China invests hundreds of millions of dollars in an extraordinary project that could transform Earth

Jiang Mianheng, son of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, coordinating an important project with a budget of 350 million dollars for the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Jiang Mianheng already recruited 140 graduate students to assign them a  thorium-based energy project that is taking place at the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics. The number of researchers involved in this project will increase to 750 by 2015.

This project aims at giving archaic heavy water reactors under pressure, fueled by uranium, which was originally designed for U.S. submarines in the 50s. Within this project, it will be designed next generation of reactors based on Thorium, which produce a far fewer toxic waste that can not explode like Fukushima reactor.

“China is the country to be prosecuted. Chinese authorities have decided to make a massive effort, and the country has talented researchers. This project could lead to revolutionary success, “said Baroness Bryony Worthington, leader of the parliamentary group dedicated thorium-based energy. British official has recently made a visit to Shanghai with a team from the National Nuclear Laboratory in the UK.

Experts advocating for thorium-based nuclear reactors believe they could prove essential to stimulate transformative technology industrial revolutions Asian countries. Also, these experts say that these reactors could be the solution to a problem that faces Earth in the near future: obtaining the necessary energy to meet the demand of two billion people who adopt Western lifestyles.

Optimists believe that thorium could be a revolution in nuclear power as shale gas exploitation has transformed the natural gas. Moreover, the territory would have the advantage that it can be used widely, cheaply and without carbon dioxide emissions.

The Chinese invest the money in thorium, but not the only country interested in its potential. Recently, Norway has launched a test that will cover four years, during which they test whether the Halden reactor can operate conventional thorium. Also, research institutes in Japan studying alternative options that can save the nuclear industry to regain public trust.

Chinese authorities intend to win this race thorium. The underlying technology-based molten salt reactor is not new. In the ’60s, researchers at The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee has built such a reactor, but their success was subsequently abandoned by U.S. President Nixon. Pentagon needed plutonium waste, obtained using uranium to build nuclear bombs. Thus, the priorities of the Cold War “buried” this technology.

Thorium data remained in American archives are ignored for long. When a former NASA engineer Kirk Sorensen, has discovered and published the U.S. ignored it. China did the same.

Jiang Mianheng visited laboratories at Oak Ridge and obtained plans thorium reactor. Son of former Chinese leader had the idea after reading an article in the journal American Scientist the territory was praised. “Prince” (as nicknamed followers Chinese leaders) concluded that thorium-based reactors could be the answer to prayers China.

Jiang said that insufficient energy is a problem “scary” in China as a potential threat to national security. Therefore, the research team plans to build-up to the end of this decade a small plant of 2 MW that uses molten fluoride salt. Later, in the 2020s, the research team will carry out regular-sized nuclear reactors. Researchers are also working on designing a reactor graphite ball as a neutron moderator.

Jiang estimated that in China there is enough thorium to meet the country’s electricity needs for the next 20,000 years. The same is true for many other countries on Earth. Americans buried tons of thorium, which is obtained as a byproduct from the operation “rare earth”.

China is already building 26 conventional reactors, will be completed by 2015, another 51 reactors being planned and another 120 are in the design phase. Apart from the already known, these reactors also presents a problem to be imported uranium.

The great advantage of thorium reactors is that they can not cause a similar disaster in Fukushima. Professor Robert Cywinksi from Huddersfield University said that the metal is bombarded with neutrons to make the process work. “Thus, there is a chain reaction. Splitting stops when the particle accelerator is off, “said the specialist.

China invests hundreds of millions of dollars in an extraordinary project that could transform Earth

The team led by Professor Cywinksi working on designing a sub-critical fission reactor that uses particle accelerators. “People are beginning to realize that uranium is not sustainable. We need a new type of nuclear fuel. Allows elimination of plutonium from the thorium cycle, “said the teacher.

Tori leaves much less toxic waste from its use. Most of the mineral is used in the process of fission, where uranium-based reactors, only 0.7% of the material used. Also, thorium is very difficult to use in order to achieve bombs.

A study published by a team of researchers from Cambridge University shows that nuclear waste could be damaged by their use in reactors with thorium. Thus, the new generation of reactors could help clear waste accumulated over the past 50 years as a result of uranium-based reactors and nuclear arms.

Because the process of occurring thorium reactors at atmospheric pressure, they do not require huge domes that characterize today’s nuclear reactors. This allows building them underground and will take up less space than a mall.

Another advantage is that the reactors can be customized. Kirk Sorensen said that the group he leads, Flibe Energy, consider the design of the 250 MW reactors specifically designed for a single steel plant. Such a reactor could be ideal for China, which has 40% of the global steel industry, which uses coal as an energy source – which is highly polluting and must be transported from mines at long distances.

Sorensen said that this reactor design does not permit any accident, because never it will not reach temperatures high enough to melt nickel alloy vessel. In an emergency, the plug melts and flows salt in a bowl. “The reactor is saved alone,” says Sorensen.

Xu Hongji, director of the Shanghai project, says the U.S. Department of Energy began to show interest in Chinese plans, opening discussions about a possible collaboration. It also discusses Chinese authorities and Russian and Indian officials.

It remains to be seen if this project will bear fruit. In case of success, humanity will need less coal, oil, and natural gas than is now believed, eliminating risks of wars for resources and reducing pollution challenging climate. In conclusion, thorium has the potential to radically change Earth.

Source: The Telegraph

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