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Bill Gates, Toshiba Team Up On Nuclear Reactor

The Wall Street Journal said Monday that Toshiba Corp. is in talks with Bill Gates and the energy start-up company he invested in, TerraPower, to develop a small-scale nuclear reactor that would be cheaper, safer, and more "socially acceptable" than today's nuclear plants. Currently the talks are in the early stages, and nothing has been decided in regards to funding and development.

However, if successful, the collaboration could produce a compact next-generation reactor--the Traveling-Wave Reactor--that can operate for up to 100 years without refueling by consuming depleted uranium (current reactors demand refueling every few years). This new reactor could also be more easily integrated into cities, states, and developing countries thanks to its smaller size.

Previous interviews have indicated that the nuclear reactor will be buried deep in the ground "without human intervention."The development process will take several years, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission currently does not have a certification process to handle small reactors. That may change however once Toshiba's upcoming ultra-compact reactor-- sporting a 30 year fuel lifespan--begins construction sometime around 2014.

The Nikkei business daily said on Tuesday that Bill Gates is expected to dump several billions of his own personal funds into the project. The news has already increased Toshiba's share price, jumping up around 4-percent.