Bill Gates, nuclear superpower?

Summary:Bill Gates has apparently taken it upon himself to start his own nuclear superpower. Unlike Pinky and the Brain, who want to take over the world, Bill merely wants to save it.

Bill Gates has apparently taken it upon himself to start his own nuclear superpower. Actually, as it turns out, he'd like to start many nuclear superpowers. And unlike Pinky and the Brain, who always want to take over the world, Bill merely wants to save it.

And, if the politicians and naysayers don't get in the way, he just might.

According to BusinessWeek's Shigeru Sato, a Gates investment, TerraPower, is in discussion with Toshiba to develop small-scale nuclear power generators.

A little imagination goes a long way, and if you close your eyes, you might just see how the conversation that started it all might have gone.

Bill: So, now that I've left Microsoft, I've been a little bored lately.

Therapist: Go on.

Bill: I've been thinking, you know, that it'd be super to have my own nuclear reactors.

Therapist: Well, that's certainly one way to go. But have you really thought things through?

Bill: What do you mean?

Therapist: Well, you know "blue screen of death" in nuclear-speak means, like, actual death, right? And you can't just, you know, reboot your reactors every time something goes wrong.

Bill (grinning): That's exactly what I plan to do.

And that is exactly what Gates is planning on doing.

He's trying to reboot the nuclear industry with a concept called a Traveling-Wave Reactor. Put simply -- very simply -- a Traveling Wave Reactor doesn't generate tons upon tons of spent, radioactive fuel. Instead, it eats the fuel we've already created, running for nearly a 100 years without needing more fuel, and without generating waste.

The best way to understand what Gates is trying to accomplish is to watch this YouTube video of his presentation at the TED conference recently. It's about 30 minutes, is absolutely fascinating, and is totally worth your time to watch:

This is all part of the Gates' post-Microsoft work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Say what you will about Microsoft and Windows, the net worth Gates' derived from those product lines has fueled one of the most broad-reaching philanthropic efforts in the history of mankind.

Have you made a charitable donation recently? TalkBack below and tell us about your favorite causes. Or, you know, what you'd do if you had your own nukes.

Topics: Telcos


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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