Bill Gates Backs 4th Generation “Miracle” Nuclear Reactor

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Bill Gates. Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. R2) MR. GATES: . . .
The next miracle is nuclear energy. The plants that are out in the world today are basically generation-one and -two plants. There’s a few generation-three plants. The thing I’m investing in is a fourth-generation design.
MR. MURRAY: Can you explain a little bit about how this technology works?
MR. GATES: The part of uranium that’s fissile–when you hit it with a neutron, it splits in two–is about 0.7%. The reactors we have today are burning that 0.7%. There was a concept that you would do a different type of reactor that would make a bunch of another element called plutonium, and then you would pull that out and then you would burn that. That’s called breeding in a fast reactor. But plutonium is nuclear-weapons material, it’s messy, and the processing you have to get through is not only environmentally difficult, it’s extremely expensive.
The concept of the TerraPower reactor is that in the same reactor, you both burn and breed. Instead of making plutonium and then extracting it, we take uranium–the 99.3% that you normally don’t do anything with–we convert that and we burn it. The 99.3% is cheap as heck, and there’s a pile of it sitting in Paducah, Kentucky, that’s enough to power the United States for hundreds and hundreds of years.

For the full interview, see:
Alan Murray, interviewer. “In Search of One Energy Miracle; Bill Gates on the need to think big.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., March 26, 2012): R2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

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