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Bill Gates To Develop a Revolutionary Nuclear Reactor With Korea 413

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-to-the-people dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft founder Bill Gates has pledged to develop with Korea a revolutionary nuclear reactor that will leave far less radioactive waste than existing ones. Gates invested US$35 million in a nuclear-power venture company TerraPower in 2010. TerraPower is led by John Gilleland. It was formed from an effort initiated in 2007 by Nathan Myhrvold's company, Intellectual Ventures. The company includes expert staff and individual consultants who have worked for some of the most prestigious nuclear laboratories and engineering companies in the world." You may remember that Gates worked with China to build a reactor late last year.
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Bill Gates To Develop a Revolutionary Nuclear Reactor With Korea

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  • My God (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:31AM (#41053785)
    Microsoft is working together with the North Koreans to kill us all! Give all my moneys to DHS and TSA!
    • Re:My God (Score:5, Informative)

      by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:35AM (#41053835) Homepage Journal
      As a general rule, if someone in the free world just says "Korea," they usually mean South Korea. It's one of those annoying namespace pollution games, like how "China" now always means mainland China, and never Taiwan (although that one's somewhat more understandable, since they have the chunk of territory called China, whereas the Republic of Korea only has half of the Korean peninsula.)
      • As a general rule, if someone in the free world just says "Korea," they usually mean South Korea. It's one of those annoying namespace pollution games...

        That may be, but prepending "North" or "South" is so simple that very few people are lazy enough to drop it. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've seen the term to refer to a country rather than the continent.

      • by Bongo (13261)

        And "America" often means USA.

      • by mbone (558574)

        As a general rule, if someone in the free world just says "Korea," they usually mean South Korea.

        But, the story would be much more interesting if they actually meant the DPRK.

      • Re:My God (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Teun (17872) on Monday August 20, 2012 @10:47AM (#41054705) Homepage
        But is a general rule good enough when the subject includes a nuclear reactor AND Bill Gates?
    • Well that's okay. I'd rather Microsoft worked with Kim Jong-Un than Kim Dotcom. The latter is a real danger to democracy.

    • Re:My God (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 1s44c (552956) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:45AM (#41053979)

      Microsoft is working together with the North Koreans to kill us all! Give all my moneys to DHS and TSA!

      South Korea.

      South - good.
      North - US says they I bad, I really don't know for sure though.

      • You should watch some videos of people who have been to North Korea and video taped some of it. There's also a documentary about the more underground life.

        It's absolutely terrible. I'd say it's like 1984, but at least in 1984 they had chocolate.

  • by hsmith (818216) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:34AM (#41053821)
    I assume US regulation is far too extreme to pursue such ventures. Gates can get more bang for his buck in a country where it doesn't take 20 years just to get approval to move forward.
    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      where it doesn't take 20 years just to get approval to move forward.

      Annnnd where's there's very little regulation governing how you dispose of your environmental waste, or hazmat containment/exposure. Yep, he's a genius.

      • by d3ac0n (715594) on Monday August 20, 2012 @10:02AM (#41054195)

        RTFA dude (yes, I know, this is /. where nobody RTFAs) The reactor is designed to produce significantly LESS waste than existing designs. the problem is that getting permits for experimental reactors in the US is even harder than getting one for a known reactor design. We have hobbled ourselves in the Nuclear power area, indeed in ALL power areas due to our extreme fear of all things nuclear. (Despite living on a radioactive mostly molten ball with a thin hard crust orbiting around a giant fusion reaction in space as we get bombarded with interstellar radiation.)

        • Just call it a Quantum Computer that Makes Energy as it produces Truly Random Numbers!
      • by tmosley (996283)
        Yes, much better to have it so heavily regulated that it can't be moved at all, and they store it all on site forever and ever until you have a 50 meter tall pile of nuclear waste, then containment fails, and it all falls into the river, killing everyone and everything downstream. Yeah, too bad we didn't allow LFTRs to be built, which would have consumed all that shit as fuel, leaving only useful isotopes as waste.
    • by vlm (69642) on Monday August 20, 2012 @11:12AM (#41054969)

      I assume US regulation is far too extreme to pursue such ventures. Gates can get more bang for his buck in a country where it doesn't take 20 years just to get approval to move forward.

      Kind of. SFRs are about 50 years old, even in the USA. We have, err, had, about a half dozen of them. Those crazy soviets put them in subs which they promptly set on fire and sunk. Its old icky tech. No one wants them if they can use a PWR or BWR design instead. The latest spin is to try to market them as something new even though they aren't new. Just like IT, everything old is eventually new again, and sometimes it even works. SFRs are the "cloud computing" of nuclear engineering.

      For non-nuke noobs, a SFR is just like any other reactor except:

      1) The coolant is sodium instead of water, so its hyper flammable and this scares the hell out of everyone involved, so every plant has had excellent safety and production records, well, except for the ones that caught fire.

      2) Ditto above water is neutron activated for "a couple seconds" so other than impurities / leakage into the coolant, the coolant is basically radioactively harmless, however sodium does neutron activate and takes a couple days for enough half lifes to pass before its harmless (radioactively). Note I'm talking about the coolant itself not impurities or leakage into the coolant which is unchanged, more or less. So thats a bit freaky. You can draw PWR/BWR primary loop coolant and by they time it flows thru the "just in case" filters its cool enough to dump directly into the sewers. Sodium takes a bit longer and dumping it into the sewers is not exactly encouraged behavior, although I'm sure its terribly entertaining.

      3) Other than being flammable and radioactive, sodium is a near ideal coolant. You won't have corrosion issues like hot high pressure water. Endless stories about 20 year old pumps being pulled out of service and appearing to be brand new. Although there were some "hilarious" near disasters with eutectic alloy formation and that was all figured out 40 years ago.

      4) Sodium solidifies into a solid lump at room temp. This is kind of an issue for operational concerns. OK time to boot up the reactor, pull the control rods. Oh wait, they're frozen in place. Well then. And once you fix that and get the reactor cooking, the pumps are jammed so you've got to heat them.

      5) Vapor pressure at operating temp is basically nil, at least compared to water. So the reactor vessel is more or less unpressurized (well yeah you blow argon over it instead of room air, but ... its just a argon blanket not 1000 psi steam like PWRs / BWRs) So all this fukushima splitting open stuff is not really relevant. Of course if you did split one in half it would be the end of the freaking world...

      6) The "overheat leads to high temp chemical reaction with cladding leads to H2 buildup leads to kaboom" aka fukishima is literally chemically impossible. "unplug" a SFR like happened in Japan and basically nothing happens it just inherently calms itself down and eventually will freeze itself solid. Crazy but true. Isn't nuclear engineering cool that way? PWR and BWR to some extent or another will try to blow themselves up if abandoned so you engineer "fail safe" by making them really tough, but an abandoned SFR just kinda sits there all hot at a constant temperature and does nothing. Its kind of boring that way. Until the local fire department decides to hose it down with fire hoses. Sodium doesn't like water very much. Err actually red hot sodium likes water a lot, its just the nearby humans that dislike the fireball.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium-cooled_fast_reactor [wikipedia.org]

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Fukushima didn't just fail because it was unplugged, there was also earthquake damage to some of the cooling system and a critical valve. Details are still emerging as the plant is explored, but basically I hope they don't have big earthquakes in South Korea. Leaking radioactive sodium coolant doesn't sound like fun.

        • by vlm (69642)

          Fukushima didn't just fail because it was unplugged, there was also earthquake damage to some of the cooling system and a critical valve.

          As long as the reactor vessel is intact, no leaks, then a SFR will just sit there and do nothing rather than blow up fukushima style. Shut 'er down and walk away safe, like I said..

          That is not to say you couldn't design a SFR almost intentionally to be not "walk away safe". I'm sure a moron could implement a drain valve thats only closed when power is applied to it, or a fire sprinker that only shuts off water flow while power is applied, etc. But at a nuclear / thermodynamic / chemistry level SFRs can j

      • by radtea (464814)

        While liquid sodium is no one's idea of a fun material to work with, there are a couple of things you're not quite accurate on.

        The big one is why you think the coolant might be in contact with the control rods.

        You also don't mention that the shutdown/restart cycle is much simple due to the relative lack of iodine poisoning, the amount of energy extracted from the fuel is much higher, and the amount of long-lived waste produced is much smaller.

        There's also the point that materials and manufacturing have adva

    • by careysub (976506)

      I assume US regulation is far too extreme to pursue such ventures. Gates can get more bang for his buck in a country where it doesn't take 20 years just to get approval to move forward.

      Glad you made it clear that it is only an assumption you have.

      The real reason is obvious - South Korea has no native or cheap sources of energy (like natural gas) and has a government sponsored development corporation (KOPEC) to develop and build nuclear power plants, which already supply 45% of the nation's electricity.

      In the U.S. nuclear power plants have to compete with cheap natural gas plants, which on straight-up business investment grounds they routinely lose out. To overcome the financial handicap n

  • by sinij (911942) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:34AM (#41053829) Journal
    I really appreciate that someone is working on advancing nuclear energy. Oil and gas are fine for now, but eventually we will need reliable non-oil/gas based energy solution. I believe nuclear, once sufficiently mature, could be that alternative.
    • by oakgrove (845019)
      Maybe we're reading a different thread but I haven't seen any "MS sniping". My question is this: when you say "somebody is working on nuclear power", am I to believe that BG and his team are the only people actually working on the state of the art in reactors? Because without knowing I'd say that is absolutely fucking absurd.
    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Monday August 20, 2012 @10:53AM (#41054773) Journal
      MS sniping? The involvement of Intellectual Ventures, a scumbag patent troll, is far more interesting. IV distinguish themselves by not just buying up patent portfolios, but also assembling think tanks to come up with the next obvious human activity "but on the internet" or "but with 1 click" to lay claim to. In this case however, it seems they are funding some actual, practical research.

      Sniping aside, I'd be more interested in someone making a bid to develop a practical Thorium based MSR. This SFR reactor is supposedly an advanced gen IV design. How safe are these things considered to be?
    • by Jonner (189691)

      Nuclear is certainly one of the energy sources we need to expand. We shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that one or two sources will solve all our problems.

  • by Yosho (135835) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:35AM (#41053837) Homepage

    I mean, we can probably guess which Korea they're referring to here, but last time I checked, they hadn't been reunified yet. I really hope that Bill Gates isn't building a nuclear reactor for North Korea.

    • by unitron (5733)

      Maybe he achieved re-unification while we weren't looking, and now it's on to the next project over there.

  • Thorium (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dicobalt (1536225) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:35AM (#41053843)
    That's all I have to say about that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:36AM (#41053863)
    A lot of people would just sit on their fortunes (Warren Buffet) or piss it away on political bullshit (Koch brothers). I know a lot of the crowd here is anti-Microsoft, but it's nice to see Bill Gates doing something with his hoard and something halfway-geeky to boot!
    • by j-pimp (177072)

      A lot of people would just sit on their fortunes (Warren Buffet) or piss it away on political bullshit (Koch brothers). I know a lot of the crowd here is anti-Microsoft, but it's nice to see Bill Gates doing something with his hoard and something halfway-geeky to boot!

      Yeah The Oracle from Omaha should give away large chunks of his wealth to philanthropic causes. Oh wait . . . [givingpledge.org]

    • by booch (4157) *

      Warren Buffett is giving 10% of his wealth to the Gates Foundation every year, and has done other philanthropic work. He's never had plans to give it to his children. And he's done a pretty decent job of managing his wealth without harming the average workers at his companies.

  • by DMJC (682799) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:38AM (#41053893)
    Why does anyone need nuclear power? Solar salt thermal plants can do baseload electricity already. There's a proposal to convert Australia to 100% solar thermal/0 carbon emissions in a 10 year time frame and it only costs $400 Billion. That completely eliminates our greenhouse gas issues. http://www.http//beyondzeroemissions.org [www.http] Nuclear/Oil/Gas really are dead end Technologies. We should be conserving nuclear resources for long-haul space travel instead of burning our only real means off this rock.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fredprado (2569351)
      Nuclear power is not only necessary, it is unavoidable, although it may be possible to avoid it in some places, for some time.
      • Cost is a factor (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Firethorn (177587) on Monday August 20, 2012 @10:39AM (#41054625) Homepage Journal

        Indeed; I've had people point out 'Japan's running just fine having shut down ALL their nuclear plants!'. Just recently I read an article* that pointed out that the cost of the oil and natural gas to replace their nuclear plants pushed Japan into a trade deficit for the first time in decades. Now, it didn't have a mention of cost, and the global downturn probably plays a factor, but I found an estimate of $100M/day [thehindu.com], 4.5M barrels of oil. Since Oil is pretty price-inflexible, that 4.5M barrels of oil is coming out of the rest of the world - raising the price of our gasoline, diesel, and other petroleum products.

        LNG imports [reuters.com]: increased 18% in volume, 52% in value, to $67B. Cost to the Japanese: $23B USD equivalent.

        Not the most impartial site, but it quotes $55B [world-nuclear-news.org] in additional fossil fuel imports. It actually says the shutdowns were a bigger cause than all the damage from the Earthquake & Tsunami.

        For those worried about global warming - Green energy isn't ramping up to replace the nuclear power lost anytime soon, and it's led to a substantial increase in Japan's CO2 emissions. Right now Japanese consumers oppose turning the plants back on; but last I heard they're also not seeing an increase in their electric bill yet.

        Finally, to DMJC - How well do you think SST Plants will do during an Alaskan Winter? Beware the 'one true power' fallacy. My goal is 40% nuclear, 20% solar, 20% wind, 20% other(hydro, geothermal, tidal, biomass, etc...)

        *Dead tree publication, Stars & Stripes, Aug 13,2012, 'Fukushima disaster studies call for regulatory reform'.

        • Re:Cost is a factor (Score:4, Interesting)

          by nojayuk (567177) on Monday August 20, 2012 @11:25AM (#41055161)

          Last report I saw said that Japan's carbon emissions are up 17% over last year and that includes a period when many of their nuclear reactors were still running. TEPCO has announced a 9% increase in domestic electricity prices starting in September this year, to cover the cost of the coal and oil imports needed to generate electricity that was previously produced by the nuclear stations.

          Two Japanese reactors at Ohi restarted recently, generating about 2.4GW baseload, that is day and night. Another reactor in Shikoku might restart before winter but the rest are still shut down and will be until the panic is over.

          My "one true power" goal would be 150% nuclear with the extra power being used to produce liquid fuels from atmospheric CO2 for mobile and transport needs.

          • RE: extra power being used to produce liquid fuels from atmospheric CO2 for mobile and transport needs.

            You can't do that!
            The arctic would freeze and we'd miss out on wicked storms like Katrina.
            Shipping lanes in the Arctic are about to open up and hopefully some wars will occur because right-of-way, etc. Wars and storm cleanup are highly profitable. /S

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@NOspaM.world3.net> on Monday August 20, 2012 @01:24PM (#41056729) Homepage

          The point about Japan is that people were saying we would go back to the stone age without nuclear, but that didn't happen. In fact there has been a bit of a boost due to people buying new energy efficient appliances to help reduce power consumption. Remember that threat of rolling blackouts this summer? It was removed because people met the challenges, all without reverting to an agrarian society or even reducing their quality of life in any measurable way.

          I remember that even months after most Japanese reactors were offline there was a story on /. about more European countries deciding to go nuclear free. Some comment about them going back to the stone age was modded +5 informative. Well, that guy and everyone who modded him up has been proven wrong. I'm not saying it hasn't had an affect on Japan, a big affect, but it wasn't the cataclysmic disaster many predicted.

          Now, given a decade or two to slowly reduce dependency and move to non-nuclear sources like other countries are I'd argue that not only will there be little or no pain, there will be huge gains as well. Japan in particular is blessed with more than enough renewable energy for the entire country, it just needs to be tapped and the nuclear industry is very powerful.

    • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:49AM (#41054037)

      Show me a single Solar Salt Thermal plant running in production. Or even one that is almost in production, running anywhere near the power capacities of even these 'little' nuclear power plants. (let alone the Gigawatts of some of the big boys)

      BTW, your "only 400 billion" is a bit crazy.. The US has around 100 Reactors producing about 1/3 of our nations power. At an average replacement cost of about $2billion (each) last I heard. So for that same money, you could move 2/3 of the US to nuclear.. and the land mass used to generate it would be significantly smaller.

      There is no single solution, and I wish people would stop claiming there is.. Moving all of any country to any single power source is plain foolishness.. its going to take a mix of wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, wave power, etc to properly diversify and meet the power needs.

    • by w_dragon (1802458)
      Solar anything isn't a realistic power solution for any part of the world where you get less than 8 hours of sunlight per day for several months straight. Also anyone who lives in a cold climate can tell you that using electricity to heat buildings is horribly inefficient compared to using natural gas or oil.
    • Not every place can rely on solar power. Those that can't may have to rely on very long transmission lines which may not be practical. If you live in Las Vegas, solar salt thermal is practical with its 200+ days of sunshine [worldfactsandfigures.com] whereas Seattle only has 71 days. In terms of constant power generation, fossil fuels and nuclear are really the most reliable and can be used anywhere.
  • by alen (225700) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:38AM (#41053895)

    intellectual ventures is involved. in a few years we'll be paying a licensing fee as part of our bill

  • by robthebloke (1308483) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:40AM (#41053903)
    ... are microsoft getting into the refinement of uranium/plutonium as a way to avoid patent litigation from Apple/Samsung/Google over the surface?

    "We raise your patent for 'a small button on the device front, that allows the user to turn it on', with two 8Kg blocks of plutonium-239, which we shall now hand to your lawyers as one big block, whilst running away very, very, quickly..... ".
    • by Tapewolf (1639955)

      "...and just so that we all know what we're talking about, I've brought some of this stuff with me. Two bars, ladies and gentlemen, of weapons-grade plutonium. A lethal dose at 20 yards! Get it while it's hot!" -- Jedburgh, Edge of Darkness.

      Funny that, I always thought that Grogan (the villain) looked like Bill Gates.

  • ... when the first thing that I think of when I see the headline is that's one way to ensure that he spends all of his money before he dies?
  • doesn't the windows Eula say not for use in nuke plants?

  • Because North Korea is the best Korea

  • by trout007 (975317) on Monday August 20, 2012 @10:03AM (#41054205)

    It's a really cool idea if you can get it to work. It breeds fuel right before it burns it. So you can load the thing once and have it run for 50 years without refueling. It's nice because you don't have to have move large amounts of enriched uranium or plutonium around.

  • by Ronin441 (89631) on Monday August 20, 2012 @10:18AM (#41054357) Homepage

    Is this related to Bill Gates' plan to re-invent the toilet?

  • They can use robot guards [bbc.co.uk], presumably running Windows, to guard the site

  • Ted talk (Score:4, Informative)

    by MikeMo (521697) on Monday August 20, 2012 @11:17AM (#41055035)
    Mr. Gates gave a rather insightful and intelligent discussion of this problem at a recent Ted Talks [google.com]. He makes a pretty solid point that some kind of nuclear power is our only way out of the carbon-destroying-the-earth problem.
  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Monday August 20, 2012 @01:27PM (#41056779) Homepage

    So after all the US companies rejected the idea as unworkable science fiction, and then the Japanese did, and then the Chinese did, Korea is the next sucker up to bat.

    Good luck with that.

  • by Prune (557140) on Monday August 20, 2012 @02:09PM (#41057383)
    Check out this section of a video where Kirk Sorensen, a nuclear and NASA scientist, criticizes TWRs (the class of designs TerraPower is planning to build): http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=P9M__yYbsZ4#t=01h00m25s [youtube.com]

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