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Bill Gates' nuclear venture hits snag amid U.S. restrictions on China deals: WSJ


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Bill Gates' nuclear venture hits snag amid U.S. restrictions on China deals: WSJ

 

2019-01-01T210142Z_2_LYNXNPEF0017P_RTROPTP_4_CHINA-TRADE.JPG

FILE PHOTO: Microsoft founder Bill Gates attends a forum of the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai on November 5, 2018. Matthew Knight/Pool via REUTERS

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - TerraPower LLC, a nuclear energy venture chaired by Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates, is seeking a new partner for early-stage trials of its technology after new U.S. rules forced it to abandon an agreement with China, company officials told the Wall Street Journal.

 

TerraPower reached an agreement with state-owned China National Nuclear Corp in 2017 to build an experimental nuclear reactor south of Beijing. But Gates wrote in an essay published late last week that TerraPower is unlikley to follow through on its plans in the face of new U.S. restrictions on technology deals with China.

 

The Bellevue, Washington-based company is now unsure which country it will work with to conduct trials of its technology, which is designed to use depleted uranium as fuel for nuclear reactors in a bid to improve safety and costs, company officials told the Journal.

 

“We’re regrouping,” Chief Executive Chris Levesque told the Journal in an interview. “Maybe we can find another partner.”

 

The U.S. Department of Energy in October announced new restrictions on nuclear deals with China, in keeping with a broader plan by the Trump administration to limit China's ability to access U.S-made technologies it considers to be of strategic importance.

 

Gates, who co-founded TerraPower, said in his essay that regulations in the United States are currently too restrictive to allow the reactor prototype to be built domestically.

 

(Reporting by Carl O'Donnell; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

 
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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-01-02
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37 minutes ago, webfact said:

Gates, who co-founded TerraPower, said in his essay that regulations in the United States are currently too restrictive to allow the reactor prototype to be built domestically.

Dam, this last line burst my bubble. Up until reading the above at the end of the content, my mind was saying here's a great way to Make America Great Again.

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23 minutes ago, neeray said:

Dam, this last line burst my bubble. Up until reading the above at the end of the content, my mind was saying here's a great way to Make America Great Again.

It is also possible that Gates is trying to get it offshore because it is cheaper and doesn't smell rotten to the American public.

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31 minutes ago, car720 said:

It is also possible that Gates is trying to get it offshore because it is cheaper and doesn't smell rotten to the American public.

Or foreign markets are more willing to finance green tech and don’t have corrupt politicians and industry lobbies hampering non-fossil tech.

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If it ain’t coal or oil Donald will squash it the best of luck in your venture mr gates you and your wife I hold in my highest regard kudos and blessings

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2 hours ago, mikebike said:

Or foreign markets are more willing to finance green tech and don’t have corrupt politicians and industry lobbies hampering non-fossil tech.

+1

 

If Gates really wanted to do something positive for the future of humanity he'd invest some of his massive wealth into finding a way to safely dispose of all the existing waste from nuclear reactors that's been sitting in holding tanks for decades.  I haven't trusted nuclear power plants since they first started building them 40+ years ago when I was a teenager.  More nuclear is not a solution but rather an ongoing revenue generator that should have never been allowed in the first place.

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20 minutes ago, JKfarang said:

+1

 

If Gates really wanted to do something positive for the future of humanity he'd invest some of his massive wealth into finding a way to safely dispose of all the existing waste from nuclear reactors that's been sitting in holding tanks for decades.  I haven't trusted nuclear power plants since they first started building them 40+ years ago when I was a teenager.  More nuclear is not a solution but rather an ongoing revenue generator that should have never been allowed in the first place.

Not an expert but it seems the nuclear plant just put on hold was to use a technology fueling the reactor with DEPLETED uranium. Would that not be a start to using (disposing of) the nuclear waste we have created? Genuine question for any chem brainiacs!!

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12 minutes ago, mikebike said:

Not an expert but it seems the nuclear plant just put on hold was to use a technology fueling the reactor with DEPLETED uranium. Would that not be a start to using (disposing of) the nuclear waste we have created? Genuine question for any chem brainiacs!!

Depleted uranium is not a security threat as it can't be used to make weapons or even dirty bombs. But using it would create dangerous stuff that would have to be dealt with after 40 years.. That said, if it could be done, and it's still a matter of some doubt, it is a lot safer than what current nuclear technology offers. However, it would still be an expensive source of power.

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Molten salt nuclear reactors are very good alternative to coal, gas, oil etc base power production. These which we keep on needing, even if wind, solar, wave etc. ways to produce energy are improving. 

 

Molten salt reactors can use used reactor fuel, which is currently stored for the future solutions. This is not same as depleted uranium, which is a by-product of uranium enrichment process. Enrichments for nuclear power is to 2-8% and for the uranium based fission bombs, up to 95%. 

 

Hopefully they'll find a new location for the reactor development. This is a type I would recommend to for example to Thailand. 

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2 hours ago, oilinki said:

Molten salt nuclear reactors are very good alternative to coal, gas, oil etc base power production. These which we keep on needing, even if wind, solar, wave etc. ways to produce energy are improving. 

 

Molten salt reactors can use used reactor fuel, which is currently stored for the future solutions. This is not same as depleted uranium, which is a by-product of uranium enrichment process. Enrichments for nuclear power is to 2-8% and for the uranium based fission bombs, up to 95%. 

 

Hopefully they'll find a new location for the reactor development. This is a type I would recommend to for example to Thailand. 

 

Only an idiot would recommend a nuclear power plant be built in Thailand, a country where the citizens can't even follow simple traffic laws. 

 

Of course if they do build a nuclear power plant here it will be an award winning one, the Darwin Award for the whole country and the neighboring countries.

 

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42 minutes ago, from the home of CC said:

Yea it's too bad these power plants have to be constructed/run/monitored by humans, the technology is just too unforgiving of error. 

These 'newer' type molten salt reactors have quite nice features, which stops the reaction passively, without human interaction. 'Newer' as the technology is actually decades old. 

 

Another benefit is that these type of reactors don't need pressure vessel, which current nuclear reactors require to produce electricity. Therefore there is not such thing as bigbadaboom, which happened in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Those explosions were caused by overheating water, which caused the pressure vessel to break. Quite the similar type of event, if one puts a pressure cooker to a stove and block the overpressure valve functionality. It will eventually explode.

 

 

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1 hour ago, HarrySeaman said:

 

Only an idiot would recommend a nuclear power plant be built in Thailand, a country where the citizens can't even follow simple traffic laws. 

 

Of course if they do build a nuclear power plant here it will be an award winning one, the Darwin Award for the whole country and the neighboring countries.

 

You obviously are not aware that there is a nuclear reactor for research since the early 1960s. You also seem unaware that not following traffic rules is not normally a deterrent to using nuclear technology. If you've ever been to New Delhi, you would know that chaotic traffic and ignorant drivers hasn't deterred India which not only has nuclear power (& weapons), but is building more nuclear generators.

Personally I'd prefer nuclear to coal any day.

 

Thai nuclear research site:

http://www.oap.go.th/en/about-us

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1 hour ago, from the home of CC said:

Yea it's too bad these power plants have to be constructed/run/monitored by humans, the technology is just too unforgiving of error. 

There are modern (Gen4) reactor designs called Small Modular Reactor, or SMR. They are designed for almost no human intervention, passive safety features, very low maintenance, and very long fuel cycles. The SMRs are build entirely as a module at a factory, and transported where they are needed. The power ranges available are from 6-300 MWe.

 

Majority of the currently active nuclear reactors are very old GenII, with a few newer GenIII/III+ reactors being constructed or already online.

 

Gen4 designs have been delayed by the opposition to nuclear energy since the three large incidents, TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima Daiichi. However, there are several prototype Gen4 reactor designs running. The commercial power range is expected up to 2000 MWe, and will include additional features, such as passive safety, hydrogen generation, GenII/III spent fuel reclamation, no plutonium waste, and much reduced Gen4 spent fuel storage requirements of 100s of years instead of thousands, among others. The expected commercial Gen4 deployment is in the 2020-2030.

 

This is the area that TerraPower is active in, and I wish them good luck finding a partner. The technology is badly needed, as it is regarded as almost carbon footprint neutral.

IMO, this is the only way we can assure supply of Green Tech energy for the future. Solar, wind, wave, whatever are just not enough. Although, reducing the population size would have a additional positive impact.

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10 minutes ago, SpaceKadet said:

and will include additional features, such as passive safety, hydrogen generation,

This is one thing which makes these "little" reactors quite interesting. 

 

One way is to create hydrogen, which then can be used as a storage for different kind of vehicles and perhaps even homes. 

 

Another thing, these reactors could be used is a heat source for chemical reactions in factories which require huge amount of electricity to for example melt iron for further processing. If the heat is used more directly, without needing to invest to expensive turbines to create electricity, that can reduce production costs quite a lot. 

 

 

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By the way, beware of Russia! They are becoming very good at advanced Gen4 and SMR designs. Very interesting design project is a very small, 68KWe, ELENA reactor. Designed to supply power to a small town of 1500-2000 population, or institutions that require highly reliable power, such as hospitals.

 

As compared to the rest of the world there are only a few European or US designs, and some from Japan. Have not seen any Chinese designs. Perhaps that's why CNNC wanted to partner with TerraPower.

 

The best currently available SMR, IMO, is the 4S from Toshiba. A liquid sodium cooled, passive safety, 30mx3.3m reactor designed to produce 10MWe.

 

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Yes a coal melt down is so dangerous.. Go Nuclear, and don't worry about the melt down at all. Yes using coal is so bad, dirty coal!  I have walked around and inside a few shutdown coal fired power plants, and did not get any radiation burns.

Geezer

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4 hours ago, Stargrazer9889 said:

Yes a coal melt down is so dangerous.. Go Nuclear, and don't worry about the melt down at all. Yes using coal is so bad, dirty coal!  I have walked around and inside a few shutdown coal fired power plants, and did not get any radiation burns.

Geezer

 

I have walked inside active production nuclear plant and did not get any radiation burns.

 

Death figures before the newest generation nuclear power plants, which are currently in development and which will increase safety even further. 

 

Quote

Nuclear power is safest way to make electricity, according to study

 

Compared with nuclear power, coal is responsible for five times as many worker deaths from accidents, 470 times as many deaths due to air pollution among members of the public, and more than 1,000 times as many cases of serious illness, according to a study of the health effects of electricity generation in Europe.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/nuclear-power-is-safest-way-to-make-electricity-according-to-2007-study/2011/03/22/AFQUbyQC_story.html?utm_term=.2f65eb65beaa

 

When it comes to radiation release from coal and nuclear plants.

 

Quote

In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant — a by-product from burning coal for electricity — carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.

https://www.researchgate.net/post/Why_is_coal_ash_more_radioactive_than_nuclear_waste_and_what_is_the_exact_reason

 

Science education is the best remedy against often irrational fears. 

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6 hours ago, Stargrazer9889 said:

Yes a coal melt down is so dangerous.. Go Nuclear, and don't worry about the melt down at all. Yes using coal is so bad, dirty coal!

 

 

And just look at how dangerous air travel is:

 

hindenberg.jpg.78321a757225513feedd51cf70f604da.jpg

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I'm sure the history of this has been re-written several times over since it happened, but there was a huge pesticide leak in India in the 1980s, killing thousands.  The story at the time was a janitor, cleaning up the place after-hours, accidentally hit one of the valves.  He ran away hoping he would not be blamed.  (Sound familiar?)

 

 

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On 1/2/2019 at 1:35 AM, HarrySeaman said:

 

Only an idiot would recommend a nuclear power plant be built in Thailand, a country where the citizens can't even follow simple traffic laws. 

 

Of course if they do build a nuclear power plant here it will be an award winning one, the Darwin Award for the whole country and the neighboring countries.

 

 

Gates already took pics of the Thai power lines and ridiculed them on social media. i don't think he has Thailand in mind.

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11 hours ago, bendejo said:

I'm sure the history of this has been re-written several times over since it happened, but there was a huge pesticide leak in India in the 1980s, killing thousands.  The story at the time was a janitor, cleaning up the place after-hours, accidentally hit one of the valves.  He ran away hoping he would not be blamed.  (Sound familiar?)

 

 

 

That sounds like the Bhopal/Union Carbide disaster, but I don't see how it's relevant to this discussion.

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10 minutes ago, oilinki said:

This was good talk based on facts, not just feelings. 

 

 

He did not mention the ghost in nuclear's closet... still no good way to handle nuclear waste.

 

Is it a good trade-off. Immediate carbon reductions v long term storage of waste?

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1 minute ago, mikebike said:

He did not mention the ghost in nuclear's closet... still no good way to handle nuclear waste.

Finland is building a permanent nuclear waste storage in very old and stabile bedrock. That's one solution, not the most elegant one. 

 

Once we understand what actually causes atomic half lives, we'll probably be able to solve the nuclear waste issue to produce led or something similar stabile substances.

 

Btw. I just learned few days ago that neutrons, when not inside nucleus, have half-life of mere 15 minutes. My first thought was that it's likely some kind of neutron imbalance, which cause nucleus to split at the first place. I was happy to learn something new and so basic. 

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6 hours ago, mikebike said:

He did not mention the ghost in nuclear's closet... still no good way to handle nuclear waste.

 

Is it a good trade-off. Immediate carbon reductions v long term storage of waste?

I'll agree that the storage of the burned out nuclear fuel is still a stumbling block for nuclear power acceptance. This, however, is partly addressed in Gen4 reactor technology. The fuel is utilized more efficiently, with less waste, and lower radiotoxicity, and some designs can utilize spent fuel from Gen2/3 reactor designs. Most designs have very long fuel cycles and most SMRs are not refuel-able and have fuel cycles of 30+ years. As mine favorite Toshiba 4S design.

 

Following is a page of a presentation I received some time ago. Sorry, don't have the original source, but it originated at http://www.cea.fr/english.

It is mainly about Gen3 designs being deployed, but touches on Gen4 as a possible solution of current nuclear waste problems.

The interesting part is the graph on the lower right. 430 years of storage is geologically zero time as compared to 340.000 year for the current designs.

If anybody is interested in the full presentation, send me a PM, or if it doesn't violate the TV rules I can post it here.

 

Gen3 Reactors pg28.pdf

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