What do you do when you've run out of things to spend money on, and everyone already uses your software? How about developing a nuclear plant with China? Sure! Bill Gates is doing just that, the AP reports. For science?
Although Gates says his baby nuclear energy company, TerraPower, is having "very good discussions" with China regarding the plant, the fact that he's throwing in a billion dollars over 5 years sounds like more than talk. The plant, however, will be a "Generation IV" reactor, which for now exists only on paper—and the tech isn't expected to start materializing until for at least a decade. Gen IV cores are expected to be safer, more efficient, create less waste that fades earlier, and essentially address every possible criticism about nuclear power. Again, on paper.
So why China, Bill? Their society is far more open to nuclear power than ours, especially post-Fukushima. But it's also probably easier to use some remote Chinese backwater as a testbed for an untested form of nuclear energy. When Gates says, with quintessential hubris, that "[the reactor will] require no human action to remain safe at all times," you have every reason to raise an eyebrow. The international forum behind Gen IV nuclear says it's "developing safety design criteria for Generation IV nuclear power plants that reflect
lessons learned from Fukushima." Stripping human oversight from a nuclear reactor doesn't sound like a lesson learned. [CBS]