The deadline to develop a new design for thorium nuclear power plants has been brought forward by 15 years as the central government tries to reduce the nation’s reliance on smog-producing coal-fired power stations.
A team of scientists in Shanghai had originally been given 25 years to try to develop the world’s first nuclear plant using the radioactive element thorium as fuel rather than uranium, but they have now been told they have 10, the researchers said.
“The problem of coal has become clear. If the average energy consumption per person doubles, this country will be choked to death by polluted air,” he said. “Nuclear power provides the only solution for massive coal replacement and thorium carries much hope.”
Researchers working on the project said they were under unprecedented “war-like” pressure to succeed and some of the technical challenges they faced were difficult, if not impossible to solve in such a short period.
Interest, however, has been revived in recent years and research projects (molten salt reactors and thorium) have been established in several countries, including the United States, France and Japan.
“This is definitely a race,” said Li. China “faces fierce competition from overseas and to get there first will not be an easy task”, he said.
The thorium reactor is not the only technology China is researching in an attempt to upgrade its nuclear power program.
The Hefei Institute of Physical Science in Anhui province finished construction last month of the world’s largest experimental platform for an accelerator reactor that burns nuclear fuel with a powerful “particle gun”.
An experimental fast reactor is also operating in Beijing, and construction has started of a demonstration plant for a very-high-temperature reactor at Shidao Bay in Shandong province.
Professor Gu Zhongmao, an official at the China Institute of Atomic Energy, said so-called fourth-generation reactors were troubled by technological uncertainties, and to solve the smog issue the central government should approve and start construction of new nuclear power plants using existing technology as soon as possible.
The thorium reactors would need years, if not decades, to overcome the corrosion issue and the stability of accelerator-driven plants was also in doubt, he said.
Smog would be reduced noticeably if nuclear power produced 5 to 10 per cent of the nation’s electricity, according to Gu. China has about 20 nuclear reactors and is building nearly 30 more.
Its use of nuclear power is tiny compared with countries such as France, which produces about 75 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power plants.
NBF – it looks like full speed ahead for building current nuclear reactors and various kinds of next generation nuclear power in China.
China will have about the following overall energy in the future
2020 8000 TWh, 10% nuclear would take 800 TWh which is about as 100 reactors generate in the USA now
2030 15000 TWh, 30% nuclear would take 4500 TWh which would take 400 large nuclear reactors
SOURCE – South China Morning Post
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