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TerraPower Just Broke Ground on Its Next-Gen Nuclear Project

On Bill Gates’ advanced nuclear reactor, solar geoengineering, and FEMA

TerraPower Just Broke Ground on Its Next-Gen Nuclear Project
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Heavy rains in China are boosting the country’s hydropower output • Late-season frost advisories are in place for parts of Michigan • It will be 80 degrees Fahrenheit and cloudy today near the Port of Baltimore, which has officially reopened after 11 weeks of closure.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Bill Gates’ TerraPower breaks ground on next-gen nuclear project

TerraPower, the energy company founded by Bill Gates, broke ground yesterday on a next-generation nuclear power plant in Wyoming that will use an advanced nuclear reactor. As Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo and Matthew Zeitlin explained, these reactors are smaller and promise to be cheaper to build than America’s existing light-water nuclear reactor fleet. The design “would be a landmark for the American nuclear industry” because it calls for cooling with liquid sodium instead of the standard water-cooling of American nuclear plants. “This technique promises eventual lower construction costs because it requires less pressure than water (meaning less need for expensive safety systems) and can also store heat, turning the reactor into both a generator and an energy storage system.” TerraPower is still waiting for its construction permit to be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and TheAssociated Press reported the work that began yesterday is just to get the site ready for speedy construction if the permit goes through.

2. Construction begins on Brooklyn’s big offshore wind hub

Another big energy project also broke ground yesterday: The South Brooklyn Marine Terminal will support Equinor’s 54-turbine Empire Wind 1 project and be the largest offshore wind port in the U.S. once completed. The terminal spans 73 acres in Sunset Park. Along with supporting the assembly and storage of wind turbine components, it will also house a substation connecting energy from Empire Wind 1 to the grid. Empire Wind will deliver 810 megawatts of renewable energy to New York, enough to power nearly 500,000 homes. The terminal’s construction is expected to be finished by the end of 2026. Below you can see what the port looks like now, and a rendering of the finished project:

Equinor

Equinor

3. Environmental Defense Fund will invest in solar geoengineering research

The nonprofit group Environmental Defense Fund will start funding research into solar geoengineering, The New York Timesreported. Up until very recently, solar geoengineering was “one of climate science’s biggest taboos,” as Heatmap’s Robinson Meyer put it. That’s because it involves trying to cool the planet by reflecting the sun’s heat back into space. Some scientists and environmentalists worry geoengineering could have unintended consequences for the climate, and would give greenhouse gas emitters an excuse to keep on polluting. But as temperatures soar and global emissions remain stubbornly high, scientists have started to embrace the idea, and the EDF says because the topic isn’t going away, it wants to fund solid research that can help inform policymakers should geoengineering get the greenlight in the future. The EDF is looking to issue its first grants this fall.

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  • 4. FEMA’s disaster relief fund is already running low

    Hurricane season has only just started, and already the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund is running low, CNN reported. So far the nation has been hit with 11 extreme weather disasters this year, costing $25.1 billion and leaving FEMA’s fund facing the prospect of a $1.3 billion shortfall in August unless Congress frees up additional funding. The costs are only expected to mount: Meteorologists expect the 2024 hurricane season to be extremely busy, and intense heat waves in western states could make for a busy wildfire season.

    NOAA

    5. California lawsuit takes aim at big oil companies’ profits

    California is gunning for big oil companies’ profits. Since September of last year, the state has been pursuing a lawsuit against five major oil companies (and the American Petroleum Institute), accusing them of greenwashing, and deceiving the public about the risks of climate change and how their fossil fuel products contribute to it. Yesterday California Attorney General Rob Bonta amended the suit to incorporate a new state law that allows him to seek a company’s “unjust profits” made through violating consumer protection and advertising laws. The suit wants the profits to be directed into a victims’ restitution fund. According to the Financial Times, the updated filing includes new evidence that the companies made “false and misleading statements” in widespread U.S. advertising campaigns.

    THE KICKER

    Researchers have just discovered that ocean algae play a key role in cooling the planet by producing large amounts of a compound that helps with the formation of clouds.

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    Jessica  Hullinger profile image

    Jessica Hullinger

    Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

    Climate

    AM Briefing: Here Comes Alberto

    On the tropical system in the Gulf, advanced nuclear reactors, and hybrid jet engines

    Texas Is Bracing for the First Named Storm of Hurricane Season
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: Heat records are falling across the Midwest and Northeast while parts of the Pacific Northwest are seeing late-season snow • Wildfires in New Mexico have burned more than 20,000 acres • Nighttime temperatures remained near 100 degrees Fahrenheit in northern India.

    THE TOP FIVE

    1. Tropical storm takes aim at Texas

    A weather system churning in the Gulf of Mexico could become the first named storm in what is expected to be a very busy hurricane season. Tropical Storm One, as it’s currently known, is “large but disorganized,” but is forecast to coalesce into Tropical Storm Alberto sometime today as it moves toward the coasts of Mexico and Texas and makes landfall tonight or tomorrow morning. A tropical storm warning was already issued for the Texas coast, indicating that high winds are on the way. Flash flooding is also very likely, especially across South Texas, where six to 10 inches of rain could fall.

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    Yellow
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    Did Climate Change Do It?

    An extreme weather whodunit.

    Sherlock Holmes inspecting a hurricane.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Maybe you’re reading this in a downpour. Perhaps you’re reading it because you have questions about the upcoming hurricane season. Or maybe you’re reading it because you’re one of the 150 million Americans enduring record-breaking temperatures in this week’s heat dome.

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    How China’s EV Industry Got So Big

    Inside episode 20 of Shift Key.

    Chinese EVs.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    China’s electric vehicle industry has driven itself to the center of the global conversation. Its automakers produce dozens of affordable, technologically advanced electric vehicles that rival — and often beat — anything coming out of Europe or North America. The United States and the European Union have each levied tariffs on its car exports in the past few months, hoping to avoid a “China shock” to their domestic car industries.

    Ilaria Mazzocco has watched China’s EV industry grow from a small regional experiment into a planet-reshaping juggernaut. She is now a senior fellow with the Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

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