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Power Hardware

Bill Gates May Build Small Nuclear Reactor 347

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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  • 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 pgmrdlm ( 1642279 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:04AM (#31583902) Journal

    Naaa, Bill G. is a closet OpenBSD fan for all his personal use. He would never trust something as slipshod as windows to support anything he is personally involved in.

  • 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 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

  • by Talderas ( 1212466 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:26AM (#31584258)

    I still be the greens will oppose this tech under the grounds that it doesn't reduce waste ENOUGH.

    It will encourage growth, the very last thing the greens want. Expect to see opposition to it.

  • Re:Non story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AndrewNeo ( 979708 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:29AM (#31584312) Homepage

    No, but you think Slashdot is going to portray Gates as the hero?

  • by 605dave ( 722736 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:31AM (#31584336) Homepage
    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!
  • Re:Non story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:40AM (#31584474) Journal
    Troll much?

    Gates' actual quote:

    “if we do a really great job on vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that [his initial 2050 global population projection of 9-billion] by perhaps about 10 to 15 percent.”

    Sure, I suppose that could mean that he advocates surreptitiously sterilizing Third-World women under the guise of providing health services.

    But what it probably means is that he believes societies with better access to health care have a greater fraction of children survive to adulthood and see far, far, far fewer of their women die in childbirth. Access to birth control permits women to space out their children more, with benefits to the health of mother and child. Those societies (like, say, the villianous dystopias of Canada and Switzerland) tend to have lower overall birth rates and stable populations.

  • by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:50AM (#31584624)
    To be fair - this is a hard day for the poor average slashbot. Should he praise nukular power or damn Bill Gates to hell? Decisions, decisions...
  • by delinear ( 991444 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:59AM (#31584726)
    The irony is that burning oil and coal for the last 25 years has probably left the environment much worse off than if everyone had thrown up nuclear reactors in the 80's. Sure, the greens would object to burning coal and oil too, but sometimes you have to compromise and accept the lesser of two evils.
  • by el3mentary ( 1349033 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:06PM (#31584840)

    What I don't get is why he doesn't invest in an American company, like Westinghouse, or B&W, or GE...

    It's nothing personal it's just good financial sense nowadays.

  • Re:Non story (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:07PM (#31584864)

    Tony Stark led a movement to create a national registry for all super-powered individuals, including their real identities (which means access to their families). Supers were required to become government agents and obey their new employers' orders. This meant they could be hauled off to prison in the negative zone when they stepped out of line.

    Tony Stark led the movement to force Supers to have a license to be alive, else they would be fugitives or imprisoned in the soul-destroying negative zone. He's the modern Marvel equivalent of Stalin (no godwin for me).

  • Re:It's official (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jpmorgan ( 517966 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:29PM (#31585256) Homepage

    Damn that dastardly Bill Gates with his plan to save millions of lives through vaccinations and effective health care for the third world!

  • by OMFG it's Rici ( 1564141 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:29PM (#31585260)
    US reactor technology is stuck in the 1970s. France is already implementing new generation reactors and even the oldest they still have in service are more advanced than the newest reactors operating in the US. Anyways, back to the original topic: I think this new reactor design that Bill Gates is endorsing is very promising. Thumbs up.
  • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:45PM (#31585524)

    Having survived Chernobyl it gives me a great fear if such reactor runs Windows. We will all be glowing in a dark after that blue screen....

    Clearly you know very little about the Chernobyl disaster. If the people responsible for it had been forced to put up with 1,000,000 "Allow or Deny" requests, they would have never managed to disable enough safety devices to make the reactor fail. "Security through annoyance" wins again!

  • 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 perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:49PM (#31585600)

    Naaa, Bill G. is a closet OpenBSD fan for all his personal use. He would never trust something as slipshod as windows to support anything he is personally involved in.

    It has been a while but last time I read a Windows licensing agreement it actually contained a clause prohibiting its use in nuclear reactor control. Your joke is really not that far from reality.

  • by confused one ( 671304 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:21PM (#31586110)
    Not to mention that if Chernobyl had been built with any kind of containment structure at all it might not have been as devastating when it did "blue screen". (Think firewall... meter thick reinforced concrete firewall.)
  • by centuren ( 106470 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:43PM (#31586438) Homepage Journal

    I don't see why anyone would be surprised by this. He's already a multi-billionaire business tycoon with his own custom-built fortress. Since the job of Batman is already taken, the transition to supervillain is the next logical step.

    But he's SO far behind Larry Ellison in that area.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:03PM (#31586814)

    Nice plan, but make sure you don't accidentally your house.

    Also don't accidentally a word.

  • 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.

  • by Black Gold Alchemist ( 1747136 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:33PM (#31587354)
    Efficiency is a trendy thing because everyone can talk about it. A million people think they can save the world through efficiency, while only a few can actually solve the problem through invention of renewable and nuclear energy. The problem is that all the energy efficiency in the world amounts turning down the radio in your car to save fuel mileage - nothing. In addition, efficiency does not reduce energy consumption. Let's say you move closer to work to save gas. What happens? Gas prices fall a bit because of your contribution. What then happens? More economic activity is created to use up the difference - phones and other products will have more plastic, somebody will drive longer, all to offset your contribution. In fact, it is possible that people will use up more energy, because new business will become possible at the lower gas price. The result is that efficiency is not worth anything at reducing energy consumption. It does allow more stuff to happen, which is good, but should not be thought of as a "green" activity.

    Ironically, environmentalism and safetism (the idea that you should wear safety glasses while working with salt) are the real costs and obstacles to nuclear power. Ask China how much nuclear power really costs. See here on slashdot [slashdot.org]. 11 gigawatts for 6 billion dollars - and that's a prototype - 0.54 dollars/watt. Meanwhile, solar panels at the cheapest I could find them are 1.73 dollars/watt peak. In reality, the nuclear powerplant will be "on" %80 of the time, and the solar panel will be on %30 of the time if were lucky. So the result is 0.68 dollars/watt for nuclear and 2.16 dollars/watt of solar. What you can see is that nuclear is 3 times more expensive then solar. In addition, you should be aware that the production of solar panels is an extremely nasty process, consuming indium and other forms of unobtainium.

    What we need is to convert coal plants to nuclear. We don't need vision or perspective, only a calculator and lust for the dollar. We'll drag the world into the atomic age, kicking and screaming.
  • 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.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.