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Environment/Science Last Updated: Jan 19, 2022 - 5:26:20 PM

The mighty thorium: The nearly perfect energy source nobody has heard of
By Doug Caruso with comments by Ron
Mar 11, 2010 - 7:31:54 PM

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The mighty thorium:
The nearly perfect energy source nobody has heard of
Sunday,  March 7, 2010 2:56 AM
A look inside the thorium reactor, which was operated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1965-69.
Courtesy of Kirk Sorensen
A look inside the thorium reactor, which was operated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1965-69.

Craving reliable energy that doesn't come with a big side order of carbon, the United States is taking a new look at nuclear power.

But even as they hail President Barack Obama's announcement last month that the government would back $8 billion in loans for new nuclear power plants, some engineers also are urging a new look at an alternative to the uranium fuel those plants will inevitably use.

Thorium, they say, provides all the carbon-free energy of uranium - about 300 times more, actually - with almost none of the guilt.

Thorium plants cooled with molten fluoride salt would leave a fraction of the nuclear waste compared to the uranium-fueled, water-cooled plants in use today. In addition, thorium plants can't melt down and don't produce reliable fuel for bombs.

"What's not to love?" asked Kirk Sorensen, a NASA rocket scientist in Huntsville, Ala., who is earning his doctorate in nuclear engineering.

Sorensen has taken up the cause of thorium reactors, an idea conceived in the 1950s and last researched in the United States in the early 1970s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

And compared to coal?

"The amount of thorium it would take to power my whole life is the size of a marble that would fit in my hand," Sorensen said. "The amount of coal that would power my life would bury my yard to 30 or 40 feet."

The scientists who designed the first molten salt reactors at Oak Ridge were so far ahead of their time, Sorensen said, that "It's like a little moment of the 21st century was plucked out and plunked into the '50s."

So why aren't there thorium reactors all over the country?

Several nuclear scientists said the nation was simply too wedded to uranium when the Department of Energy cut funding to the Oak Ridge reactor research. [Ron: "too wedded to uranium" is NOT an answer, it is an obfuscation!]

"It was demonstrated in a couple of test reactors here that it works and it works well," said Dan Ingersoll, senior program manager for nuclear technology programs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"It was abandoned not because it was a bad idea. It was a matter of having limited resources at the national level and choosing a single technology."[Ron: How often have you heard such bullshit before?!]

In other words, given the investment the nation had already made in uranium enrichment and power plants, the government backed research into the next generation of more-efficient uranium reactors and took thorium off the menu. [Ron: That is NOT a reason! It is an excuse designed to conceal the truth that the Jewish bankster cabal that controls the US and our world did not want to solve our problems relating to cheap and clean power production OR the pollution problems associated with nuclear power production and nuclear waste products, but rather wanted to waste resources and destoy our world.]

Weapons had nothing to do with the decision, Ingersoll said. [Ron: What utter bullshit!] But at the height of the Cold War, uranium had another advantage over thorium: Uranium reactors produce plutonium, which makes much better bomb fuel.

India is pursuing thorium.

Both uranium and thorium are mined as ore and then separated from the rock. But thorium is four times more prevalent in Earth's crust than uranium.

"They have tons of thorium and almost no uranium resources," Ingersoll said. "To me, that's the compelling argument. We've already made the investment and we have no shortage of uranium."

Richard Denning, a professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State University who studies the safety of nuclear reactor designs, agreed that uranium is a proven technology that is here to stay.

"Right now, we're so into the fuel cycle," he said. "There is enough uranium to fuel the next generation of plants, which will look much like the last generation."

Sorensen and others warn that if we don't invest in thorium, others will beat us to it. In addition to India, which is pursuing less-efficient, water-cooled thorium reactors, he said, the Czech Republic is exploring liquid fluoride thorium reactors similar to reactors tested at Oak Ridge.

"You don't have to be a superpower to do this," Sorensen said. "You could be a state to do this. If the state legislature of Ohio said 'We want to become the thorium state,' it could.

"A handful of engineers in the '50s did it."

In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress called for next-generation nuclear reactors that would be highly economical, equipped with safety enhancements, have minimal waste, and be proliferation-resistant.

Al Juhasz, a senior engineer at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, said that liquid fluoride thorium reactors could easily meet those goals.

He started out studying such systems as potential power plants for a moon base or a spacecraft. But he came to the conclusion that they could make a big dent in greenhouse gas emissions and energy needs right here on Earth. [Ron: Sooo, how come the global warming lobby and Copenhagen Treaty advocates DO NOT MENTION THIS OPTION?]

Juhasz noted that it takes more than 300 tons of naturally occurring uranium to produce the same energy as 1 ton of naturally occurring thorium.

With the United States holding 16 percent of the world's thorium supply - about 1.4 million tons - he said, there is enough to power the country safely for thousands of years.

"We're not advocating that we build a full power plant or reactor," said George Schmidt, deputy director for research and technology at NASA Glenn. "We think it deserves some attention from an R&D standpoint to really look at the performance of the system and see if it does live up to its great advantages." [Ron: This is the standard delaying rhetoric used whenever the Jewsih bankster cabal and its minions have to pretend current policies are the only viable ones.]

The Department of Energy approved $200,000 in funding at Oak Ridge for analytical studies this year of molten salt reactors using thorium and uranium, a department spokeswoman said.[Ron: US$200,000 is not even lunch money for fusion reactor researchers!]

In 2008, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada., introduced a bill that would direct thorium research begin at the Idaho National Laboratory. They introduced a new bill last week.

[Ron: Colour fonts, bolding and comments in square brackets added]

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