A team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory opens a uranium-233 canister inside a glovebox. (ORNL Photo)
TerraPower, the nuclear research venture founded by Bill Gates, is joining with Isotek Systems and the U.S. Department of Energy in a public-private partnership aimed at turning what otherwise would be nuclear waste into radiation doses for cancer treatment.
The partnership matches TerraPower’s demand for radioisotopes with the federal government’s need to dispose of nuclear material that’s been stored for decades at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
Isotek, a DOE contractor that’s responsible for overseeing Oak Ridge’s inventory of uranium-233, will use the proceeds from the sale of extracted thorium-229 to accelerate the schedule for disposal of the Cold War stockpile. In a news release, the Department of Energy said the deal will save $90 million in taxpayer dollars.
TerraPower will use the thorium that it purchases from Isotek to further medical applications of radioisotope technologies.
“As a nuclear innovation company, TerraPower seeks work that is both challenging and of great importance to humankind,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower’s president and CEO. “We are excited to partner on this effort and expect positive health outcomes as a result. And I’m proud of the TerraPower Isotopes team making it possible.”
Representatives from DOE and TerraPower as well as Isotek and its parent companies — Atkins and SNC-Lavalin — gathered at Oak Ridge today for an event to announce the arrangement. Among those in attendance were T.L. Cubbage, DOE’s deputy under secretary for science; U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.
Jay Mullis, manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, said the partnership is “a success for all involved.”
“Through Isotek’s innovative approach, we are able to accelerate one of our highest priority projects, spend less taxpayer dollars to complete the project, and provide …read more