Bill Gates has a joint venture with China Nuclear Corp to build Traveling Wave Nuclear Reactor

TerraPower, chaired by Bill Gates, has a joint venture to build traveling-wave reactors with China National Nuclear Corp.

TerraPower has been leading the charge in the development of cutting-edge nuclear energy technologies that offer scalable, sustainable, safe and cost-competitive energy options.

Through the development of the traveling wave reactor (TWR) program and molten chloride fast reactor (MCFR) project, TerraPower is setting new standards in the development of advanced nuclear energy systems.

Traveling-wave reactors, which are still in the development stage, promise a high degree of safety at low cost, experts say. A traveling-wave reactor is a type of small modular reactor and less costly to produce than larger reactors.

TerraPower says its goal is “to achieve startup of its prototype TWR reactor in the mid-2020s, followed by global commercial deployment.”

Unlike traditional nuclear reactors, this technology will be capable of utilizing fuel made from depleted uranium, which is currently a waste byproduct of the uranium enrichment process. Its unique design gradually converts the fuel through a nuclear reaction without removing it from the reactor’s core, eliminating the need for reprocessing, generating heat and producing electricity over a much longer period of continuous operation. Additionally, eliminating reprocessing reduces proliferation concerns, lowers the overall cost of the nuclear energy process, and helps to protect the environment by making use of a waste byproduct and reducing the production of greenhouse gases.

To date, TerraPower has achieved significant success in the development of this advanced nuclear reactor design, largely through progress made by leveraging public-private partnerships, seeking excellence in commercial partners, and forging a new supply chain for fuels and materials. This has led to the completion of the core concept design for a prototype of the TWR program.

Construction of a TWR engineering simulator is an important milestone, as it puts engineers in the control room of a virtual TWR system to study the reactor’s operation from start-up to full power. By pairing cutting-edge computing power with real-world data, TerraPower continues to improve the TWR design, analyzing it using new seismic, physics and mechanical methodologies. Together, these activities bring the design ever closer to construction of the first TWR technology.

Design

TerraPower completed the core concept design for the TWR prototype and defined key equipment and system parameters. The company continues to refine design details and push forward with the commercial TWR plant concept design.

Pairing cutting-edge computing power with real-world data, TerraPower continues to improve the TWR design using advanced simulations. TerraPower is analyzing the design using new seismic, physics and mechanical methodologies.

In addition, the company completed constructing and programming a steady-state model of the first phase system-level simulator for the TWR design, a step that puts engineers in the control room of a virtual TWR prototype to study of the reactor’s operation from start-up to full power.

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