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Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire? Possibly.
« on: September 15, 2011, 08:34:23 PM »
by William Pentland
http://www.forbes.com/
9/11/2011 @ 6:29PM


300px-CANDU_at_Qinshan - Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire? Possibly. - Science and Research


For the past several months, a friend of mine has been telling me about the potentially game-changing implications of an obscure (at least to me) metal named Thorium after the Norse god of thunder, Thor.

It seems like he is not the only person who believes thorium, a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, could provide the world with an ultra-safe, ultra-cheap source of nuclear power.

Last week, scores of thorium boosters gathered in the United Kingdom to launch a new advocacy organization, the Weinberg Foundation, which plans to push the promise of thorium nuclear energy into the mainstream political discussion of clean energy and climate change. The message they’re sending is that thorium is the anti-dote to the world’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges.



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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2011, 08:35:45 PM »
So what is the big deal about thorium? In 2006, writing in the magazine Cosmos, Tim Dean summarized perhaps the most optimistic scenario for what a Thorium-powered nuclear world would be like:

What if we could build a nuclear reactor that offered no possibility of a meltdown, generated its power inexpensively, created no weapons-grade by-products, and burnt up existing high-level waste as well as old nuclear weapon stockpiles? And what if the waste produced by such a reactor was radioactive for a mere few hundred years rather than tens of thousands? It may sound too good to be true, but such a reactor is indeed possible, and a number of teams around the world are now working to make it a reality. What makes this incredible reactor so different is its fuel source: thorium.


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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2011, 08:42:12 PM »
A clutch of companies and countries are aggressively pursuing Dean’s dream of a thorium-powered world.

Lightbridge Corporation, a pioneering nuclear-energy start-up company based in McLean, VA, is developing the Radkowsky Thorium Reactor in collaboration with Russian researchers. In 2009, Areva, the French nuclear engineering conglomerate, recruited Lightbridge for a project assessing the use of thorium fuel in Areva’s next-generation EPR reactor, advanced class of 1,600+ MW nuclear reactors being built in Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamanville, France.

In China, the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and a clutch of Chinese outfits began an effort in mid-2009 to use thorium as fuel in nuclear reactors in Qinshan, China.

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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2011, 08:43:29 PM »
thorium - Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire? Possibly. - Science and Research

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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2011, 08:55:21 PM »
Thorium is more abundant than uranium in the Earth’s crust. The world has an estimated 4.4 million tons of total known and estimated Thorium resources, according to the International Atomic Energy Association’s 2007 Red Book.

The most common source of thorium is the rare earth phosphate mineral, monazite. World monazite resources are estimated to be about 12 million tons, two-thirds of which are in India.  Idaho also boasts a large vein deposit of thorium and rare earth metals.


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« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2011, 08:57:04 PM »
Thorium can be used as a nuclear fuel through breeding to fissile uranium-233.  For those technically-inclined readers, here is a geek-friendly explanation of what that means:

Although not fissile itself, Th-232 will absorb slow neutrons to produce uranium-233 (U-233)a, which is fissile (and long-lived). The irradiated fuel can then be unloaded from the reactor, the U-233 separated from the thorium, and fed back into another reactor as part of a closed fuel cycle. Alternatively, U-233 can be bred from thorium in a blanket, the U-233 separated, and then fed into the core.

In one significant respect U-233 is better than uranium-235 and plutonium-239, because of its higher neutron yield per neutron absorbed. Given a start with some other fissile material (U-233, U-235 or Pu-239) as a driver, a breeding cycle similar to but more efficient than that with U-238 and plutonium (in normal, slow neutron reactors) can be set up. (The driver fuels provide all the neutrons initially, but are progressively supplemented by U-233 as it forms from the thorium.) However, there are also features of the neutron economy which counter this advantage. In particular the intermediate product protactinium-233 (Pa-233) is a neutron absorber which diminishes U-233 yield.


I have no idea whether thorium is the panacea many people claims it is likely to be, but I believe we’ll be hearing more about it in the years to come.

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« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2011, 09:13:17 PM »
This is completely new to me. Thanks Hubs for sharing.
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2011, 06:37:31 PM »
Mas favor ko sa NUCLEAR FUSION.


Controlling the power of the sun, the energy of the stars themselves, has been a goal of both scientists and dreamers for centuries. And today we are scratching a little deeper than the surface, with huge advances being made in a field of physics, developments once thought to be closer to science fiction than science.

But what if instead of just harvesting the rays of the sun that make it to the surface of the Earth, the physics behind the sun’s incredible energy output could be replicated here? What if scientists could imitate the sun fusion process and cause two hydrogen nuclei to combine together to create helium, giving off colossal amounts of heat energy in the process?

Scientists are already doing it—albeit on a much smaller scale, and for very short periods of time.

The lure of commercially viable nuclear fusion power generation is compelling. It produces zero “greenhouse gasses.” No radioactive waste is produced. There is no chance of a catastrophic Fukishima-type meltdown. It is a million times more efficient than today’s nuclear power plants—and a trillion times more efficient than fossil fuels.

Best of all, the hydrogen needed to power this reaction can be obtained from the oceans—the largest geographical feature on the planet.

Commercial fusion has some governments and private investors salivating. When professors Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox were asked to name the most pressing scientific challenge facing humanity, they both gave the same answer: producing electricity from fusion energy. The prize? A source of clean, inexpensive, limitless energy to power human development for centuries.

But here is the catch, and it is a big one. Replicating what happens in the heart of a star isn’t an easy task. Governments have spent billions trying to do just that, and the best they can show for it is the ability to produce and sustain 16 million watts of energy output—for one second.

Producing energy for a second may not sound like much, but consider that back in the 1970s the best that could be achieved was one tenth of a watt, produced for a fraction of a second. That is a billion-fold increase, notes the New York Times. Do that again, and we are in business.

While the physics of nuclear fusion is well understood, the engineering requirements to control the process are very challenging. For example, how do you handle the gas-like hydrogen plasma formed by the colliding hydrogen nuclei when it routinely reaches 150 million degrees centigrade? It literally melts away anything it touches.

But advances in technology are now close to overcoming this problem. Some scientists are using advanced magnets to not only suspend but deftly manipulate the almost unfathomably hot plasma. Others use lasers to control how many hydrogen atoms are allowed to fuse, vastly lowering temperatures.

Challenges remain, but a race is on. The first nation to develop a viable fusion power station could literally write its own check. The ability to build minivan-size suns able to supply the energy needs of whole countries—for thousands of years—holds the potential to change the balance of power and the world forever. It would make the holders of that technology unfathomably rich. If used properly, this alone could virtually eliminate poverty.

The European Union, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States have all teamed up to work toward developing a fusion power prototype by 2020.

“Now some people are cynical about that,” says Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at City College of New York. “They say, ‘Hey, give me a break. We’ve been there. We’ve heard the claims. Every 20 years they say that fusion is 20 years from now. Twenty years come, and we’re still no closer to fusion.’ There is a difference. This time we physicists think that we have the technical problems licked.”

Yet, if there is a race for fusion, according to the Times, America is lagging. The most advanced research facilities today are in Europe and Asia. And the world’s first operational fusion power plant is scheduled to be built in France in 2019.

The prize is enormous: The sun produces enough energy in one second to power the world’s current needs for a million years.


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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2011, 11:06:48 AM »
nice.....thanks hubs!
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