Intellectual Ventures - a US company that aims to develop a new type of traveling wave reactor - has signed a MOU with China's State Nuclear Power Tecnology Corporation.
Speaking in China, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and investor in Intellectual Ventures said:
"We believe that nuclear power will be a very important contributor to cheap environmentally-friendly energy in the decades come. So we are very excited when the scientists we poured together, including Dr. Logwood, and many others, came up with a fairly new concept. It is called the traveling wave reactor, and although we are in early stage, potential to improve the way to nuclear energy done looks very interesting."
The TWR, in contrast to conventional reactors, initially contains only a small igniter of fissile fuel, which is used to kick off the chain reaction. The wave of fission would move slowly through the core, splitting many more of the fuel atoms than a conventional reactor would.
The fuel could be de-pleted uranium, for example, which is the common U-238 form of the element that is currently set aside as waste when U-235 is taken out of natural uranium at enrichment plants.
Unlike light water reactors, the TWR can theoretically run forever without ever needing any additional enriched uranium after its startup period. Engineers and scientists are studying a range of potential designs from the 100MW to 1GW scale.
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