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Nuclear energy startups are starting to stack some cash

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May 9, 2023
Data: PitchBook; Chart: Axios Visuals

There's a sobering statistic in clean energy: Global energy demand is on track to soar 30% by the end of this decade.

Why it matters: Fulfilling that electric appetite demands huge amounts of new electricity, and fast. The biggest clean source of round-the-clock power: nuclear.

What's happening: Developing countries such as China and India are rapidly expanding their electric grids, as developed countries are shifting from fossil fuels to renewables for power.

Driving the news: That's greased the wheels for nuclear energy. Investment in advanced technologies like fusion and small modular reactors in recent years has soared.

By the numbers: Venture and growth capital raced past $3 billion in 2021 and 2022. Dealmaking remained apace in Q1 of this year.

Catch up fast: The appeal of "small modular reactors" is in the name. Backers hope to churn them out in factories and flexibly deploy them wherever — avoiding the cost overruns and delays that have hamstrung traditional nuclear plants.

  • Fusion is at the other end of the development spectrum: a potential source of limitless power at enormous scale.

Be smart: If solar and wind are the public golf course, nuclear is the country club, with investment largely limited to the deepest of pockets — not to mention mountains of patience.

  • Case in point: TerraPower, the Bill Gates-backed small modular reactor developer that raised $830 million last year.

Meanwhile, among fusion developers, TAE last summer raised $250 million; Type One Energy closed a $29 million seed round for its Slinky-like "stellarator" machine; and Avalanche Energy closed a $40 million Series A for its tiny handheld reactors.

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