China All Set to Build the First “Clean” Commercial Reactor Using Liquid Thorium and Molten Salt

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Is it a bit hard to believe that nuclear reactors can significantly reduce emissions and still supply with an abundant energy supply? However, it may be worrisome about the amount of water they use and the concern of long-term safety while using them. China has found an impending solution to this problem, according to a report published in LiveScience, China has a plan to build the first “Clean “commercial nuclear reactor using liquid thorium and molten salt.

China wants to create the technology not only to be kinder to the environment but also to reduce some political disagreements. Uranium reactors produce waste that stays extremely radioactive for up to 10,000 years, requiring lead containers and proper strict security measures for waste disposal.  The waste includes plutonium-239 and isotopes important to nuclear weapons, thus raising many eye brows regarding the possible use of such energy. They need large volumes of water, eliminate its use in arid climates. Thorium-based tech produces safer waste and can’t be easily used for nukes, raising less questions for their possible use in weapon making.

China is building the first such reactor in Wuwei, a desert city in the country Gansu province. The government views this project as a way to encourage China’s international expansion. The country plans up to 30 countries to participate in the company’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations.

However, Thorium reactors dissolve their key elements in the form of fluoride salt that outputs uranium-233 which we can easily recycle through other reactions and the other remaining leftovers in the reaction have a half-life of about 500 years. In case if there is any leakage, the molten salt cools enough that it effectively seals in the thorium and prevents any other further significant leaks. The big benefit of the technology it doesn’t require water, and can’t easily be used to generate nuclear weapons. China is building reactors in the desert, far away from most cities and without any concern that it will add to nuclear weapon stockpiles.

Image Source: Google

China’s Thorium rector is going to give tough competition to other countries and most probably alarming situation for the US that are behind on building reactor based on Thorium Tech. Talking about US-based Natrium rector, which is still under development. And some studies have disclosed that it might go a long way towards fighting climate change and meeting China’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2060. The country at present is still heavily dependent on coal energy and they have no guarantee of renewable sources to what extent would these resources help them out. The development of Thorium reactors in China’s way out to free itself from coal dependency quickly especially small-scale reactors that could be built over shorter periods and fill gaps where larger plants would be excessive.

The very first version of the reactor should be ready in August, with the first tests due in September. And a full-scale commercial rector should be ready to use by 2030.

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