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Nuclear energy was discovered in the context of war (specifically World War II). In the 1950s, the US Air Force tried to come up with an idea of putting a nuclear reactor on an airplane to keep it running. They designed a thorium-fueled salt-based reactor. The idea eventually died. Why? Because they couldn't make a nuclear bomb from it.

One hundred grams of thorium is all it takes to fulfill the lifetime energy needs for a single human being - that's quite a bit of energy from such a small amount of input. Thorium is simple to find. It's been demonstrated that this can work on a small scale, that it's safe, that the waste can be reprocessed simply (not to mention that the liquid fluoride thorium reactor technology can also be used on existing spent nuclear fuel), and that it's (relatively) cheap. It would allow us to have a vast distributed power system because so many could be built. Yes, there are still problems to be worked out (e.g., electric energy storage for cars), but why aren't we doing this and weaning the world off of fossil fuels? India is doing it. The Czech Republic is even doing it. Why are the political leaders ignoring this technology?

FTA:

There is no certain bet in nuclear physics but work by Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) on the use of thorium as a cheap, clean and safe alternative to uranium in reactors may be the magic bullet we have all been hoping for...

Dr Rubbia says a tonne of the silvery metal... produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal. A mere fistful would light London for a week.

Thorium eats its own hazardous waste. It can even scavenge the plutonium left by uranium reactors, acting as an eco-cleaner...

Once you start looking more closely, it blows your mind away. You can run civilisation on thorium for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s essentially free. You don’t have to deal with uranium cartels," he said.

Thorium is so common that miners treat it as a nuisance, a radioactive by-product if they try to dig up rare earth metals. The US and Australia are full of the stuff. So are the granite rocks of Cornwall. You do not need much: all is potentially usable as fuel, compared to just 0.7pc for uranium.

After the Manhattan Project, US physicists in the late 1940s were tempted by thorium for use in civil reactors. It has a higher neutron yield per neutron absorbed. It does not require isotope separation, a big cost saving. But by then America needed the plutonium residue from uranium to build bombs.

"They were really going after the weapons," said Professor Egil Lillestol, a world authority on the thorium fuel-cycle at CERN. "It is almost impossible make nuclear weapons out of thorium because it is too difficult to handle. It wouldn’t be worth trying." It emits too many high gamma rays.

Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium

DISCUSS!

Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Sep 1, 2010 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=311

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