28 July 2021

China is gearing up to activate the world's first 'clean' commercial nuclear reactor.

Chinese government scientists have unveiled plans for a first-of-its-kind, experimental nuclear reactor that does not need water for cooling.

The molten-salt nuclear reactor, which runs on liquid thorium rather than uranium, is expected to be safer than traditional reactors because the molten salt cools and solidifies quickly when exposed to the air, insulating the thorium, so that any potential leak would spill much less radiation into the surrounding environment compared with leaks from traditional reactors. 

The prototype reactor is expected to be completed next month, with the first tests beginning as early as September. This will pave the way for the building of the first commercial reactor, slated for construction by 2030.

As this type of reactor doesn't require water, it will be able to operate in desert regions. The location of the first commercial reactor will be in the desert city of Wuwei, and the Chinese government has plans to build more across the sparsely populated deserts and plains of western China, as well as up to 30 in countries involved in China's "Belt and Road" initiative — a global investment program that will see China invest in the infrastructure of 70 countries.

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