China is experimenting to make a nuclear reactor that is not like what is known before, and it just might become successful and open avenues for more possibilities in this field. It was mentioned in a report from the journal Nature that this will make China the first country to come up with a ‘commercial’ nuclear reactor that is fuelled by thorium. If this method turns out to be as successful as it seems, it will bring more efficient, safer, and effective solutions for conventional nuclear reactors.
The internal mechanism of this reactor is different in the way that it uses molten salts inside instead of water that is usually used. This technology will allow the reactor to create safe energy and give out less amount of radioactive waste than the regular ones. This may also address the long-standing objections to nuclear power.
The construction of the Wuwei-based experimental thorium reactor near the edge of the Gobi Desert was listed for completion in August. The test operations are scheduled to start this month. This information is in accordance with the Gansu province’s government as reported by Nature.
“Thorium is much more plentiful than uranium and so it would be a very useful technology to have in 50- or 100-years’ time,” states the Nuclear Engineer Lyndon Edwards of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization that is based in Sydney, in the report. However, it was also stated that this technology is at its very preliminary stages, and it needs a great amount of time to become what it intends to be. Therefore, the work must be started on it now.
This project commenced in 2011 and around $500 million were invested then, as said by the former president Ritsuo Yoshioka of the International Thorium Molten-Salt Forum in Oiso, Japan, who also worked extensively with researchers in China. The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) operates the Wuwei reactor, which was built to generate just 2 megawatts of thermal energy. This means that only 1,000 homes could be powered by it. However, once it becomes successful, 373-megawatt will be generated by the reactor by 2030. At this power level, a thorium nuclear reactor could power hundreds of thousands of homes and could power commercial activities as well.