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Gates teams up with China to build nuclear reactor

Microsoft co-founder in talks with state-owned firm to develop ‘cleaner’ technology, reports say

Dec. 5, 2011 – South China Morning Post

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (pictured) is holding talks with the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to jointly develop a new type of nuclear reactor.

“A company he [Bill Gates] founded is working with us and he will visit us in a few days for more talks on co-operation,” said corporation general manager Sun Qin in a speech delivered at a forum in Beijing on Friday, which was later released on mainland news portals.

“He is working with us to conduct research on a new type of nuclear reactor and jointly develop [it] with CNNC,” said Sun, who heads China’s top nuclear developer, overseeing military and civilian programmes.

While Sun did not give details about the new reactor technology, postings on the corporation’s website show that TerraPower – of which Gates is chairman – has been talking with CNNC since 2009 about developing a travelling-wave reactor, or TWR. Gates has visited CNNC at least twice.

TWR, a virtual design by TerraPower that has yet to be built or tested, is 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 they could be used for years without refuelling.

TerraPower has been trying to find a country willing to host the first TWR. It remains unknown whether the co-operation with CNNC means China will become the first country to experiment with such a reactor.

Gates visited CNNC in June to discuss possible co-operation between the two companies. Three months later, TerraPower CEO John Gilleland held talks with Sun about co-operating on the TWR.

The concept for TWR had been floating around for years until a former Mircosoft executive and a friend of Gates, Nathan Myrhvold, embraced the idea. Since Gates’ retirement from Microsoft, promoting and developing clean-energy technology has been one of his pursuits.

Lin Boqiang , director of Xiamen University’s Centre of China Energy Economics Research, said the partnership would no doubt raise China’s profile as it struggled with nuclear safety concerns after disaster-hit Japan’s meltdown in March.

“For Gates, China could not be a better partner to work with, given the country’s vast market for nuclear energy,” the professor said.

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