President Obama in his recent SOTU address said that “this is our generation’s sputnik moment” referring to the need to use science and technology to develop cheaper clean energy (among other things). It seems the Chinese were listening because last week they announced a focused effort to achieve technological leadership in thorium molten salt reactors.
The People’s Republic of China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology, it was announced in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) annual conference on Tuesday, January 25. An article in the Wenhui News followed on Wednesday (Google English translation). Chinese researchers also announced this development on the Energy from Thorium Discussion Forum.
See the Press report (Chinese) below along with partial translation:
(partial google translation follows)
“Yesterday, as the Chinese Academy of Sciences started the first one of the strategic leader in science and technology projects, “the future of advanced nuclear fission energy – nuclear energy, thorium-based molten salt reactor system” project was officially launched. The scientific goal is to use 20 years or so, developed a new generation of nuclear energy systems, all the technical level reached in the trial and have all intellectual property rights.”
What is a “thorium-based molten salt reactor system”? Please see this previous WUWT post on this technology.
Currently there is no US effort to develop a thorium MSR. Readers of this blog and Charles Barton’s Nuclear Green blog know that there has been a grass-roots effort underway for over five years to change this. The formation of the Thorium Energy Alliance and the International Thorium Energy Organization have been other attempted to convince governmental and industrial leaders to carefully consider the potential of thorium in a liquid-fluoride reactor. There have been many international participants in the TEA and IThEO conferences, but none from China.
Will the US accept the challenge or allow the Chinese to dominate advanced nuclear technology too? Using a technology invented in the US 40 years ago no less!
This isn’t a “Sputnik moment” Mr. President, it’s a “shit or get off the pot” moment for US energy policy. The US excelled at the space race, partly because of the swift kick in the pants that Sputnik provided. Perhaps this announcement will be the embarrassment like Sputnik for the US government that will compel them to finally do something about our energy future besides tilt at windmills.
Thanks to Charles Hart for the tip and info gathering.