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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thorium - The Safer Nuclear Fuel that the Arms Race Buried


Thorium is a far better fuel source than uranium, more efficient and abundant without the chance of meltdown, but it can't be weaponized. Thus thorium was pushed aside in the pursuit of weapons and profit, regardless of the greater hazards, inefficiency, and relative rarity of uranium (or because of it, the rarer, the more expensive).
 

Thorium Power Canada Inc.

There is a vast difference between the use of thorium in conventional technology and its use in Thorium Power Canada technology.
One of the key ways Thorium Power Canada’s technology differs is that the Thorium Reactors are designed to breed artificial uranium-233 from thorium, burn most of that fuel as soon as it is bred, and store the minor amount of unburned fuel.
Additionally, no waste would be produced until the decommissioning at the end of a plants useful life, estimated to be well over 60 years. Any waste remains in the reactor encapsulated in glass with no external storage necessary.
The TPC Thorium reactor cannot achieve melt-down due to the Thorium fuel cycle differing dramatically from a conventional Uranium reactor.  The TPC Reactor takes minutes to shut down as the Thorium fuel cycle requires Neutrons to achieve and maintain the reaction. Once the Neutron source is cut the process shuts down immediately, eliminating the chance of major nuclear incidents as seen in history.

Thorium

Thorium is destined to eclipse Uranium as the nuclear fuel of choice. Thorium cannot melt down due to its fertile nature. Due to Thorium’s high burn-up rate nuclear waste is dramatically reduced by a factor of 90%. Thorium reactors are nuclear weapons proliferation resistant. It is virtually impossible to make nuclear weapons from thorium reactors as demonstrated by the US in the 1950’s – ‘60’s. Due to Thorium’s nature we can now make smaller more efficient reactors in a modular design, dramatically reducing manufacturing and operating cost.
Example: A DBI/TPC Thorium reactor will cost $1800 per Kwh to build and operate (including fuel) vs. a conventional Uranium reactor, which costs in excess of $6000 Kwh to build and operate.
Studies dating back to the 1950’s show Thorium to be 4 times more abundant than Uranium, almost as common as lead in the earth’s crust. The global estimate of Thorium deposits (as reported by IAEA, 2.8 million tonnes) could supply the world’s energy needs for the next 2500 yrs. The higher burn-up rate for Thorium allows for more energy production from smaller amounts of fuel.
Example: 300 million kg of coal = 250 kg of Uranium = 1 kg of Thorium to achieve the same energy output.



The following are sections taken from the website of the Thorium Energy Alliance where the benefits of thorium-based nuclear energy are discussed. China is preparing for a thorium switch-over, the US is burying it as a radioactive byproduct.

What Is Thorium?

Thorium is a natural occurring element found on earth, the moon, mars... essentially everywhere. It is a slightly radioactive metal and is about four times more abundant on Earth than uranium. Because of its fertility, it can be used as fuel in a nuclear power plant.

Why is thorium important if we already have uranium-fueled nuclear power plants? A thorium-fueled nuclear reactor generates hundreds of times the power of a uranium or coal power plant but produces essentially no waste. A thorium power plant would produce much less than 1% of the waste that a uranium plant of equal magnitude produces and, of course, would produce no carbon dioxide. More importantly, while the waste of a uranium power plant is toxic for over 10,000 years, the little waste that is produced in a thorium plant is benign in under 200 years. Even more impressive, the thorium power plant can be used to burn our current stockpile of nuclear waste. And yet, the benefits continue. The thorium power plant cannot "melt down", thorium cannot practically be used to make nuclear weapons, there is enough thorium in the United States alone to power the country at its current energy level for over 10,000 years, and the thorium power plant can be designed to be a plug and play module that could tap right in at the source of a current coal or uranium plant so there would be no need for laying a new grid.

Now, although it sounds like science fiction, the potential of thorium power has already been witnessed. Studies and experiments were conducted from the 1950's until the 70's. Almost 20,000 hours of operation and the true value of thorium was proven as a superlative energy source in the molten-salt reactor experiment (MSRE) between 1964-1975. With all that said, we hear the same question from everyone who hears about thorium for the first time. "It almost sounds too good to be true, why isn't it already in use today?" Surf on if you are one of these people. You'll find that there isn't a good reason.


Objectives, Needs, and Next Steps for a Thorium Alliance

The Thorium Energy Alliance is a 501(c)3 Educational advocacy organization. We are a nonprofit group composed of engineers, scientists, and concerned citizens interested in reducing the cost of energy and protecting the health of the planet and the future of the human race. Our objective is to lay the foundation for a Thorium Energy Future.
To arrive at that future as quickly as possible we must educate our leaders and the public on the need to create a working Thorium powered reactor.

A new approach to the old Molten Salt Reactor system is the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (Pronounced LiFTeR). It is one of T.E.A.s goals to restart a research reactor program and the infrastructure behind it.

There are other approaches to using Thorium in current reactors such as a MOX type fuel rod.

There are several companies developing hybrid fuel systems to be used by our existing nuclear infrastructure.

The Thorium Energy Alliance supports all uses of Thorium as an energy source.

The Thorium Energy Alliance hosts the Inaugural Conference in Washington D.C. - October 2009

The Thorium Energy Alliance hosts the Second Conference in Mountain View California - March 2010

The Thorium Energy Alliance hosts the Third Conference in Washington D.C. - May 2011

Our Resources

Thorium Energy Alliance (T.E.A.) creates the resources for this to be taught in universities so that there are the engineers, chemists and technicians who can work with Thorium Fueled Reactors.
T.E.A. is creating scholarships to learn about Thorium
T.E.A. is producing Texts, educational materials, and expert speakers
T.E.A. educates our leaders with round table discussions, provide them with expert witnesses, white papers, and demonstrates the technology and its uses.
T.E.A. provides staff with executive summaries and talking points supporting the technology development.
T.E.A. engages the public through all media channels

T.E.A. provides the public with experts to appear on radio and television.
T.E.A. provides subjects for interviews for all media

T.E.A. generates it's own media including, Webcasts, Pod Casts, Videos, pamphlets, books, and articles.
T.E.A. creates highly targeted ad campaigns in print media, video, and targeted mail.
T.E.A. tracks the milestones in the creation of a Thorium Economy. One method will be to create a Thorium and related technology stock portfolio and a Thorium E.T.F.

This will allow the public to track and support the growing value of the Thorium Economy.


Proposed Thorium MSR Research Reactor


The Thorium Energy Alliance has discussed plans for a research reactor with delegates from University of Illinois, Purdue, University of Missouri and others.

Needs and Next Steps

The Thorium Energy Alliance needs YOU!
We need your financial support
We need your time
We need you to commit to helping create these resources
We need you to contact your representatives and the Media
We request that you spread the word to colleagues and friends.
The best, cheapest thing you could do is to promote T.E.A. to your own people.
A large network will provide us with the expertise and resources we need to succeed.
We need you to Join Today
thoriumenergyalliance@gmail.com

Energy from Thorium


Kirk Sorensen: Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel | TED Talk | TED.com

Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel

ted.com

Kirk Sorensen shows us the liquid fuel thorium reactor -- a way to produce energy that is safer, cleaner and more efficient than current nuclear power
Kirk Sorensen stumbled across thorium while doing research on how to power a lunar community. Thorium is a cleaner, safer, and more abundant nuclear fuel — one that Kirk believes will revolutionize how we produce our energy.

Why you should listen

Kirk Sorensen began his work with thorium while working as an aerospace engineer at NASA. In 2010, he left NASA to work as the chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown Engineering. In 2011, he founded Flibe, a company focused on developing modular thorium reactors.

Kirk Sorensen’s TED talk