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Princeling Jiang Mianheng, son of former leader Jiang Zemin, is spearheading a project for China's National Academy of Sciences with a start-up budget of $350m.
He has already recruited 140 PhD scientists, working full-time on thorium power at the Shanghai Institute of Nuclear and Applied Physics. He will have 750 staff by 2015.
The aim is to break free of the archaic pressurized-water reactors fueled by uranium -- originally designed for US submarines in the 1950s -- opting instead for new generation of thorium reactors that produce far less toxic waste and cannot blow their top like Fukushima.
"China is the country to watch," said Baroness Bryony Worthington, head of the All-Parliamentary Group on Thorium Energy, who visited the Shanghai operations recently with a team from Britain's National Nuclear Laboratory.
"They are really going for it, and have talented researchers. This could lead to a massive break-through."
Originally posted by okamitengu
the best part of thorium reactors is they can burn material not deemed as fissable by conventional reactors.
eg.. they can burn depleted uranium waste... and turn it into power
how is that not something we all shoudl have done by now.
There is a huge, tremendous engineering problem with some of the thorium reactors being designed, in particular, anything with liquid salts.
I don't think people realize what this means: the fissile fuel, and hence many years of high-level radioactive waste is dissolved in a very very hot thick liquid.
Every single nuclear plant also has to be the equivalent of Savannah River, a separation plant which can do large scale chemical engineering on exceedingly radioactive LIQUIDs. For human factors and engineering, that's a disaster.
A leaky valve on an oil refinery means "problem, shut down, cleanup and restart in a few days." A leaky valve which is processing this stuff means, possibly, permanent shutdown or abandonment. Remember, humans cannot even conceive of going near the equipment for years.
What if the salts happen to cool and solidify when it's all in the tubes? What happens if there's some accident and, oh something like rain gets in?
In its form in the LFTR, the very radioactive waste products are very water soluble. Think of what happened in Fukushima---but there the waste was SOLID. What if it had been liquid and water soluble?
You can knock conventional pressurized water reactors, but they have one thing really going for them: all the really nasty stuff is well contained in SOLID materials encased in extremely tough zirconium steel.
If you have to pick up after you dog, would you prefer the rear waste material to be solid, or the same thing in a more liquid form?
LFTRs can include a freeze plug at the bottom that has to be actively cooled, usually by a small electric fan. If the cooling fails, say because of a power failure, the fan stops, the plug melts, and the fuel drains to a subcritical passively cooled storage facility. This not only stops the reactor, also the storage tank can more easily shed the decay heat from the short-lived radioactive decay of irradiated nuclear fuels. Even in the event of a major leak from the core such as a pipe breaking, the salt will spill onto the kitchen-sink-shaped room where the reactor is in, which will drain the fuel salt by gravity into the passively cooled dump tank.
ersonally, I believe that the best way forward is efficient, but smaller and modular, reactors which use solid fuel, and are manufactured with high quality control in a factory assembly line, not on-site and not custom for many billions.
Smaller is better---a generating station should have 20 smaller reactors instead of 2 huge ones. The central disaster problem with conventional reactors is that they stay physically hot from residual radioactivity even after shutdown, and without continued active cooling they will self destruct and melt down.
This is clearly a surface area vs volume issue, because passive cooling depends on surface area and heat generation is proportional to volume. So physically smaller cores are safer.