Green nuclear power coming to Norway Thorium-fuelled reactors might be the key to a safer, cleaner power supply Credit: Justin Randall SYDNEY: Safer, cleaner nuclear power is a step closer to reality after Norway’s state-owned energy company, Statkraft, this week announced plans to investigate building a thorium-fuelled nuclear reactor. Statkraft (which translates to “state power”) announced an alliance with regional power providers Vattenfall in Sweden, and Fortum in Finland, along with Norwegian energy investment company, Scatec AS, in a bid to produce the thorium-fuelled plant. Thorium (Th-232), has been hailed as a ‘greener’ alternative to traditional nuclear fuels, such as uranium and plutonium, because thorium is incapable of producing the runaway chain reaction which in a uranium-fuelled reactor can cause a catastrophic meltdown. To date, thorium has seen only limited application, such as by U.S. company, Thorium Power, which produces mixed uranium-thorium fuel for use in conventional nuclear reactors.
New age nuclear Credit: Justin Randall 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. Named after Thor, the warlike Norse god of thunder, thorium could ironically prove a potent instrument of peace as well as a tool to soothe the world’s changing climate. But nuclear power comes with its own challenges. A thorium reactor is different. That may not sound like much, but small changes in the global average can mask more dramatic localised disruptions in climate.
Thorium fuel cycle The thorium fuel cycle is a nuclear fuel cycle that uses the naturally abundant isotope of thorium, 232Th, as the fertile material. In the reactor, 232Th is transmuted into the fissile artificial uranium isotope 233U which is the nuclear fuel. Unlike natural uranium, natural thorium contains only trace amounts of fissile material (such as 231Th), which are insufficient to initiate a nuclear chain reaction. Additional fissile material or another neutron source are necessary to initiate the fuel cycle. In a thorium-fueled reactor, 232Th absorbs neutrons eventually to produce 233U. This parallels the process in uranium breeder reactors whereby fertile 238U absorbs neutrons to form fissile 239Pu. The thorium fuel cycle claims several potential advantages over a uranium fuel cycle, including thorium's greater abundance, superior physical and nuclear properties, better resistance to nuclear weapons proliferation and reduced plutonium and actinide production. History 
Reactor Thorium reactors would be cheap. The primary cost in nuclear reactors traditionally is the huge safety requirements. Regarding meltdown in a thorium reactor, Rubbia writes, “Both the EA and MF can be effectively protected against military diversions and exhibit an extreme robustness against any conceivable accident, always with benign consequences. Like any nuclear reactor, thorium reactors will be hot and radioactive, necessitating shielding. Because thorium reactors present no proliferation risk, and because they solve the safety problems associated with earlier reactors, they will be able to use reasonable rather than obsessive standards for security and reliability. Because thorium reactors will make nuclear reactors more decentralized. Smaller reactors make power generation convenient in two ways: decreasing staffing costs by dropping them close to zero, and eliminating the bulky infrastructure required for larger plants. Even smaller reactors might be built.
Safe nuclear does exist, and China is leading the way with thorium “If it begins to overheat, a little plug melts and the salts drain into a pan. There is no need for computers, or the sort of electrical pumps that were crippled by the tsunami. The reactor saves itself,” he said. “They operate at atmospheric pressure so you don’t have the sort of hydrogen explosions we’ve seen in Japan. One of these reactors would have come through the tsunami just fine. Thorium is a silvery metal named after the Norse god of thunder. Professor Robert Cywinksi from Huddersfield University said thorium must be bombarded with neutrons to drive the fission process. Dr Cywinski, who anchors a UK-wide thorium team, said the residual heat left behind in a crisis would be “orders of magnitude less” than in a uranium reactor. The earth’s crust holds 80 years of uranium at expected usage rates, he said. I write before knowing the outcome of the Fukushima drama, but as yet none of 15,000 deaths are linked to nuclear failure. This is my last column for a while.
Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke | Magazine Photo: Thomas Hannich The thick hardbound volume was sitting on a shelf in a colleague’s office when Kirk Sorensen spotted it. A rookie NASA engineer at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Sorensen was researching nuclear-powered propulsion, and the book’s title — Fluid Fuel Reactors — jumped out at him. Published in 1958 under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission as part of its Atoms for Peace program, Fluid Fuel Reactors is a book only an engineer could love: a dense, 978-page account of research conducted at Oak Ridge National Lab, most of it under former director Alvin Weinberg. At the time, in 2000, Sorensen was just 25, engaged to be married and thrilled to be employed at his first serious job as a real aerospace engineer. Weinberg and his men proved the efficacy of thorium reactors in hundreds of tests at Oak Ridge from the ’50s through the early ’70s. Today, however, Sorensen spearheads a cadre of outsiders dedicated to sparking a thorium revival.
Is Thorium the Future of Nuclear Power | Oil Price.com So following the near meltdown of several reactors at Fukushima Nuclear Power, it’s dead is it? Well, to follow one FT article, you could be mistaken for thinking that will be the likely outcome. As the article reports, impact on the industry has been dramatic, from miners like Cameco, a major Canadian uranium producer, whose share price has fallen 20 percent since March 10th, to major deals like Russian ARMZ’s acquisition of Mantra Resources for A$1.2 billion that has been called off after the buyer’s (an ARMZ subsidiary Uranium One) share price fell 34 percent. Apparently by the end of last week, the (admittedly thinly traded) spot uranium price had fallen 27 percent since Friday to $50/lb. More importantly for nuclear power, it is not the markets that have been spooked but public opinion and the governments that react to that opinion – at least in democracies. Select the reports you are interested in:NO-SPAM: Under no circumstances will we EVER rent, sell or give away your email By.
Accelerating Future » A Nuclear Reactor in Every Home Sometime between 2020 and 2040, we will invent a practically unlimited energy source that will solve the global energy crisis. This unlimited source of energy will come from thorium . A summary of the benefits, from a recent announcement of the start of construction for a new prototype reactor: There is no danger of a melt-down like the Chernobyl reactor. If nuclear reactors can be made safe and relatively cheap, how popular could they get? It depends on how cheap we’re talking about. State-of-the-art nuclear reactors, such as Westinghouse’s AP1000 , cost $1.5 billion to build and produce 1.1 gigawatts of electricity. The AP1000 is a Generation III reactor, a new class of reactor that started coming online in 1996. Commonwealth Edison, the utility serving the Chicago area, completed its Dresden nuclear plants in 1970-71 for $146/kW, its Quad Cities plants in 1973 for $164/kW, and its Zion plants in 1973-74 for $280/kW. That something is huge safety restrictions. Anti-nuclear:
Nuclear Power Reborn The two reactors at the South Texas nuclear power plant, an hour southwest of Houston, last year churned out 21.37 billion kilowatt-hours. By 2015, its majority owner, New Jersey-based NRG Energy, hopes to at least double that capacity if it gets permission to build two more reactors on the site. The company filed the first application on Monday for a new nuclear power plant—two advanced boiling-water reactors—in more than 30 years. "It is a new day for energy in America," David Crane, NRG president and chief executive officer, said after making the application. "Advanced nuclear technology is the only currently viable large-scale alternative to traditional coal-fueled generation to produce none of the traditional air emissions," including the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change. Armed with the backing of the White House and congressional leaders—and subsidies, such as $500 million in risk insurance from the U.S.