Skip to main content

Thorium, The Betamax of Nuclear Technologies

Thorium Itself.
Worthly has up a review of different technologies that are “world-changing” and “just over the horizon.” Some seem pretty close by: self-driving cars, for example. Others are new to me, others I’ve heard of, still, the real worth of such round ups is that they allow us to dream of the future as a utopia. That’s why it’s a dream not a nightmare, which could sum up a fair number of people’s view of the present. Once the future becomes the present, the first two self-driving cars in Ohio will crash into each other and all will be normal again.

But one of the featured technologies caught our eye:
Nuclear power can easily solve all of our energy problems, and liquid fluoride thorium reactors could be one of the most promising energy sources that mankind has ever created. These reactors use thorium which is safer, more abundant, and more efficient than current nuclear fuel options. You can fit a lifetimes supply of thorium fuel in your hand, that’s how efficient these reactors are. When we get the technology up to speed, we can realistically create these nuclear power plants on a large scale. People need to get over their fear of nuclear energy, as it is really one of the most important achievements that mankind has ever made. It’s difficult to explain all the details of liquid fluoride thorium reactors, but this video does a pretty great job at hitting all the major details and it will also make you wonder why we aren’t pouring money to fund this.
You can find the video at the link. A fascinating watch.

This is basically a molten salt reactor – which delivers uranium and thorium fuel using molten salt as the medium (thorium needs uranium to start a reaction) – and has been around since the 50s. Granted, the technology hasn’t stood still, but what was known about thorium then is still true now. We even know that the thorium fuel cycle scales up to industrial levels, a key issue with technologies of its kind. But – that’s not the way the industry went.

Thorium became the Betamax of nuclear technology – perhaps superior to the uranium fuel cycle in some ways and with a devoted fan base in the relevant community, but still not the way forward when standardization entered the mix.

Still, as someone who has frequently been a zealot for losing technologies – Betamax, OS/2, HD-DVD - it’s a shame to lose what they offer, even if not officially the “winner.” Sometimes, "losing" technologies prevail, sort of. Look at turntables. And who knows? This is about the future, where potential is limitless.

As always, the hub of the thorium community is the excellent Energy from Thorium blog – or former blog, as it has lately morphed into a foundation dedicated to the element and its limitless potential. If thorium fascinates you, that’s your web destination.


Charles Barton said…
It is most unfortunate that the current uranium fuel cycle nuclear technology, is not a smashing success in North America or Europe. This would seem to be a market failure. By switching to Uranium fueled Molten Salt Reactor, nuclear costs can be significantly lowered.
Jim said…
Thank you for the coverage. There are some more information sites about thorium and molten fuel reactors where you can find out about research, conferences, lobbying, etc..

World Nuclear Association, Molten Salt Reactors

Thorium Energy Alliance

International Thorium Energy Organisation

Alvin Weinberg Foundation
jimwg said…
The crux here is the public is wary if not frightened of ANY nuclear reactor, no matter the type, so if you can't persaude them that current nuclear energy is safe and productive it won't matter beans if you tout the virtues of Thorium if the public doesn't want nuke-anything bullt. It's called the in-the-same-boat syndrome and Thor folks best share the PR oars promoting the record of current reactors if they want theirs to ever see light of day.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Scott Medwid said…
I've been to a few of the Thorium Energy Alliance .org Conferences They're packed with information You will meet the leaders and advocates That are pushing this Lost technology

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.

Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …