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This reactor, a unit in Wuwei capable of producing just 2 Megawatts of thermal energy, is actually a test bed for two experimental technologies. Those would be the Thorium fuel source and the molten salt coolant.
Unlike Uranium 235, Thorium is not fissile, meaning it can’t sustain nuclear fission. Thorium 232, however, is fertile, meaning if it captures a neutron, it will eventually decay into Uranium 233, which can then be used to generate power. Then there’s the use of molten salt for coolant. Molten salt is just what it sounds like; salt that’s been heated to the point it turns from a solid into a liquid.
For the salt in the Wu Wei reactor which is a compound of fluorine, lithium, and beryllium, that happens at about 450 degrees celsius. But a molten salt reactor can use that liquid for more than just coolant; it’s possible to actually dissolve fissile and fertile material into the molten salt. A molten-salt reactor doesn’t necessarily need to use thorium; some nations and private companies are designing molten salt reactors that can use the waste products from the nuclear power plants that exist today. And thorium reactors don’t necessarily need to have their fuel dissolved in a molten salt coolant. But China’s pilot reactor in Wu Wei ties both these experimental technologies together.
#science #seeker #technology #nuclear #thorium #china
China prepares to test thorium-fuelled nuclear reactor
“Thorium is a weakly radioactive, silvery metal found naturally in rocks, and currently has little industrial use. It is a waste product of the growing rare-earth mining industry in China, and is therefore an attractive alternative to imported uranium, say researchers.”
China is gearing up to activate the world’s first ‘clean’ commercial nuclear reactor
“The molten-salt reactor concept was first devised back in 1946 as part of a plan by the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force to create a nuclear-powered supersonic jet.
Seven years into China’s Belt and Road
“President Xi Jinping of China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in a pair of speeches in 2013. In Kazakhstan, he outlined a vision of restoring overland trade routes from China to Central Asia and Europe — the ancient ‘Silk Road.'”
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