It’s really easy to overlook the subtle but strongest trends in energy production when relying on news, articles, blogs and so forth. But some trends have more legs in genuine science that’s already researched and have known paths and clearly observed obstacles along the way.

Thorium nuclear reactors are one of the leading proven science based solutions for long-term electrical power generation. There are two proposed systems, one that is very clean and safe and one that offers much safer and cleaner but not fully so in operation that relies on old technology. The old technology system offers a big side benefit though; it can be used to burn out old, dangerous and highly radioactive fuels that the electrical power industry is just storing for now.

For a global overview and insightful look into nuclear power and thorium reactors coming role Tim Dean has written a superb piece in the Australian magazine Cosmo. In the article Tim covers the state of power generation, its human and environmental impacts and covers coal, uranium and plutonium reactors and then examines the thorium reactor prospects. Its written such that most everyone can get it and still leaves one feeling quite well informed. If you have more technical questions come back after the link. See:

The next link requires more know-how but everyone can catch the points handily. Walter Scheider at Cavendish Science writes “Thorium: Is It the Better Nuclear Fuel?” Here Walter writes about thorium reactors from the basis set out by Carlo Rubbia the Nobel Prize winner. Of note is Walter shows us the thorium sequence as Mr Rubbia laid it out. More to serve our curiosity is that Walter describes the safest system as needing “primed” such as a pump that needs a little material inside to get it going. The difference in a thorium reactor is that the priming must be continuous or the “fire goes out.” That issue is part of the development problem and also the reactors claim to safety. No “prime” = no reaction.

The “prime” issue is explained quite thoroughly over the course of three paragraphs. This is followed by more detailed explanations of how the design would be so much safer than current uranium reactors. Walter is candid enough that he tells us one major concern is that a major component, lead would be melted within the reactor and that steel tends to dissolve in molten lead. See:

Walt offers up the CERN three page description in his text and I’m repeating it here. Please note that the CERN summary is twelve years old at this writing. See:

Next up is the site. With 12 pages nicely laid out a whole slew of general questions can be answered. But buried in page 13, the forum, in the General Category, Thorium General discussion is a post and update as of June 2007 that takes a long look at the current status in the US and Russian Federation. It’s quite illuminating. See:

Lastly is the World Nuclear Association site. Obviously they have a bias, but I found the site to be very much based on information and little if any detectable skew to pro-nuclear power. They just assume you’re scientifically there for education. Which can pretty thoroughly hide the bias, but I read it carefully and such dry reading that there’s little place to hide a bias. As the organization’s name declares, its World Nuclear so there is a great deal of nuclear information there. It is a site worth a deep look in any case. See:

On the other side is this blog:

The blog looks to be run by Kirk Sorensen, hosted by Dr. David LeBlanc and they has just a wealth of information, links, posts, articles and papers that when you get through the links above will make much more sense. My hat is tipped to Kirk for such an incredible blog. Just be ready when you get there, as this isn’t an everyman kind of site, its Awesome.


2 Comments so far

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  2. mauna lani on July 18, 2011 11:41 PM

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