Skip to Content

Advanced Nuclear Startup Terrestrial Energy Lands Initial Funding

Canadian startup pursuing an advanced molten-salt nuclear reactor gets significant outside backing.
January 12, 2016

One of the most promising developers of advanced nuclear power plants, the Canadian startup Terrestrial Energy, has landed $7 million in funding. Although the investment is small, it is an important signal that the private sector might back innovative nuclear reactors as the search for low- or no-carbon forms of power generation accelerates.

A rendering of Terrestrial’s reactor design.

More than $1.3 billion in private capital has been invested in North American companies working on advanced nuclear reactor technologies, according to Third Way, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. But much of that money has gone to companies pursuing nuclear fusion, which is in a far earlier stage than technologies that employ fission, the conventional form of nuclear power (see “Finally, Fusion Takes Small Steps Toward Reality”).

In addition to the money Terrestrial Energy has raised from undisclosed investors, Transatomic Power, a nuclear startup founded by a pair of MIT PhDs, has raised $6.3 million from investors including Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. Nevertheless, many new nuclear startups are still scrambling to fund their research and development programs. Terrestrial’s funding is “good news for everyone,” says Transatomic founder Leslie Dewan, “because it provides market validation for the sector as a whole.”

Terrestrial was founded by David LeBlanc, a former professor at Ottawa’s Carleton University and an expert in molten-salt reactor technology. That design, first developed in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, uses a molten fluid as both fuel and coolant, making it essentially meltdown-proof and, in theory, much less expensive to build than today’s reactors.

The funding comes two months after the White House held a nuclear energy summit at which the U.S. Department of Energy announced a program to help facilitate and finance innovation in nuclear power, called the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN). The program was created to overcome regulatory and institutional barriers to getting unconventional reactor designs approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and built in the United States (see “White House Strikes a Blow for Advanced Nuclear Reactors”).

Terrestrial Energy, however, is hoping to first win regulatory approval in Canada, CEO Simon Irish says, and plans to commission its first commercial power plant in the 2020s. He adds, “That’s important because if you’re part of the 2030s, in terms of climate change, you’re not going to make too much of a difference. We can’t wait an extra decade to bring new nuclear plants online; we have to start now.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.