Skip to comments.China announces thorium reactor energy program, Obama still dwelling on “Sputnik moments”
Posted on 01/31/2011 12:36:29 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach
President Obama in his recent SOTU address said that this is our generations sputnik moment referring to the need to use science and technology to develop cheaper clean energy (among other things). It seems the Chinese were listening because last week they announced a focused effort to achieve technological leadership in thorium molten salt reactors.
The Peoples 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 (CAS) annual conference on Tuesday, January 25. An article in the Wenhui News followed on Wednesday (Google English translation). Chinese researchers also announced this development on the Energy from Thorium Discussion Forum.
See the Press report (Chinese) below along with partial translation:
(partial google translation follows)
Yesterday, as the Chinese Academy of Sciences started the first one of the strategic leader in science and technology projects, the future of advanced nuclear fission energy nuclear energy, thorium-based molten salt reactor system project was officially launched. The scientific goal is to use 20 years or so, developed a new generation of nuclear energy systems, all the technical level reached in the trial and have all intellectual property rights.
What is a thorium-based molten salt reactor system? Please see this previous WUWT post on this technology.
Currently there is no US effort to develop a thorium MSR. Readers of this blog and Charles Bartons Nuclear Green blog know that there has been a grass-roots effort underway for over five years to change this. The formation of the Thorium Energy Alliance and the International Thorium Energy Organization have been other attempted to convince governmental and industrial leaders to carefully consider the potential of thorium in a liquid-fluoride reactor. There have been many international participants in the TEA and IThEO conferences, but none from China.
Will the US accept the challenge or allow the Chinese to dominate advanced nuclear technology too? Using a technology invented in the US 40 years ago no less!
This isnt a Sputnik moment Mr. President, its a shit or get off the pot moment for US energy policy. The US excelled at the space race, partly because of the swift kick in the pants that Sputnik provided. Perhaps this announcement will be the embarrassment like Sputnik for the US government that will compel them to finally do something about our energy future besides tilt at windmills.
Thanks to Charles Hart for the tip and info gathering.
Can common ground be found between warmers and skeptics? Can we identify energy sources that satisfy the concerns of both groups?
Guest Post by Charles Hart
Warmers want energy that does not emit CO2 because they look at the climate data and conclude that CAGW is a credible threat that needs to be addressed. Their energy sources of choice are typically wind and solar.
Skeptics look at the same climate data and conclude the evidence for CAGW is just too weak to justify accepting the current high cost and unreliability of wind/solar. They look at Europe and notice that nuclear has given France the smallest carbon footprint and wind/solar has not been effective in any European country in keeping energy both low cost and low carbon.
What about nuclear? Some warmers support it (e.g. Dr. James Hansen) but others do not because of toxic waste streams, lingering concerns about safety, cost, and the potential for proliferation.
What if we could have nuclear power that was far greener than current technology, cost considerably less, was even safer and more proliferation resistant? What if this greener nuclear technology had already been proven in working prototypes?
Welcome to LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactors) technology. Demonstrated in the 60′s, the thorium/uranium fuel cycle molten salt reactor (LFTR) approach was abandoned to concentrate efforts on the uranium/plutonium fuel cycle pressurized water reactor (PWR) during the cold war bomb making era, an era when lots of plutonium was considered a good thing, not something to be worried about.
LFTR (compared to current PWR): A waste st(r)eam 10,000 times less toxic (some variations of LFTR can actually burn PWR waste). Cost <50%, thus competitive with coal. Even safer (no fuel rods to melt, no high pressure radioactive water to escape, passive criticality control .). More proliferation resistant.
What about the politics? Replacing coal with LFTRs is far easier politically than imposing cap n trade or carbon taxes. $10B invested over 10 years could update this technology and make it ready for commercialization. LFTR is attractive to both Democrats/warmers and Republicans/skeptics. It is very green, cost competitive and can be put into production for a realively modest sum.
The Energy from Thorium blog is well done and very educational. Lots of great points.
Hey! What’re those Chinese doing inventin’ stuff an’ makin’ stuff like that old dead white guy Edison used to do?
by Ben Buchwalter · February 17, 2010
It turns out that the key to a sustainable energy future is pitting the United States against emerging superpowers to launch an economic (and ideological) race toward energy independence.
In the 1950s and 1960s, U.S. scientists turned their backs on thorium, a cleaner alternative to uranium-fueled nuclear energy, because uranium produces plutonium as a byproduct. And plutonium is the key ingredient in nuclear bombs necessary to blast the Russians to smithereens.
With the help of uranium, we eventually won the arms race and prevailed over the Soviets. And half a century later, uranium is still used as the primary source of 100 percent of the world's nuclear reactors. But, as Richard Martin reports for Wired, the Cold War's unfortunate victim was our energy system, which could have avoided the dangers and headache of dirty nuclear with the "green" nuclear option, thorium.
Let's review some of the key benefits of thorium. It's abundant (because we've never used any of it); it doesn't require the costly and time-intensive refining process important for uranium, and the waste it produces becomes inert in one hundred years as opposed to hundreds of thousands of years. It's nearly impossible for terrorists to manipulate for weapons production. There's more: the annual fuel cost for a one gigawatt thorium reactor is approximately six hundred times lower than that of a uranium reactor, which requires 250 times more of the raw element.
But in the politically explosive 1960s, thorium's key drawback -- that it didn't help us make bombs -- led to its extinction. Before thorium cheerleaders knew it, the nuclear industry approved 41 uranium nuclear plants. And when a series of reactor fiascoes proved nuclear energy dangerous and forced a massive taxpayer bailout of the industry, power companies stopped submitting applications for new nuclear projects, whatever their fuel source. Before it was born, thorium was killed by the sins of uranium.
So if all it takes to get the U.S. serious about clean energy is international competition, thorium enthusiasts are in luck. India, the world's largest source of thorium, has announced plans to triple its nuclear energy output. In the next 10 years, China plans to build dozens of new reactors and has already reserved thorium from mineral refiners. France, which relies on nuclear energy for more than 75 percent of its electricity, has also expressed interest in thorium.
Fortunately, some U.S. lawmakers are starting to wise up to the benefits of thorium. While President Obama and congressional democrats continue to double down on traditional nuclear energy, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Harry Reid (D-NV) co-sponsored a bill that would allocate $250 million (chump change) for thorium research.
But the United States need to expand its energy portfolio, and we need to do it fast. Democrats and Republicans alike are voicing full-throated support for dirty nuclear just because it's what we know, when thorium is clearly a better alternative. And the $250 million for research included in the Hatch-Reid bill won't cut it. "I don't know of anything more beneficial to the country, as far as environmentally sound power," says Hatch, "than nuclear energy powered by thorium."
And India too!
It appear as though those uber-engineers....the Italians, have ‘em all beat...
And we should be partnering with this allies that said on 9/11 "We stand by the United States 100%" if I have my quotes correct.
We are screwed again with Obozo.
We’re going green - windmills, solar farms, billions and billions of gerbils.....
Whaddoo the gooks and the dotheads know anyway?
Precisely the reason why Zero and his minions will put whatever bureaucratic roadblocks they can muster to stop it.
Cloward-Piven, y'all -- windmills/solar panels (made in China, of course), or bust!
India has major deposits of thorium.
there will be time in the future China will be innovative and invent its own technology, perhaps the next 10 years. they just started developing its technology since 20 years ago.
before falling into chaos and western & japan colonialism, china was an innovative countries in terms of technology.