January 30, 2011

Thorium reactors are coming soon

Unfortunately, to China and not to the USA.

From Energy from Thorium (MSR = Molten Salt Reactor):

China Initiates Thorium MSR Project
The People’s Republic of China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology, it was announced in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) annual conference on Tuesday, January 25. An article in the Wenhui News followed on Wednesday (Google English translation). Chinese researchers also announced this development on the Energy from Thorium Discussion Forum.

Led by Dr. Jiang Mianheng, a graduate of Drexel University in electrical engineering, the thorium MSR efforts aims not only to develop the technology but to secure intellectual property rights to its implementation.

A bit more:

A Chinese delegation led by Dr. Jiang traveled to Oak Ridge National Lab last fall to learn more about MSR technology and told lab leadership of their plans to develop a thorium-fueled MSR.

The Chinese also recognize that a thorium-fueled MSR is best run with uranium-233 fuel, which inevitably contains impurities (uranium-232 and its decay products) that preclude its use in nuclear weapons. Operating an MSR on the “pure” fuel cycle of thorium and uranium-233 means that a breakeven conversion ratio can be achieved, and after being started on uranium-233, only thorium is required for indefinite operation and power generation.

Thorium is a lot better than Uranium for generating electricity. The reactors are operated at near atmospheric pressure so the design is simple, the reactors are able to burn 90% of the fuel and the 10% waste has a half-life of a few hundred years and not the thousands of Uranium. There is a lot more Thorium in the earth's crust than Uranium so there is sufficient accessible fuel for thousands of years of full-time operation.

Posted by DaveH at January 30, 2011 09:36 PM
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