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Power Hardware

Bill Gates May Build Small Nuclear Reactor 347

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the more-power-grunt-grunt-grunt dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "TerraPower, an energy start-up backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, is in discussions with Toshiba Corp. to develop a small-scale nuclear reactor that would represent a long-term bet to make nuclear power safer and cheaper. Toshiba confirmed it is in preliminary discussions with TerraPower, a unit of Intellectual Ventures, a patent-holding concern partially funded by Gates. Toshiba spokesman Keisuke Ohmori says the two sides are talking about how they could collaborate on nuclear technology, although discussions are still in early stages and that nothing has been decided on investment or development. TerraPower has publicly said its Traveling Wave Reactor could run for decades on depleted uranium without refueling (PDF) or removing spent fuel from the device. The reactor, the company has said, could be safer, cheaper and more socially acceptable than today's reactors. Gates's recent focus on nuclear power has been fueled by an interest in developing new power systems for developing countries where he says that new energy solutions are needed to combat climate change. Terrapower faces a lengthy, multi-year process to get its "traveling wave" reactor concept reviewed by regulators but if TerraPower succeeds in advancing its plans, it could provide an alternative blueprint for the nuclear industry at a time when new reactors may be coming online."
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Bill Gates May Build Small Nuclear Reactor

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  • by gzipped_tar (1151931) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @10:57AM (#31583812) Journal

    ...finally.

  • Non story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nuskrad (740518) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:00AM (#31583852)
    Bill Gates invests in a company. He's not personally building a reactor like some kind of comic book super villain.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:02AM (#31583872)

    I have been waiting for years for Bill Gates to start using his money for something in the mad scientist realm we all knew it was coming. . .

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:03AM (#31583884)
    If there was ever a more appropriate time for the Bill Gates as Borg graphic, I don't know when that would be. If a nuclear-powered Bill Gates is ever developed, then resistance will be fissile! (sorry, resisting that joke was futile)
  • Pride goeth before the meltdown.

  • by Orga (1720130) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:07AM (#31583962)
    Perhaps he's hoping to get Bing into the Iranian and North Korean search engine markets by threatening them with nukes.
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:08AM (#31583980) Journal
    Next he'll shave his head and then try to defeat Superman.
  • by crymeph0 (682581) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:08AM (#31583982)
    In the movies, whenever a billionaire builds a nuclear reactor, James Bond usually has to save the world from his evil schemes.
  • Insert MSlam/Reactor safety quip <here>
  • Not what we need (Score:2, Informative)

    by erroneus (253617)

    We need "Mr. Fusion." All this nuclear fission based energy is so last-century. We need to get back to the future and use nuclear fusion technologies.

    • Re:Not what we need (Score:5, Informative)

      by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:15AM (#31584074) Journal

      There's still huge potential [youtube.com] for fission power. It's just that civilian reactor technology is basically stuck in the 1970s.

      • Having a load of intensely radioactive fission products just sloshing around rather than sealed in a solid fuel element doesn't seem like the best idea. All the mess of a reprocessing facility without the benefit of a cooldown period to dramatically reduce the activity of the fuel.

    • by Vectormatic (1759674) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:19AM (#31584144)

      I'm right on it, just give me oh... say.. 20 years?

      anyway, old school 1960s fission isnt all that interessting, these newer reactors which burn spent fuel from the old school reactors, is very very interesting. It reduces the amount of radioactive waste we have to store, and extracts energy in the process. Fusion, is off course the ultimate goal in nuclear technology, but optimising fission to the point where waste is kept to a minimum, and fuel cycles/reactor designs are far more efficient and safe is definitely a good thing

    • ... the upshot: don't hold your breath. It turns out that achieving (or surpassing) energy break-even, as difficult as it is, is actually the least of your problems. Among the others: such reactors use deuterium/tritium fusion processes, and while deuterium is relatively plentiful on earth, tritium (with a half-life of around 5 days) is not. The reactor would need to breed its own tritium, and would need to do so with nearly 100% efficiency (in other words, virtually all the deuterium supplied to the breedi

  • Business see that the Government is now ready to invest in nuclear power and come up with some long term research project that will probably end up getting funded by said government. Yes, $Bill has thrown in his few coins, but I'm sure none of the investors will do it with out any potential for a return in 5 years. Smart business.

  • It's official (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:15AM (#31584082)

    The world has it's first true supervillain.

    So who is our superhero? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Obamaman? Anyone?

    Remember: no capes!

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:16AM (#31584100)

    Blue screen of HOLY MOTHER OF...

    Seriously though, this is a good idea. And these should power water-treatment and desalination plants.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:18AM (#31584124)
    Will the reactor be running Vista?
  • See Ted Talks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PerfectionLost (1004287) <ben@NOspam.perfectresolution.com> on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:18AM (#31584126)

    Bill gave a speech on this at last years tedtalks.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates.html [ted.com]

  • Alright, alright! I'll say "uncle!". You win uncle Bill. I'll go back to using IE. No need to go nuclear on us.
  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:28AM (#31584292)

    If one of Bill Gates' projects leads to clean and plentiful energy and saves the world from global warming, it still won't make up for IE6.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Intellectual Ventures, eh? If you believe all those article in Techdirt (here [techdirt.com],
    here [techdirt.com] and
    here [techdirt.com]), it is not so much a patent-holding concern as a patent-scam concern. Maybe Gates is getting ready to milk the nuclear power industry in the same way it is milking the IT and communications industries. If that is so, Gates just might save us from the perils of nuclear power, as the industry would be too busy defending itself in court to build any new plants.

  • Selling many small nuclear reactors and fuel to "emerging market countries"? Hopefully there is some review process for who can buy these and a tracking process to guarantee the materials stay with the original purchasers. Is Yemen an "emerging market country"?
    • by sean.peters (568334) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:31PM (#31585280) Homepage
      ... is that it's "proliferation-resistant". These reactors use depleted uranium as fuel, and the waste products are such that you can't make nuclear weapons out of them. I suppose there's still a worry about the production of "dirty bombs", but my feeling is that that's more of a concern in theory than reality. From what I've read, it's kind of hard to make a dirty bomb that actually contaminates a wide area.
  • Toshiba makes sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by confused one (671304) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:29AM (#31584316)
    Notwithstanding Mr. Gates ownership of TerraPower... It makes sense for Toshiba to work with them given (a) Their ownership of the Westinghouse legacy (b) Their experience building large nuclear power reactors (c) Their experience designing small, self contained, fail-safe nuclear reactors in the 100kW to 10MW size range.
    • Their experience designing small, self contained, fail-safe nuclear reactors in the 100kW

      How large is this 136 HP reactor? If it's small enough I can certainly see a great future for electric vehicles.

  • by jafac (1449) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:31AM (#31584334) Homepage

    "640 volts ought to be enough for anybody. . . "

  • by 605dave (722736)
    Scorpio!
    He'll sting you with his dreams of power and wealth.
    Beware of Scorpio!
    His twisted twin obsessions are his plot to rule the world
    And his employees' health.
    He'll welcome you into his lair,
    Like the nobleman welcomes his guest.
    With free dental care and a stock plan that helps you invest!
    But beware of his generous pensions,
    Plus three weeks paid vacation each year,
    And on Fridays the lunchroom serves hot dogs and burgers and beer!
    He loves German beer!
  • Probably has a more complicated activation process than a real reactor too.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:33AM (#31584370) Journal

    I, for one, am glad to see the words "nuclear power" and "combat climate change" in the same sentence (which is not also another Slashdot comment).

    Hopefully, something does come out of this in the end.

  • I just have this horrible vision of the technicians upgrading the control system and having to reboot the system. Homer Simpson as the celebrity sales rep? "It's pronounced nuke-you-lar"
  • Do we have to start calling him Mr Burns, and will he have an assistant named Smithers?
  • is that nearly all of the core tech that is used in plants today was developed in America. Likewise, even this one was mostly developed here back in the 60's. Terrapower is simply an update of an old oak ridge idea. Yet, this work will go Toshiba, rather than General Atomics, B&W, or other American companies. Gates, have GA develop it. Or B&W who has been developing reactors since the 60's (they do all of the reactors for the Navy).
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:46PM (#31585560) Homepage Journal

      Well Toshiba bought Westinghouse when the US stopped building nuclear power plants. Rather than letting all that know how go to waste and allowing mindless fear to control their energy policy Japan kept building nuclear power plants.
      GE also builds reactors for the Navy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TubeSteak (669689)

        Well Toshiba bought Westinghouse when the US stopped building nuclear power plants. Rather than letting all that know how go to waste and allowing mindless fear to control their energy policy Japan kept building nuclear power plants.

        More importantly, Japan* has the heavy industrial base to handle the enormous steel ingots required to produce single piece containment vessels and they are able to scale that up in just a couple of years. IIRC, Japan Steel Works currently has 80% of the market, with China and Russia covering the last 20%. The USA never had the capacity to do it and AFAIK never planned to try.

        You could use a two-piece containment vessel, but it has to be welded together and those welds must be inspected for life... which su

  • Will the Start button be designed for both Startup and Shutdown of the reactor?
    Will the paperclip show up on Computer screens stating, "I'm detecting a meltdown, would you like some help?"

  • Double standard (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:47PM (#31585568)
    So we can trust Bill Gates with nuclear technology, but not Iran?
  • by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:49PM (#31585612) Homepage Journal

    I don't know, there was something about Gates that always struck me as boring.

    He is one of the few people in the world who have access to enormous resources and yet, he just does not do anything with it that I would qualify as fun.

    Springer has his cars or maybe he used to, Woz flew airplanes, right? The Virgin guy, this dude Branson, he sounds like a kind of fella who knows how to have fun with the money he made. Airplanes, submarines, space craft! Now that's the kind of stuff I am talking about.

    Gates is doing his charity of-course, but common, give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and .... there goes your fishing monopoly. What I mean is, he should be doing something fun with his money before he crocks. What's the point of having all that dough and do nothing exciting with it? Well, maybe he is excited with the charity works, again, I don't know. If I had crazy money, I would definitely build the biggest robots or biggest guns ever or biggest freaking submarine or a Enterprise at Moon's orbit. Something that would be hard and fun to do.

    Common, Gates, do something that would show us that money can really cause great amounts of fun. Build a freaking nuclear reactor and attach it to a shark's head or something!

    • Re:Gates is boring (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:05PM (#31586844) Journal

      He is one of the few people in the world who have access to enormous resources and yet, he just does not do anything with it that I would qualify as fun.

      Springer has his cars or maybe he used to, Woz flew airplanes, right? The Virgin guy, this dude Branson, he sounds like a kind of fella who knows how to have fun with the money he made. Airplanes, submarines, space craft! Now that's the kind of stuff I am talking about.

      IIRC, Bill Gates has a 30 car collection, it's just that he doesn't really talk about his toys. His (and Paul Allen co-founder of MS) most famous car is the imported Porsche 959 which spent over a decade impounded by customs until they helped get a Federal law passed allowing for "show and display" of cars that hadn't been crash certified in the USA.

      There are a lot of Bill Gates stories, they just don't get brought up when talking about his charity work.
      Your UID is low enough that you should already know some of them.

  • The issues of renewable energy and energy independence have taken center stage in both media and political conversations lately, but the means of achieving various energy goals have proven to be rather controversial. Proposed options dominating news headlines include clean coal, nuclear energy, and offshore drilling. Is there an energy path that we can all agree upon?

    The answer is yes, and Rocky Mountain Institute [rmi.org] and Chief Scientist Amory Lovins [rmi.org] were featured in a New York Times [rmi.org] blog in response to last years Presidential Debate. Energy efficiency, a solution at the core of RMIs [rmi.org] work, was discussed as a viable and economically profitable resolution to both energy and economy issues. New York Times writer Kate Galbraith points out that RMI [rmi.org] and Amory Lovins [rmi.org] have consistently advocated the benefits of a soft-path approach to energy, with efficiency at its core. You can read the article here [rmi.org].

    When it comes to nuclear power specifically, every dollar invested in new US nuclear electricity will save approximately 2-11 times less carbon, and will do so roughly 20-40 times slower, than investing in the same dollar in energy efficiency and micropower (cogeneration plus renewables minus big hydro dams). Buying new nuclear capacity instead of efficiency causes more carbon to be released than spending the same money on new coal plants!

    These conclusions and the empirical evidence supporting them are summarized in Forget Nuclear [rmi.org], and fully documented in The Nuclear Illusion [rmi.org], available for download here [rmi.org], which is to be published in early 2009 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences journal Ambio.

    Hopefully our vision will help put these widely publicized issues into perspective and move us all toward a better understanding that takes us beyond politically divisive issues to collective and viable solutions.

    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @04:36PM (#31588902) Journal

      For those interested, Rocky Mountain Institute loves to creatively play with numbers [blogspot.com], just like any other organization created for the purpose of propaganda of a particular idea; so take it all with a grain of sault, and double-check the sources for both numbers and context.

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