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China Isn’t Building a Traveling Wave Nuclear Plant (Yet)

Rumors of a partnership between TerraPower and China aren’t true.
December 7, 2011

The word is that TerraPower, a company backed by Bill Gates that’s developing a new kind of nuclear power plant, is going to develop the reactor in cooperation with the Chinese government. But that word is wrong.

News of the partnership has been spreading around the web, but the company says that it is just having discussions with China. It’s also talking to other countries, as well as with two research centers in India.

“We are sharing information on the [traveling wave reactor] with a variety of research, supply and manufacturing organizations, but there are no deals to speak to at this time,” John Gilleland, TerraPower’s C.E.O. said in a statement today.

According to The Guardian Bill Gates says “TerraPower is having very good discussions” with the China National Nuclear Corporation, but that those discussions are at an early stage. The company has been in these sorts of discussions for a couple of years now.

TerraPower’s technology is also at an early stage. TerraPower is developing a nuclear reactor that can run for decades on abundant fuel. (See our story Advanced Reactor Gets Closer to Reality for more details). It’s just a detailed design so far; and if it’s going to be able to run for decades, researchers will need to design new, radiation resistant materials for it.

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