Sam Altman, the head of OpenAI, is leading a startup that aims to create compact nuclear fission reactors. This startup is now going public and has been valued at $850 million.
Altman is one of the leading figures in Silicon Valley since OpenAI launched ChatGPT. Altman became an early backer of nuclear startup Oklo in 2015 and is also its chairman.
Altman has explained that his investment in nuclear power is closely related to the artificial intelligence revolution he advocates, which requires vast amounts of energy.
“I’m all for energy. I think there’s an urgent demand for tons and tons of cheap, safe, clean scale,” Altman told CNBC on Tuesday.
Oklo plans to build small modular reactors (SMRs), which are theoretically faster to build than traditional power plants and easier to build in remote areas. Oklo also wants to offer nuclear fuel recycling.
Conventional nuclear reactors are very expensive and take a long time to build, and large projects have become notorious for budget and schedule overruns.
“Our long-term goal is to build a broad range of advanced fission power plants, including small and large models and designs that are economically competitive,” said Jacob DeWitte, Oklo’s co-founder and CEO.
The startup does not yet have its own site, and in January 2022, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) refused to issue a license to build an SMR in Idaho.
The NRC rejected the application on the basis that there was no information about the accident risks and the actions planned for them.