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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Thorium: Rare Earth Byproduct, "Cleaner" Nuclear Fuel Source

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.

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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http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2011/09/11/is-thorium-the-biggest-energy-breakthrough-since-fire-possibly/

If we must have nuclear power plants, this seems like a great alternative to the current technology. But what do I know about nuclear power plant technology?
 

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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?
Dude, we have one now. It's called the Arc Reactor, saw it on Iron man. ;);););)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
R Downey Jr was good in Iron Man.

Here's some more on thorium power plants. Apparently there are pressurized reactors (like today's) and unpressurized (the new thorium salt reactor proposals). I say "new", but this is apparently old tech that fell on the wrong side of some politician's constituency. The guy who invented the thorium reactor also invented the design in use today. He proposed thorium instead because he understood the safety issues with relying on the redundancy needed in pressurized reactors that can fail (like in Japan, Russia). Thorium salt is self regulating in comparison.

Wow! I did not realize that the waste product from mining rare earth's (needed for magnets) that causes all the issues with mine tailings is ....THORIUM! Thorium is abundant and has a higher power conversion efficiency than uranium. So naturally, the Chinese are interested while US bureaucrats have tried to kill thorium. Sounds like ICE vs EREV all over again to me.

Same guy speaking at TED.
 

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To be fair, there are all kinds of even safer nuclear reactor designs (Gen III and Gen IV), not just thorium. It's just that we haven't really built many reactors in this country in the last 30 years. Of course, even our current Gen II reactors are very safe compared to other means of power generation (less deaths and human impact per MWh than all other major sources).

Also to clear up:

- No power reactors create "Weapons grade materials". No nuclear bomb has EVER been made of material from a power plant reactor. It's harder than making it from scratch. All bomb material comes from specifically designed breeder reactors

- "burning up waste" - we can already recycle the vast majority of waste, we just stopped doing it b/c it costs money and there's plenty of "new" fuel around (for now).

- "Cheap fuel" - nuclear fuel is already very cheap compared to fossil fuels. All the relevant costs are in building the plant.

- "burning up bomb stockpiles" - we already do with current reactors; thats where a lot of our fuel comes from right now. You can basically "water down" high grade uranium to power-plant grade. It's just a lot harder to go the other way around
 
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