Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bill Gates makes quick tour of INL's Materials and Fuels Complex

Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates made a two-hour visit Wednesday afternoon to Idaho Falls to tour the Idaho National Laboratory's Materials and Fuels Complex.

In addition to everything else he does, Gates is the chairman of TerraPower LLC, a nuclear reactor startup company that has engaged INL to support certain design aspects of its traveling wave reactor. The visit Wednesday was arranged to demonstrate the lab's expertise and capabilities.

The Web page for TerraPower LLC, which has engaged the Idaho National Laboratory in a cooperative research agreement.
“Getting to visit INL was really enlightening," Gates told INL employees after his tour. "It was amazing to see reactor fuel characterization and how it can be conducted safely in a hot cell environment.”

INL has signed several Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with TerraPower over the past few years. These agreements allow TerraPower to receive technical insight and use the lab's capabilities.

At MFC, Gates toured the Fuel Conditioning Facility and the Hot Fuel Examination Facility, met with some of the researchers involved with TerraPower-related projects, and learned about some of the other nuclear-related research and capabilities available at INL.

Gates also spent nearly an hour talking with 250 INL researchers and scientists. He shared some background on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was established in 2000, about the time he stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft. He said now he works full-time on the Gates Foundation and part-time at Microsoft.

“TerraPower has many cooperative projects, and there are lots of partnerships, but our work with INL is singularly important,” he said.

TerraPower has gained attention for both its traveling wave reactor design and the financial backing of clean technology investors. Several CRADAs established over the past few years enable the company to receive technical insight from the nation’s nuclear energy laboratories.

"We enjoyed showing off our experienced researchers and one-of-a-kind capabilities for Mr. Gates," said INL Director John Grossenbacher. "His interest in nuclear energy and INL's contributions helps the industry's future and reinforces the value of DOE's national laboratory complex."

"As the lead national laboratory for nuclear energy, INL focuses on challenging technologies that require long-term investigations by multi-disciplinary teams," said Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, INL's associate laboratory director for Nuclear Science and Technology. "When private companies such as TerraPower show interest in what we do and are willing to use our assistance in their efforts, we know that we are doing our job and making a meaningful impact on nuclear energy development."

TerraPower is a privately funded company headquartered in Bellevue, Wash. Since it was founded in 2007, it has grown to nearly 70 full-time professionals who engage diverse technical consultants and partners to responsibly improve options for global access to clean, secure and affordable electricity.

For more information, visit TerraPower at www.terrapower.com.