USA and China on thorium reactors

What’s not clear is what, exactly, the U.S. will get from the collaboration….

U.S. partners with China on new nuclear, By Mark Halper Smart Planet  June 26, 2012 E Pluribus Thorium? U.S. Assistant Energy Secretary Peter Lyons and Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Jiang Mianheng have joined forces for thorium development. What’s in it for the U.S.?

The U.S. Department of Energy is quietly collaborating with China on an alternative nuclear power design known as a molten salt reactor that could run on thorium fuel rather than on more hazardous uranium, SmartPlanet understands. DOE’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy Peter Lyons is co-chairing the partnership’s executive committee, along with Jiang Mianheng from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), according to a March presentation by CAS on thorium molten salt reactors. Beijing-based CAS is a state group overseeing about 100 research institutes. It and the DOE have established what CAS calls the “CAS and DOE Nuclear Energy Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding.”

As SmartPlanet reported late last year, Jiang – the son of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin – led a Chinese delegation visiting DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to discuss ORNL’s thorium molten salt reactor (MSR) technology. Some sources identify him as a vice president of CAS. ORNL developed a thorium MSR in the 1960s.

The 48-page presentation, entitled “TMSR Project of CAS” (TMSR stands for thorium molten salt reactor) is dated March 12, 2012  throughout, except on the cover page, which gives a March 18 date. It names the author as Xiaohan Yu from CAS’ TMSR Research Center, based at the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics……  One reason for China’s interest in thorium: It has an ample supply of the substance, which occurs in monazite, a mineral that also contains rare earths, the metals that are vital across industries ranging from missiles to wind turbines to iPods. China, which dominates the world’s rare earth market, is believed to be sitting on substantial stockpiles of thorium that it has already extracted from the rare earths that it has mined and processed.

The CAS presentation also points out that China has far more thorium than uranium….
What’s not clear is what, exactly, the U.S. will get from the collaboration….
some skeptics worry that the U.S. is foolishly abetting Chinese efforts to advance a crucial energy technology that China could soon control, and thus give China hegemony in two vital areas: rare earths and energy. ORNL, the 1960s thorium molten salt pioneer,  has no clear path to commercialization given the U.S. government’s lack of commitment to the technology….
(PRIVATE  Outside of the DOE, at least three companies in the West are privately developing thorium reactors: Flibe Energy, Huntsville, Ala, which has dusted off 1960s ORNL technology; Thorenco, San Francisco; and Ottawa Valley Research, Ottawa. Baroness Bryony Worthington of the UK House of Lordshas emerged as the West’s political champion for thorium. India, home to huge reserves of thorium, also has ambitious plans. Japanese utility Chubu Electric is considering it. And thorium is picking up attention with the recent publication of the book SuperFuel , by author Richard Martin.)   …

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