The Chinese government has just expressed what it expects from its Thorium Energy Program. It wants to cut the development time from 25 years to only 10 in order to have Thorium Reactors replacing coal-fired power plants, which blanket the country in increasingly dangerous smog.
Premier Li Keqiang told the national legislature in Beijing on March 5 that the government had declared "war on pollution", and measures to tackle the problem included closing coal-fired power stations.
We know China can make the switch from coal to thorium to power it into the future. But the big question here is if it is possible to shorten the development time so drastically, be successful, and then scale production of Thorium Energy Reactors fast enough for China to avoid considerable problems caused by the smog, generated mainly by its more than 620 coal-fired power plants (according to the World Coal Association).
Indeed this is a race to stop pollution but it's also a strategic race. "This is definitely a race" said Professor Li, "China faces fierce competition from overseas and to get there first will not be an easy task".
With what additional means can the well-structured Chinese Thorium Program please the demands of the government? A sharp increase in both budget and personnel is certainly required, but is that enough?
Such efforts need leadership. Meet Mr Xu Hongjie, the leader of the Chinese efforts who has proved himself before.
Picture of Mr Xu Hongjie opening ThEC12 in Shanghai.
Before taking his current role he ledthe development of the Shanghai 3rd generation synchrotron light source (SSRF), which we visited at ThEC12 in Shanghai. It is described as the biggest scientific platform for science research and technology development in China. It was completed ahead of time and under budget, an impressive feat by all means. Given the right resources he might just as well surprise us all by sticking to the new time schedule the government is asking for and clear the sky of China.
For a good overview of the Chinese Thorium Program we recommend you to watch Xu Hongjie’s video and slides (click on the title) presentations from ThEC13 in Geneva.
Thorium Energy R and D in China by Hongjie Xu, TMSR, China