"That gives us an energy security issue," said Jiang, who is the president of the Shanghai branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China's huge, centrally controlled research organization. “We have a huge gap. We can rely on outside China, or we can develop ourselves.”
Nuclear reactors will also help power electric vehicle, added Jiang, whose father ruled China from 1993 to 2003.
I first reported on his remarks for the Weinberg Foundation, a London-based non-profit group that advocates alternative forms of nuclear power that are safer and more effective than today's conventional water-cooled, sold uranium fueled designs. You can watch a video of his presentation below.
Jiang is setting his sights on a reactor design known as a thorium liquid molten salt reactor (TMSR). TMSRs can operate safely at much higher temperatures than conventional reactors, and could thus serve as excellent heat sources.
One of the first uses for the CO2-free heat would be to help process fossil fuels, supporting coal gasification, coal-to-diesel and coal-to-olefin conversions, JIang said.
The development of a TMSR clearly has its challenges. The day after Jiang spoke, Xu Hongjie, the head of the TMSR development team, told the conference that China had pushed back its target completion date for a small test reactor from 2017 to 2020. It will first build another high temperature thorium reactor based on a designed known as "pebble bed."
But the country's ambition to apply alternative nuclear technologies remains intact.
Here's Jiang in action at the Shanghai conference, in a YouTube clip posted by Canadian videographer Gordon McDowell: