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.

Comments

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
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Current-and-Future-Generation/Molten-Salt-Reactors/

Thorium Energy Alliance
http://www.thoriumenergyalliance.com/

International Thorium Energy Organisation
http://www.itheo.org/

Alvin Weinberg Foundation
http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/
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

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

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 …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…