Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • few topics get me as excited as nuclear power, especially when it comes to promising future technologies that could help fight the climate crisis.

  • One of my very first episodes on this channel was about thorium powered molten salt reactors.

  • But When I wrote that, they were little more than a curiosity that hadn't been seriously looked at since the 1960s.

  • Now I'm hyped all over again because after a decade of research and development, china is ready to test its first ever thorium powered molten salt reactor.

  • China has invested big in nuclear and this particular technology could bring about a huge shift in how nuclear power is generated.

  • This reactor, a unit in Wuwei capable of producing just two megawatts of thermal energy, is actually a test bed for two separate experimental technologies.

  • Those would be the thorium fuel source and the molten salt coolant.

  • Let's start with thorium.

  • Unlike uranium 2 35 thorium is not fissile, meaning it can't sustain nuclear fission thorium 2 32 however, is fertile, meaning if it captures a neutron, it will eventually decay into uranium 2 33 which can then be used to generate power.

  • Then there's the molten salt, 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 wound reactor which is a compound of flooring, lithium and beryllium.

  • That happens at about 450°C. 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 use the waste products from 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 Wuwei ties both of these experimental technologies together.

  • There's a lot of potential upsides to this approach, thorium is more abundant than uranium and is already a waste product of china's rare earth mineral mining industry.

  • The country is also sorely lacking in uranium deposits within its borders though it must be said that in order to use thorium, the whole process needs a jump start from another nuclear technology like uranium 2 35.

  • Once it's running though, thorium produces much less long lived radioactive nuclear waste than uranium, making long term storage less of a headache.

  • And while uranium 2 33 can and has been used in nuclear weapons, it's always contaminated with isotopes that emit high energy gamma radiation.

  • So it's easy to detect and hard to handle features that make it less suitable for use in nuclear weapons.

  • The molten salt coolant has its own inherent advantages.

  • Water needs to be pressurized to stay in liquid form and effectively cool a reactor which becomes a safety risk if pressure is lost, molten salt, on the other hand needs no pressurization, it can passively cool itself and it quickly solidifies when exposed to air and finally molten salt reactors are an appealing option for areas where water is scarce, like Wu Wei, which lies on the edge of the Gobi desert.

  • The concept still has a way to go.

  • Newly developed technologies like Eloise that resist corrosion, high temperature salt pumps like those used in concentrated solar power plants and advanced instruments have made it more feasible.

  • But challenges remain and chinese scientists will have to test the reactor stability and safety As well as validate key concepts like the thorium to uranium 233 conversion scheme And how to process the fuel salt.

  • That's why they're starting small with a reactor that can power at most 1000 homes if it runs safely and shows potential to be cost effective.

  • China plans to scale up the design and build a plant that could power over 100,000 homes by 2030.

  • While china pursues this, other countries like France, India, Japan Norway and the United States are working on their own thorium reactors and I'm sure they're eager to see china's results, thorium molten salt reactors could play a major role in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and fighting the climate crisis.

  • Much of their future now depends on a little two megawatt reactor out on the edge of china's deserts.

  • So do you think thorium has a future or were we right to stop pursuing it in the 1960s, let us know in the comments be sure to like and subscribe, and thanks for watching seeker.

few topics get me as excited as nuclear power, especially when it comes to promising future technologies that could help fight the climate crisis.

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 thorium molten salt reactor uranium nuclear

The Next Generation of Nuclear Power Is Here

  • 8 1
    林宜悉 posted on 2021/11/25
Video vocabulary