Topics: Alternate Energy, Climate Change, Nuclear Power, Thorium
The Royal Society of Chemistry: Thorium (named for a certain Marvel character).
If China’s experimental reactor is a success it could lead to commercialization and help the nation meet its climate goals.
Scientists are excited about an experimental nuclear reactor using thorium as fuel, which is about to begin tests in China. Although this radioactive element has been trialed in reactors before, experts say that China is the first to have a shot at commercializing the technology.
The reactor is unusual in that it has molten salts circulating inside it instead of water. It has the potential to produce nuclear energy that is relatively safe and cheap, while also generating a much smaller amount of very long-lived radioactive waste than conventional reactors.
Construction of the experimental thorium reactor in Wuwei, on the outskirts of the Gobi Desert, was due to be completed by the end of August — with trial runs scheduled for this month, according to the government of Gansu province.
Thorium is a weakly radioactive, silvery metal found naturally in rocks, and currently has little industrial use. It is a waste product of the growing rare-earth mining industry in China and is, therefore, an attractive alternative to imported uranium, say researchers.
China prepares to test thorium-fueled nuclear reactor, Smriti Mallapaty, Nature