China Plans To Build the World’s First Waterless Nuclear Reactor


    AltMachine shares a report from Interesting Engineering: Government researchers in China unveiled their design for a commercial molten salt nuclear reactor that is expected to be the first in the world to not utilize water for cooling. As the reactor won’t need water it can be deployed in desert regions, allowing operators to utilize otherwise desolate spaces in order to provide energy for large populations. The molten salt reactor is powered by liquid thorium instead of uranium. Molten salt reactors are expected to be safer than traditional uranium nuclear reactors, as thorium cools and solidifies quickly in the open air, meaning that a leak would theoretically result in less radiation contamination for the surrounding environment. China expects to build its first commercial molten salt reactor by 2030, and the country’s government has long-term plans to build several of the reactors in the deserts of central and western China. China’s new system works by allowing thorium to flow through the reactor, enabling a nuclear chain reaction before transferring the heat to a steam generator outside. The thorium is then returned to the reactor, and the cycle repeats. The concept of a nuclear reactor powered by liquid salt instead of uranium was first devised in the 1940s. However, early experiments struggled to find a solution for problems including the corrosion and cracking of pipes used to transport the molten salts. The reactor “could generate up to 100MW” of energy and power about 100,000 homes, according to the report. “The reactor itself will only be 10 feet (3 meters) tall and 8 feet (2.5 meters) wide, though the power plant itself will be larger as it incorporates other equipment including steam turbines.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.


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