China is developing a new design of nuclear power plant in an attempt to reduce its reliance on coal and to cut air pollution.
In an effort to reduce the number of coal-fired plants, the Chinese government has brought forward by 15 years the deadline to develop a nuclear power plant using the radioactive element thorium instead of uranium.
A team of researchers in Shanghai has now been told it has 10 instead of 25 years to develop the world’s first such plant.
“In the past, the government was interested in nuclear power because of the energy shortage. Now, they are more interested because of smog,” Professor Li Zhong, a scientist working on the project, told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
An advanced research centre was set up in January by the Chinese Academy of Sciences with the aim of developing an industrial reactor using thorium molten salt technology, the newspaper reported.
According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), China has 20 nuclear plants in operation and another 28 under construction, all uranium-fuelled reactors. China has been importing large quantities of uranium as it attempts to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. However, according to the WNA, thorium is much more abundant.
The researchers on the project said they had come under considerable pressure from the government for it to be successful. Li said nuclear power was the “only solution” to replace coal, and thorium “carries much hope”.