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Bill Gates is in discussions with China to jointly develop a new and safer nuclear reactor.

“The idea is to be very low cost, very safe and generate very little waste,” Microsoft’s co-founder said during a talk at China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

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Gates helps fund TerraPower, a Washington state-based company, that is developing a Generation IV nuclear reactor that can run on depleted uranium.

The general manager of state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), Sun Qin, said Gates was working with them to research and develop a reactor.

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“TerraPower is having very good discussions with CNNC and various people in the Chinese government,” said Gates.

Gates says perhaps as much as $1 billion will go toward research and development over the next five years.

TerraPower says its traveling wave reactor would run for decades on depleted uranium and produce significantly smaller amounts of nuclear waste than conventional reactors.

“All these new designs are going to be incredibly safe,” Gates said. “They require no human action to remain safe at all times.”

He said they also benefit from an ability to simulate earthquake and tidal wave conditions. “It takes safety to a new level,” he said.

Since leaving Microsoft Corp., Gates has concentrated on philanthropy and advocating on public health, education and clean energy issues.

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