SK Group makes $250 million equity investment in U.S. reactor developer TerraPower

By Lim Chang-won Posted : August 16, 2022, 09:07 Updated : August 16, 2022, 09:07

[Courtesy of SK]

SEOUL -- South Korea's SK Group has made a $250 million equity investment in TerraPower, an American nuclear reactor design and development engineering company founded by Bill Gates, as part of efforts to achieve "Net Zero" which means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible.

SK Group and TerraPower have pushed for cooperation in the development and commercialization of next-generation small modular reactors (SMRs) that can address the limitations of light-water reactors using low-enriched uranium. Small reactors designed with modular technology allow for less on-site construction, increased containment efficiency, and enhanced safety.

With its equity investment, which was made as part of $750 million fundraising, SK said it can join TerraPower’s nuclear reactor commercialization projects in South Korea and Southeast Asia and supply carbon-free power. The transaction represents one of the largest-ever investments in a single company in the advanced nuclear power industry.

SK Group said that the investment by SK Inc., an investment-oriented holding company, and SK Innovation would contribute to the early achievement of net-zero emissions as well as group-wide efforts to build a green energy portfolio in an initiative proposed by Chairman Chey Tae-won.

"SK is excited to expand our energy, technology and bioscience investments with leading companies in the U.S.," SK Inc.'s green investment center head Kim Moo-hwan said in a statement. "We are committed to supporting TerraPower’s global deployment of game-changing products."

TerraPower is building a demonstration reactor in the United States, partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), with a goal to begin operation in 2028. "TerraPower is committed to solving some of the toughest challenges that face this generation through innovation," said TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque. 

TerraPower is involved in the construction of a sodium-cooled fast reactor (Natrium) that transfers the heat released from nuclear fission caused by high-speed neutrons to liquid sodium coolant, during which steam is generated and used to produce electricity. The Natrium sodium fast reactor (SFR) offers significant improvements in safety and economic performance. Natrium also employs molten salt energy storage, making it ideal for operating with renewable generation sources. 

SK said it would bring together TerraPower's production capability for therapeutic radioisotopes with the group's biotech portfolio. TerraPower has technologies to produce actinium-225 (Ac-225), which is a promising radionuclide raw material being incorporated into investigational products by drug developers for targeted alpha therapy (TAT), which can kill targeted cancer cells while sparing normal cells. 

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