Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bill Gates Touts TerraPower-Fast Neutron Nuclear Reactors

Update [3/22/10 WSJ]: TerraPower, a unit of Intellectual Venturas, an energy start up partially funded by Gates, is in discussions with Toshiba Corporation to develop a new type of small-scale nuclear reactor. TerraPower's reactor technology {see description below} would run for decades on depleted uranium without refueling or removing spent fuel from the device.

Intellectual Ventures, based in Bellevue, Washington, is run by a former Microsoft Corporation executive Nathan Myhrvold.

Bill Gates is supporting a new type of nuclear power plant called TerraPower (Traveling Wave) reactors. TerraPower reactors are fast neutron reactors that breed their own fuel. The concept has been around for awhile and the technology is quite a few years away from being commercially available. The Center is a long-time supporter of nuclear power and we support fast neutron breeder reactor technology. According to Gates:

“Because you burn 99 percent of the waste, it is kind of like a candle. Nuclear waste fed into a TerraPower reactor would potentially burn for decades before being exhausted. Today we are always refueling the reactor so lots of controls and lots of things that can go wrong. That is not good. With this, you have a piece of fuel, think of it like a log, that burns for 60 years and it is done.“The skeptics will accept it because it is cheaper."
Gates should be careful about "too cheap to meter" rhetoric." The nuclear industry got burned with this statement decades ago. Yet he is on the right track here. He should come back down to Earth though and support current nuclear power plant technology. It is fine for our current needs and the fuel can be reprocessed. (Grist, )

At TED2010, Bill Gates unveiled his vision for the world's energy future, describing the need to avoid planetary catastrophe and explaining why he's backing a dramatically different type of nuclear reactor (Traveling Wave Terra Power liquid metal fast breeder reactor). His goal? Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.

Fast Neutron Reactors:


World Nuclear Association

Public Citizen

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