Philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that he will seek opportunities to partner with China in developing nuclear energy despite the recent suspension of a joint venture between TerraPower, based in the United States, and a top Chinese nuclear-power producer that has discouraged bilateral cooperation in energy innovations.
"The TerraPower thing, that was a setback, but there are ways to come back and engage China in a fairly deep way later in the project," he said on Thursday during an interview with Chinese media in Beijing.
TerraPower was co-founded by Gates in 2008 to explore innovative energy technologies.
The company struck an agreement with the China National Nuclear Corporation in 2017 to run a trial of its traveling-wave reactor - a safe and efficient source of clean power - in China.
But in late 2018, Gates wrote in his personal blog that policy changes in the US have made the pilot project in China unlikely.
In the past year, the US government has imposed stricter restrictions on technology collaborations with China amid a raging trade war between the two countries.
TerraPower has thus decided to build its first demonstration plant in the US.
Gates said that China has the capacity to make contributions to advancing nuclear power technology with its increasing investment in higher-quality research and incredible engineering skills.
"China has a lot to contribute," he said. "China is building about 40 percent of all the nuclear builds in the world."
China is the world's most populous country and also one of the largest carbon dioxide emitters. In recent years, it has stepped up its efforts to reduce emissions by cracking down on heavily polluting factories and promoting renewable and clean energy alternatives.
"I am only doing TerraPower to help with climate change. I'm not trying to make money. So unless it helps China have a zero-emission grid and helps India have a zero-emission grid, then it (the company) is not fulfilling its goal," Gates said.
"So to the degree we're allowed, we're going to be very aggressive about building Chinese partnerships. If we don't have cooperation, then things like climate change will be much more difficult to solve," he added.
Gates' commitment to reducing greenhouse gasses through nuclear innovations is unrelated to the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that he co-founded in 2000.
The foundation tackles climate change by enhancing resilience of poor farmers through a series of measures, such as introducing better seeds and agricultural practices, providing insurance plans and weather information.
"That adaptation work is a huge thing in the foundation," he said. "And we're encouraging all the donors, including China, to get involved more in this seed work for poor farmers, including Africa."
The United Nations, among other environmental experts and advocates, have been calling for all countries and regions to zero out carbon emissions by 2050 to stabilize global temperatures.