The Truth About Thorium and Nuclear Power

Thorium has nearly 200 times the energy content of uranium without creating plutonium—an ingredient for nuclear weapons. Is this the nuclear fuel of the future?

nuclear-fuel-thoriumThorium has nearly 200 times the energy content of uranium without creating plutonium—an ingredient for nuclear weapons. Is this the nuclear fuel of the future?

Talk of a large-scale U.S. nuclear renaissance in the post-Three Mile Island era has long been stalled by the high cost of new nuclear power plants, the challenges of safeguarding weapons-grade nuclear material, and the radioactive lifespan of much nuclear waste, which can extend far beyond 10,000 years. But a growing contingent of scientists believe an alternative nuclear reactor fuel—the radioactive metal called thorium—could help address these problems, paving the way for cheaper, safer nuclear power generation.

Three to four times more plentiful than uranium, today’s most common nuclear fuel, thorium packs a serious energetic punch: A single ton of it can generate as much energy as 200 tons of uranium, according to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Carlo Rubbia. In the mid-twentieth century, some U.S. physicists considered building the nuclear power landscape around thorium. But uranium-fueled reactors produced plutonium as a byproduct, a necessary ingredient for nuclear weapons production, and uranium ended up dominating through the Cold War and beyond.

Click here to read the full article.

Source: Popular Mechanics
Photo: Rob Lavinsky | iRocks.com — The primary source of the world’s thorium is the rare-earth-and-thorium-phosphate mineral monazite.