Bill Gates is discussing jointly developing a new kind of nuclear reactor with China, reports The Guardian.
"The idea is to be very low-cost, very safe and generate very little waste," he told China’s Ministry of Science and Technology at a meeting.
TerraPower, a company Gates is financing, is developing a "traveling" "Generation IV" nuclear reactor which in addition to running on recycled uranium, would produce just small amounts of nuclear waste.
It takes safety to a new level, Gates says.
After an initial start-up with a small amount of low-enriched material, it can run for decades on depleted uranium – a waste byproduct of the enrichment process.
The company says:
Huge amounts of depleted uranium, useless to today’s reactors, already exist in stockpiles around the world. Stocks of this material grow as uranium is enriched for the refueling of conventional reactors. The TWR directly converts depleted uranium to usable fuel as it operates. As a result, this inexpensive but energy-rich fuel source could provide a global electricity supply that is, for all practical purposes, inexhaustible.
There are currently 700,000 metric tons of this low-level nuclear leftover product in the United States. Using a TWR, an 8-metric-ton canister of depleted uranium could generate 25 million megawatt-hours of electricity – enough to power 2.5 million U.S. households for one year.
About $1 billion in R&D could be poured into technology development over the next five years.
Gates wrote a recent editorial imploring the federal government to continue investing in clean energy R&D, and to increase spending from the current $5 billion a year to $16 billion a year.