Although billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates helped push Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin to back the enormous climate spending package by offering to create jobs for West Virginians at advanced nuclear energy facilities, Gates’ nuclear pilot project is now facing severe delays due to a lack of Russian nuclear fuel.
Gates helped convince Manchin to throw his support behind the Democrats’ climate bill by convincing him that the package could employ out-of-work coal miners at Gates-backed nuclear reactor facilities, according to Bloomberg. However, such projects are now facing severe delays due to the war in Ukraine, which has prevented the facilities from obtaining Russian high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel that is needed to operate its reactors, according to a statement the company released on Dec. 14.
Nuclear energy developer TerraPower, which was founded by Gates, announced that its Wyoming “demonstration” project is now delayed and will not reach its 2028 targeted completion date due to a lack of Russian uranium.
“In February 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused the only commercial source of HALEU fuel to no longer be a viable part of the supply chain for TerraPower, as well as for others in our industry,” TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque said in a statement.
In 2021, the Energy Department gave nearly $2 billion to TerraPower to help the company develop its advanced nuclear reactor project in Wyoming, according to a Government Accountability Office report. HALEU operations could be extremely valuable as its reactors take up less space than conventional reactors and could potentially use reprocessed nuclear fuel.
The $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, which must pass to avoid a government shutdown, will put $1.8 billion into nuclear projects and directs some of the funding to go toward HALEU. The company also spent $50,000 in December to secure more funding for HALEU fuel in the omnibus, Senate lobbying disclosures show.
The Democrats’ $740 billion spending bill, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, will spend $386 billion on green energy and climate initiatives and includes a provision establishing a permanent excise tax on coal, increasing the tax per ton of coal mined underground by 60 cents and hikes taxes on surface mines by 30 cents.
Democratic congressional leaders also promised the West Virginia senator that they would help him pass a separate permitting reform bill to accelerate the construction of energy projects in exchange for his sponsoring of the climate bill. Despite this, progressive Democrats have worked to torpedo the deal multiple times as Manchin’s proposed legislationcould expedite the construction of fossil fuel pipelines.
TerraPower and Manchin’s office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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