The Week Quotes Me on Thorium

I am quoted in the current featured article in the online edition of The Week, about thorium nuclear power:

Why are fans so excited about it?
Thorium-fueled reactors are supposed to be much safer than uranium-powered ones, use far less material (1 metric ton of thorium gets as much bang as 200 metric tons of uranium, or 3.5 million metric tons of coal), produce waste that is toxic for a shorter period of time (300 years vs. uranium’s tens of thousands of years), and is hard to weaponize. In fact, thorium can even feed off of toxic plutonium waste to produce energy. And because the biggest cost in nuclear power is safety, and thorium reactors can’t melt down, argues Michael Anissimov in Accelerating Future, they will eventually be much cheaper, too.

Thorium addresses the biggest safety concerns: proliferation and meltdown, which would make the plants much less attractive as terrorist targets as well.

Here’s a quote from a NASA paper, “High Efficiency Nuclear Power Plants Using Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor Technology”:

As a result fission fragment waste products are reduced by a commensurate amount, and their radioactivity would decay to background levels in less than 300 years, as contrasted to over 10,000 years for currently used reactors, thus obviating the need for long term storage, such as at Yucca Mountain. The thermal spectrum LFTR concept is inherently safe, with a negative temperature coefficient of reactivity, thus making a “core meltdown” due to loss of coolant impossible. Since the fuel is a pumped liquid solution of LiF-BeF2-UF4, refueling can be accomplished without reactor shutdown. The fissile fuel can also be made “proliferation resistant” by permitting it to be contaminated (denatured) with small amounts of U232 to increase its dose rate which would greatly reduce its unshielded exposure time and greatly increase detectability.
With Thorium ores, such as Monazite, being four times more abundant in the earth’s crust than uranium ores, over 60 percent of the worlds resources are located in the following democratically governed countries: Australia (18 percent), United States (16 percent), India (13 percent), Brazil (9 percent), and Norway (5 percent). Thus future global energy demands could be met by these Thorium sources for over several tens of millennia.

China and India are investing heavily in thorium. USA is not, because Americans are irrationally afraid of the word “nuclear”. Great job, America.

Comments

  1. Nuclear Utopia

    Many Americans are quite extreme in their views on nuclear technology. Don’t forget the proponents of the ‘nuclear renaissance’ that never came.

  2. UKreader

    Would you say the left or right wing of America are responsible for the hysteria? Here (the UK) the right wing is generally in favour of nuclear power (politically so is the left, because there are no real alternatives for us) while the majority of the activism against it comes from the left. However I suspect, from enjoying entertainers such as Alex Jones and Glenn Beck, that it isn’t so clear cut in the US.

    Basically, what I’m asking is: is a fear of nuclear power universal across the political spectrum in America, because I have the perception that it is.

    P.S. AVG anti-virus is currently giving me “exploit server” warnings for this blog.

  3. Gus K.

    Michael:

    My anti-virus is also giving me very bad warnings about this site.

    • Ah yeah there’s some malicious code in the php files, I’m removing it now. Thanks.

      Defining “very bad” and sending a screenshot would also be nice, it’s not like the malware is going to kill anyone’s children, so it can’t be that bad. ;D

  4. Thagboot

    I’m a second year college student, majoring in nuclear engineering, in the US.

    I was completely shocked yesterday when there was a discussion amongst my classmates about how the entire island of Japan is going to become a nuclear wasteland for ten thousand years, and that millions are going to die.

    They insisted that the only safe course of action was to shut down all the reactors in the world. I tried to probe this absurdity Socratically, by asking if any of them knew what radiation was, or how nuclear power worked. None of them had any actual knowledge.

    I didn’t even know where to begin to set them straight. They were talking about completely fictional events, as though they had no connection to reality at all. The fact that these people can vote scares the shit out of me.

    • Nuclear Utopia

      Don’t they think that something like that would convince people to completely evacuate Japan and at least be on the news?

      • Thagboot

        They think that this is some kind of disaster movie, where governments and corporations are hiding the secret danger from the public.

        They seem to be experiencing some kind of mass delusion.

        • janus

          Well…this will sound lame but I have to say it…LOL!
          The country which tried to hide its nuclear weapon programme behind civilian nuclear reactors has gotten to the point where the world nuclear is causing mass hysteria…you couldn’t make it up.
          I wonder if that is one of the reasons that in the US Nuclear Magnetic Resonance machines are called just Magnetic Resonance. Even though no nuclear sourced radiation is present. I wish there was a smiley that would indicate someone hysterically laughing on the floor turning blue, because then I would be able to use it right now.

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