Thorium that is. The element known as Th. According to a news release this past week Professor Egil Lillestol has been trying to convince Norway that a nuclear reactor based on thorium would be a viable solution to the worlds growing energy demands without the environmental impact of coal, or the hazards of traditional nuclear energy. Is he onto something? Read on to see the gory details.From the article:
•There is no danger of a melt-down like the Chernobyl reactor
•It produces minimal radioactive waste
•It can burn Plutonium waste from traditional nuclear reactors with additional energy output
•It is not suitable for the production of weapon grade materials
•The energy contained in one kilogram of Thorium equals that of four thousand tons of coal
•The global Thorium reserves could cover the world’s energy needs for thousands of years
•Norway has an estimated 180 000 tons of Thorium which based on the current price of oil is equivalent to 250 thousand billion US$, or 1000 times the Norwegian oil fund.
Now I don't speak Norwegian, or have a PhD in physics, but apparently this idea has been proposed by some fairly brainy people so I will assume their calculations are better then anything I can come up with (safe assumption). I know many of you will scoff at "produces minimal radioactive waste", what is a good minimum to have? Or might take issue with what happens after the thousands of years of "minimal pollution", what do we do then? (I hope we have some new ideas in a few thousand years...). It also appears that there are significant technical challenges to overcome. And the 15 years to development that the article quotes sounds very similar to other 15 year projects (fusion, hydrogen, etc.). I'm glad that thorium is not useful as a nuclear weapon, but it still has dangerous possibilities compared to... say- wave power. For those of you who feel a need to know more details about thorium take a peak at the energy from thorium blog.
I have the gut feeling that thorium technology is inevitable, and you can't ignore how important advances in nuclear energy development could be to the world. Not only could Thorium energy generation ease political tensions, relieve environmental stress, but development could create safer long term space exploration (people are a little nervous about launching a uranium enriched spaceship on a rocket), and heck with a name like Th what could go wrong? ::Innovations Report