Thorium

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Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture
Thorium

Quote:
This radioactive metal is increasingly being touted as The Answer.

“Here’s a solution that’s in front of us that can solve multiple problems,” says retired physicist and IT specialist Robert Hargraves. “It can tackle global warming. To the extent that we can make fuel, we can reduce our dependency on the Mideast.”

Brief chemistry refresher course: atomic number 90, symbol Th, just two protons fewer than uranium, and four fewer than plutonium, shiny, silvery-white — and almost as common as dirt. The metal was discovered in 1828 and named for Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

Thorium’s fans — nuclear scientists and engineers, chemists and physicists, even some environmentalists — have become almost cult-like in their promotion of thorium as the solution to most of the world’s energy problems.

From here

I'm rather curious about this, and wonder if anyone here has any perspective on the issue. Some of the claims seem rather far-fetched. Can it really be 20x as efficient at power generation as uranium, its next-door neighbour on the periodic tables?

 

ygtbk

Lard Tunderin Jeezus wrote:

Quote:
This radioactive metal is increasingly being touted as The Answer.

“Here’s a solution that’s in front of us that can solve multiple problems,” says retired physicist and IT specialist Robert Hargraves. “It can tackle global warming. To the extent that we can make fuel, we can reduce our dependency on the Mideast.”

Brief chemistry refresher course: atomic number 90, symbol Th, just two protons fewer than uranium, and four fewer than plutonium, shiny, silvery-white — and almost as common as dirt. The metal was discovered in 1828 and named for Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

Thorium’s fans — nuclear scientists and engineers, chemists and physicists, even some environmentalists — have become almost cult-like in their promotion of thorium as the solution to most of the world’s energy problems.

From here

I'm rather curious about this, and wonder if anyone here has any perspective on the issue. Some of the claims seem rather far-fetched. Can it really be 20x as efficient at power generation as uranium, its next-door neighbour on the periodic tables?

 

Thorium 232 is not itself fissile but is "fertile" - if it absorbs a neutron it turns into U 233 which is fissile. Details here:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle

 

Fidel

wiki wrote:
The thorium fuel cycle creates 233U, which, if separated from the reactor's fuel, can be used for making nuclear weapons...

Exposure to an aerosol of thorium can lead to increased risk of cancers of the lung, pancreas and blood, as lungs and other internal organs can be penetrated by alpha radiation. Exposure to thorium internally leads to increased risk of liver diseases.
The element has no known biological role.

I know this is thread drift, but I really believe that any energy crisis in future will be a result of deliberate lack of planning in general. There is no need to still be using fossil fuels now or for the enemies of freedom to monopolize energy. The answers are so simple it's breathtaking. Lo'...

[url=http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-01/su-twc012511.php][=b... world can be powered by alternative energy, using today's technology, in 20-40 years[/color][/url]

There first has to be a political will to do it though. Market ideology seems to be fueling their warfiteering agenda. Market ideology is a road to serfdom for the whole world. We could have cheap energy in the future driving bustling economies and producing widespread prosperity. It was a bad idea to design economies around fuel from dead plant sources. And many scientists believe it would be another historical blunder to design economies around dangerous and expensive nuclear power. We can learn to harness the energy of the sun and other forces of nature without high risks.

ilha formosa

Candu reactors can be converted to use thorium fuel. If thorium has many advantages over uranium, would that mean the conversion or cold shut-down of reactors that use the less desirable uranium? Or would it only lead to more nuclear reactors? Use of thorium could lead to many more mini-reactors. A thorium cheerleader's TED talk here:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/kirk_sorensen_thorium_an_alternative_nu...

ilha formosa

If thorium really does have the purported advantages over uranium, then there is absolutely no excuse to go on with uranium. Oh, except to make weapons that can annihilate most life on Earth. (sorry I have to over-rely on wikipedia)

Quote:

Some benefits of thorium fuel when compared with uranium were summarized as follows: Weapons-grade fissionable material (233U) is harder to retrieve safely and clandestinely from a thorium reactor; Thorium produces 10 to 10,000 times less long-lived radioactive waste; The fissionable thorium cycle uses 100% of the isotope as coming out of the ground, which does not require enrichment, whereas the fissile uranium cycle depends on the only 0.7% fissile U-235 of the natural uranium. The same cycle could also use the fissionable U-238 component of the natural uranium, and also contained in the depleted reactor fuel; Thorium cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction without priming[24] so fission stops by default.

I am very wary of thorium not becoming a replacement for uranium, but an additional problem. There is plenty of renewable energy on this planet, and plenty of ingenuity to harness it. The shortage is in political will.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/23/thorium-nuclear-uraniu...'t believe the spin on thorium being a greener nuclear option[/url]

Quote:
There is a significant sticking point to the promotion of thorium as the 'great green hope' of clean energy production: it remains unproven on a commercial scale. While it has been around since the 1950s (and an experimental 10MW LFTR did run for five years during the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US, though using uranium and plutonium as fuel) it is still a next generation nuclear technology – theoretical.

China did announce this year [2011] that it intended to develop a thorium MSR, but nuclear radiologist Peter Karamoskos, of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), says the world shouldn't hold its breath.

'Without exception, [thorium reactors] have never been commercially viable, nor do any of the intended new designs even remotely seem to be viable. Like all nuclear power production they rely on extensive taxpayer subsidies; the only difference is that with thorium and other breeder reactors these are of an order of magnitude greater, which is why no government has ever continued their funding.'

China's development will persist until it experiences the ongoing major technical hurdles the rest of the nuclear club have discovered, he says.

Others see thorium as a smokescreen to perpetuate the status quo: the world's only operating thorium reactor – India's Kakrapar-1 – is actually a converted PWR, for example. 'This could be seen to excuse the continued use of PWRs until thorium is [widely] available,' points out Peter Rowberry of No Money for Nuclear (NM4N) and Communities Against Nuclear Expansion (CANE).

In his reading, thorium is merely a way of deflecting attention and criticism from the dangers of the uranium fuel cycle and excusing the pumping of more money into the industry.

And yet the nuclear industry itself is also sceptical, with none of the big players backing what should be – in PR terms and in a post-Fukushima world – its radioactive holy grail: safe reactors producing more energy for less and cheaper fuel.

See also:

[url=http://www.ieer.org/fctsheet/thorium2009factsheet.pdf]Contrary to the claims made or implied by thorium proponents, however, thorium doesn’t solve the proliferation, waste, safety, or cost problems of nuclear power, and it still faces major technical hurdles for commercialization.[/url] (.pdf factsheet)