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Photo: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A top Trump administration official called on Bill Gates to work with the Energy Department on building an advanced nuclear reactor in America after the billionaire shelved plans to do so in China.

Driving the news: Gates said late last year that his nuclear-energy company, TerraPower, won’t be building a pilot project in China due to restrictions the Energy Department recently placed on technology deals with China. In comments to reporters Monday on another initiative, Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said of Gates: “We hope we can work with them and bring them back.”

The details: The new Energy Department restrictions are aimed at preventing other nations from using nuclear technologies for military purposes. Brouillette said the department has had “several conversations” with Gates on the matter and said he was hopeful the U.S. government could streamline the permitting process to make it more likely Gates would pursue building the reactor in America.

  • “That was a concern of theirs and a reason they went to a different country,” Brouillette said.
  • TerraPower had pursued plans to build a pilot reactor in China because that country has two things America doesn’t — growing electricity demand and a long-term strategic energy plan — a top TerraPower executive told me in late 2017.

For the record: A request for comment to Gates’ office wasn’t immediately returned.

The big picture: Advanced nuclear technologies, which are smaller and deemed safer than existing kinds, are still in the very early stages. Current American nuclear plants, which are far larger, are shutting down early due to economic reasons.

In other news: The Energy Department announced today it was pursuing a $115 million project at a nuclear facility in Ohio to develop a type of nuclear fuel (uranium) that can be used in certain advanced reactor designs.

  • Brouillette said it’s important the U.S. develop the capability to produce this fuel so American nuclear technologies aren’t dependent upon sources from other nations, adding that Russia has the ability to produce this type of uranium.
  • America currently imports most of its uranium used in today’s nuclear-plant technologies, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department.

Go deeper: Bill Gates shelves nuclear reactor in China, citing U.S. policy

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Gates has had conversations with Energy Department officials, not Brouillette specifically.

Go deeper

Democrat Mark Kelly sworn in to U.S. Senate

Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Astronaut Mark Kelly (D) was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Wednesday after defeating incumbent Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) last month for the seat once held by the late Sen. John McCain.

Why it matters: Kelly's swearing-in by Vice President Mike Pence narrows the Republican majority and moves the Senate balance to 52-48.

Senate Armed Services chair dismisses Trump threat to veto defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he plans to move ahead with a crucial defense-spending bill without provisions that would eliminate tech industry protections, defying a veto threat from President Trump.

Why it matters: Inhofe's public rebuke signals that the Senate could have enough Republican backing to override a potential veto from Trump, who has demanded that the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Scoop: Uber in talks to sell air taxi business to Joby

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Uber is in advanced talks to sell its Uber Elevate unit to Joby Aviation, Axios has learned from multiple sources. A deal could be announced later this month.

Between the lines: Uber Elevate was formed to develop a network of self-driving air taxis, but to date has been most notable for its annual conference devoted to the nascent industry.