Bill Gates Named Foreign Academician by Chinese Academy of Engineering

The Chinese Academy of Engineering released its list of newly-elected academicians in 2017 on October 27. Among the 67 academicians on the list, 18 were foreign academicians, including Bill Gates.

Selection Process

The Chinese Academy of Engineering began its 2017 search for academicians at the beginning of the year. In total, 533 valid candidates were nominated by the China Association for Science and Technology Academic Groups and Academicians.

The first round of selection convened from June 4 to 10, and elected 205 candidates for the second round of review. After the first-round review, in accordance with the relevant regulations, the Academy displayed candidates’ material to the public and handled the audit, examination and complaints. Then, the Academy sent profiles of candidates entering the second-round review to the CPC Central Committee Talent Work Coordination Group.

From October 30 to November 3, the second-round review and election meeting was held. Sixty-seven academicians were elected, and there were elections in each discipline and in the general assembly.

About the New Academicians

Of the 67 newly elected members, 63 were men, accounting for 94 percent, and four were women, accounting for 6 percent.

The youngest was 49 years old and the oldest was 67. Their average age was 56.37 years old. Fifty-seven persons, or 85 percent, were younger than 60. Ten people were aged between 61 and 70 years, accounting for 15 percent of the total. More outstanding young experts in the fields of engineering science and technology were elected.

Of the newly elected members, 31 were from universities, or 46.2 percent. Eighteen were from research institutes, accounting for 26.9 percent. Another 18 were from enterprises and hospitals. There were more experts from enterprises and grass-roots units, as well as those who worked in Xinjiang, Gansu and other western provinces.

A total of 18 foreign experts were elected as foreign academicians of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Focus on Bill Gates

Bill Gates is understood by the public to be the “richest man in the world” and “Microsoft founder.” But his election as an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering cam not because of these titles, but because of his work at the chairman of Terra Power, an American energy company.

Terra Power was established in 2006 in Bellevue, Washington. The company was co-founded and invested by Bill Gates, and he personally served as chairman of the board of directors. One of the co-founders is Microsoft’s former CTO Nathan Myhrvold. Terra Power is committed to the research and development of new nuclear power technology –Traveling Wave Reactors.

Traveling Wave Reactor technology turns non-fissile materials into fissile materials via transmutation, and then use these materials’ fission to generate power. In design, it belongs to the fourth generation of nuclear reactors.

Unlike other fast-neutron reactors and breeder reactors, traveling wave reactors can use nuclear waste from depleted uranium, natural uranium, thorium and light water as fuel. In theory, a traveling wave reactor can even use its own spent fuel as fuel. If the travelling wave reactor is popularized, it will be able to remove uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel, reducing the cost and environmental risks of nuclear energy.

In traveling wave reactor, fission concentration occurs in the fission region, not the entire core. The fission region spreads from the core center just like water waves, hence it is named a Traveling Wave Reactor. In theory, one traveling wave reactor can operate for decades without needing to add new fuel or remove spent fuel.

However, it is very difficult to build a traveling wave reactor that has not yet been put into commercial operation.

As early as November 5, 2009, Gates made his first trip to China to work on traveling wave reactors. He went to the China Institute of Atomic Energy and China National Nuclear Corporation to learn about how far China has gone in fast reactor research.

Over the years, Gates has been traveling between China and the US, and he sees China as the only country with the financial resources, technology and willingness to build traveling wave reactors.

In order to promote the future of the technology, China will exchange views with the companies and leaders of the domestic and foreign countries. On November 5, when talking to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Bill Gates said we must ensure clean, safe and reliable energy supply, and that the new generation of nuclear power is very important to future energy development.

This article originally appeared in leiphone and was translated by Pandaily.