Wednesday, March 24, 2010

If Wishes Were Nuclear Plants

If-Wishes-Were-Horses-LGE We’re not sure we’re looking forward to the beige box that would be Microsoft Nuclear Plant, but points to former MS CEO Bill Gates for turning his attention this way:

Gates is the principal owner of TerraPower, a spinoff from Seattle's Intellectual Ventures, founded by former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold. The company explores ways to improve emission-free energy supplies through small nuclear reactors.

The principal owner? Last time we checked, Gates characterized his involvement as that of an investor, which at least suggested a smaller stake. In any event, Gates is now looking for a partner:

According to Japan's Nikkei newspaper, Gates could put tens of millions of dollars of his own money into a joint venture with Toshiba.

"There would be demand for this type of reactor in newly developing countries," Deutsche Securities analyst Takeo Miyamoto told the BBC.

Toshiba is taking a rather low-key stance, asserting that they are only looking into TerraPower, not making any commitments at present. So what does TerraPower’s traveling wave nuclear plant do? Everything, and more:

An agreement between the companies [TerraPower and Toshiba] could be a boom to the creation of a traveling-wave reactor that runs on depleted uranium, a waste byproduct of the enrichment process. TerraPower says the reactor could supply the world's energy needs for thousands of years.

That’s the everything. Here’s the more:

TerraPower, a startup that has some funding and backing from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, aims to create small nuclear reactors that would be acceptable and safe for use in homes.

Finally, a flux capaciter! Lots more about TerraPower here.

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Bill Gates isn’t the only one with an interest in nuclear power plants:

Nearly three years ago a group of Fresno investors announced their intent to build a nuclear power plant in the Central Valley, despite a statewide moratorium on building such plants that has been in place since 1976.

That ban still holds, so quixotic, no?:

Members of the Fresno County business community also heard about the plan to bring jobs, technology and round the clock power at [a] luncheon where the head of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation, Steve Giel, says now is the time to act, "Our state can not stick its head in the sand and not deal with the issues the rest of the world is utilizing."

Er, well, this is just a bunch of folks yakking, right?

The group's new partner, AREVA, Inc. has a long track record in Europe and is developing one in the U.S. AREVA's Michael Rencheck told us the moratorium doesn't mean the Fresno Clean Energy Park can't be built now.

Rencheck goes on to say that AREVA could kick things off with some solar power and go nuclear when the ban falls.

What can we say? This is almost a nuclear fairy tale, with a lot of wishes becoming horses. Pretty soon, they won’t need cars anymore in the Fresno area.

Penelope Stowell’s book describes itself this way: “Twelve-year-old Katie Callahan and her beautiful Arabian horse Dancer have a freak accident and switch bodies. Can Andy, Martin, and Lily find a way to change them back to their original forms before it's too late? And will it be science that saves the day—or magic?” As much as we favor science,we think it might be at a bit of a loss here.

You can read more about Ms. Stowell here.

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