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Power Science

China Starts Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Project 387

greg_barton writes "The Energy From Thorium blog reports, 'The People's Republic of China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology. It was announced in the Chinese Academy of Sciences annual conference on Tuesday, January 25.' The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor is an alternative reactor design that 1) burns existing nuclear waste, 2) uses abundant thorium as a base fuel, 3) produces far less toxic, shorter-lived waste than existing designs, and 4) can be mass produced, run unattended for years, and installed underground for safety."
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China Starts Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Project

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  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @01:21AM (#35064254)

    If it weren't for the enviro-nuts and not-in-my-backyarders who think electricity magically comes from the socket and not instead from coal plants and the like.

  • by profplump ( 309017 ) <> on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @01:26AM (#35064268)

    Well that and the conflation of defense-industry nuclear materials production with energy production -- thorium reactors are almost certainly better for generating power, but they don't help you build nuclear bombs, so they get less funding (or at least they have historically).

  • ARGH (Score:3, Insightful)

    by magus_melchior ( 262681 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @01:39AM (#35064334) Journal

    This is infuriating. While the oil and coal shills in Congress and the conservative propaganda networks insist global warming is not real, and while the Greens refuse to have anything to do with nukes, China will be light-years ahead of us in technology.

  • Re:Initiated. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gmaslov ( 1983830 ) <> on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @02:13AM (#35064514) Homepage
    That is how progress is made. I think the relevant quotes are "shoulders of giants", "those who ship, win", and possibly even "shit or get off the pot".
  • Re:Go China! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @02:13AM (#35064516)
    Both, it's cheaper because of NIMBYism. Most of the cost of a modern plant is not for the physical plant itself but for all the permitting process and the cost of interest while everything is tied up in court. That's why I had hope when they started talking about guaranteed loans and type certified designs to reduce the time to implement when Obama was elected, but not much has come of it yet.
  • Re:ARGH (Score:2, Insightful)

    by paesano ( 784687 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @02:16AM (#35064526)
    ...and it's even more infuriating that the lefties forced us to abandon practical forms of energy (like nuclear) some 30+ years ago using the same fear tactics that they are now using to get us to waste our time on windmills and solar farms. Speaking as a conservative, and for most of the conservatives that I know, I'd love to see us move in the same direction as China. Just please, please don't try to scare me with stories of how the sky is falling. Talk to me about limited natural resources and the need to create reliable, abundant energy for a growing population and emerging societies, and I'm listening.
  • Re:Go China! (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @02:27AM (#35064588)

    Bollocks. Even in places like Eastern Europe, where many governments are eager to build nuclear stations to the point of stepping on legitimate safety concerns, and where cheap seed Russian finance is usually made available by Rosatom, it was impossible to raise capital to build nuclear plants. Even in 2004-2006, during the largest ever boom of liquidity, when cheap money was available for all kinds of worthless shit. Even in countries that have running nuclear plants, and don't need to import expensive expertise.

    And even there the initial quotes tend to rise steeply as plants near completion. For example, a certain plant project I am quite familiar with started with an initial offer of EUR 4b per 750MW reactor (that excluding all land acquisition and infrastructure expenses). By the time financing was promised at this level (which took a little over a year) the offer price per reactor has more than doubled to EUR 9.5b. That still excluded all other expenses, and doesn't touch the issue of storage and reprocessing of used fuel. Once a proper calculation is made, even with a rather unrealistic assumption that the reactor will operate all serviceable life at 90% or more of capacity, it turns out that the electricity costs close to what expensive "alternative" energy costs.

    No, my friend, whatever you believe, nuclear energy is very, very expensive, even if it is done with all possible government support. That is why it only catches on in countries where the cost of building isn't an issue, or where the government officials get rich on the deals.

  • Re:Don't worry. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @02:29AM (#35064594)

    Not sure it's necessarily bad for the US if China has this technology. The more energy they get from nukes, the less China will compete for oil on the int'l market.

  • by WalksOnDirt ( 704461 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @04:04AM (#35064994)

    The MSR reactors are neither liquid metal cooled nor water cooled. I don't see the relevance.

  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:12AM (#35065514)

    I don't about the rest of the people around here, but I get really weary of all the snide remarks, sometimes.

    Wherever we live in the world, and whatever you think of the Chinese government, should we not be able to be glad on behalf of the Chinese? And for ourselves too - because the West are not going to let China just run away with the full benefits of developing this technology; and it is going to do us all a lot of good.

    So let us all be glad, and not too petty to congratulate others for achieving things.

  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @08:15AM (#35066192) Homepage
    The worst part is that when a non-root reply is minimized, you can neither see its score (to differentiate the 5s from the -1, Trolls), nor that there are dozens of replies under it. I compliained about this in the original "hey look at our cool new webby thing" thread. The only thing that ever got fixed was putting underlines back on web links, but that was so bad that I was hardly the only one complaining, and it would have been only a CSS change anyhow.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @10:14AM (#35067074) Homepage Journal

    Well, having low prices for petroleum, coal and natural gas after the 1970s *might* have had something to do with the collapse of the US nuclear industry.

    Seriously, just how paranoid do you have to be to believe in an environmental lobby that can prevail against any industry that sees big, quick bucks to be made? How out of touch with what environmentalists actually think do you have to be to believe they *don't* know coal is involved in generating electricity?

    Environmentalists who are concerned with energy generally want two things: (1) greater efficiency and (2) sustainably renewable energy sources. These also happen to be good things if you are interested in national economic security.

    Renewable energy sources are where we'll be in the long run anyhow, because sustainability is, well, *unsustainable*. Unsustainability per se is not a long term problem, because it is a self-correcting problem. The problems with non-sustainable practices are all the things we end up doing to keep the status quo running just a little bit longer; the external costs we dump on the society and the planet because we are facing problems we don't know how to fix in a decade, much less overnight. Deepwater Horizon was an example of that. We pushed our capability to the limit, and because the margins at the limit aren't as generous as we'd like we cut corners.

    This problem is exacerbated by the unwillingness of people to think ahead. People equate thinking ahead with doom and gloom. When they fix a problem, they want it to be fixed forever, even if that's unreasonable. If we planned ahead, we could use nuclear power to help us transition from petroleum.The first bite of a non-sustainable practice is the least environmentally costly. But we have trouble not taking the next bite, and the bite after that, until we've used it all up.

    What would happen if we decided to pursue nuclear as bridge to future sustainable energy production? I think very quickly people would view this as a new status quo that will last forever. They won't think about decommissioning, waste disposal an fuel supply problems that are two or three decades in the future. Oh, they'll pay lip service to these things, but then go ahead and build plants on a scale that ignores these coming problems. The urge build our way out of our short term problems will be almost irresistible. If we succeed in building our way out of our short term problems, energy efficiency will go out the window because we'll consider our problems solved forever.

    Nonetheless, I think we *should* increase our use of nuclear power. We'll probably need to increase our use of natural gas and (ugh) coal. There will be millions spent lobbying to choose one of these technologies and treat it as a silver bullet (which none of them will be). We just have to accept that's a fight we'll have to have, because having failed to convince people to look ahead forty years ago, we can't just wag our finger at them and say, "See? This is what we said was going to happen, even if in the short term oil prices went down." You don't win people over by rubbing their nose in their being wrong.

    The important thing is to move to a diversified portfolio of energy sources, and electricity generation is key to this. As any single energy source becomes economically or environmentally non-viable, we won't be faced with the end of civilization as we know it. This will also be a bridge to a sustainable energy future. As each non-sustainable energy source drops out, consumers will economize and economically marginal energy sources (e.g. photovoltaics) will attract more private investment.

  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @10:38AM (#35067370) Homepage Journal
    from the summary :

    produces far less toxic, shorter-lived waste than existing designs,

    I thought the more radioactive the isotope, the shorter the half-life.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @11:59AM (#35068218) Homepage Journal

    OK, well first of all I meant "unustainability can't be sustained". It was a typo, and if you really wanted to understand what I wrote that would have been clear. The problem of *unsustainaility* isn't that it can't be sustained; it's what we do to make an unsustainable practice last a bit longer.

    Second of all, oil has nothing to do with nuclear? They're both energy sources. That's the best way to look at them. My point is that the electric infrastructure is key to reducing our dependency on any single source of energy. Even if the immediate environmental effect of something like electric cars is nil or slightly negative, in the long term the fungibility of energy sources is a critical step toward sustainability.

    And cheap fossil fuels killed nuclear power. Period. It was convenient all the way around to claim this as a victory for the "environmental lobby", but if it weren't for cheap coal, fuel oil and natural gas we'd have continued building nuclear power plants.

  • Re:Um.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by greg_barton ( 5551 ) <> on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @01:47PM (#35069684) Homepage Journal

    On the whole environmentalists are not anti technology, but there is a definite strain of anti nuclear bias. I'm about as left wing as they come, and when I talk nukes to my lefty friends there are almost universal blank/glassy stares back at me.

    I don't disagree with you at all about resistance from the right. The main problem with nuclear is that it gets hit rom all sides.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!