Our systems produce profitable, carbon-free energy via a non-self-sustaining reaction by coupling a particle accelerator to a subcritical fuel assembly.

Steel Atlas co-led this round with Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures with significant participation from At One Ventures (led by Helen Lin) among other exceptional investors. [press release]

Transmutex’s mission is to enable the global transition to carbon-free, profitable baseload power by unlocking the potential of thorium-based nuclear reactors. Transmutex is achieving this by designing an Accelerated Driven Reactor system and fuel fabrication/recycling facilities that will be licensed to industrial operators around the world. The United Nations recognizes that up to five times more nuclear power will be needed by 2050 to meet clean energy demand. 

Failing to achieve this will not only put you at the political mercy of your more energy abundant neighbors, it will prevent private industry from making the CapEx investments necessary to operate in your country going forward. The corollary to this is that if you can produce an excess of electrons and deliver them where they are needed at reliable prices, you will wield significant influence globally. The evidence for this can be seen by contrasting two nations that both stand to benefit from aggressively adopting Transmutex’s technology, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

Germany: The (Un)Reliability of Renewables

Since the 2000 Renewable Energy Act, Germany has been a pioneer in green legislation. The 2002 Nuclear Exit Law set the stage for phasing out nuclear power by 2022. However, renewables like wind and solar provide intermittent energy supply. Without (currently non-existent) grid scale energy storage solutions, Germany was heavily reliant on non-nuclear baseload power solutions, in particular natural gas from Russia’s state-owned energy company, Gazprom. This concentrated reliance on Russia left Germany vulnerable. 

In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Seven months later, Russia cut natural gas flow to Germany by half to just 20% of capacity. This triggered a more than 10x increase in energy prices. 

German Energy Price Volatility

Germany’s energy policy and the ensuing crisis that resulted, has led to paltry economic growth. The country’s output is barely above pre-pandemic levels, meaning that country has seen less than 0.5% cumulative GDP growth since late-2018. Germany is consuming as much power as it did at the peak of lockdowns from COVID.

Achieving net-zero and carbon neutrality by 2050 will require an increased global deployment of nuclear power, the only energy source capable of producing low-carbon energy at a large scale and on a continuous basis.

The share of solar and wind power in the global energy mix is set to rise sharply, but without a viable long-term storage solution, these energies will not be able to meet the world's growing energy needs. In its 2018 report, the IPCC recommends, in the scenarios that seem most likely to us, a doubling of nuclear production, but also possibly a quintupling, by 2050.

Nuclear power remains by far the least ecologically damaging low-carbon energy source. As economic production from nuclear fusion is still speculative, nuclear fission will remain, until further notice, the energy source essential to the functioning of our societies for several centuries to come.

Transmutex’s vision for the future of nuclear energy focuses on five key parameters:

The main objectives assigned to future nuclear energy systems are as follows:

  1. Strengthen economic competitiveness with other means of power generation, with a focus on reducing investment costs;
  2. Improved reliability and safety, thanks to better design and management of safety operation under normal and abnormal plant conditions;
  3. Minimal production of long-lived radioactive waste ;
  4. Resource savings through efficient and flexible use of available fissile and fertile material resources;
  5. Proliferation resistant in order to limit weaponization risks;

The last three objectives are essential for the long-term sustainability of nuclear power. Additional considerations, such as possible applications other than electricity generation, such as heat, hydrogen, or water desalination, are becoming essential.

These orientations call for technological breakthroughs beyond pressurized water reactors (PWRs).

Transmutex proposes a new nuclear energy process: Transmutation.

Safer than fission, and more practical than fusion, Transmutation relies on a two-stage process which is ideal to exploit the overlooked common metal thorium as fuel: first the absorption of a neutron which transmutes the thorium into the uranium 233 isotope (U-238 is the stable element found in nature) which then fissions, producing energy. In contrast, uranium-based nuclear energy (using U-235 or U-238) primarily involves a direct fission process. U-235, when struck by a neutron, immediately undergoes fission, splitting into smaller nuclei and releasing energy, without an intermediate transmutation step.

This two-step process is enabled by the new combination of technologies emanating from particle physics experiments at CERN: particle accelerators and liquid lead cooling. The particle accelerator enables an immediate shutdown of the transmutation reaction within 2 milliseconds, and the liquid lead cooling technology allows a walk away safe operation with self-cooling property in case of malfunction.

Moreover, the inherent property of transmutation would make it possible to produce low-carbon energy while eliminating 99% of the long-lived waste from the uranium fuel cycle. That would have the greatest impact on nuclear waste management while minimizing proliferation risks.

The increase in traditional fission nuclear capacity worldwide comes up against a number of problems, including the management of spent fuel, particularly long-lived components, and possible proliferation of military grade material. The most difficult to manage are the long-lived waste, such as plutonium, for reasons of proliferation and heat generation. In the USA, the Yucca Mountain disposal project in Nevada was canceled by President Obama in 2009, after $13 billion had been spent. Even if the site had been finalized on schedule, it would have been completely filled by 2015 in the open cycle in place in the USA[iii]. Tripling the nuclear capacity in the USA, as was announced at the COP28, [iv]would require the commissioning of a $100 Billion deep geological storage every decade, an unforeseeable possibility.

A report by the US federal research laboratory Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), estimates, as the Commission has noted on several occasions, that the volume of deep geological disposal could be greatly reduced through the minimization of long-lived waste production[v]. Such minimization strategies would reduce the required volume of storage by 5 to 7 times thanks to lower residual heat generation and toxicity.

Optimizing the deep geological storage requirements would remove one of the main obstacles to increasing the production of nuclear energy needed for all uses, from heat to hydrogen, while looking ahead several centuries.

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