Imagine if nuclear power was safe, terror-proof, and fueled by a plentiful, ubiquitous element. Sound like a pipe dream? Maybe it is. Maybe not.
A couple nights ago, I dropped by the Vice magazine offices in Brooklyn to check out a new documentary on thorium put together by Motherboard.tv. (Full disclosure: the video was produced by Alex Pasternack, a former contributor here at TH.) The film, The Thorium Dream, examines the history of an alternative kind of nuclear power, one tested decades ago but never embraced.
The doc follows a cadre of modern day thorium enthusiasts who are tirelessly crusading to get their ideas heard: Specifically, give thorium-fueled nuclear power another go. It's much safer, they argue, since spent thorium fuel emits only a fraction of the radiation that uranium does. It doesn't provide a target for terrorists: No plutonium is created from the enrichment process. Thorium is everywhere, they say, there's no need to rely on increasingly rare stores of uranium. Finally, there's no fear of a nuclear meltdown in the kind of plant they envision, which uses liquid fuel instead of a solid state -- radioactive material would just drain into a chamber in the event of a failure.
So do these guys have a case? Judge for yourself:
See Motherboard for more on thorium technology and the ideas behind the documentary.