Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Thorium - A Sensible Solution for our Energy Needs

About three years ago, Professor Gerry Peterson introduced me to the prospects of energy production from thorium (Th).  We have known about thorium since the beginning of the nuclear age and Alvin Weinberg had a working liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in 1956.
Unfortunately, Th is of not much use for nuclear weapons and most nuclear research, bomb and power production, was under military control.  Uranium had proved its worth and that is what the military wanted. There was little or no encouragement for continuing research with thorium even though it had much better credentials for a civilian power generation programme.  
There is renewed interest in thorium, it  is more abundant than uranium and U-235, the useful isotope, is only 0.72% of total uranium.  So thorium as fuel is much cheaper and there are many positive aspects to energy generation from thorium.
The world is fighting the well entrenched uranium lobby that  discourages replacement of uranium by thorium.  There is some work to be done in thorium to make it a mature technology and that is where the bottleneck is - money for research in thorium technology is hard to come by.  Countries like India and China have taken up the case for thorium and much work is going on in these countries.
I gave a talk on Energy from Thorium at Glasgow University in January 2013.  The talk was somewhat more specialized than my normal programme for the communities.  However, I feel that it should be useful for everybody with interest in science.
The slides are presented in the following.  
A useful reference on this subject is LFTR: A Long-Term Energy Solution?

Please click on a slide to view its bigger image