SK May Invest in Nuclear Firm Including Bill Gates’ TerraPower

By BLOOMBERG

South Korean conglomerate SK Group said it’s looking at an investment in a company that designs small-scale nuclear reactors for electricity generation.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that SK had been in talks with TerraPower LLC, founded by Bill Gates, and would take a 10% stake in the company.

SK declined to confirm it was in discussions with TerraPower when contacted by Bloomberg, but a spokeswoman said it had been reviewing a potential investment in next-generation nuclear technology in a bid to de-carbonize its operations. The company still hasn’t made a final decision, she said.

Small modular reactors are increasingly being seen as a way for countries to green their electricity mixes, and wean themselves off Russian natural gas. Technology billionaires including Gates, Jeff Bezos and Peter Thiel are investing in the sector, with China connecting its first SMR to the grid late last year. China National Nuclear Power Co., Toshiba Corp. and Electricite de France SA are among those developing the technology.

Nuclear generation accounts for about 29% of South Korea’s electricity, and President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol has said he supports the technology, including the small-scale SMRs. SK Group — the country’s third-largest conglomerate with units spanning oil refining and semiconductors — has a plan to invest $85 billion in green businesses from electric vehicle batteries to hydrogen. 

TerraPower, bankrolled by Gates, aims to use advanced cooling materials to build smaller, cheaper and more efficient reactors than conventional ones that use water for cooling. It plans to build two reactors in cooperation with the U.S. Energy Department, and expects to begin operations in 2028.