Thorium reactors: Asgard’s fire
WELL begun; half done. That proverb—or, rather, its obverse—encapsulates the problems which have dogged civil nuclear power since its inception. Atomic energy is seen by many, and with reason, as the misbegotten stepchild of the world’s atom-bomb programmes: ill begun and badly done. But a clean slate is a wonderful thing. And that might soon be provided by two of the world’s rising industrial powers, India and China, whose demand for energy is leading them to look at the idea of building reactors that run on thorium.
Existing reactors use uranium or plutonium—the stuff of bombs. Uranium reactors need the same fuel-enrichment technology that bomb-makers employ, and can thus give cover for clandestine weapons programmes. Plutonium is made from unenriched uranium in reactors whose purpose can easily be switched to bomb-making. Thorium, though, is hard to turn into a bomb; not impossible, but sufficiently uninviting a prospect that America axed thorium research in the 1970s. It is also three or four times as abundant as uranium. In a world where nuclear energy was a primary goal of research, rather than a military spin-off, it would certainly look worthy of investigation. And it is, indeed, being investigated.
India has abundant thorium reserves, and the country’s nuclear-power programme, which is intended, eventually, to supply a quarter of the country’s electricity (up from 3% at the moment), plans to use these for fuel. This will take time. The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research already runs a small research reactor in Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai plans to follow this up with a thorium-powered heavy-water reactor that will, it hopes, be ready early next decade.
China’s thorium programme looks bigger. The Chinese Academy of Sciences claims the country now has “the world’s largest national effort on thorium”, employing a team of 430 scientists and engineers, a number planned to rise to 750 by 2015. This team, moreover, is headed by Jiang Mianheng, an engineering graduate of Drexel University in the United States who is the son of China’s former leader, Jiang Zemin (himself an engineer). Some may question whether Mr Jiang got his job strictly on merit. His appointment, though, does suggest the project has political clout. The team plan to fire up a prototype thorium reactor in 2015. Like India’s, this will use solid fuel. But by 2017 the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics expects to have one that uses a trickier but better fuel, molten thorium fluoride.
Thorium itself is not fissile.
The Latest on: Thorium reactor
via Google News
The Latest on: Thorium reactor
- Opinion: Small modular reactors would be a worthy investment for Sask.on November 27, 2019 at 4:04 am
The fuel ranges from slightly enriched or low enriched uranium to thorium, which is more widely available worldwide. And SMRs offer an opportunity to reuse fuel from current reactors. Some modular ...
- Iraqi Children Born Near U.S. Military Base Show Elevated Rates of “Serious Congenital Deformities,” Study Findson November 25, 2019 at 9:10 am
a byproduct of the enriched uranium used to power nuclear reactors, makes bullets and shells more effective in destroying armored vehicles, owing to its extreme density. But it has been acknowledged ...
- Nuclear power would help us survive 21st Century with styleon November 24, 2019 at 3:38 am
Nevertheless, at present, thorium is stored at great expense, as if it were as dangerous as uranium. This is not new technology. It’s originator, Alvin Weinberg’s original molten-salt reactor ...
- Australia is the great 'white' hope for the global nuclear industryon November 18, 2019 at 6:52 pm
That's a long-term goal of the global nuclear lobby. Some SMRs require plutonium or enriched uranium to get their process started, so importing these fission products is an essential part of ...
- Australia must engage with nuclear research or fall far behindon November 14, 2019 at 11:03 am
Fast reactors thus do not fit well with Australia’s international and strategic outlook. An alternative to using conventional uranium fuel is thorium, which is far less useful for nuclear weapons.
- Here's why North Korean hackers attacked India's nuclear power planton November 13, 2019 at 4:43 am
They were after the country's research and data on thorium-based reactors. The hackers had the ability to cause damage, but chose to retrieve data instead. The hackers, speculated to be the Lazarus ...
- Will Thorium Reactors Have a Future in Clean Energy?on November 12, 2019 at 10:00 pm
In the proof-of-concept experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s, scientists successfully built and operated the first-ever nuclear reactor that runs on the thorium fuel cycle.
- Feasibility Study of Thorium-Plutonium Mixed Oxide Assembly In Light Water Reactorson November 7, 2019 at 4:00 pm
Thorium-plutonium mixed oxide, (Th,Pu)OX, is currently used as an alternative fuel in the light water reactors in the world. The main objective of this paper is not only to show the benefits of using ...
- Andrew Yang Wants a Thorium Reactor by 2027. Good Luck, Buddyon October 21, 2019 at 6:03 am
To transition the United States from fossil fuels to green energy, Yang wants the government to invest $50 billion in the development of thorium molten-salt nuclear reactors—and he wants them on the ...
- India needs thorium-based reactors: Anil Kakodkaron September 22, 2019 at 5:41 am
VADODARA: India needs to fully exploit its potential to develop reactors that use thorium. This is what eminent nuclear physicist and former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India Anil ...
via Bing News