China Explores Thorium Route
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports about developments in China that point at an increased interest the Chinese haven taken in thorium as a means to generate energy. With a startup budget of $350m and 140 PhD scientists to begin with, China is looking for a new generation of thorium reactors that produce far less toxic waste and cannot blow their top like Fukushima. China is leading the pack but Norway and Japan are working on thorium reactors as well. The Americans had projects in the past but shelved these and gave preference to uranium, as they needed the plutonium byproduct to build nuclear bombs. China will probably work with molten salt as a transport medium for heat. A team hopes to realize a 2 MW prototype around 2020 and commercial scale reactors later. Estimated thorium reserves should cover China’s energy needs for 20,000 years. Thorium is not without problems, but the waste is far less toxic. Thorium reactors can even be used to destroy all the radioactive waste that has been piling up from conventional uranium reactors. Plants could be build below the ground, at small sizes. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is convinced.