2006 and is its chairman. For most of its existence the company’s research has been conducted at a lab co-located with Intellectual Ventures’ facilities in Bellevue. In late 2019, TerraPower established a 65,000-square-foot research facility in Everett, Wash., near Paine Field and one of Boeing’s airplane factories.

Gates for many years has been lobbying lawmakers to engage in public-private partnerships to fund innovation in nuclear power. The Microsoft co-founder told GeekWire last year that “the main reason [nuclear power] is failing right now is that the reactors have gotten so costly to build. They’re just not competitive, particularly in a place where natural gas is so incredibly inexpensive.”

TerraPower is one of several climate-related ventures founded and/or funded by Gates, who also leads Breakthrough Energy, which runs a $2 billion venture fund.

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