SAFE nuclear Technology from China?

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I have never heard of this before, uses THORIUM....

his passed unnoticed –except by a small of band of thorium enthusiasts – but it may mark the passage of strategic leadership in energy policy from an inert and status-quo West to a rising technological power willing to break the mould.

If China’s dash for thorium power succeeds, it will vastly alter the global energy landscape and may avert a calamitous conflict over resources as Asia’s industrial revolutions clash head-on with the West’s entrenched consumption.

China’s Academy of Sciences said it had chosen a “thorium-based molten salt reactor system”. The liquid fuel idea was pioneered by US physicists at Oak Ridge National Lab in the 1960s, but the US has long since dropped the ball. Further evidence of Barack `Obama’s “Sputnik moment”, you could say.

Chinese scientists claim that hazardous waste will be a thousand times less than with uranium. The system is inherently less prone to disaster.

“The reactor has an amazing safety feature,” said Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA engineer at Teledyne Brown and a thorium expert.

Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm


Thorium reactors have the advantage that the fuel is cheap. They create uranium through neutrn capture. Although it uses a different form of uranium fission to produce the energy and the design has some inherent safety advantages, the fission products in the waste have the same downside at the far end.

There is a potential for disaster here as well: Sodium + water = vigorous fire that produces hydrogen gas that easily leads to explosion. Please try to find a nuclear power system that does not have a built-in explosion capability.

LeMoyne's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

A couple of things...

Although the thorium fuel cycle does produce hazardous waste, it has two key advantages. First, beause the thorium fuel is almost entirely consumed (well over 90%, compared to 0.5% of the uranium in a traditional LWR), there is much less waste per unit of energy produced. Second, because the cycle starts from a lower point on the periodic table, you end up with a lot less transuranics in the waste (practically zero, in fact). So the waste is less dangerous, there's less of it, and it's easier to manage.

Also, the LFTR design being touted above does not use sodium AT ALL (perhaps you were thinking of the Fast Breeder?). The "molten salt" being used is a combination of lithium and beryllium fluorides. (Pure fluorine is just as dangerous as pure sodium, but these fluoride salts are extremely stable.)

Finally, the LFTR can also be configured to "burn" the current stockpiles of nuclear waste we already have. To me, that sounds like a much better solution than trying to bury it "securely" under Yucca Mountain.

taiwanjohn's picture
May. 17, 2012 12:16 am

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