Nuclear energy is still going strong, and Chinese researchers claim to have developed a breakthrough technology that will boost the efficiency of next generation reactors. The China Institute of Atomic Energy claims to have tested a small fast neutron reactor outside Beijing on Thursday, successfully feeding electricity into the power grid.
Following the Fukushima disaster in Japan, China has slowed the approval process of new plant development to allow for more stringent safety checks. Nonetheless, the test is a show of determination for Beijing in providing more efficient nuclear power to round up China’s diversified energy portfolio.
The China Institute of Atomic Energy reportedly spent a year testing the fast neutron reactor prior to attempting to connect it to the power grid.
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The fast neutron reactor is more efficient in that it requires less uranium to produce energy. The technology reduces radioactive waste as a byproduct and can even potentially utilize nuclear waste with trace amounts of uranium from older, less efficient reactors as fuel.
However, there are drawbacks to the new technology, which may raise flags especially in the wake of the Japan nuclear crisis. The fast neutron reactors are more difficult to cool, and as seen in Fukushima, a less-than-adequate cooling system can lead to disastrous meltdown scenarios. Risks aside, the technology will likely proliferate throughout China, and the world, as multinationals seek next generation reactor technology.