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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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  • 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!

  • See Ted Talks (Score:5, Interesting)

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

    Bill gave a speech on this at last years tedtalks. []

  • Re:I Don't Know Man (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ciaohound ( 118419 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:21AM (#31584178)

    Yes, you know the Windows monopoly is finally threatened with real competition when Bill Gates begins development of a new means of holding the world ransom, for one billion dollars.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:28AM (#31584302)

    Intellectual Ventures, eh? If you believe all those article in Techdirt (here [],
    here [] and
    here []), 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Depleted Uranium (Score:2, Interesting)

    by g8oz ( 144003 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:38PM (#31585406)

    The fact that you can run this reactor from depleted uranium should give pause to those who think it's okay for the U.S military to be using DU weapons in combat.

    Harmful aftereffects of DU do exist contrary to what the Pentagon says. It poisons the land and poisons the people. It's a slow burning WMD and it's use should be declared the war crime that it is.

    Here is what happened in Fallujah:
    Birth defects rise reported by Fallujah doctors []
    Docs Blame U.S. Weapons for Fallujah Birth Defects []

  • by davonshire ( 94424 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:08PM (#31586912)

    I can't help but notice all the comments about Gates and the cuts over shadowed the main focus of the article being this Traveling Wave Reactor.

    A run over to Wikipedia gave me some reason to doubt this amazing power system. Mostly being that it was theorized in 1958, but to date unlike many other reactor types, no one has built a prototype even.

    So the question then comes, does anyone know of newer information or why a prototype hasn't been built for testing? It may not put out as much power as a LWR, but it seems it would have exceptional commercial value considering the kind of fuel it uses.

    Just curious.


  • How does this work? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:49PM (#31587600)

    Does anyone actually understand the PDF? It sounds too much like a perpetual motion scam to me.

  • by cheetah ( 9485 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:51PM (#31587644)

    I remember seeing an interview with a cold-war military scientist that was working on a automated nuclear powered bomber. And even though it never got out of concept phase, they had already figured that after it had dropped the bombs that they would have it fly race track patterns over the USSR. Because it had a rather radioactive exhaust and it was a feature that they had planned on using. So DARPA thought of radioactive military vehicles in the 60's.

  • Your statements about the effect of efficiency are pretty close to 100% wrong.

    1. Living closer to work does not equal a more efficient car, so you are not making sense right off the bat.

    2. If you do have a more efficient car, it is more efficient all the time, even if you end up driving a bit more. The amount of extra driving people are prepared to do if gas prices go down is nowhere near the amount of gas we could save if we doubled passenger vehicle efficiency. People don't have the time to double their driving, but doubling vehicle efficiency is already possible.

    3. All transportation energy usage is only 28% of the energy usage of the US. This includes trucks, planes, trains etc... In all of these sectors efficiency can drop usage more than lower prices can increase demand.

    4. We are talking about nuclear, which creates electricity. Most vehicles are not powered by electricity.

    5. People don't actually care about how much electricity they are using. They care about the services they get from their energy. If energy prices go down because everyone has more efficiency TV's and refrigerators, most people are not going to think "SCORE, let's get ANOTHER refrigerator."

    6. In states with high efficiency standards, energy usage per capita, and per unit of economic productivity does down. Better efficiency does in fact work, and we are just scratching the surface of the potential. see: []

    For further reading, I recommend []

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