Sarah Kessler
December 7, 2011

Bill Gates is in discussions with China to jointly develop a new and more efficient type of nuclear reactor.

“The idea is to be very low cost, very safe and generate very little waste,” Gates told CBC and other news outlets while giving a talk at China’s Ministry of Science and Technology on Wednesday.

Gates is an investor and the chairman of an energy startup called TerraPower, which recently completed a design for a reactor that it says can run without refueling for decades on depleted uranium – currently a waste byproduct of the enrichment process.

“Huge amounts of depleted uranium, useless to today’s reactors, already exist in stockpiles around the world,” explains TerraPower’s website. “Stocks of this material grow as uranium is enriched for the refueling of conventional reactors. [TerraPower’s reactor] directly converts depleted uranium to usable fuel as it operates. As a result, this inexpensive but energy-rich fuel source could provide a global electricity supply that is, for all practical purposes, inexhaustible.”

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