Sir Richard Branson is urging the US government to help commercialise a controversial class of nuclear reactor, according to a letter seen by the Guardian asking for a meeting with President Barack Obama and US energy secretary Steven Chu.
The White House declined the meeting to discuss integral fast reactors (IFRs), which proponents say offer a way of dealing with nuclear waste, although no working commercial reactors are in operation.
But the move brings the intriguing prospect of a race to develop nuclear technology between Branson and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, whose new company TerraPower is developing another type of next-generation nuclear technology known as the travelling wave reactor.
“Obviously we urgently need to come up with a clean effective way of supplying our energy since not only are the dirty ways like oil running out but we need to do so to help avoid the world heating up,” Branson told the Guardian.
That opinion echoes Branson’s letter to Obama, co-signed by two others including Eric Loewen, the chief engineer for GE-Hitachi’s Prism reactor, which along with fuel recycling facilities would constitute an IFR. Loewen signed the letter in his capacity as president of the American Nuclear Society, not as the Prism boss.