After several decades, a new nuclear reactor has taken its first steps to be OK’d by the government . If humanity wants to have affordable energy to power our ever growing lust for technology, nuclear power must be developed. Nuclear power is a GOOD thing. It produces enormous amounts of energy and does not poison the air like fossil fuels. Such a great source of energy is not without its issues. Nuclear power plants have had meltdowns, and constantly produce nuclear waste and weapons grade Uranium. Although nuclear power is significantly safer than fossil fuels, it could however, be made even better.
Nuclear power needn’t retain these issues. A solution to most of these issues has been a reality for nearly 60 years. The solution to all the woes of nuclear power is THORIUM (named after THOR). Now, I’m no nuclear engineer, so I can’t go into detail about the in’s and outs of how Thorium reactors work. What I’d like to do though, is talk about how Thorium is the safest, and most abundant energy source on the planet.
Thorium reactors can not meltdown
Yup, you heard right. It is totally impossible for a Thorium reactor to meltdown. Tragedies like Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, would have never happened if Thorium had been used instead of Uranium. The reason that Uranium reactors meltdown is because their reaction needs constant maintenance to keep them in check. Engineers must vigilantly maintain a reactor’s temperature. This requires a lot of water and very high pressures (thousands of PSI). Special housing must be made around the reactor just to contain this incredible pressure. So if something like say, a tsunami or earthquake comes, and takes out all the fail-safes you have put in, the fission reaction runs away and the reactor explodes.
Thorium reactors (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor or LFTRs) on the other hand, are the exact opposite of Uranium reactors. First of all, LFTRs run at atmospheric pressure (14 PSI). This means that there is no need to make giant housings for the cores. This is important because it will allow for smaller reactors to be dispersed throughout America, which would allow for more cost effective energy transport. But what is most exciting about LFTRs is that rather than constantly keeping the reaction from overheating and melting down, LFTR’s fission must be constantly maintained from terminating! What I mean is, that if there was an accident and power went out to the plant, the LFTR would stop working on its own. The reaction cannot sustain itself without help. If there are any problems, the core solidifies. There is no noxious gases or liquids. It just stays put, frozen. In fact, when LFTRs were being tested in the sixties, the scientists would regularly just shut off the power to the LFTR when they went home for the weekend and start it up on Monday of the next week with no incident. This was done hundreds of times. This is essentially impossible to do with conventional nuclear reactors of today.
To illustrate this, let’s say that rather than having a Uranium light water reactor in Fukushima, they had a LFTR instead. To add insult to injury, let’s say that the power not only was lost in the plant, but the reactor shell was actually physically cracked. Well, first, since the LFTR runs at atmospheric pressure, the shell would not explode. It would merely seep liquid fluoride, which would then just harden and plug up the hole. The safety plug at the bottom of the reactor core would then melt out, and the rest of the Fluoride would dump into a holding chamber where it would solidify safely, until it needed to be heated and pumped back out again after repairs to the reactor had been made. With Thorium reactors, meltdowns will become nonexistent.
Thorium is EVERYWHERE
Thorium is very abundant. In fact, in America alone we have enough Thorium to last us 1000 years. Even the Moon fucking has tons of Thorium (Newt Gingrich’s Moon base could be powered by Thorium!) We would have no need to be dependent on any other country for our Thorium needs.
Thorium is more efficient than Uranium and easier on the environment
LFTRs are significantly more efficient than Uranium light water reactors. Since Thorium is more efficient, you don’t need to use much of it to get tremendous power. You can literally hold a lifetime’s worth of Thorium energy in the palm of your hand. One ton of Thorium can produce a gigawatt of electric energy in one year. What really takes the cake though, is that LFTR produces less than 1% of the nuclear waste that today’s nuclear power plants make. It actually USES some of our current Uranium reactor’s waste as part of its own reaction! We could potentially start shrinking places like Yucca mountain(which will soon have to be expanded to keep up with our current nuclear waste). And to add to all of this, most of LFTR’s waste has a significantly shorter half life. 83% of the waste from a LFTR has a half life of about 10 years. The rest of the stuff only has a half life of 300 years (compared to thousands upon thousands with Uranium reactor waste)
Another environmental impact of today’s nuclear reactors is their large water requirements. LFTRs do not have this issue. LFTR power plants could be placed more discretely and not loom over us on our beaches and rivers (Mt. Baldy, cough cough).
WHY THE HELL AREN’T WE USING THORIUM NOW?
So why aren’t we using Thorium now? Well, most nuclear power technology research, including Thorium reactors began during the cold war. At this time, Uranium reactors trumped Thorium reactors because of their ability to create the fuel for atomic bombs. One of the positives of LFTR technology is that it can not be used to produce nuclear weapons. Well, during the Cold War, we got nuke happy and we needed as many nukes as we could get our hands on. LFTRs fell to the wayside, and basically only got funded because of crazy projects like nuclear powered airplanes and whatnot. In our current, “more civilized” age, we no longer need to produce more nukes since we already have enough to destroy ourselves ten times over. So this should no longer be an issue.
What is an issue though is money. Uranium is big business. You can’t just dig Uranium out of the ground and put it in a reactor. Uranium must be specially produced and it’s no easy task. Many power plants have contracts with outside companies to produce the Uranium they need. Since Thorium is way more efficient, much more abundant and easier to refine, it is seen as not being as profitable. However, I feel like if businesses can make billions off of something that is essentially free like water, they can make Thorium profitable as well.
Thorium sounds too good to be true. It sounds imaginary. The crazy thing is that it is the real deal. The reality of Thorium is well documented. It could revolutionize the world. Its no wonder, that other countries are starting to look into Thorium reactors. Any country that produces a Thorium reactor will truly have an advantage over all others. America could easily be that country. If you want to learn more about Thorium, please click on the links throughout this post. This vice video (Thorium Dream) is only 30 minutes long, and is pretty entertaining (at least I think so). The TED talk is only 10 minutes and is a pretty quick overview of how LFTRs work.