AECL to cooperate with China on thorium fuel

15 July 2009

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) has signed an agreement with China’s Third Qinshan Nuclear Power Company (TQNPC), China North Nuclear Fuel Corporation (CNNFC) and Nuclear Power Institute of China (NPIC) to cooperate in assessing the use of thorium fuel in CANDU power reactors.

The agreement is to jointly develop and demonstrate the use of thorium fuel and to study the commercial and technical feasibility of its full-scale use in CANDU reactors such as the twin CANDU 6 units built at Qinshan III, located southwest of Shanghai.

As the nuclear renaissance gathers momentum, more and more countries are seeking alternative fuel options. Thorium is three to four times more abundant than uranium and is widely distributed in nature as an easily exploitable resource in many countries such as China and India.

The ceremony was held at the conclusion of a two-day technical seminar on Enhanced CANDU 6 and thoriumfuel.

“This is another milestone in the four-party cooperation on development, demonstration and deployment of advanced CANDU thorium fuel in China”, said Dakuan Li, general manager of TQNPC.

This new agreement is phase two of a cooperation agreement signed in November 2008 that focused on demonstrating the use of recovered uranium in a CANDU pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR). The first stage of the agreement, to be completed by the end of October 2009, is a joint feasibility study to examine the economic feasibility of the thorium proposal.

“CANDU nuclear technology has the potential to make a major contribution to reducing China’s dependence on imported nuclear fuel resources by utilising abundant domestic thorium resources”, stated AECL’s vice president of product development Jerry Hopwood.

AECL has investigated thorium fuels for over 50 years, including tests in a prototype CANDU power reactor in Canada, with very promising results.

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