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Bill Gates’ firm Terrapower discuss nuclear reactor plan in China

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China is set to start work on a novel design for a nuclear reactor with the help of a firm founded by Bill Gates.

Terrapower, founded and funded by the Microsoft chairman, is collaborating with Chinese scientists on the fourth generation (4G) reactor. Research into the 4G reactor over the next five years could top $1 billion, said Mr Gates. Developing such a reactor could take a long time because none have been built or tested yet.

“The idea is to be very low cost, very safe and generate very little waste,” said Mr Gates during a talk at China’s Ministry of Science and Technology during which he confirmed the tie-up with Terrapower…

Based in Washington state, Terrapower is working on a design for what is known as a travelling wave reactor. This uses depleted uranium as its power source and is believed to produce less nuclear waste than other designs.

All these new designs are going to be incredibly safe,” Mr Gates said. “They require no human action to remain safe at all times…”

I’ve supported nuclear power generation since I first worked in the field before most of my readers were born. Cripes, I never thought I’d get old enough to be able to say that. :)

Anyway, in recent years I have gradually begun to shift my alliance to large-scale solar power projects because I feel the ultimate cost of producing electrical power is now less for solar technology than nuclear power. The environmental problems associated with the latter methodology are problems of politics, corruption and laziness prompted by greed. Problems faced by all large-scale endeavors in the modern era.

If Gates’ company can beat the costs of competing with large and small-scale projects from advanced firms like Toshiba and Areva – well, then, more power to him.

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Written by Ed Campbell

December 8, 2011 at 10:00 am

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