Last month, TerraPower’s President and CEO Chris Levesque testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about what the country and the world must do to transition to a clean energy economy. As an American company, TerraPower has a duty to innovate in clean energy, a duty that has been reinforced in these trying times.
The world is now focused on overcoming the global impact of COVID-19. It is with great humility, respect and gratitude that the TerraPower team watches the brave medical professionals tackle the public health crisis that is unfolding. Like many businesses, TerraPower is doing its part by shifting to remote work. Team members remain devoted to their work while attending to the well-being of loved ones and caring for their neighbors in hard-hit communities. And with millions of people self-isolating at home, the COVID-19 pandemic clearly illustrates how much society depends on electricity.
A lot has changed in a month, but TerraPower’s commitment to its mission has never been stronger.
TerraPower’s goal to provide reliable, zero-carbon, cost-effective electric and thermal energy solutions reflects the need for more flexible and reliable electricity systems. Electricity networks have proven to be vulnerable under strong confinement measures related to the pandemic. Advanced nuclear—which can ramp generation up or down quickly—will help the system adapt to jumps in demand. Beyond this current crisis, companies like TerraPower have a role to play in setting the stage for recovery and renewal.
Advanced Nuclear Technology is Key to an Emissions-Free Economy
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must keep global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The continued use of nuclear energy is the only viable way to achieve this goal. And if we’re to bring electricity to the 840 million people who lack access, we actually need to increase the use of nuclear energy.
Getting to a carbon-free future will also require us to develop strategies to produce chemicals, cement, metals and other products without burning fossil fuels. TerraPower’s advanced nuclear technologies can provide reliable, very high temperature heat for these and other industrial processes without emitting any carbon dioxide or methane.
Most Americans either live in states with emissions-reduction targets or are served by utilities that have put forth ambitious emissions-reduction goals. This includes TerraPower’s home state of Washington, where Washington’s power provider, Energy Northwest, has offered a plan to meet our state’s mandate to eliminate carbon emissions from the grid with a combination of wind, solar, hydro, existing nuclear and next-generation nuclear technologies.
With this combination in mind, our technology is specifically designed to integrate into a grid with high levels of renewables. In fact, we are currently working with Southern Company and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to use the high-temperature heat from our reactors to power a molten salt system that can store tremendous amounts of energy. That energy can be used to power the grid at peak demand when the wind isn’t blowing, or the sun isn’t shining. We view this technology as a key enabler of wind and solar technologies, and part of the fastest way to get to a 100% clean energy future.
America Rising to the Challenge
America and the world are transitioning to a future that requires creativity, resilience and persistence. To rediscover the normalcy we long for, all forms of emissions-free energy will be needed. Clean electricity has the potential to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and to drive economic growth. Economic opportunity is getting more attention than ever, with society recognizing its various factors must be addressed once we are past the pandemic. The U.S. can and will rise to today’s challenges and lead the advanced nuclear transition. And everyone at TerraPower is proud to help do their part.