This blog has promoted the use of nuclear power to help solve our energy and climate change problems, but only if we can solve the problems of nuclear power. One such solution is switching from using uranium as nuclear fuel to using thorium, but so far the nuclear power industry has ignored that solution.
Well, guess who has just made a dramatic investment in thorium nuclear power — China. Scientists in Shanghai have been told to accelerate their efforts, the new goal being the construction of a fully functional thorium reactor within 10 years.
One of the Chinese leaders of the new program says “This is definitely a race. China faces fierce competition from overseas and to get there first will not be an easy task.”
This is not terribly surprising. Severe pollution problems in major Chinese cities gives them a strong motive to take advantage of better and cleaner sources of power.
But it still begs the question — the US originally developed the technology for thorium reactors. Why aren’t we taking advantage of our own technology?
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory actually built a working thorium reactor in the 60′s, but the project was shelved by the Nixon administration, likely because thorium reactors do not produce the plutonium that uranium reactors do, and thus cannot be used to supply the ammo for nuclear weapons.
Are we really that short sighted?