Bill Gates is going atomic. The Microsoft founder’s startup TerraPower is partnering with Toshiba to build a traveling-wave reactor. These reactors run on depleted uranium, rather than the enriched sort found in light-water reactors, only have to be refueled every 60 to 100 years, and are small enough to fit in a hot tub. it is all part of Gates’ quest for zero carbon emissions in the next 40 years.
Toshiba has been working on its own mini nuclear reactors with a 30-year shelf life, making it the perfect partner for the software magnate-turned-philanthropist. Its 4S model (Super-Safe, Small and Simple) is expected to get U.S. approval this year, and Toshiba is hoping to start production by 2014.
It’s not clear whether Gates is simply joining in the development of the 4S, or collaborating on a separate model. The technology will not be commercially available for the next decade or so, according to The New York Times. The Nikkei is also claiming that Gates might invest several billion dollars of his own fortune in the project.