China is due to fire up an experimental nuclear reactor this month that could revolutionise the atomic energy industry.
The reactor is fuelled by thorium, a weakly radioactive element, instead of uranium. If successful it could deliver safer and cheaper nuclear energy, helping the country to reduce its carbon footprint. It will use molten salt rather than water as the coolant and its by-products are less suitable for weaponisation.
The trial reactor will be small — three metres tall and 2.5 metres wide — and will only have a capacity of two megawatts (MW), enough to power up to 1,000 typical homes. However, it forms part of a longer-term plan to develop a series of small molten salt reactors, each with a capacity of
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