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April may have the been the “cruelest month” for T.S. Eliot, but March may hold that claim for the Japanese and American nuclear industries, where two high-profile accidents – Fukushima and Three Mile Island – have etched themselves in collective memory and distrust (read more here and here).
Such accidents could become a thing of the past if the nuclear industry can wean itself off of uranium and embrace thorium, which is more abundant, less melt-prone, and therefore safer to use. China last week announced it was going to speed up its research and development of "fourth generation" so-called molten salt reactors that can run on thorium. It aims to have one operational in 10 years instead of 25 years – what those in the industry call the nuclear-power equivalent of a moonshot. If it succeeds, nuclear power would become more efficient, cheaper, and safer than today’s uranium-based reactors. It would also produce less nuclear waste.
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