Towards Thorium Nuclear Power

New age nuclear | COSMOS magazine

Nuclear energy produces no greenhouse gases, but it has many drawbacks. Now a radical new technology based on thorium promises what uranium never delivered: abundant, safe and clean energy - and a way to burn up old radioactive waste.

Named after Thor, the warlike Norse god of thunder, thorium could ironically prove a potent instrument of peace as well as a tool to soothe the world's changing climate. With the demand for energy on the increase around the world, and the implications of climate change beginning to strike home, governments are increasingly considering nuclear power as a possible alternative to burning fossil fuels.

But nuclear power comes with its own challenges. Public concerns over the risk of meltdown, disposal of long-lived and highly toxic radioactive waste, the generation of weapons grade by-products, and their corresponding proliferation risks, all can make nuclear power a big vote-loser.

A thorium reactor is different. And, on paper at least, this radical new technology could be the key to unlocking a new generation of clean and safe nuclear power. It could prove the circuit-breaker to the two most intractable problems of the 21st century: our insatiable thirst for energy, and the warming of the world's climate.

YouTube - Thorium Remix 2009 - LFTR in 16 Minutes

Thorium is readily available & can be turned into energy without generating transuranic wastes. Thorium's capacity as nuclear fuel was discovered during WW II, but ignored because it was unsuitable for making bombs. A liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is the optimal approach for harvesting energy from Thorium, and has the potential to solve today's energy/climate crisis. This 16 minute video summarizes 197 minutes worth of Google Tech Talks on the subject of Thorium & LFTR.

Accelerator Driven System

Fission occurs in thorium when atoms absorb a neutron to become a heavier isotope and quickly decay into an isotope of the element protactinium and then an isotope of uranium, which is fissioned when struck by an additional neutron. The number of neutrons produced is not sufficient for a self-sustained chain reaction.

A particle accelerator could be used to provide the necessary neutrons for fission to occur in thorium and a nuclear reactor making use of such an outside neutron source would be known as an 'accelerator driven system' (ADS).

Electron Model of Many Applications: Technology which could save the world | Mail Online

Cryogenics engineer Rachael Buckley inside the 'Emma' (the Electron Model of Many Applications) accelerating ring at Daresbury

And this is Emma’s special significance. Making particle accelerators affordable means they could be built and used in practical, everyday settings – such as thorium power stations. The key to thorium energy is likely to be the further development of ‘pocket-sized’ machines – precisely the kind of accelerator that looks and behaves like Emma.
Last year, ThorEA published a report, Towards An Alternative Nuclear Future, which concluded it should be possible to build the first 600MW power plant fuelled by thorium with three attached ‘pocket-sized’ NS-FFAG accelerators within 15 years, at a cost of about £2 billion – making it highly competitive in relation to fossil-fuel or conventional nuclear alternatives.