Bill Gates on Nuclear Energy and TerraPower

Microsoft founder and extraordinary philanthropist Bill Gates is also a nuclear energy enthusiast.

In this excellent TeD presentation, Bill Gates talks about energy and climate, and the need for “miracles” to… well, save the world. He is a prominent investor in the nuclear reactor development firm TerraPower (for more details on the “traveling wave” reactor concept the company is developing, see this post at ANS Nuclear Cafe, and this interview with TerraPower CEO John Gilleland in ANS Nuclear News magazine).

Note that in the talk, Gates focuses on the need for nuclear technology to ameliorate climate issues in the 21st century—but an equally compelling case can be made for nuclear technology as essential to combat premature mortality due to fossil fuel combustion (estimated in the tens of thousands each year), or potentially devastating ocean acidification… clean and abundant baseload energy solves a long list of problems.

Bill Gates talks with The Wall Street Journal about nuclear technology and TerraPower.

 

9 Responses to Bill Gates on Nuclear Energy and TerraPower

  1. James Greenidge

    Er, Gee Bill, that’s nice and all about your hot enthuse for nuclear energy, but outside niche audiences like this, you’re as loud and clear to the rest of the greater voting public as Paul Newman currently is. So much for mute cheerleaders when we can really do with highly regarded high-powered nuclear promotion air support like in Vermont right now.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  2. Er, James, Paul Newman has been dead for a number of years.

    On the other hand, every voice helps unless it’s stupid, which Gates is not. He has an ability to break into the “TED-talk” crowd something most pro-nuclear activists can’t do. That is he can talk to audiences usually hostile to nuclear energy that often dominate the high-tech/yuppie solar types.

    David Walters
    San Francisco

  3. Most of us measure the effectiveness of someone like Bill Gates (the celebrated and wealthy) with an imperfect view of his influence and the circles he inhabits. I am extremely pleased to hear of his interest and support of non-fossil technology. We really don’t know how he influences those who will have an impact on public opinion and policy. As for his apparent lack of support for VY, perhaps he sees the TWR Terra Power technology as different from VY vintage nukes as interplanetary travel is to the 737. I suspect Gates is in it for the promise of a breakthrough. VY is a slog through the mud with poorly informed antis.

  4. Re: ‘Er, James, Paul Newman has been dead for a number of years.’

    Think that was Jim’s point. Gates should be shouting his pro-nuclear from the mountaintops. There are nuclear plants under siege where his endorsement would help.

  5. So how does TWR or IFR deal with LOCA events?
    Decades long ‘no fuel’ up-keep seems a little non-realistic maybe possible ‘low maintenance’ sell point. These reactors are techy I’d use them on shipboard like icebreakers or a re-designed USN.
    Selling this SMR for commercial NPP is tough.
    Like where’s the price point comparisons?

  6. The Wiki says “IFRs are able to withstand both a loss of flow without SCRAM and loss of heat sink without SCRAM. In addition to passive shutdown of the reactor, the convection current generated in the primary coolant system will prevent fuel damage (core meltdown). These capabilities were demonstrated in the EBR-II. The ultimate goal is that no radioactivity will be released under any circumstance”, but doesn’t specifically address a loss of all sodium in the reactor pool.

    So unless former ANS Chairman Eric Loewen is tuning in (http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/nuclear-waste-disposal-1209), or I finish reading Dr. Charles Till’s “Plentiful Energy”, that’s the best I can offer for now.

  7. Making a claim of “no waste” is a BOLDFACE LIE. I have been following this for sometime and have never seen anything about byproducts. This fallacy that ‘burning’ U238 – a byproduct of enriching fissile U235 – constitutes “no waste” absolutely floors me.

    The word “burn” is being used to mislead you about the process of TWR. “Burn” implies that U238 will vanish from world stockpiles and we can all shake hands, pick flowers, and fly away to Utopia. Check your wallet. With any reaction there is always a product. TWRs operate by nuclear reaction, not combustion. Bill Gates is using rhetoric and the sway of public opinion to push this through the regulatory process without prudence.

    There are several issues that need to be addressed. With a potential benefit of this magnitude comes a magnified social responsibility. I want to know how TerraPower intends to address neutron enbrittlement to reactor materials . . . I want to know what byproducts will be produced and left after the U238 has fully reacted . . . And, I want a detailed risk assessment published for public review . . . before NEPA analysis.

    I’m surprised that no one has found Bill’s propaganda threatening in any way; Not one journalist, not one engineer, no one rational being, in the several years this energy development has been in the public arena, has generated any meaningful discourse about the risks.

    Under current legislature, Bill Gates does not have to disclose the risks until just before construction begins. Look what happened in TVA v. Hill. Only this time a whole lot more is at stake than placing a small fish in jeopardy. Nuclear energy is a million times more productive, but also a million times more destructive.

    Do we address the dangers now, or call them unintended consequences later?

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  9. ansnuclearcafe

    CEO John Gilleland talks about this a bit in the Nuclear News article at http://www.new.ans.org/pubs/magazines/nn/y_2009/m_9 – see if that is of use. Or try the MIT Technology Review by Matt Wald & comments at http://www2.technologyreview.com/article/412188/tr10-traveling-wave-reactor/