Oklo, a startup focusing on advanced nuclear fission microreactors, announced its plans to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) AltC Acquisition Corp. The SPAC was co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, who also serves as the chairman of Oklo's board. The deal is expected to close by early 2024 and could raise $500 million for Oklo.
The funds raised will be used to enhance Oklo's supply chains and pilot manufacturing facilities. The company is working on its Aurora microreactor, which could operate for as long as a decade with fresh or recycled fuel. The goal is to make nuclear energy more accessible and affordable.
In an interview, Altman explained his bet on energy alongside AI, stating that the future depends on the cost of energy and intelligence being lowered. He also stated his belief in nuclear energy as a means to meet increasing global energy demands. Altman has also invested in other nuclear projects, such as the nuclear fusion startup Helion.
Oklo, founded in 2013, intends to offer smaller nuclear reactors that provide consistent energy, targeting customers like data centers, utilities, defense facilities, remote communities, factories, and industrial sites. Despite facing regulatory hurdles in the past, the company remains optimistic about its progress and ability to transform the economics of nuclear energy.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has ordered the country's three remaining nuclear power plants to continue operations until April 2023, overriding previous plans to phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022. This decision was made in response to potential energy shortages due to gas cuts from Russia. The power plants in question are Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2, and Emsland.
Despite disagreement within the governing coalition about the lifespan of nuclear power plants, Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck of the Green Party accepted Scholz's decision. The Chancellor has directed the Economy, Environment, and Finance Ministries to develop a legal basis for the plant's continued operation. Additionally, Scholz asked the ministries to draft an ambitious law to increase energy efficiency and a binding agreement to phase out coal by 2030.
The Free Democrats (FDP) and Germany's largest power company, RWE, have supported the decision. However, the Greens co-leader Ricarda Lang criticized it, stating that the Emsland nuclear power plant was not necessary for grid stability. EnBW, the operator of the Neckarwestheim 2 plant, emphasized the need for a swift legal framework for extended operations, or the plant would shut down as initially planned. E.ON, which operates the Isar 2 plant, had previously expressed readiness to continue operations after an overhaul of pressure valves.
Environment Minister Steffi Lemke confirmed that the nuclear phase-out would still happen by the end of April 2023. The decision to prolong the operation of nuclear plants is primarily a response to energy supply concerns following a decrease in supplies from Russia and fears of heating and energy shortages during winter in Europe's largest economy.