A Tokyoity likes Bill Gates’ nuclear-power station in Wyoming

Photo by Igor Shturma on Unsplash

Forty-years ago, my host family in Salt Lake City, Utah, took me to Yellow Stone National Park in Wyoming. Karl Pope drove a van for eight hours and a group of his four children, Jacob (7), Eliza (5), David (4), Ellen (3), and me were so thrilled with the great nature of the American continent. Karl had two more children at home in Salt Lake but he had to leave them behind because they were too small to stay in thin air. It was a vast and wild nature I had never imagined until then. Without doubt, Karl took us to see geysers as a symbol of the national park.

Two month ago, Terra-Power, a company Bill Gates founded in 2008, announced that it will build a nuclear power station in Wyoming. The British newspaper, the Economist, covers the story of Gates’ latest high-tech venture on June 12th issue of the weekly magazine. His novel venture aims at latest technology providing enough electricity with cheaper, simpler, and safer solutions. The paper does not mention the entire budget of building the demonstration plant at both initial and running phase. The new reactor needs only 20% of concrete compared with conventional light-water reactors. The simpler structure of the plant provides electricity without affecting safety standard. The U.S. government handed out $80m to support a philanthropist. The construction should be ready by 2028. Terra-Power will be receiving inquiries from the power industry players around the world. How do Tokyoites react to it? This is a tricky judgment. But I support Terra-Power.

The cheaper reactors are welcome. Most U.S. citizens don’t complain about the cost of electricity in America. My family lived in Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1990’s. The burden of the utility was almost negligible. With abundant space with two bedrooms for three family members with 24-hour air-conditioning, I had no trouble writing a $40 check to the power company in Georgia every month. Back in Tokyo in 1993, I found the utility cost in Tokyo outrageous. The size of total rooms shrank to less than half of Post Park Apartment in Atlanta. The bill in the summer inflated more than three times to $120 per month. If lesser construction budget incorporated into lower electricity bills, that is a nice thing to know.

Besides the scientific explanation by the nuclear scientists, Tokyoites look at the new venture with a safety feature. The industry is plagued by the explosion of nuclear reactors in Fukushima Dai-ichi plant on March 11, 2011. The tsunami smashed the plants. The removal of nuclear wastes is still undergoing and expected to ensue for the next thrity years. From the beginning to build the nuclear energy reactors, the political contamination spread to the rural and beautiful area. The government handed over generous subsidies to local politicians who might have not distributed money to local people for their welfare. After the explosion, the area has been exposed to the suspicion of corruption, fear, and accusation from the public with no mercy.

Energy generation accompanies risks. As long as the energy level is elevated to the higher level than that of nature, the balancing act is required. Usage of electricity can be risky, too. A minor explosion occurs with home appliance such as microwave and even coffee-makers. The technology has a merit as well as a possible drawback. The point is made with a merit.

At present day in the summer of 2021, it is a bit unimaginable that the state of Wyoming gave a permission to build a high-tech nuclear power station in seven years. I hope that the reactor works consistently as it is planned by the scientist in the experimental process. People usually don’t foresee the timing of eruption of the natural geysers. Reliable science should warn it before the evacuation.

Taught marketing @ universities in Tokyo for a decade, ex-I-banker & mgmt consultant @ Kurt Salm (Accenture Technologies now), Georgia Tech educated