Among the presenters was Xu Hongjie, the director of the molten-salt reactor program at the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics.
Under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
is collaborating with Oak Ridge
to advance research on both salt-cooled reactors (which use molten salts to transfer heat and to cool the reactor) and salt-fueled reactors (in which the fuel, where the energy-producing nuclear reactions occur, is dissolved within the salt coolant).
Signed in December 2011, the Shanghai-Oak Ridge effort has been the subject of controversy and speculation among the nuclear power community, particularly those promoting advanced technologies such as molten-salt reactors and the use of thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel that is cleaner, safer, and more abundant than uranium.
At Oak Ridge
this week, Xu
outlined a roadmap that shows that China is further along than any other advanced reactor R&D program in the world.
China, which still gets nearly three-quarters of its electricity from burning coal, is racing to develop low-carbon energy sources, including both conventional nuclear plants and advanced systems such as molten-salt reactors.
The largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, China aims to more than double its nuclear capacity by 2020, according to the World Nuclear Association
detailed a multi-stage plan to build demonstration reactors in the next five years and deploy them commercially beginning around 2030.
The institute plans to build a 10-megawatt prototype reactor, using solid fuel, by 2020, along with a two-megawatt liquid-fuel machine that will demonstrate the thorium-uranium fuel cycle. (Thorium, which is not fissile, is converted inside a reactor into a fissile isotope of uranium that produces energy and sustains the nuclear reaction.)
In all, there are 700 nuclear engineers working on the molten-salt reactor at SINAP
said, a number that dwarfs other advanced-reactor research programs around the world.
Like scientists everywhere, Xu
is also faced with securing funding for the next phases of the program.
molten-salt reactor research is funded through 2017, he
says; beyond that the institute is seeking new funding from the central government, the Shanghai government, and the private sector.
also recently signed an agreement with Fangda Group
, a major Chinese conglomerate that produces carbon products, iron and steel, and chemicals, to help develop molten-salt coolants for the reactors.
"I'm very confident" that SINAP
will be able to carry its molten-salt reactor program to commercialization, Xu