Billionaire and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates is managing to stay pretty busy in his quasi-retirement from the software giant.
Usually, he is in the news through his philanthropic efforts to help poor countries around the world through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Recently, he got a lot of attention after losing his status as the world's richest man to Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu.
But he got some more attention in Japan, as news of his investment in an alternative nuclear startup filtered into the Japanese media, and adding a lift to Toshiba Corp.'s /quotes/comstock/11i!tosy.y (TOSY.Y 31.45, +1.70, +5.71%) stock, which is reportedly in talks about working with a startup called TerraPower. See Toshiba news here.
Many of the tech cognoscenti are already familiar with TerraPower and its plans. Last month, Gates talked about TerraPower at the TED conference in Long Beach, Calif.
TerraPower is one of the companies in a Seattle-based think tank called Intellectual Ventures, founded by former Microsoft /quotes/comstock/15*!msft/quotes/nls/msft (MSFT 29.88, +0.28, +0.95%) chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold.
As he talked about his investment in TerrPower, Gates said the world needs to get to zero carbon emissions by 2050. TerraPower is looking to develop an alternative type of nuclear reactor that runs on natural or depleted uranium, which would also be safer and less expensive than enriched uranium.
Gates said the startup has scientists, software and a supercomputer in place. "The tough thing is building the pilot reactor," he told the TED conference.
Toshiba, which also owns a reactor design company, may be talking to TerraPower about building a pilot reactor.
One obvious reaction may be, "please don't let anyone who developed crash-prone Windows software get involved in nuclear energy." But Gates, who gets kudos for his philanthropy, should also be applauded for investing in clean tech. His involvement may bring more positive attention to the possibility of alternative forms of nuclear energy, all of which have a very long way to go.
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