A Swiss Startup Developing a Revolutionary Thorium Reactor
The Geneva-based Transmutex company is working on a new generation of nuclear power plant that burns thorium rather than uranium. As the company’s website explains, it is a “breakthrough energy process” based on using particle accelerators and thorium, which occurs abundantly in rocks. It is inherently safe, burns existing long-lived waste, is cost competitive and produces no carbon emissions.
A report in Swissinfo.ch on Jan. 30 quotes the science director of Transmutex, Federico Carminati, on the advantages of the TMX-Start project. The radioactive decay time of thorium by-products is only 300 years instead of 300,000 for uranium, and the hazardous waste produced is only “a few kilograms instead of tons”. In addition, the by-products of thorium fission cannot be used to make an atomic bomb.
Even more interesting is that a thorium reactor could be powered by nuclear waste from existing nuclear power plants. As Swissinfo reports, the flow of ultra-fast particles makes it possible not ony to burn the waste and produce energy, but also to transform some of the waste into stable elements through transmutation.
The goal is to have a demonstration prototype ready by the early 2030s, Carminati explained. Transmutex has already attracted international partners. Russia’s Rosatom is studying the possibility of developing the reactor, while Argonne National Laboratory, one of the most important nuclear research laboratories in the United States, is working on thorium fuel.