Yesterday was a wonderful day full of good news for environmentalists. And I’m not thinking about Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobushar, but of Bill and Melinda Gates. Someone at a recent CT League of Conservation Voters meeting recently suggested to Kathleen Schomaker that she watch the new Netflix documentary, “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” directed by Davis Guggenheim, who won an Academy award for “An Inconvenient Truth.”
There are three episodes, each about an hour. Part One, while describing Bill Gate’s blessed childhood in Seattle, bounces up to the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The short segments on the foundation, tell the story of it improving sewage conditions in third world countries, especially by starting an international competition to invent a new toilet: a stand alone, recomposting toilet. The foundation also developed a new power plant that runs on fecal waste, creates electricity, and produces clean potable water. I have posted three reviews of the series at my blog, and one of them said that the reporting was full of technical “wonky” details on revolutionary toilet ideas!
Episode Two covered Bill’s high school years and getting to Microsoft, and how the Gates Foundation set about to eradicate polio from the planet. They were nearly successful in some of the worst places for polio in the world, like Nigeria, until the rise of Boko Haran. The terrorists started killing the vaccinators, and polio hasn’t been eradicated in Boko Haran territory.
But it is part three than got us wildly excited. The personal details of Bill and Melinda’s courtship and marriage, and the anti-trust cases against Microsoft were informative, but the big news was the third project of the Gates Foundation—developing a cleaner, safer nuclear power plant and reactor. A team of teams led by Bill came up with a new and radically different nuclear reactor design that they are quite confident will not be able to have a meltdown during even a missile strike. It will not run as hot, or need water for cooling, and it will run on nuclear waste–used and depleted uranium–so it will not create much more waste, and will give a use to all the nuclear waste dumps in the world today and use the waste up. If it works, it is a game changer. They decided the best place to build the first one was in China, since the Chinese were still actively building nuclear power plants, but when Trump came to office, he began tariffs and cancelled the carefully arranged partnership. The episode ended without more info. We just know that the Gates Foundation still has to build and test their first prototype somewhere, to see if the simulations in their labs and on their computers are accurate.