Scientists in China claim to have developed technology to reprocess nuclear fuel which could effectively end concerns about dwindling uranium supplies.
China Central Television reported that the technology, developed by state-run China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) in the north-western province of Gansu, enables the country to re-use irradiated nuclear fuel.
The report, which provided few details on what it described as a “breakthrough”, said: “China’s proven uranium sources will last only 50 to 70 years, but this now changes to 3,000 years.”
Sun Qin, general manager of CNNC, said: “Globally, within the nuclear fuel industry, we’re one of a minority of countries that can do the nuclear fuel cycle.”
Other countries already have the technology to reprocess spent fuel, which is extremely costly to develop, and China’s announcement would be an important step forward in the country’s plans to increase the use of alternative power sources to reduce pollution and achieve energy security.
China is now the world’s second-largest economy after surpassing Japan in 2010 and stepped up investment in nuclear power in an effort to slash carbon emissions and scale down the nation’s heavy reliance on polluting coal, which accounts for 70% of its power needs, with a view to getting 15% of its power from renewable sources by 2020.