The China National Nuclear Corporation has announced that they have designed a one-of-a-kind experimental nuclear reactor that will be waterless, requiring no hydration for cooling. The systems would be ideal for remote desert regions to provide power for more densely populated areas. This also makes the reactor much safer, smaller, and easier to build than a conventional nuclear reactor. The prototype molten salt nuclear reactor is powered by liquid thorium instead of uranium and is expected to be safer than traditional reactors. This is because the molten thorium cools and solidifies quickly when exposed to the air. This means any potential leak would spill much less radiation into the surrounding environment compared with leaks from traditional reactors.
The government is nearing completion for the construction of the prototype waterless nuclear reactor that will start operation in the coming months. The goal is to put together as much information as possible about this technology for a future commercial launch. The government expects to build its first commercial molten salt nuclear reactor by 2030 in the desert city of Wuwei and has plans to build more across the sparsely populated deserts and plains of western China.
The concept of a reactor powered by liquid salt rather than solid fuel first appeared in the 1940s, however, the early experiments failed because they could not solve problems such as pipes cracking because they had become corroded by the radioactive molten salt. But in recent years, the developments in the field have made molten salt nuclear reactors more feasible, leading to the planned construction of the first such reactor in China. According to the government researchers, commercial thorium nuclear reactor will be capable of generating 100 MW of electricity, enough to provide power for 100,000 people. The reactor will measure only 3 meters tall and 2.5 meters wide, though it will need to be paired with other equipment, such as steam turbines, to make usable electricity.