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Archive for the category “thorium”

China on the Verge of Testing a Thorium Reactor

China is about to start up a thorium reactor in the desert in the North of China. The output of the prototype is sufficient for merely 1000 homes. If the test delivers the desired results, an upscaled model will be designed to power 100,000 homes. In the long run, China intends to export this technology.

A few key data points concerning thorium: no plutonium, waste radio-active for 300, rather than tens of thousands of years, half-life 30 years, far more thorium reserves than uranium (think thousands of years), 1 gram thorium = 2500 liter gasoline. China and others think that commercial thorium reactors could be operational by 2040.

Is everything rosy? Perhaps, perhaps not. The main concern is that intense radiation and corrosive salts, combined with high temperatures, could damage the reactor over a few years. Only time will tell. But the world will be watching the developments in China with great interest.

[nature.com] – China prepares to test thorium-fuelled nuclear reactor
[livescience.com] – China is gearing up to activate commercial nuclear reactor
[france24.com] – Why China is developing a thorium-fuelled nuclear reactor
[wikipedia.org] – Thorium-based nuclear power
[wikipedia.org] – Occurrence of thorium
[volkskrant.nl] – China een stap dichter bij een thorium reactor
[Google Maps] – Wuwei, location thorium reactor

What About Thorium?

The advantage of Thorium over Uranium: more abundant fuel available, less waste, reactors are safer. Most promising design: molten salt reactor.

So why don’t we see thorium reactors in practice?

First, because of the link between the uranium cycle and nuclear weapons.

Second, because of engineering challenges to contain corrosive molten salt.

Interest for thorium technology does exist, though, notably in India and China, but also in the US.

[wikipedia.org] – Thorium
[wikipedia.org] – Thorium fuel cycle
[wikipedia.org] – Molten salt reactor

Thorium Remix 2009

Youtube text: Thorium is readily available & can be turned into energy without generating transuranic wastes. Thorium’s capacity as nuclear fuel was discovered during WW II, but ignored because it was unsuitable for making bombs. A liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is the optimal approach for harvesting energy from Thorium, and has the potential to solve today’s energy/climate crisis. This 16 minute video summarizes 197 minutes worth of Google Tech Talks on the subject of Thorium & LFTR.

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China Explores Thorium Route

thorium-nuclear-alternative_203[source]
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.

[telegraph.co.uk]

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor Advocacy

Fast paced video from 2011, lasting 2 hours, with Kirk Sorenson trying to talk us into a thorium energy future. We have no opinion about thorium. Not yet.

[Wikipedia – Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment]
[Wikipedia – Thorium Fuel Cycle]
[Twitter – Kirk Sorenson]
[Amazon – SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future]

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