China sets eyes on thorium for 'clean' nuclear power generation

A group of 140 PhD scientists, working full-time on thorium power at the Shanghai Institute of Nuclear and Applied Physics, is getting close to creating a new generation of thorium reactors that produce much less toxic waste and don’t blow their top like Japan’s Fukushima.

The Telegraph reports the team, spearheaded by Jiang Mianheng who is the son of former leader Jiang Zemin, claims they will be able to help China break free of the archaic pressurized-water reactors fuelled by uranium in a matter of years. And they’ve got $350 million so far to make it happen.

“China is the country to watch," Baroness Bryony Worthington, head of the All-Parliamentary Group on Thorium Energy, was quoted as saying.

Worthington, who visited the Shanghai operations recently with a team from Britain's National Nuclear Laboratory, think the outcome of the ongoing research “could lead to a massive break-through."

Thorium is much more abundant that most people think, writes Stuart Burns from the MetalMiner.

“It is estimated to be about three to four times more abundant than uranium in the earth’s crust — but because of its radioactivity and relatively limited uses, it comes to our attention more as a by-product or even contaminant than a traded metal or oxide,” he adds.

Japan has already joined the race. The country's International Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS) — now led by thorium enthusiast Takashi Kamei — is researching molten salt reactors that use liquid fuel, reports The Telegraph.

But the Chinese are ahead. And if they manage to crack thorium, says the article, the world will need less oil, coal, and gas than feared.

Wind turbines will vanish from our landscape. There will [be] less risk of a global energy crunch, less risk of resource wars, and less risk of a climate tipping point.

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Image © Rendy Aryanto