Environmental and MS Newsgroups have posted that former Microsoft CEO turned philanthropist Bill Gates is teaming up with Japanese nuclear technology giant Toshiba Corp. to develop a next-generation nuclear reactor. TerraPower, a U.S. start-up company backed by Microsoft are investigating technology for mini-reactors, which are more cost-efficient than conventional units.
Toshiba and TerraPower have begun exchanging information in a move that would bring together Gates’ ample wealth and the know-how and experience which the Japanese electronics giant has established in the nuclear power business. Mr. Gates is the principal owner of TerraPower, which investigates ways to improve emission-free energy supplies using small nuclear reactors. Under the partnership and agreement, Toshiba would provide TerraPower with the expertise to manufacture nuclear power equipment. Gates is expected to invest his personal wealth on the development of the reactor, which could reach billions, newsgroups have reported. The hope is that the new reactors might be suitable for use in cities or emerging-market countries.
Toshiba expects to get U.S. approval for its ultra compact design this fall and start construction of the first such reactor by 2014. Mini-reactors could last up to 100 years without refueling, unlike today’s units which need replenishing every few years. Power outputs of these units are projected to range from 100-thousand to 1-million kilowatts which is much larger than current commercialized reactors. Current light-water reactors require refueling once every several years. The company is preparing to apply for US approval to start constructing the first such reactor as early as 2014 and put it into practical use by the end of the decade.
The deal was sealed when Gates visited the Japanese maker’s nuclear research center in Yokohama near Tokyo in November. Gates, a newsgroup subscriber who is deeply involved in global health work through his private foundation, has shown a growing interest in nuclear and other energy technologies that could potentially meet the power needs of the world’s poor without contributing to global warming.