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Norway Set To Test The 'energy Source Of The Future'


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Thorium boosters, including Bill Gates, say it has many advantages over conventional nuclear energy generated by uranium.

Those advantages include:

  • It is estimated to be 3-4 times more abundant than uranium.
  • Vastly more power can be generated from a unit of thorium vs. uranium.
  • Its waste can be re-used as nuclear fuel, and less waste is produced.
  • Thorium plants are considered meltdown-proof.
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If I'm not mistaken, India is doing some serious research with thorium reactors, too. Even with the advantages, I'm sure the rabid environmentalists will still keep any thorium reactors from being built anywhere in the U.S., just because the technology involves the word "nuclear." Sometimes, I really hate my country.

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This is the first time I've even heard of the stuff.  I'm feeling pretty ignorant at the moment.

 

It sounds like an environmentalist's dream though from the article.

 

If it's legit, I'd suspect the environmental backlash will come from the fossil fuel PR groups spinning the issue.  That's usually how things go in the US.

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I read about it a few years ago. It's probably the safest nuclear power we can ever make. The cool part is that if the system shuts down... the reaction stops. It can't have a meltdown like current reactors. And it's a more abundant resource than uranium and such. (That's what I remember from the top of my head.)

 

---

 

Oh, sorry. I just saw you mentioned exactly those things in your post. :HaHa: I only saw "Thorium" and threw in my comment.

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The really tricky bit with thorium is that the best reaction comes from molten thorium salts, and that stuff is really, really corrosive. It would be difficult (though not impossible) to engineer a way to hold the stuff in the reactor without it eating its way out. This would probably be the biggest sticking point with thorium. The need to mine the stuff would probably get the environmentalists in a tizzy, too, so we'd probably wind up importing thorium from the countries willing to do the strip mining to acquire it, forcing us to pay a premium to get it, and also making us slaves to other countries for our energy needs all over again.

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I thought I had read about thorium reactors a while ago, but I didn't realize it was just about three years ago. Anyway, here's a Wired article from 2009 that talks about it.

 

I figure that about twenty years after thorium reactors are powering every other industrialized nation on earth is when the United States will start talking about building one here. One probably won't actually get built until another twenty years after that. I feel like progress and innovation in this country are dead.

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Well conventional reactors are quite safe too if people use them responsibly.

 

I'm against nuclear power in any form. Not because I think the tech itself is guaranteed to spell doom for humanity... but because I don't trust people to handle the stuff like they should. Look at chernobyl for a prime example. If arrogant "specialists" wouldn't have been absofuckinglutely sure that "we're professionals, we know what we're doing, nothing bad can possibly happen!"...

 

...plus, at least over here, claims that nuke power is cheaper than other kinds of power have been debunked years ago as totally skewed; if insurance costs and other factors that don't appear in the bills because the government still supports the tech financially would be fully figured in, nuke power would cost dozens of times as much as non-nuke, whether that be fossil or regenerative.

 

And as even with so much capacity still unused, regenerative power already produces an amount of juice that rivals that of our reactors... I really wonder why we should the fuck mess with nuke power anymore. :scratch:

 

Of course your mileage may vary; I don't know the statistics for the US and such.

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So you're against thorium reactors too Thur?  Why would you be if they can't melt down (assuming the claim is true)?

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I can't get specific about those things yet, have to seriously read that article first. In general though I'd like to point out that meltdown is not the only way by far that nuke plants can go lethal... it's just the most dramatic way.

 

So far, the claim summaries I've read in this thread remind me of a reactor type we call "Kugelhaufenreaktor" in German, no idea what the proper English term would be. Meltdown indeed is at worst a minor issue with those... however, they can still overheat dangerously and release radiation if treated wrongly, and this exact thing has already happened (fortunately in small test plants which were contained very well). Also, you'll still have nuclear waste with these Thorium toys if I get it right.

 

I'm ready to believe that some problems of conventional reactors may be irrelevant to the Thorium things, but until I've examined the topic in more detail I'll look back on my experience so far and remain skeptical ;)

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Well I'm through now with the two linked articles and the anti-nuke folks' rebuttal of one of them; I'm not enough of a specialist to judge who might be right but judging from the admittedly limited knowledge I have, it sounds like indeed Thorium might have some advantages but still be dangerous. At risk of sounding over-dramatizing, being bound to a 500-lbs-bomb instead a 2,500-lbs-bomb is surely "better", but will it help you in the end?

 

Looking back at the mindblowing amount of criminal energy that went into promoting nuke power over here, which only in the last few years came to light, I think I'll choose to not embrace that type of reactor so far; seems much more reasonable to me to further push regenerative energies. Ya know... solar cells don't produce fuel waste at all :P

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As I understand it, thorium can't be weaponized, so I'm not sure why it should be considered a bomb.  :shrug:  At this point I'm just waiting hopefully that this has some merit.  It would solve a lot of problems if it does, including the fact that the world is likely to go to war over dwindling resources if we don't find energy alternatives to replace the current shrinking supply.  That seems to me the largest danger here, but like with you, the jury is still out for me.

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Well from what the rebuttal I checked out says, it seems that while Thorium itself is not a suitable weapon stuff, it decays into some over time. Devil's in the details I guess.

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Well from what the rebuttal I checked out says, it seems that while Thorium itself is not a suitable weapon stuff, it decays into some over time. Devil's in the details I guess.

 Yeah, maybe.  But I'd be careful of any rebuttals against a product that threatens the fossil fuel industry.  Give it some time and see what develops here.  It could be interesting. 

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The nuke industry to me seems just as likely to lie its arse off. But yeah, wait and see seems like a good idea here.

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Put it this way, even if it's not safe--just like riding, biking, driving car, flying, eating, or even taking a shower is really safe either--it is still several steps safer than the current reactors. We need more energy considering all iPods, cellphones, cars, TVs, game consoles, computers, etc, that we're buying and using every day, has to be powered. Traditional reactors are already out of the question. The alternative is natural gas or corn, neither very good for the environment at all, and very costly. So Thorium might be the best option, even if we wish we had better options still.

 

Several good points about why it's much safer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reactor#Safety

Inherent safety. LFTRs can be designed to be inherently safe: They can have passive nuclear safety, that is, strong negative temperature coefficient of reactivity. The temperature dependence comes from 3 sources. The first is that thorium absorbs more neutrons if it overheats, the so-called Doppler effect.[43] This leaves fewer neutrons to continue the chain reaction, reducing power. The second effect has to do with thermal expansion of the fuel.[43] If the fuel overheats, it expands considerably, which, due to the liquid nature of the fuel, will push fuel out of the active core region. In a small or well moderated core this reduces the reactivity. However in a large under-moderated core less fuel salt means better moderation and thus more reactivity. The third part is the graphite moderator, that usually causes a positive contribution to the temperature coefficient.[43]

 

Someone mentioned Very High Temperatur Reactor as a comparison. My impression is that the Thorium reactor isn't classified as such, but I'm not sure.

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