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Dr Rubbia says a tonne of the silvery metal – named after the Norse god of thunder, who also gave us Thor’s day or Thursday - produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal. A mere fistful would light London for a week.
Thorium eats its own hazardous waste. It can even scavenge the plutonium left by uranium reactors, acting as an eco-cleaner. "It’s the Big One," said Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA rocket engineer and now chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown Engineering.
"Once you start looking more closely, it blows your mind away. You can run civilisation on thorium for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s essentially free. You don’t have to deal with uranium cartels," he said. Thorium is so common that miners treat it as a nuisance, a radioactive by-product if they try to dig up rare earth metals. The US and Australia are full of the stuff. So are the granite rocks of Cornwall. You do not need much: all is potentially usable as fuel, compared to just 0.7pc for uranium.
You might have thought that thorium reactors were the answer to every dream but when CERN went to the European Commission for development funds in 1999-2000, they were rebuffed.
Brussels turned to its technical experts, who happened to be French because the French dominate the EU’s nuclear industry. "They didn’t want competition because they had made a huge investment in the old technology," he said.
So Aker is looking for tie-ups with the US, Russia, or China. The Indians have their own projects - none yet built - dating from days when they switched to thorium because their weapons programme prompted a uranium ban.
Estimated world thorium resources1 (Reasonably assured and inferred resources recoverable at up to $80/kg Th) Country Tonnes % of total Australia 489,000
South Africa 18,000
Other countries 33,000
World total 2,610,000
And this is where it gets interesting: thorium has a very different fuel cycle to uranium. The most significant benefit of thorium's journey comes from the fact that it is a lighter element than uranium. While it's fertile, it doesn't produce as many heavy and as many highly radioactive by-products. The absence of U-238 in the process also means that no plutonium is bred in the reactor.
As a result, the waste produced from burning thorium in a reactor is dramatically less radioactive than conventional nuclear waste. Where a uranium-fuelled reactor like many of those operating today might generate a tonne of high-level waste that stays toxic for tens of thousands of years, a reactor fuelled only by thorium will generate a fraction of this amount. And it would stay radioactive for only 500 years - after which it would be as manageable as coal ash.
Thorium also cannot maintain criticality on its own; that is, it can't sustain a nuclear reaction once it has been started. This means the U-233 produced at the end of the thorium fuel cycle doesn't pump out enough neutrons when it splits to keep the reaction self-sustaining: eventually the reaction fizzles out. It's why a reactor using thorium fuel is often called a 'sub-critical' reactor.
The main stumbling block until now has been how to provide thorium fuel with enough neutrons to keep the reaction going, and do so in an efficient and economical way. In recent years two new technologies have been developed to do just this. One company that has already begun developing thorium-fuelled nuclear power is the aptly named Thorium Power, based just outside Washington DC.
The way Thorium Power gets around the sub-criticality of thorium is to create mixed fuels using a combination of enriched uranium, plutonium and thorium. At the centre of the fuel rod is the 'seed' for the reaction, which contains plutonium.
Wrapped around the core is the 'blanket', which is made from a mixture of uranium and thorium. The seed then provides the necessary neutrons to the blanket to kick-start the thorium fuel cycle. Meanwhile, the plutonium and uranium are also undergoing fission.
The primary benefit of Thorium Power's system is that it can be used in existing nuclear plants with slight modification, such as Russian VVER-1000 reactors. Seth Grae, president and chief executive of Thorium Power, and his team are actively working with the Russians to develop a commercial product by the end of this decade. They already have thorium fuel running in the IR-8 research reactor at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow.
Not only nuclear energy, but the coal, oil and gas producers.
Originally posted by DrumsRfun
If Obama tried such a bold move of getting rid of nuclear energy for something free and clean,he would be assassinated.
Taking money out of their pockets will get him killed,much like it did for JFK for challenging the Federal Reserve.(my opinion)
Robert Hargraves, the LFTR, and the Blue Ribbon Commission
Robert Hargraves has been a active proponent of nuclear energy. He teaches the Rethinking Nuclear Power class at ILEAD (life-long learning at Dartmouth College), has written the book Aim High about the promise of thorium fuel cycles, and has presented talks on thorium to local meetings of the American Nuclear Society, the Mechanical Engineering Department at Columbia, as well as in many other venues. I can also recommend his Google Talk on thorium reactors.
Bob has also been a steady supporter of Vermont Yankee relicensing. He wrote the popular letter suggesting that Vernon move to New Hampshire. When I posted it on my blog, it received amazing numbers of hits. Bob also did an excellent short slideshow on Vermont Yankee at the local Rotary Club. The slideshow is a fine introduction to Vermont Yankee. Bob and I are members of the Coalition for Energy Solutions, a local group of energy professionals. Most recently, the Coalition wrote a report countering the VPIRG ideas about replacing Vermont Yankee power with a mixture of wind turbines and solar. Bob is also the creator of the prosperity and birthrate chart that clarified so much in my post: It's the Energy. Why I Love Nuclear.
Today, perhaps even as you read this, Bob is testifying before the Blue Ribbon Commission on alternative fuel cycles for nuclear. I find it very heartening that his tireless, fact-based work will be part of the Commission's deliberations.
Think of it, you could also "give" these power plants away to the third world and immediately increase their standard of living with no weapons proliferation risk.
Billions have been provided in loan gurantees to encourage the expansion on the use of Nuclear powere in the U.S. why not funnel some of that to building Thorium based sites?