Bill Gates founded TerraPower — the nuclear energy technology company in Bellevue, Washington — in 2008, after a 2006 decision by Gates and other visionaries that the “private sector needed to take action.” His aim is simple, if the path complex: Gates believes low-cost energy is one of the keys to ending poverty. And he believes, having also looked at wind and solar power, that increasing the world’s access to nuclear energy is the fastest way to “quicken the pace of economic development and reduce poverty.” Gates’ TerraPower notes that its goal is not only more affordable energy, but a “secure and environmentally friendly” form of nuclear energy.
TerraPower’s chief innovation has been what it calls a traveling wave reactor (TWR) which enables the use of depleted uranium as its energy source. The extraordinary result of this innovation, as TerraPower explains it is the elimination or reduction of the need for “enrichment, reprocessing, and waste storage and disposal.” In other words, the TWR eliminates many of the major challenges of nuclear energy. TerraPower’s goal is to start up a “600 megawatt-electric prototype TWR in the mid-2020,” having established critical public/private partnerships already. That means Gates’ dream, inaugurated in 2006, is halfway there.