The nuclear power firm being hailed by Bill Gates as the answer to mankind’s future energy needs is planning a proprietary approach to an old atomic idea to further its global ambitions.
TerraPower is an offshoot of patent holding company Intellectual Ventures, which was co-founded by former 14-year Microsoftie Nathan Myhrvold. It was showcased by Bill Gates at TED in 2010 and the main area the firm is working on is a traveling-wave reactor (TWR).
A TWR mostly burns depleted uranium fuel, which is stacked in a long candle-like column and then ignited with a cap of enriched uranium. Such a fission reactor would take 50-100 years to burn itself down, with virtually no maintenance required or spent fuel to dispose of, and proposed power plants could produce 300MWe and 1,000MWe cheaply and simply.