Microsoft founder Bill Gates met with China’s largest nuclear group this week to discuss the future of the country’s nuclear energy program. Gates is the founder and primary investor of TerraPower, a nuclear reactor design firm headquartered in Bellevue, Washington.
TerraPower is researching a type of nuclear fast reactor called the traveling wave reactor (TWR), considered a fourth generation reactor. Traditional reactors in use around the world use enriched uranium as fuel and need to be refueled every few years to remain functional. TWRs will use depleted uranium instead of enriched uranium and will be able to operate for 40 to 60 years before needing to be refueled.
Aside from not having to refuel the reactors as often, TWRs are safer than traditional reactors and generate very little waste. During a press conference on Wednesday, Gates said that TerraPower is having good discussions with CNNC (China’s biggest nuclear group) and other people in the Chinese government including the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Gates warned that things don’t move as fast in the nuclear industry as they do in digital technologies and as such, talks are still in the very early stages. TerraPower subsequently released a statement saying that the company has explored options in China, India, Russia and other countries with active nuclear programs and that the recent meetings in China are part of that effort. But as of now, there are no deals to speak to at this time.