CHINA TINKERING WITH THORIUM POWER PLANT

Saturday, 20 August, 2011

STICK A PETUNIA IN IT

 

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST

 On August 13th, I talked about thorium reactors . I went on and on about the advantages of thorium over uranium.  Ending the article with my irresistible dry humor. I said:

The LAST thing MISTERScienceAintSoBad wants to do is make you feel all competitive. But DO you want India or (maybe) Iran to beat us to this very neat technology?

Do you?

Since my timely warning, the United States has done nothing. (Neither has Iran, apparently). China’s getting into this technology big time, though.  Andrew Orlowski (The Register) says that China is committed to a Thorium Molten Salt Reactor. And India’s going for six of these buggers.

Six!

MisterSASB doesn’t mind our  close friends in India scooping us on something.  They do it all the time. It’s a healthy competition between three hundred thousand people here and 14 trillion there. Same for China.

We got there first. We had a Thorium plant  at Oak Ridge in 1950. We know about this stuff.   C’mon, guys (that’s the generic “guys” that includes all known sexes, by the way). We don’t have to stand here with our thumbs in our whatevers.

Light up the skies, America!

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THORIUM TO REPLACE URANIUM IN REACTORS??

Sunday, 26 December, 2010

THAT DARN URANIUM! (Antinuclear Protest, Paris)

Thorium fueled nuclear power plants may the answer (part of it, anyway) to our energy needs.

NUCLEAR ENERGY

The thing about nuclear power? It is fueled by uranium. Which is considered kinda dangerous. And, because it’s rare, uranium is expensive and supplies are finite. We’re already running low.

I can’t say that the radioactive waste from nuclear plants is that DESIRABLE either. The only state that actually wants to store it is Itchybottom. Which, come to think of it, isn’t, officially, a state.

By far, the worst byproduct of nuclear energy is plutonium which remains highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

That’s what I said. Hundreds of thousands.

TERRORISM

If you’re a terrorist who loves God, but not God’s children, you do like plutonium. Although making a“true” nuclear weapon’s probably not practical for terrorists, believe me,  the toxicity and radioactivity of plutonium’s plenty bad, all by itself. Our current nuke power stations make plutonium like chickens make eggs. If the stuff got into the wrong hands, the yoke could be on us.  This scares a LOT of people over at “Homeland”.

THERE’S AN ALTERNATIVE?

That’s the crazy thing. There is.

It’s called thorium. Thorium’s an element  (its symbol is Th). It’s named after Thor. And Thor is a God.

That should tell you something.

In an article for CNBC, Trevor Curwin of beausejourgroup describes how thorium could REALLY change the way we think about energy by replacing the uranium in our nuclear power stations with thorium.

Thorium is radioactive. Only a little though. Easy to shield against.

Although thorium isn’t common, there’s lots more thorium than there is uranium; you can MAKE uranium from thorium. Not only is thorium more common than uranium but a little thorium goes a long way. You get 200 units of uranium from 1 unit of thorium.

The US has 16% of the world supply of thorium, by the way.

As far as safety is concerned, that’s a point in its favor too.  The molten salts of thorium can’t sustain a chain reaction.  You can’t GET a thorium reactor to melt down.

Even with an appointment in advance.

That’s good,right?

But that’s the least of it. Get this! You can feed the radioactive waste you had been planning to store for 100,000 years into it and the thorium cycle will consume the waste and make it nice.

Nicer, anyway.

After a “mere” 300 years of storage, no byproduct of a thorium reactor is more dangerous than a lump of coal.

Okay. That IS a long time. But 300 years is short compared to hundreds of thousands. You’ll give me that.

WHY THORIUM

Why thorium? Well, aside from “why not?” there are several good reasons.

1. It’s much safer than uranium and neatly solves the problem of nuclear waste as well as potential terrorism.

2. It’s much more abundant.

3. It’s cheaper.

4. It doesn’t require “refining” with centrifuges. Which makes thing much simpler and easier.

5. Like uranium based nuclear power, it doesn’t contribute to global warming.

6. Unlike solar, wind, hydro, and tidal, it doesn’t require very special conditions (like high winds or tides) to work.  So it can be located in a lot more places.

7. It can operate round the clock so storage of energy, which is a big problem for wind and solar, isn’t required.

8. It’s named after a god.

ANOTHER THING

How long would it take to develop a thorium power station? It’s already been done in a couple of test reactors (since abandoned). And India and the Czech Republic are actively pursuing thorium .  If we get serious, we could probably build a modern thorium power plant in five to ten years.

The LAST thing MISTERScienceAintSoBad wants to do is make you feel all competitive. But DO you want India or (maybe) Iran to beat us to this very neat technology?

Do you?

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