Thorium Nuclear reactors

Here is a little tale of despair. A tale of our country and how it is slowly withering away. It is also a tale of how you can do something, even if this little something is only a gesture.

A bit of background. What is a Thorium nuclear reactor?

Currently all nuclear reactors are based upon using uranium as their fuel. These reactors are, arguably, at this point in time, the best way forward to provide us with cheap,clean power. There are potentially a number of other solutions. These other solutions potentially offer even cleaner and more cost effective energy.

One is nuclear fusion, but this is technically a long way off.

Another is to use Thorium as the nuclear fuel instead of Uranium.

Thorium is even more plentiful than Uranium and arguably could be regarded as a limitless fuel source. The waste produced by a Thorium reactor would also be less, with shorter half-lives, minimal plutonium and the reactor would be intrinsically fail-safe. There are a number of problems that need to be solved, but really, compared to fusion, the engineering is far less complex.

Today Thorium nuclear reactors are either being built or heavily researched and prototyped by France, Germany, USA, China, Japan India and Australia.

Our sole entry is this one research grant of less than £250,000. (here)

This is from the country that once, not so long ago, led the world in nuclear research. It makes you weep.

I expect that in our straitened financial state, items like development of Thorium reactors will get short shrift, especially by technological luddites like Gordon Brown. But really we MUST start gaining our technical confidence again . We must do the science and the engineering to push our country forward. Otherwise we will simply end up being forced to buy foreign equipment while our country retreats ever further down the tables of national prosperity.

It is no accident that the countries that live in poverty have no dynamic technological development.

It is no accident that countries emerging from third world status like India and China are progressing mainly by techological research and development.

Unless we do something to address our crazy abandonment of technological development we will soon be taking their place with a third world status.

So what can you do now. By chance I came across an e-petition to the Prime Minister here which is a respectful request to Gordon Brown to fund development in Thorium nuclear reactors.

When I signed up it only had 20 signatures. This is but one small area of our neglected technical sector and arguably you (and me) are merely tilting at windmills. But at least by signing it, you show where you stand.

The petition was raised by Chris Camacho and states:

When Thorium is used to generate power because most of it is "burnt" there is very little radioactive waste.

Mixing the fuel with molten salt allows for high temperature *low* pressure reactions systems that are far safer than current technologies. Allowing the salt to "freeze" (ie fall to room temperature) means you can effectively temporary switch off the reaction, and later restart it.

In addition this process cannot be weaponised and can be made in mobile units, ideal for "axis of evil" scenarios

Thorium needs far less processing and is far more abundant than other nuclear sources.

With comparatively very modest amounts of money this existing but out of fashion technology could provide safe and clean plentiful zero carbon power

We therefore call on the government to start a 1GW power station project as soon as is practicable

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to start a crash program to provide a far safer a method of nuclear power using molten salt and Thorium.....

The blog this e-petition is on is here at thorium energy blogspot

A direct link to the petition can also be made here

In no particular order, more information on Thorium Reactors can be found here

There is an excellent PDF by NASA Here

and finally there is another description Here

1 comment:

Boganboy said...

Oz could of course use thorium reactors generate all its electricity. We could then sell all our gas, coal, uranium etc overseas for lovely, lovely money.
The approach I like best, because it seems to be the simplest, is to build simple BWR's, and use calutrons to breed sufficient U233 to make sure that overall breeding ratio of the system is greater than 1.
I always think it's a pity that the US built its WW2 calutrons with silver rather than copper wiring. If he'd had functioning calutrons available, perhaps Rickover would have built thorium as well as uranium powered light water reactors during his experimental program instead of the rather impractical LWBR. That way the Yanks would have paid for the experiments rather than us.