Nuclear energy can be made safe in part through advanced computer simulation and next-generation power plant designs, according to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. The software billionaire, an investor in Bellevue’s TerraPower, touted the benefits of nuclear energy today at the Wired Business Conference: Disruptive by Design in New York.

In a talk titled “A Tour of the Most Promising Technologies to Replace Oil and Coal,” Gates implored that: “We have to be safe, and be able to communicate that we are safe.”  Those remarks, reported by VentureBeatcome amid fears over problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the massive 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan late last month.

But even so, Gates said that nuclear power is safer than coal, telling Wired Magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson that “if you compare it to the amount that coal has killed per kilowatt hour, it is way less.”

“Coal kills fewer people at one time, which is highly preferred by politicians,” Gates said, according to a summary in TechCrunch.

In Wired’s report of the talk, Gates added that  “cute” technologies in the home won’t solve the world’s energy problems. Instead, he said it would take big solar projects in the desert or other technologies. “If we don’t have innovation in energy, we don’t have much at all,” he added.

TerraPower remains one of the areas where Gates is putting his money where his mouth is. The company, which spun out of Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures lab, is developing a traveling wave reactor which would improve upon nuclear technologies created in the 1950s.

In remarks Tuesday, Gates touted that TerraPower system as “quite amazing” and noted that “no human should ever be required to do anything.”

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