China opening molten-salt nuclear reactor uses thorium as fuel
September 28, 2021 / 7:45 AM
Sharjah24 – Reuters: Having completed its construction in the Gobi Desert, China will test a thorium-powered nuclear reactor in the next two weeks, according to France 24.”
While in conventional nuclear plants the fuel is stored inside the fuel rods, in plants with molten salt reactors it is dissolved directly into the molten salt liquid core. Science journal Nature’s website explains that these reactors may reduce the risk of explosive meltdowns because they operate at lower pressures.
They also operate at higher temperatures, meaning they can produce electricity more efficiently, according to one nuclear engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The use of thorium as the fuel is considered ‘greener’ than the use of uranium because it does not create plutonium, which is highly toxic, and because its radioactivity drops off to safe levels in a few hundred, rather than tens of thousands of years, according to NPR.
For China, another advantage is that this type of reactor does not need to be built near large bodies of water because the salts serve as a coolant, unlike conventional reactors which require massive amounts of water.
What’s more, geopolitically, moving away from the use of uranium would reduce reliance on supplies from countries like Canada and Australia, because thorium belongs to a family of rare-earth metals that are more abundant in China than elsewhere.