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, though we have barely begun to crack the potential of solar power.

Dr Rubbia says a tonne of the silvery metal – 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. A mere fistful would light London for a week. Thorium eats its own hazardous waste. It can even scavenge the plutonium left by uranium reactors, acting as an eco-cleaner. “It’s the Big One,” said Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA rocket engineer and now chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown Engineering.

“Once you start looking more closely, it blows your mind away. You can run civilisation 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 0.7% for uranium.




  1. interglacial says:

    #33, ‘Makes ya wonder why the world hasn’t embraced thorium’

    Thorium reactors are feasible and have been run successfully since the 60’s. The major ‘downside’ appears to be they don’t produce much plutonium, so they are no good if you want a decent nuclear weapons program.

  2. fnberger says:

    There is a reason we don’t have plenty of thorium reactors by now: they built 2 of them in germany, and both failed. thorium reactors are worse, more complicated and prone to fail than the usual uranium type. just the hype keeps coming. nothing to see here, unfortunately, let’s move along.

  3. dexton7 says:

    It has it’s pros and cons… and it’s not a magic bullet to energy production. Thorium reactors have been around since the 60’s.

    However, if there were true advances in Thorium reactor design to substantially limit hazards and improve efficiency then I say go for it. I don’t see the Oil, Gas, and Coal industries going anywhere soon though..

  4. BmoreBadBoy says:

    It is truly sad to hear all the collectivist speak in this forum. “We” need to do this and why haven’t “we” done that…this we mentality has truly gotten the slaves thinking as if master cares what their opinions are.

  5. bobbo, a pragmatic libertarian says:

    #36–BMore==now we are back to our normal relationship: you couldn’t be more silly. Yes – “we” as in our society’s need for clean power in the future. If YOU are going to be living in your cousin’s root cellar learning to eat grubs, then of course the “we” discussion is of no interest to YOU.

    But as usual, YOU are irrelevant.

    Prove me wrong: make any valid statement about what an individual could do to address society’s clean energy needs?

  6. jack says:

    #8-There’s car that runs on water man !

    Yes, but only water from the Gulf.

  7. Benjamin says:

    Hmmm, Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo ran on thorium. That was written in 1947.

    #1 “But just say “nuclear” and the environmentals jump out screaming “Chernobyl” and “3-mile Island”.”

    Maybe, but just ignorant ones. Thorium reactors require particle beams to work. If something goes wrong, just turn off the particle beam and there is no chance of a melt down.

    I was surprised to find that 3-mile-island is still operating a nuclear power plant.

  8. MikeN says:

    What is this need for clean power? I think oil and coal are as clean as it gets. I don’t like the idea of drawing wind power from the ecosystem, and the side effects of all that missing wind. Solar might not be as big of a problem, because I don’t think we’re tapping into very much, but I have concerns that large scale slar could deprive the land of needed energy.

  9. Glass Half Full says:

    Never happen. Same reason marijuana isn’t legal. Nothing to do with science or fact. Of course marijuana is better for you than smoking cigarettes (thousand times higher cancer risk) and better than alcohol (hundreds times more drunk driving deaths and domestic violence fuel). But facts be damned, there is an entrenched money interest in the old system (alcohol/cigarettes, or in this case nuclear/coal) that doesn’t want to give up their old tech.

  10. Glass Half Full says:

    @39 ROTFLMAO

  11. ECA says:

    #37

    lETS SEE..
    MOST of the nuke plants created..were made by the gov. Then the Electric corps jumped in for a few..and rented the Gov. Plants.

    Electric corps DONT own most of the power facilities. They wont advance unless the GOV. pays for most of it. Every major advance in the past in the USA has been BACKED/DONE by the gov. and BOUGHT by the corps.

    41..
    you have a good comment. Even with River controls over the years, we are STILL learning that we MESSED UP on most of it.
    There are some neat advances out there. BUT until someone STOMPS on them and proves 1000% that its the WRONG WAY, they wont change anything. THATS corp mentality.

  12. soundwash says:

    ah… no.

    This is complete BS. we should lift the veil of “silence” off of resnoant free energy technology which has been proven and available since the 1800’s.

    There is absolutely no reason we should still be producing energy that requires a “fuel” –other than simple greed and the desire to perpetrate resource wars.

    Any resonant energy nay-sayers that still exist, are technologically ignorant or government shills.

    Period.

    -s

  13. Glenn E. says:

    #21 – RSweeney is correct. The US Navy came up with the first reactor designs, for their early subs. Then later for their big aircraft carriers. And the domestic power industry merely scaled these things up to power cities. And get hooked into the national grid. None of them were prepared to “reinvent the wheel” so to speak. And retired naval nuclear engineers were then hired to look after these plants. But scaling up the far too simply (and dirty) sub and carrier reactor design, lead to a number of problems. And basically, they’ve been fixed with patchwork solutions.

    Wholly new and safer reactor designs have been developed. But rarely implemented. Like the Helium cooled reactor, than can’t meltdown, because the fuel elements expand if they get too hot, and cease to react until they cool a bit. And the helium doesn’t split into dangerously explosive hydrogen gas. Or corrode all the metal parts, as water does.

    FYI, the Navy reactors are cooled by using seawater. They don’t carry around a huge reserve of “turbine only” water like land based plants have. So slightly radioactive water gets dumped back into the sea, by these ships. That was another thing that had to be engineered out of the basic design. Because the public wouldn’t stand for their rivers getting nuked. No three eyed fish for me, thank you.

  14. Glenn E. says:

    I’d say the nuclear power industry has done a good job, keeping us from ever hearing about Thorium’s use as a power source. I’ve only heard of it used in nuclear medicine. Perhaps another reason it’s not more popular as reactor fuel, is that maybe there were no Thorium mines in Republican states. They say the “GOP” stands for Gas, Oil, and Plutonium. If Thorium got adopted, they’d have to change that to the “GOT”. And that would make the party the butt of too many jokes. Like “Got GOT?” Or “Where’s the Milk?”

    I wouldn’t doubt that the scarcity of Uranium, and the ability of turning the Plutonium byproduct into weapons, from “breeder reactors”, is what helped tipped it’s use in favor of Thorium. And if the world’s mining conglomerates can’t monopolize Thorium. It’ll never replace Uranium.

  15. Uncle Patso says:

    # 45 soundwash: if it’s so great, why aren’t YOU using it?


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