Gates discussing new nuclear reactor with China

December 7, 2011
Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates leaves after he delivered a speech at the Ministry of Science and Technology in Beijing Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011. Gates confirmed Wednesday he is in discussions with China to jointly develop a new kind of nuclear reactor. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(AP) -- Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates confirmed Wednesday he is in discussions with China to jointly develop a new and safer kind of nuclear reactor.

"The idea is to be very low cost, very safe and generate very little waste," said the billionaire during a talk at China's Ministry of Science and Technology.

Gates said he had largely funded a Washington state-based company, TerraPower, that is developing a Generation IV that can run on depleted uranium. TerraPower says it has discussed its plans with India, Russia and other countries with nuclear energy programs.

The general manager of state-owned China Corporation, Sun Qin, was quoted in Chinese media last week saying Gates was working with it to research and develop a reactor.

"TerraPower is having very good discussions with CNNC and various people in the ," said Gates, cautioning the talks were at an early stage.

Gates says perhaps as much as a billion dollars will be put into research and development over the next five years.

TerraPower says its traveling wave reactor would run for decades on depleted uranium and produce significantly smaller amounts of nuclear waste than conventional reactors.

"All these new designs are going to be incredibly safe," Gates told the audience. "They require no human action to remain safe at all times."

He said they also benefit from an ability to simulate earthquake and tidal wave conditions. "It takes safety to a new level," he said.

Since leaving ., Gates has concentrated on philanthropy and advocating on public health, education and clean . He is an investor and strategic adviser to TerraPower.

Gates was at the Ministry of Science and Technology to talk about a joint project between China and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support innovative research and development to help alleviate poverty.

Gates said the ministry will help identify entrepreneurs and companies to manufacture new products in global health and agriculture to "change the lives of poor people," including new vaccines and diagnostics and genetically modified seeds.

"China has a lot to contribute because it's solved many of the problems of poverty, not all of them but a lot of them, itself, and many Asian, south Asian and African countries are well behind, whether it's agriculture or health," said Gates.

No specific poverty alleviation projects were mentioned.

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2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 07, 2011
I would rather run a treadmill for my own energy than buy another crap crashy product from Microsoft.
4 / 5 (6) Dec 07, 2011
Having cheap energy that doesn't pump billions of tons of poison into the air each year would go a long way to reducing cancers and other respiratory problems, hence reducing medical bills, hence decreasing poverty.

It has been suggested that the "hybrid" H1N1 flu in Mexico was so lethal there because the air quality, possibly particulates, compounded the problem either by further harming people, or by serving as an additional carrier for the virus' airbourne phase.

Pollution from Coal plants and factories probably cause and contribute a lot more to illness and poverty than we realize.

Having clean, reliable power is the right way to go, because we all admit wind and solar can't do everything, even when they do start to take a larger share of the energy market.
2.4 / 5 (5) Dec 07, 2011
"TerraPower says it has discussed its plans with India, Russia and other countries with nuclear energy programs."

No mention of the U.S., though they're headquartered here and Gates is obviously American. Wonder why? Obviously, it's very new.
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 07, 2011
because we all admit wind and solar can't do everything, even when they do start to take a larger share of the energy market.

Not exactly. There have been numerous statements to the contrary on PhysOrg.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2011

I have never actually heard of a reactor running on depleted uranium before. Assuming that it is feasable, that does sound like it would create waste that is significantly less radioactive and dangerous.

Also, This would be great for the US military. You could just toss a few bullets or rounds into the fuel tank, and you're good to go.

i hate to beat this drum, but what about Thorium?

Also, if this is effective, it would put a nail in the coffin of Iranian nuclear excuses.
not rated yet Dec 07, 2011
Accelerator based reactor?
1 / 5 (2) Dec 07, 2011
Traveling wave reactor is based on the neat idea, the supercritical nuclear reaction will proceed along thin reaction zone like burning tobacco in the glowing cigarette. Which is very funny at the moment, when you initiate the nuclear fission at many places of the fuel for example with external source of slow neutrons: whole reactor will get into uncontrolled fission across its whole volume. Gates should support the cold fusion instead - but from his perspective it would be the same investment, like to support the Open source software.
not rated yet Dec 07, 2011
i hate to beat this drum, but what about Thorium
Thorium (Th-232) is not itself fissile and so is not directly usable in a thermal neutron reactor in this regard it is very similar to uranium-238.

not rated yet Dec 07, 2011
that Bill Gates is a regular pielanternfist! first this:


and now he wants to help the poor, downtrodden chinese to develop next-gen nuclear...what a guy!!!!

1 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2011
Accelerator based reactor?

prompt neutron source hits U-238 target converts to Pu-239 is the only way I can see . . .

Quote from TerraPower website, "After an initial start-up with a small amount of low-enriched material, this innovative reactor design can run for decades on depleted uranium "

But, what do I know?

3.3 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2011
"Accelerator based reactor?" - dirk


Fission is initiated at one end of what is essentially a log of what is primarily uranium and as the reaction takes place it transmutes the adjacent uranium converting it to a form that sustains the fission process as it moves down the log in a wave like manner.

By controlling the impurities in the log, you can control the fission rate and to some extent the products produced.

Since the ash of the already "burned" material sits to one side of the reaction, it is bathed in neutrons from the fissile side, and this radiation induces further transmutations that ultimately produce a reasonably stable ash that isn't as radioactive as typical reactor waste.

Gates has chosen a good technology to endorse and support, and China is a good place to build them given China's growing need for clean energy.

America doesn't enter into the equation because Gates knows that America has no future as a nation.

3.3 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2011
i hate to beat this drum, but what about Thorium
Thorium (Th-232) is not itself fissile and so is not directly usable in a thermal neutron reactor in this regard it is very similar to uranium-238.


Actually, thorium is the absolute best fuel to use in a thermal reactor.
U233 releases the most neutrons in the thermal spectrum for all fuels, with an average of 2.5.
Pu239 on the other hand dips below two, making thermal breeding breeding not work.
The main reason for this is because U233 fission 90% of the time in the thermal spectrum, while Pu239 only fission 60% of the time, so a large amount of neutrons in the plutonium thermal cycle is lost to absorption.

It is exactly for this reason LFTR is a thermal breeder running on thorium.
3 / 5 (2) Dec 08, 2011
i think if american nuclear safety regulations and the already established nuclear lobby protecting their Generation 2/3 PWR nukes bussiness and union wages were not in the way than Gates would have opted to have it build in the u.s. its just that its easier in china to wave a fist full of dollars and they start building for you at a reasonable price without much hassle, ultimately, nationalistic pride aside, it doesn't matter for me where its build as long as the world will be able to benefit from cleaner and cheaper nuclear energy
1 / 5 (1) Dec 08, 2011
NO Breeders in my town.

No NUKE waste transported through my town.

The regulations for controlling plutonium impossible.

Technology around for over 60 years and not put on market.

WHY ? Alot of problems from money to safety.

Gates should stick to something he knows. Windows.

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