Nuclear energy has gotten a lot of negative attention as of late due to the incidents in Japan and the leftover fallout of a meltdown. Environmentalists urge the world to use green renewable energy such as solar power and wind energy but with the lack of innovation in the fields to make a switch more cost effective, the future energy solutions of the planet do not seem to align with these groups. Hope has arisen from China who will be going all-out to incorporate a new method of harnessing nuclear energy.
Nuclear power is readily accessible to human kind and has heeded the least amount of damage to the planet when compared to other widely used power sources. As it stands, meltdowns remain possible and the potential of using residual uranium for weapons remains an issue for the world. China is stepping up to the plate in order to have new thorium based reactors installed within the next decade.
The efficiency of thorium is immensely more impressive than it’s uranium counterpart. First, there is no need for an altering of thorium into another isotope as the most abundant isotope of thorium is fissionable with a high degree of efficiency (about 98% of thorium used reacts completely). It is three times more likely to react than uranium based reactors and ergo more efficient in energy use and creation. Another way thorium saves energy is in the extraction process. Thorium is estimated as four times more naturally abundant than uranium on the earth’s surface. China has the needed mining tools to achieve the needed amount of thorium for the nation.
China looking towards this new power source may very well align with their goals to help the smog problems in the major cities. Thorium is considered less radioactive than uranium and the byproducts of a uranium reactor last hundreds of thousands of years while the thorium byproducts are gone within a century. There are currently no thorium based reactors in the world.
China has already had plans to further research and use thorium as a fuel source in reactors but the plans were to be finished in a quarter century. The nation is going all out to ensure they have the new energy source within the next ten years. Reports of the amount of thorium show a great abundance of the element in the Chinese territory. It is projected that, at current usage rates, the amount of energy produced with the thorium found only in China would last for tens of thousands of years.
The push for new energy is to help China become more economically independent for their power needs. It will also decrease the level of air pollution that hang in their major cities. It is launched as a high priority project to fully be able to understand the needed technology to use thorium in reactors. China is not alone in the search for thorium fuels. There are scattered usually underfunded projects in different nations testing the usability of thorium for energy. Chinese ingenuity in these regard could spell and end to energy based wars and crisis across the planet.
By Andy Diaz
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