Skip to content

Is Thorium, the Norse God of Thunder, Our Energy Savior?: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

September 17, 2010

Decidedly my most enlightening and hopeful discussion!

                                                       Thorium Power

A fellow LinkedIn member, Kevin Watford from Dallas/Fort Worth, an Experienced International Business Student Graduating in May 2011, brought this article to my attention.

This article, “Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium,” by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, appeared in, International Business Editor, Aug 29, 2010.

If Barack Obama were to marshal America’s vast scientific and strategic resources behind a new Manhattan Project, he might reasonably hope to reinvent the global energy landscape and sketch an end to our dependence on fossil fuels within three to five years. In context,  since 2001, the cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is steadily climbing above $1,081,255,856,541 [as of September 17, 2010, 07:55 AM (central time), http://costofwar.com ].

“There is no certain bet in nuclear physics but work by Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) on the use of thorium as a cheap, clean and safe alternative to uranium in reactors may be the magic bullet we have all been hoping for.”

” Dr Rubbia says a tonne of the silvery metal (Thorium) – named after the Norse god of thunder, who also gave us Thor’s day or Thursday – produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal.”

“Thorium eats its own hazardous waste. It can even scavenge the plutonium left by uranium reactors, acting as an eco-cleaner.”

” You can run civilization on thorium for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s essentially free. You don’t have to deal with uranium cartels,” he said.”

“Thorium is so common that miners treat it as a nuisance, a radioactive by-product if they try to dig up rare earth metals. The US and Australia are full of the stuff. So are the granite rocks of Cornwall. You do not need much: all is potentially usable as fuel, compared to just 0.7pc for uranium.”

“After the Manhattan Project, US physicists in the late 1940s were tempted by thorium for use in civil reactors. It has a higher neutron yield per neutron absorbed. It does not require isotope separation, a big cost saving. But by then America needed the plutonium residue from uranium to build bombs.”
“They were really going after the weapons,” said Professor Egil Lillestol, a world authority on the thorium fuel-cycle at CERN. “It is almost impossible make nuclear weapons out of thorium because it is too difficult to handle. It wouldn’t be worth trying.” It emits too many high gamma rays.”

“The Norwegian group Aker Solutions has bought Dr Rubbia’s patent for the thorium fuel-cycle, and is working on his design for a proton accelerator at its UK operation”.

Victoria Ashley, the project manager, said it could lead to a network of pint-sized 600MW reactors that are lodged underground, can supply small grids, and do not require a safety citadel. It will take £2bn to build the first one, and Aker needs £100mn for the next test phase.

“Anti-nuclear neorosis is at last ebbing. The White House has approved $8bn in loan guarantees for new reactors, yet America has been strangely passive. Where is the superb confidence that put a man on the moon?”

“The global energy crunch needs equal “action”. If it works, Manhattan II could restore American optimism and strategic leadership at a stroke: if not, it is a boost for US science and surely a more fruitful way to pull the US out of perma-slump than scattershot stimulus.”

The article can be read in its entirety at: http://tinyurl.com/barry-stevens48

Advertisements
31 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2010 11:08 AM

    Yes! Nuclear energy without the nuclear waste. http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Thorium_Reactors

  2. Kevin Watford permalink
    September 17, 2010 2:16 PM

    Despite my hesitance in believing in “cure all” solutions to this energy crisis, this seems like a healthy step in the right direction towards a less energy dependent nation. Though we should still point out that this doesn’t yet solve our problem with gasoline being used in cars.

  3. Kevin Watford permalink
    September 17, 2010 2:17 PM

    Never mind, completely missed the cool picture of the thorium concept car. Hail Thorium!

  4. September 18, 2010 8:09 AM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Groups
    • Group: The Renewable Energy Network
    • Discussion: Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

    Over night Barry ? Are you going to bicycle everywhere for about 10 years at least ? Well you will be in good shape !

    Posted by Pete Nick

  5. September 18, 2010 8:09 AM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Groups
    • Group: Solar Energy Professionals – PV & Thermal
    • Discussion: Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

    what waste products remain after shooting thorium with neutrons?
    Despite what the article says, If thorium can be handled by reactor users it can be handled by governments interested in making wepons from it. They’ll take extra precautions to shield the radiation. THe reactors contining thorium will becaome sources of radioactive steel and other highly radioactive wastes.
    Posted by Neil Farbstein

  6. September 18, 2010 8:10 AM

    Author : Kevin Watford

    Comment:
    Despite my hesitance in believing in “cure all” solutions to this energy crisis, this seems like a healthy step in the right direction towards a less energy dependent nation. Though we should still point out that this doesn’t yet solve our problem with gasoline being used in cars.

  7. September 18, 2010 8:11 AM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Groups
    • Group: CleanTech
    • Discussion: Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium
    despite what they etll you thoium can be uesed to make atomic bombs barry. And it can be used to make dirty bombs.
    Posted by Neil Farbstein

  8. September 18, 2010 8:12 AM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Groups
    • Group: Solar Power Society
    • Discussion: Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

    I am not qualified to judge the capacity or quality of Thorium. This article looks suspiciously similar to the Wikipedia entry under Thorium.

    The only thing I can add is that I am a skeptic, and if there was a magic bullet to our energy conundrum, it would be further out than three to five years. I may be underestimating how fast we now make progress, but I am pretty confident in that judgment.
    Posted by Denis Oudard

  9. September 18, 2010 8:13 AM

    A new comment on the post “The Renewable Energy Breakthrough of the Century” is waiting for your approval
    https://barryonenergy.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/the-renewable-energy-breakthrough-of-the-century/

    Author : Terry Riney

    Comment:
    I would like to see a complete study of the patents of Tesla. He had built a tower in NJ about 1900 to broadcast electricity. Where was the electricity coming from? I do not know. Tesla knew there was energy all around us. I truly believe he found a way to tap into an energy field that would supply and unlimited amount of electricity. May be this was the zero point field that has been discussed the past 20 years.
    In the case of Tesla as usual the money people won and we lost. JP Morgan could have made enormous amounts of money from this discovery. Can you imagine electricity delivered without any wires? Could you imagine all the copper mines that would not have needed to make wire.
    No trees needed to make poles. Our environment would have been much better off today.
    It is interesting that now some electronic devices work without wires. I read of Tesla being able to produce light from light bulbs without wires.
    Anyway Tesla could potential help us today if we just took the time to look and investigate with an open mind. Tesla said in 1900 that someday everyone would be walking around talking to each other. Of course he was taking about cell phones.
    By the way Tesla was finally recognized as the inventor of the radio and not Marconi as we have been told. I also believe that Tesla has been hidden because his inventions could help us today, but the power companies do not want his work to be known.

    Another company that can help reduce our oil consumption is Amsoil. Amsoil has studies of oil change intervals in excess of 400,000. You read that right. With our oil, filters and oil analysis oil changes could become a thing of the past. The company makes special By Pass Filters that keep the oil basically pristine. Then oil analysis is used to make sure the oil is good to go.
    Many companies with Amsoil routinely run 100,000 and more.
    If all the transportation companies and the public used Amsoil, filters and oil analysis our demand for oil would drop drastically. Not to mention extend the life of the engines.
    If anyone would like to see the test results of the above 400,000 miles please get in contact with me.
    Thank you,
    Terry Riney
    Amsoil dealers are needed nationwide. The demand is huge.

  10. September 18, 2010 8:14 AM

    New comment on your post “The Renewable Energy Breakthrough of the Century”
    Author : Clifford Goudey

    Comment:
    Barry, You are suggesting far more than a compromise on the #1 issue facing humanity. You are suggesting abandoning demands for decisive action to reduce AGW in exchange for a limp stance on reducing imported oil.

    Can you call such a worn and minor plan a “breakthrough?” I think not. With the negatives associated with those imports, such a campaign on thinking people is much like encouraging regular breathing. The dopes or the conflicted have their own reasons for ignoring logic.

    What you are suggesting is handing big oil and big coal and big gas is totally undeserved victory in their not-so-hidden battle to obfuscate the AGW debate. I can’t go along with that.

    By the way, I agree 100% with your points regarding the regulatory control process that gives oil, gas, and coal a free pass while putting illogical hurdles in front of renewables. This is the product of 100 years of those companies running the country. However, you should include conservation groups in your list of stakeholders to assess the regulatory impediments. Except for a few stunning exceptions they, more than any business sector, know the potential benefits of meaningful national energy reform.

  11. September 18, 2010 8:15 AM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Network Update

    Roelof Reineman has just left a comment on your network update:

    “I’ve heard some of it on our intranet, but good to see it is catching more attention.”
    Barry Stevens ‘s most enlightening and hopeful discussion ” Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior?: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium. Go to: http://lnkd.in/UbQHQJ 1 comment
    Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could…

  12. September 18, 2010 8:16 AM

    A new comment on the post “Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

    Author : Robert-Leigh:Pritchett

    Comment:
    Yes! Nuclear energy without the nuclear waste. http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Thorium_Reactors

  13. September 18, 2010 8:18 AM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Network Update

    Robert-Leigh: Pritchett has just left a comment on your network update:
    “Yes! Nuclear energy without the nuclear waste.

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Thorium_Reactors

  14. September 18, 2010 8:20 AM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Groups
    Group: Green
    Discussion: Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

    This resonates with a lot of the talk at the World Energy Congress, which just finished. It seems like the consensus is that nuclear is the only cleaner interim solution… I encourage you to contribute your views on the new multi-stakeholder energy site that was official Social Media Partner of the WEC2010 – http://energy2point0.com
    Contact me for more details if you need them

    Posted by Tom Liacas

  15. September 18, 2010 9:18 AM

    LinkedIn
    Tomer Ariav has sent you a message.

    Date: 9/18/2010

    Subject: RE: Follow this link:…

    At Barry’s request I am posting a youtube link for intelligent use of PET bottles:

    It is a pity that all the items are in Portuguese.
    Regards
    Tomer Ariav

    On 09/18/10 6:03 AM, Barry Stevens wrote:

  16. September 18, 2010 9:25 AM

    ROBERT MACKAY

    81.152.118.222 2010/09/18 at 9:15 AM

    I have always lived in Thors house, Thurso Caithness is named for this thunderous God and Valhalla next energy centre to the right has some more interesting fusion fuels beyond Thorium, but I am rather taken by Thorium as its an alternative to the current energy mire we use everyday as unsustainable fossil fuels. If the mineable Thorium which exists were to be used as an energy source its calculated that there is enough for every person on the planet now to have 120kWh/d for 60.000years. Similarly deuterium half live a liveable 12 years at 33g per ton of sea water has a mind boggling 100000kWh per gram, enough the same number of people and last a million years into our dotage at a staggering 30000kWh per person which is 100 times the current average Americans consumption. How’s that for hogging the outside lane in a big auto. Really the question has to be asked why we are still in the fossil age when clearly we should be in the fission or fusion nuclear age. Anyway I am green and like tidal power too, and because outside my door is one of the biggest maelstroms in the world “the Pentland Firth” there should be enough energy to power half of Europe according to George Bernard Shaw. Top. Figures gleaned from Prof D. Mackay- Sustainable Energy, and of course there is tritium angle which I forgot to add

  17. September 18, 2010 11:37 AM

    Comment received in LinkedIn on this discussion

    LinkedIn Groups
    Group: Global Renewable Energy Network (GReEN)
    Discussion: Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

    Yes,
    No,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium

    Posted by Ger Groeneveld

  18. September 18, 2010 2:17 PM

    You talk as if the supply of fuel were the limiting issue for nuclear power costs. It isn’t. It’s the construction (including the regulations, the safety requirements, and all that-but you can’t ignore that, you have to deal with those issues). And after that, the other operating expenses besides fuel. Then, eventually the decommissioning of the plant, and along the way, perhaps most difficult, spent fuel storage. Thorium might help with the latter, but still, this is NOT a breakthrough. It’s perhaps a worthwhile option. India is quite interested in this. I’ll be watching to see what they do.

    We’re not going to run out of affordable uranium or thorium IAC. Even if we have to extract it from sea water, we can, and still make it a going concern. Fuel is not the limiting issue.

  19. Amichay permalink
    September 18, 2010 4:04 PM

    It can … in at least two possible ways:

    1. If we switch to EV, you can charge it without pollution.
    Given we can have batteries to last for 300 miles in a few years.

    2. If we can make reactors small enough to fit into cars.
    It would probably be easier to start on trains and ships,
    instead of diesel or turbine generators. Next step will be big trucks :-)

    I’m as skeptic as the next guy, but, I think it’s worth a shot.
    In general, I believe that every effort aimed at lowering fuel dependence
    is a step in the positive direction … Some won’t work, but we have to try :-)

  20. September 19, 2010 5:26 PM

    Thorium is highly radioactive and it can be used to construct dirty bombs.

  21. September 19, 2010 6:04 PM

    Dirty bombs are overrated; they’re a bogeyman used to make us scared us people who look and sound different from us, and so that we’ll follow our leaders where they want to take us. If you want to kill and/or scare a whole lot of people, you can get a much more direct and reliable result with a regular, chemical explosive, or if you really want something that will really scare the bejeezus out of millions, not thousands, of people, then biological weapons are something to look into. You’re going to have a hell of a time putting enough material together to kill a sizable number of people with radiation quickly, and you’re likely to kill yourself in the process, or possibly be detected. If you don’t kill them quickly, they will have time to take mitigation measures, such as showers, hosing down the street, and so on.

    Besides, if you really want something highly radioactive, shouldn’t you be going after something more intensely radioactive, like maybe radium, or plutonium-238?

  22. September 19, 2010 7:41 PM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Groups
    • Group: CleanTech
    • Discussion: Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

    I know that the Indians are VERY interested in building Thorium reactors as they have between 35 and 37% of the world’s known Thorium reserves by some estimates. People living in some areas of the western coastal region of India have suffered from radiation sicknesses from their exposure to Thorium for a long time.

    The Indian Punj Lloyd Group signed an MoU with a Massachussetts based Thorium technologies consulting firm a couple of years ago and Aker Solutions is also lobbying to build a Thorium reactor (based on some new patents that the company has acquired recently) in India. Perhaps, US companies need to look more actively at a joint venture in that part of the world than they have so far for various political and other reasons. That might, just, push development forward at warp speed over here as well.
    Posted by Mehul Kamdar

  23. September 19, 2010 7:42 PM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Groups
    • Group: Global Renewable Energy Network (GReEN)
    • Discussion: Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

    Thorium is certanly not my area of expertise, but the article makes the stuff sound quite amazing. A couple of questions:

    In the absence of a cold war, we would not need the secrecy of a “Manhatten project.” He (Obama or his energy secretary) would just need to write a big grant and let the universities and laboratories go to work. Correct?

    Also, if this Thorium is as good as claimed, it would not only take out coal, Natural gas and traditional nuclear, but would also take out solar and wind as well. Correct?
    Posted by Wayne Bishop

  24. Mehul Kamdar permalink
    September 20, 2010 3:07 PM

    I know that the Indians are VERY interested in building Thorium reactors as they have between 35 and 37% of the world’s known Thorium reserves by some estimates. People living in some areas of the western coastal region of India have suffered from radiation sicknesses from their exposure to Thorium for a long time.
    The Indian Punj Lloyd Group signed an MoU with a Massachussetts based Thorium technologies consulting firm a couple of years ago and Aker Solutions is also lobbying to build a Thorium reactor (based on some new patents that the company has acquired recently) in India. Perhaps, US companies need to look more actively at a joint venture in that part of the world than they have so far for various political and other reasons. That might, just, push development forward at warp speed over here as well.

  25. September 20, 2010 7:05 PM

    Thorium reactors will have to be built for a lot less than the roughly USD 6 billion per GW that Ms Ashley is quoted as saying for the first unit.

    The cost of nuclear power is not mainly determined by the fuel price, nor is it likely to be for the foreseeable future. So whatever the other advantages of thorium, it is not going to be a game-changer unless it somehow leads to cheaper reactors. Currently the usual LWR units are going for about USD 3 billion per GW. That will inevitably get undercut by some renewable source, unless they can get it down.

  26. September 20, 2010 7:52 PM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Groups
    • Group: U.S. GOVERNMENT CONNECTIONS
    • Discussion: Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

    Why haven’t we herd about this before? Is anyone studying it in the US?
    Posted by Debra Fryar

  27. September 20, 2010 8:05 PM

    Comment posted in LinkedIn on this discussion.

    LinkedIn Groups
    Group: U.S. GOVERNMENT CONNECTIONS
    Discussion: Is Thorium the Norse God of Thunder Our Energy Savior: Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash for Thorium

    Actually it was discovered in the US. In 1977, a light-water reactor at the Shippingport Atomic Power Station was used to establish a Th232-U233 fuel cycle. The reactor worked until its decommissioning in 1982. One of the early pioneers of the technology was U.S. physicist Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, who helped develop a working nuclear plant using liquid fuel in the 1960s. Now most of the research is being conducted outside the US at CERN and in countries such as India, Norway & Russia.

    Posted by Mark Hoffman

  28. Mark Hoy permalink
    September 21, 2010 6:56 AM

    Ronald,

    Thorium sounds very interesting and worth researching further. But I agree with you that the cost of infrastructure will be a critical variable that must be addressed. From my limited reading on thorium, it sounds like the quality of deposits (like coal, oil, and other fuels) is an infrastructure / cost issue to be addressed, and the capital cost of building reactors and other infrastructure components could run into billions (at least). All of this during a time of record budget deficits and potential U.S. creditor revolts.

  29. September 27, 2010 1:21 PM

    I ran this article by Douglas Lightfoot who can be found at: http://www.thelightfootinstitute.ca

    Here are some of his insightful comments

    Eric:

    Thorium is a red herring. It is essentially used in a reactor similar to a fast breeder reactor that uses U238.

    Thorium is not fissile like U235. It has to be converted to U233, which is fissile, i.e., it can fission spontaneously and can start a chain reaction.

    There is enough uranium 238 already mined and ready for re-processing for use in fast breeders to power all world energy for a couple of centuries.
    This is much easier than trying to mine thorium.

    Douglas also wrote the article embeded below earlier ths Month. It looks like the formatting will not be accepted in this Comment box. If you want a copy of this in word or as a pdf attachment, contact me and I will gladly pass it on to you. I can be reached at ef@i-dealnetworks.com
    I hope this triggers intest for you to browse Doug’s site and explore some other interesting presentations.
    Cheers Eric Fisher

    Nuclear fuels and nuclear reactors
    This document is prepared to provide a simple understanding of the common metals that are used for nuclear fuel and the nuclear reactions that occur in nuclear reactors.
    The first part describes some of the significant properties of uranium (U), plutonium (Pu) and thorium (Th). The second part describes how they are used in thermal and fast breeder reactors . The third part gives some useful references for further reading.
    1. Description of uranium, plutonium and thorium
    The significant isotopes of uranium, plutonium and thorium and some properties are given in Table 1.
    Table 1 Properties
    Half-life, years Half-life, years
    235U Fissile 713,000,000 – – –
    238U Fertile 4,500,000,000 Yields 239Pu Fissile 24,000
    232Th Fertile 14,050,000,000 Yields 233U Fissile 160,000
    A fissile material is one whose atomic nuclei are likely to split in two (“fission”) upon the absorption of a slow neutron. Each fission event releases approximately two free neutrons and a small amount of heat. If a large enough quantity of such material is put together in one place, enough neutrons are captured by other fissile nuclei to start a chain reaction. Fissile materials include 235U, 239Pu, and 233U. They can be used for generating heat in a nuclear reactor or, with sufficient purity, for making bombs.
    A fertile material is one whose atomic nuclei become fissile upon the absorption of one neutron. Examples include 232Th (which becomes 233U) and 238U (which becomes 239Pu). Fertile nuclei usually do not undergo fission upon the absorption of a slow neutron, and hence must be mixed with fissile material to accomplish a chain reaction.
    1.1. Why has 235U been the fuel of choice to date?
    Uranium was chosen because it has the only fissile isotope (235U) found in nature. It happened to be familiar to those involved in radium extraction at a crucial time in history. Furthermore, the fissile isotope (235U) can be separated from the much more abundant fertile isotope (238U), although with considerable difficulty because of the small mass difference.
    1.2. Thorium compared to uranium.
    Thorium has potential as a nuclear fuel, but is used in very few reactors today. It is not expected to become a major player for time measured in centuries for several reasons. One reason is that already mined uranium, along with the plutonium, can be extracted from the waste of thermal reactors, and used in fast reactors. In principle, this uranium could meet the world’s energy needs for a few centuries. The waste from fast reactors decays so rapidly that it must be isolated for less than 500 years, by which time the radioactivity level is about equal to that found in a uranium mine.
    Thorium is “tempting” because there is a lot of it in the upper crust of the earth. However, it is widely diluted in rocks of the earth’s crust, and so is uninteresting from an economic point of view.
    Thorium releases more neutrons per fission than 239Pu and is very stable during irradiation. This stability tends to hinder reprocessing of spent fuel. Unless it is treated as waste in a “once through” fuel cycle, all nuclear fuel has to be reprocessed at some point to remove contaminants (the “ashes” of the fission reaction) that form and interfere with the continued chain reaction.
    Thorium tends to be a “red herring” at this point because there are no significant advantages compared to uranium. Countries, such as India, are pursuing thorium simply because they have little uranium.
    1.3. US Geological Survey reserves of uranium and thorium
    Uranium reserves are given as 3,192,000 tonnes at a price of $80/kg. If the price doubled to $160/kg, then ten times more would be economically available. (Source: web site:
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/bul/b2179-a/B2179-A-508.pdf)
    The leading share of thorium is contained in placer deposits. Resources of more than 500,000 tons are contained in placer, vein, and carbonatite deposits. Disseminated deposits in various other alkaline igneous rocks contain additional resources of more than 2 million tons. Thorium world resources are estimated at: 120,000 to 140,000 tonnes. (Source: USGS web site: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/thorium/thorimcs07.pdf)
    Even though these USGS figures do not show it, thorium is reported to be 3 to 4 times more plentiful in the earth’s crust than uranium.
    2. Description of how nuclear fuel is used
    Uranium as mined is 0.7% 235U and 99.3% 238U.
    If there is a large enough mass (the critical mass) of 235U, then enough neutrons from the splitting of 235U atoms can strike nearby 235U atoms and cause them to fission, and a chain reaction proceeds. Control systems are used to adjust the fission rate to produce the desired amount of heat energy.
    To increase the probability that a 235U atom will absorb a neutron and fission, the neutron speed is reduced by a moderator such as heavy water, light water, or carbon, usually as graphite. Nevertheless, some of the neutrons in the chain reaction can convert the fertile 238U into 239Pu, which is fissile, i.e., it spontaneously fissions at a fixed rate.
    Thermal reactors consume 235U along with some of the 238U. The fuel in a CANDU thermal reactor, which is moderated by heavy water, is natural uranium as mined, in which the 235U has a concentration of 0.7%. A considerable amount of 238U is converted to 239Pu. In a CANDU, about half of the total heat is produced by the subsequent fission of 239Pu.
    Light water moderated reactors work only if the concentration of 235U is increased, say to 3% to 5%.
    In a fast reactor, some of the main fuel, i.e., 238U, is fissioned directly upon being bombarded with high energy neutrons, but most of the energy comes from fissions in the 239Pu that results from the absorption of neutrons by 238U nuclei. A fast reactor cannot run unless fissile material is present. Therefore, fast reactors use fuel with enough fissile 235U or 239Pu to sustain a chain reaction at high neutron energy. During operation under these conditions, 238U can be converted to 239Pu at a higher rate than the 239Pu fissile material is fissioned to produce heat. Since a fast reactor produces more fissile 239Pu material than it uses, it is called a “fuel breeder”.
    Thermal reactors, which derive about 30% of their energy output from fissioning of 239Pu, make 239Pu too slowly to fully replace the 235U that is consumed. In one year, each thermal reactor makes, perhaps, 7% of the amount of 239Pu required to start a fast breeder reactor. Excess 239Pu produced in fast reactors can also be used for this purpose.
    Of the 440 nuclear power reactors operating world-wide in 30 countries as of August 2010, two are fast breeder reactors—one is operating in France (since 1974) and one in Russia (since 1981). Of the 61 new nuclear reactors currently under construction world-wide in 15 countries , two are fast breeder reactors, one in Russia and one in India. Advanced fast reactors are currently under development in several countries.
    To use thorium as fuel, the fertile 232Th must be converted to fissile 233U before it will fission, so some fissile material must always be mixed with the thorium. For example, thorium can be consumed in a CANDU, where fissions in 235U initially provide the neutrons that start the buildup of 233U.
    Nuclear fusion, which is neutron rich, might be used in the future to convert thorium to 233U fuel. Neutrons from nuclear fusion might also be used to control waste by transmuting radioactive elements to non-radioactive species.
    3. References:
    Lightfoot, H. D., Manheimer W., Meneley D. A., Pendergast, D., Stanford G., Nuclear Fission Fuel is Inexhaustible, Climate Change Technology Conference: Engineering Challenges and Solutions in the 21st Century, Engineering Institute of Canada, Ottawa, Canada, May 9-12, 2006. Available at: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/Xplore/guesthome.jsp
    For information on CANDU reactors: http://www.nuclearfaq.ca/cnf_sectionA.htm#a
    For information on fast reactors: http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA378.html and
    http://tinyurl.com/256d9e
    Prepared by: H. Douglas Lightfoot with extensive help from George Stanford, Dan Meneley and Duane Pendergast. Original: February 8, 2008. Slight update: September 2, 2010

  30. Hayel Msherbash permalink
    October 2, 2010 11:47 PM

    Terry,
    What is this magical filter that keeps oil clean after hundreds of thousands of miles?
    How it works?
    How much it costs?
    Why cars manufacturers aren’t using this filter?
    Regards,
    Hayel Msherbash

  31. July 6, 2015 8:55 AM

    Thank you for discussing Is Thorium, the Norse God of Thunder, Our Energy Savior?:
    Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With a Nuclear Dash
    for Thorium | BarryOnEnergy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: