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It's called the Accelerator-Driven Subcritical Reactor (ADSR), or Energy Amplifier
In the ADSR proposed by Rubbia, we wouldn't use uranium-235 as nuclear fuel at all. Instead, we would shift two spaces to the left in the periodic table, to uranium's unsung cousin: thorium. Despite being named for the god of thunder, thorium sits quietly in the Earth as a safe, unreactive mineral – and it sits there in great abundance, especially in Welsh earth.
Thorium-based plants won't get approved unless people who know their stuff, aka thorium is GOOD nuclear energy...which COULD be hard to sell to all the econazis and the people working in the uranium/nuclear industry who will be propagandized that ``they will lose their job if they support this plan``...
The German THTR-300 was the first commercial power station powered almost entirely with Thorium. India's 300 MWe AHWR CANDU type reactor will begin construction in 2011. The design envisages a start up with reactor grade plutonium which will breed U-233 from Th-232. After that the input will only be thorium for the rest of the reactor's design life.
The primary fuel of the HT3R Project near Odessa, Texas, USA will be ceramic-coated thorium beads. The earliest date the reactor will become operational in 2015.
Fort St. Vrain Generating Station, a demo HTGR in Colorado, USA, operating from 1977 until 1992, employed enriched uranium fuel that also contained thorium. This resulted in high fuel efficiency because the thorium was converted to uranium and then burnt.
Thorium is more abundant in nature than uranium.
It is fertile rather than fissile, and can be used in conjunction with fissile material as nuclear fuel.
Thorium fuels can breed fissile uranium-233.
The use of thorium as a new primary energy source has been a tantalizing prospect for many years. Extracting its latent energy value in a cost-effective manner remains a challenge, and will require considerable R&D investment.
Nature and sources of thorium
Thorium is a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder. It is found in small amounts in most rocks and soils, where it is about three times more abundant than uranium. Soil commonly contains an average of around 6 parts per million (ppm) of thorium.
Thorium exists in nature in a single isotopic form - Th-232 - which decays very slowly (its half-life is about three times the age of the Earth). The decay chains of natural thorium and uranium give rise to minute traces of Th-228, Th-230 and Th-234, but the presence of these in mass terms is negligible.
When pure, thorium is a silvery white metal that retains its lustre for several months. However, when it is contaminated with the oxide, thorium slowly tarnishes in air, becoming grey and eventually black. Thorium oxide (ThO2), also called thoria, has one of the highest melting points of all oxides (3300°C). When heated in air, thorium metal turnings ignite and burn brilliantly with a white light. Because of these properties, thorium has found applications in light bulb elements, lantern mantles, arc-light lamps, welding electrodes and heat-resistant ceramics. Glass containing thorium oxide has a high refractive index and dispersion and is used in high quality lenses for cameras and scientific instruments.
The most common source of thorium is the rare earth phosphate mineral, monazite, which contains up to about 12% thorium phosphate, but 6-7% on average. Monazite is found in igneous and other rocks but the richest concentrations are in placer deposits, concentrated by wave and current action with other heavy minerals. World monazite resources are estimated to be about 12 million tonnes, two-thirds of which are in heavy mineral sands deposits on the south and east coasts of India. There are substantial deposits in several other countries (see Table below). Thorium recovery from monazite usually involves leaching with sodium hydroxide at 140°C followed by a complex process to precipitate pure ThO2.
Thorite (ThSiO4) is another common mineral. A large vein deposit of thorium and rare earth metals is in Idaho.
The 2007 IAEA-NEA publication Uranium 2007: Resources, Production and Demand (often referred to as the 'Red Book') gives a figure of 4.4 million tonnes of total known and estimated resources, but this excludes data from much of the world. Data for reasonably assured and inferred resources recoverable at a cost of $80/kg Th or less are given in the table below. Some of the figures are based on assumptions and surrogate data for mineral sands, not direct geological data in the same way as most mineral resources.
(Reasonably assured and inferred resources recoverable at
up to $80/kg Th)
World total =2,610,000 tonnes