Bill Gates Making Progress On Next Generation Of Nuclear Power — In China
The last two weeks of September was quite the time for news – the Pope’s visit, the Speaker’s exit, the Chinese President’s visit, the United Nations General Assembly, huge Hurricane Joaquin, weird House committee rants, flowing water on Mars, more Trumpeting, the new Daily Show.
But the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Seattle on his way to the east coast, was little heralded in the nation at large. Disputes over computer hacking, cyber-plundering and limits on U.S. firms’ access to Chinese markets have tensions high between the two federal governments, to the point where unleashing economic sanctions on Chinese businesses is a definite possibility.
China’s increasing territorial assertiveness in South East Asia is also weighing on everyone’s mind.
But Washington State is doing well with China.
Washington State exports more stuff to China than to any other nation. Airplanes top the list, but petroleum and agricultural exports aren’t far behind, especially soybeans, wheat, corn, potatoes, fruit, wine and wood. All needed for a population four times as large as the United States.
Bill Gates’ nuclear power company, TerraPower, signed an agreement with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) allowing the two companies to collaborate on advanced nuclear technologies that address safety, environmental and cost issues. The MOU was signed by TerraPower CEO Lee McIntire and CNNC President Qian Zhimin, as Washington’s Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen and Bill Gates looked on (see figure).
China’s plan to build 400 new nuclear reactors by mid-century means a huge market for any company dedicated to design and build next-generation reactors. Last year, President Jinping called for even faster development of nuclear energy, as discussed in Forbes/Asia.
Bill Gates has long understood the essential role of reliable power in eradicating global poverty, and its evil stepchildren war and terrorism, and decided that nuclear was the best long-term solution for base load power.
What is needed for the next thousand years are new-generation nuclear fast-reactors, a design that gets ten times more energy out of the same amount of fuel as a traditional reactor. The waste is much easier to handle, cannot be used to make weapons, and is only hot for a few hundred years – not thousands.
TerraPower’s version of this reactor is called the Traveling Wave Reactor (TWR), a liquid sodium-cooled fast reactor that uses depleted or natural uranium as fuel, and can even burn spent fuel from our old reactors.
TerraPower plans to build a 600 MWe plant first by the early 2020s, followed by a larger 1,150 MWe commercial plant.