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Bill Gates’s Nuclear Energy Startup TerraPower Signs Deal With Chinese Counterpart

Elaine Thompson
Zhimin Qian, President of China National Nuclear Corp, left, shakes hands with Lee McIntire, CEO of TerraPower, following a signing ceremony linking the two organizations at a U.S. Trade and Investment Cooperation Conference Tuesday.

Clean energy is a big part of the Chinese president’s agenda while he’s in Seattle. That includes a focus on nuclear power – an issue that Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been working on. 

In 2006, Gates helped launch a Bellevue-based company called TerraPower. He invested money in it and became chairman. TerraPower is working on what Gates calls a next-generation nuclear reactor.

The reactor that TerraPower is working on uses depleted uranium for fuel. Essentially, it would run on nuclear waste. Gates says that’s more fuel efficient and safer.

“It avoids problems of nuclear material for weapons proliferation and it can make a huge contribution to the global goal of having low-cost, clean energy,” said Gates.

TerraPower Chief Executive Lee McIntire just signed an agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation for the two companies to work together to create this new kind of nuclear reactor. China is trying to invest in other kinds of energy including nuclear as a way to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.