Terrapower, founded and funded by Gates, is collaborating with Chinese scientists on a fourth-generation reactor, the BBC reported Thursday.
Research into the reactor could take five years and cost more than $1 billion, Gates said.
"The idea is to be very low cost, very safe and generate very little waste," Gates said during a talk at China's Ministry of Science and Technology, where he confirmed the collaboration with Terrapower.
The company has talked to other nuclear nations, such as India and Russia, about 4G research, he said, noting talks between Terrapower and China's National Nuclear Corporation were still at a "early stage."
Terrapower is researching a design known as a traveling wave reactor that uses depleted uranium as its power source and is said to have the potential to create less nuclear waste than other designs.
"All these new designs are going to be incredibly safe," Gates said. "They require no human action to remain safe at all times."