CHINA’s electricity usage and net oil imports (liquid fuel imports minus domestic production) are already at world-record levels, as questions regarding its energy security become more relevant considering its positive long-term growth outlook. It seems that China is answering the questions in several ways and two of them are with the development of thorium-fuelled and tidal-flow reactors.
The Chinese government has just expressed what it expects from its Thorium Energy Program. It wants to cut the development time from 25 years to only 10 in order to have Thorium Reactors replacing coal-fired power plants, which blanket the country in increasingly dangerous smog.
The nuclear race is on. China is upping the ante dramatically on thorium nuclear energy. Scientists in Shanghai have been told to accelerate plans (sorry for the pun) to build the first fully-functioning thorium reactor within ten years, instead of 25 years as originally planned.
“This is definitely a race. China faces fierce competition from overseas and to get there first will not be an easy task”,” says Professor Li Zhong, a leader of the programme. He said researchers are working under “warlike” pressure to deliver.
As scientists in Shanghai are told to accelerate plans to build the first fully-functioning thorium reactor within ten years, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Hans Blix runs through the aspects of the fuel that make it a viable source of energy.
China needs energy just about any way they can get it — coal, gas, solar, wind, biomass, nuclear — they’ll take it. However the country’s heavy reliance on coal is is becoming a heavy liability. Coal-fired power plants and other industrial outlets that ring China’s growing urban hubs are creating near-permanent smog centers that choke out the sun and leave residents and visitors alike engulfed in a debilitating hazy mess.
Can a little-known element, named for the mythological Norse god, Thor, provide safe nuclear power and a path to long-term energy independence for all? Several scientists are shouting, “Yes!”
But if that is so, why is the possibility of using thorium to generate electricity unknown even to many nuclear physicists, and what is blocking implementation of technology which has been available since the 1950s?