Toshiba, Bill Gates to work on next-gen nuclear reactor

Toshiba and TerraPower have begun exchanging information in a move that would bring together Bill Gates' ample wealth and the knowhow and experience which the Japanese electronics giant has established in the nuclear power business

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Japanese electronics giant Toshiba Corp are discussing the possibility of jointly developing a cheaper next-generation nuclear reactor that can operate for up to 100 years without refuelling, company officials said on Tuesday.

Toshiba will study cooperating with US venture firm TerraPower, funded by Microsoft Corp chairman Mr Gates, to jointly develop a travelling-wave reactor (TWR) that can function up to 100 years without refuelling, they said.

Mr Gates is said to be considering investing personal assets worth several hundreds of billions of yen in developing the new type of reactor.

The officials said that Toshiba and TerraPower have begun exchanging information in a move that would bring together Mr Gates' ample wealth and the knowhow and experience which the Japanese electronics giant has established in the nuclear power business, Kyodo news agency reported.

While it is likely to take more than a decade to put the next-generation reactors to practical use, the TWRs can save operating costs because they do not require refuelling and are expected to draw demand in emerging countries.

The new reactors, which consume depleted uranium as fuel, can operate from 50 to 100 years and are considered relatively safer than conventional boiling water reactors, which need periodic refuelling.

Toshiba, which acquired US-based Westinghouse Electric Co is currently developing an ultra-compact nuclear reactor, called the Super-Safe, Small and Simple, or 4S, which can operate continuously for up to 30 years.

The 4S technology is believed to be compatible with the TWRs because they have many aspects in common, according to the officials.

Mr Gates, who has recently been focusing on global warming and other climate issues, effectively owns TerraPower and proposed the collaboration with Toshiba, the report said.

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