Bill Gates Invests in Thorium Capable Reactor Venture

CNN reports that Bill Gates received a standing ovation at this year's TED Conference in Long Beach, California. The TED conferences 'bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).' Gates' captive audience included high profile guests: former vice president Al Gore and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Google themselves are taking a strong interest in new energy technologies, as we reported last month. They will be hosting the Thorium Energy Alliance Conference (TEAC2) at Googleplex.

In his presentation, Gates summarised the world's energy problems, saying, "What we're going to have to do at a global scale is create a new system... So we need energy miracles."

An 'energy portfolio' was suggested by Gates, containing five technologies. However his speech did put particular emphasis on a nuclear technology which would consume spent uranium fuel rods. Gates told the audience that the technology could power the world indefinitely, and the U.S. for 100 years, using just the spent fuel rods already in its possession. The technology is possible; it is funding that is required. Gates said he is investing in a venture called TerraPower which will develop this 'Traveling-Wave Reactor' technology. Interestingly for us here at IThEO, this same technology could also be utilised to make power from thorium.

Gates said if he could wish for anything in the world, he would wish for energy that is half as expensive as coal and doesn't warm the planet.

Update 20 February 2010

TED have now made Gates' speech available for viewing on their website. In one further encouraging quote, Gates mentions liquid reactor technology:

“There are some innovations in nuclear, there is modular, there is liquid, and innovation really stopped in this industry quite some time ago, so the idea that there are some ideas laying around is not all that surprising.” (video 13:30)

TED video, Bill Gates talk

CNN, Bill Gates: We need global "energy miracles"

The Gates Notes, Talking about Energy at TED

technologyreview.com, TR10: Traveling-Wave Reactor

Intellectual Ventures Lab, Bill Gates on Nuclear Energy

Last updated 20 May, 2010