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Al Fin

Al Fin

Al Fin runs a number of very successful blogs that cover, energy, technology, news and politics.

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Bill Gates Backs Terrapower's Traveling Wave Reactor

Mr. Gates got the project rolling with seed money in the tens of millions of dollars. Venture-capital firms Charles River Ventures and Khosla Ventures invested $35 million last year. Nuclear-industry veteran John Gilleland is TerraPower's chief executive; a network of part-time researchers and scientists around the country offer input. _WSJ

Traveling Wave Reactor

The Traveling Wave Reactor is designed to run for decades, using depleted uranium as fuel. With such reactors, Iran would have no need for its elaborate and expensive uranium enrichment facilities -- at least if all Iran wishes to do is to produce electricity from nuclear fission power plants.

Obama's NRC is unlikely to certify such a design for many years -- if ever. The NRC as it currently exists is conservative to the point of being fanatically obstructive to newer, safer, more economical and sustainable nuclear power designs. Only big players who have established an inside political position with the Obama administration -- such as General Electric -- need apply.

The traveling-wave reactor is still virtual, existing only in software on computers at TerraPower headquarters. Mr. Myrhvold says there is a basic design, not a full blueprint. But it's enough for the next step: building a test version of the reactor. TerraPower is looking for a customer, such as an electric utility, and a country that is willing to house an experimental reactor.

The company has made pitches in France and Japan, Mr. Myrhvold says; both have big nuclear-power industries. He's also made the rounds in Russia, China and India, he says. So far, there have been no takers.

One country he is certain won't be a customer anytime soon is the U.S., which doesn't yet have a certification process for reactors like TerraPower's. It would likely be a decade or more before the reactor could be tested on U.S. soil. "I don't think the U.S. has the willpower or desire to build new kinds of nuclear reactors," Mr. Myrhvold says. "Right now there's a long, drawn-out process." _WSJ

The current US government -- at least the executive, regulatory branch -- is antagonistic toward any type of energy which is reliable and affordable. Which means that only exorbitantly expensive and unreliable wind and solar are actually favoured within the inner circle of the Obama administration.

That is an unfortunate attitude for any government to take, in the face of a potential multi-decadal global cooling spell. How much worse when such a government is the executive branch of the world's only superpower. The coming days and years may not only be cold and dark, but downright unruly.

By. Al Fin


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  • Anonymous on March 04 2011 said:
    Bill Gates should also invest in aneutronic fusion because it is more environmentally friendly. http://www.crossfirefusion.com/nuclear-fusion-reactor/overview.html
  • Anonymous on March 15 2011 said:
    Bill Gates should take a trip to Japan when all the dust has settled. Alternatives to their hot nuclear program might find a warm reception.
  • Anonymous on March 16 2011 said:
    What B.G. is pushing is exactly what the United States nuclear research establishment had been working on for years - a liquid metal cooled fast breeder reactor. Problem is, Jimmy Carter rejected plutonium because of proliferation concerns and, although its been 30 years since J.C. retired from the presidency, his edict has yet to be officially repudiated as far as I know. Also, if its dangerous to build a water-cooled reactor where you might have an earthquake and then a tsunami, imagine how dangerous it would be to build a sodium-cooled reactor where you wouldn't DARE pump seawater into the reactor vessel to keep it cool. But hey ... if some country like China or Russia is willing to take a chance with BG's design, and they can develop a good system of safeguards, I'm all for it.

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