HomeFinanceSam Altman explains why he's helping to take nuclear microreactor company Oklo...

Sam Altman explains why he’s helping to take nuclear microreactor company Oklo public via SPAC – UnlistedNews

An artist’s interpretation of the Oklo Aurora microreactor.

Image Credit: Gensler

okloan advanced start-up of nuclear fission microreactors, announced Tuesday that it will go public through a merger with AltC Acquisition Corp.a special purpose acquisition company co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, who is also the chairman of Oklo’s board of directors.

SPAC to close in early 2024, Oklo co-founder Jake DeWitte he told CNBC in a video interview on Friday, and it will raise up to $500 million for the company.

The capital Oklo raises by going public will go toward increasing its supply chain and procurement processes and building a pilot-scale production facility for its reactor, which it calls the Aurora.

Altman, best known for his work with artificial intelligence, after Microsoft invested billions of dollars in OpenAI and the company’s ChatGPT chatbot captured the public’s imagination late last year. But Altman’s philosophical vision for a better future hinges on two technologies developing in parallel: AI and energy.

“My whole view of the world is that the future can be radically better, and the two things we really need for that are to reduce the cost of energy and to reduce the cost of intelligence. And if we do, we’ll be pretty surprised.” about how different and how much better the future is,” Altman told CNBC in a phone conversation on Friday.

‘I don’t see a way we’d get there without nuclear power’

The two prongs of the future that Altman envisions are connected: If the use of artificial intelligence increases the way Altman envisions it, it will take “a lot, a lot” of energy, he told CNBC.

Altman met the Oklo co-founders in 2013 and recruited them to join Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley pop-up store where Altman was based. president from 2014 to 2019. carolina cochran and jacob dewittthe co-founders of Oklo, joined Y Combinator in 2014 and Altman went on to lead Oklo’s Series A in 2015, at which time he also became chairman of the board.

“I am totally committed to energy. I think there is an urgent demand for tons and tons of cheap, safe, clean energy at scale,” Altman told CNBC.

Altman has long promoted the idea that access to energy it is a significant determinant of improving the quality of life around the world.

“The alternative to not having enough energy is this crazy degrowth that people are talking about. We really don’t want that,” Altman told CNBC, referring to the philosophy that restricting energy production, consumption and use is a way to preserve nature. resources. “I think it’s crazy and pretty immoral when people start asking for that.”

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman delivers a speech during a meeting at Station F in Paris on May 26, 2023. Altman, the head of OpenAI, the firm behind the hugely popular ChatGPT bot, said on May 26, 2023 in Paris that his firm’s technology would not destroy the job market as he sought to assuage fears about the march of artificial intelligence (AI).

Joel Saget | Afp | fake images

In particular, Altman believes that nuclear power is needed to meet demand while moving away from burning fossil fuels, which cause global warming. “I don’t see a way for us to get there without nuclear power. I mean, maybe we could get there with just solar and storage,” Altman told CNBC. “But from my point of view, I feel like this is the most likely and best way to get there.”

Altman is betting on slightly different nuclear projects.

Oklo is working to commercialize nuclear fission, which is the reaction that powers all existing nuclear power plants, but using much smaller reactors. It has also invested $375 million in Helion, which is part of a thriving industry of start-ups working to test and commercialize nuclear fusion, which is the way the sun generates energy and doesn’t create long-lived nuclear waste, but it has never been replicated or scaled. on earth.

Altman says that fusion, if it can be commercialized as Helion envisions, and Oklo, with its smaller and cheaper nuclear reactors, can coexist. The need for cheap, clean power “is so great” that having multiple sources of clean, reliable nuclear power is a good thing, Altman says. Also, because Oklo’s reactors will be much smaller than Helion’s power plants, they are likely to serve different types of customers.

Fundamentally, “the world is so energy limited, and it’s such a huge energy deficit that we need it all,” Altman told CNBC.

Implementation plans and obstacles

Oklo was founded in 2013 with a vision to reimagine commercial nuclear power. Conventional nuclear reactors are expensive, time-consuming construction projects. The Vogtle plant in Georgia they are the last conventional nuclear reactors of their kind to be built in the US, and they are over budget and schedule they have become infamous.

Oklo plans to build much smaller nuclear reactors that can run on new or recycled fuel for a decade before they need to be refueled. Oklo’s power reactors will produce constant levels of power, unlike intermittent power sources generated by wind and solar power, and Oklo is positioning itself to be a power source for data centers, utilities, defense installations , remote communities, factories and industrial sites.

“Oklo has extremely strong customer interest. There’s no lack of desire or need for this,” Altman told CNBC.

In addition, Oklo plans to operate the reactors itself and sell the power to customers, making it easier for customers to use nuclear power without having to assume the responsibility of operating a nuclear reactor.

Oklo is still in the relatively early stages. In May, Oklo signed an agreement with the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative to implement two commercial plants in southern Ohio, and aims to have them online by 2030.

Oklo has also received US Department of Energy approvals to build a plant at the Idaho National Laboratory by 2027. For that reactor, Oklo has already obtained INL approval to use part of its spent nuclear fuel. The company has also begun the process of applying for the necessary approvals to build a fuel recycling facility so that Oklo can put what would otherwise be considered “spent” fuel into its advanced reactor design.

Artist’s rendering of the Oklo Aurora reactor.

Artist’s rendering of Gensler, image courtesy of Oklo.

But Oklo has also faced some setbacks: In January 2022, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is the country’s main nuclear regulatory agency, rejected its first application to build and operate its advanced nuclear reactor. The NRC cited information gaps in the application, but Oklo is confident it will be able to resolve the issue.

“We have made a lot of progress with the NRC since 2016,” DeWitte told CNBC. “In many ways, a lot of the licensing details around this are more focused on what I call structural and procedural elements.”

If Oklo gets through the regulatory process, it has the potential to make nuclear power much more affordable than it is now, which is part of what Altman is interested in.

“One of the things that I’m so excited about with the Oklo design is that I think the economics can be very, very different,” Altman said.

Part of that is the smaller size of the reactor, but part of it is how the Oklo reactors have been designed.

“We made intentional design decisions to take advantage of proven technology that also uses parts, major parts and components that are used in other industries,” DeWitte told CNBC. “That means we can buy into an already established and effective economy of scale production supply chain.”


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcushttps://unlistednews.com
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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