Clean Energy Revolution: China Leads the Way with Thorium Molten Salt Reactor Approval

By Sophia Francise

June 18, 2023
A Nuclear Reactor

The commissioning of the “Thorium Molten Salt Reactor – Liquid Fuel 1” (TMSR-LF1) has received official approval from Chinese environmental regulators, signifying a significant advancement in China’s pursuit of clean and effective nuclear energy. 

According to Interesting Engineering, work on the reactor in Wuwei City, Gansu Province’s Hongshagang Industrial Cluster, started in 2018 and was finished earlier than expected in August 2021.[1]

Utilizing the potential of thorium, a common and prospective replacement for uranium, has allowed for the development of this ground-breaking project. 

In addition, it is important to note that Canada was crucial in assisting this project, as evidenced by the 2016 signing of a collaboration agreement between SNC-Lavalin and the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

The Potential of Thorium

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, thorium, an abundantly present silvery element in nature, is gaining attention due to its benefits over more traditional nuclear fuels like uranium-235.

Although thorium is not a nuclear fuel in and of itself, it can be used to create uranium-233, a fissile substance.

This attribute enables the use of thorium in water-cooled or molten salt reactors to produce more fissile material than it consumes

Thorium is a potentially abundant and sustainable long-term energy alternative, with an average thorium concentration of 10.5 parts per million in the Earth’s upper crust, compared to 3 parts per million for uranium.

China’s Thorium Molten Salt Reactor Project

Liquid fluoride thorium reactors are being tested in China at the TMSR-LF1 reactor. 

The utilization of thorium and uranium-235 is made possible by the use of a coolant salt and fuel salt mixture. 

The reactor, which has a maximum operating temperature of 650 °C, aims to evaluate several processes, including pyro-processing, refueling, and continuous gas removal

The thorium-uranium fuel cycle’s stability, safety, and viability are being investigated. If TMSR-LF1 were to run well, it would open the door to creating a 373 MWt thorium reactor by 2030.

Canada’s Role in Advancing Thorium-Based Nuclear Energy

Nuclear research and development have long been a priority for Canada’s nuclear industry. 

To install two cutting-edge CANDU nuclear reactors close to Shanghai, China, SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian engineering company, and CNNC signed a significant agreement in 2016. 


In a 2017 article, Vice adds that China, with its developing nuclear industry and an emphasis on carbon-free energy at the time, was an excellent partner due to its substantial thorium stockpiles.

The CANDU reactors would reportedly be constructed at the Qinshan nuclear power facility and fueled by recycled uranium from conventional reactors and, later, thorium. 

What’s Next?

The TMSR-LF1 reactor’s approval by China is an important step toward realizing thorium’s potential for nuclear power production. 

Deploying thorium reactors could provide a long-term solution to humanity’s energy demands while supporting efforts to fight climate change globally, thanks to ongoing developments in nuclear technology and growing worldwide interest.


  1. John Lopez, ‘China Approves Thorium Molten Salt Reactor, Advancing Clean Nuclear Energy’, Tech Times, 16 June 2023,[]