State of the art nuclear reactor could hand China ‘holy grail’ in energy race

A new form of nuclear technology developed by China could change the face of global energy forever – and give Beijing a huge economic advantage over the West.

Instead of uranium, a Chinese nuclear power station to be operational this month will be powered using thorium.

That's a safer, cheaper and cleaner alternative to traditional radioactive tech, The Times reported.

The by-products of thorium are also less suitable to the development of nuclear weapons.

Another key difference is that thorium uses molten salt rather than water as a coolant.

That means thorium power stations can be built in the middle of the desert and far away from population centres.

It also means power stations can be protected from natural disasters like Fukushima in 2011, when a Japanese tsunami triggered a nuclear disaster.

These power stations also form a major pillar of President Xi Jinping's ambitious plan for China to be carbon neutral by 2060.

Bangor University nuclear scientist Simon Middleburgh told Nature magazine: “We are going to learn so much new science.

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“If they would let me, I’d be on the first plane there.”

Thorium was considered a useful alternative as early as the 1940s, but the Americans postponed plans to work on new power stations after meeting technological obstacles.

But since 2011, China has reconsidered the technology as safe and sustainable.

Almost £2.5bn has been ploughed into the project since 2017.

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A base near the edge of the massive Gobi desert with easy access to thorium and salt was handpicked to house the reactor.

Three years ago local officials hired Taoist priests to pray for the safety of the reactor at a breaking-ground ceremony.

Construction was set to begin last year, but was delayed by the pandemic.

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