Source / Courtesy: China Daily
BEIJING / WASHINGTON – Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates confirmed on Wednesday that a company he helped found is cooperating on the development of a new type of nuclear reactor in China.
“TerraPower is working on what we call Generation-4 nuclear energy. And the idea is to be very low-cost, very safe and generate very little waste,” Gates said at a news conference after he discussed cooperation with Ministry of Science and Technology officials in Beijing on Wednesday. “It is in an early stage,” Gates said.
TerraPower, co-founded by Gates several years ago, is working on the idea of new technologies with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), though Gates said adoption of the technology will not happen quickly.
Under discussion is a traveling-wave reactor, or TWR, a new type of reactor that could reduce the need for the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium.
If successful, TWRs would be smaller, cleaner nuclear reactors that would create less nuclear waste and could be used for years without refueling.
Aware of the long-term risks of storing radioactive waste and of nuclear fuel being diverted to build weapons, scientists since the 1940s have tried to develop methods to recycle the waste by using it as fuel.
TWRs are believed to be a possible solution – but only conceptually – because they have not been built or tested successfully, according to Xu Mi, chief expert of CNNC.