Saturday, September 07, 2013

Clean, Safe, Inexpensive Nuclear Energy

My litmus test for someone screeching about global warming is whether or not they're a supporter of nuclear-generated electricity.  If they're not, they're just an anti-capitalist leftie not worthy of my time.
One ton of thorium can produce as much energy as 200 tons of uranium and 3.5 million tons of coal, according to the former director of CERN.  
 
An abundant metal with vast energy potential could quickly wean the world off oil, if only Western political leaders would muster the will to do it, a UK newspaper says today. The Telegraph makes the case for thorium reactors as the key to a fossil-fuel-free world within five years, and puts the ball firmly in President Barack Obama's court...

After a three-decade lull, nuclear power is enjoying a slow renaissance in the U.S. The 2005 energy bill included $2 billion for six new nuclear power plants, and this past February, Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear plants.

But nuclear plants need fuel, which means building controversial uranium mines. Thorium, on the other hand, is so abundant that it's almost an annoyance. It's considered a waste product when mining for rare-earth metals.

Thorium also solves the non-proliferation problem. Nuclear non-proliferation treaties (NPT) prohibit processes that can yield atomic bomb ingredients, making it difficult to refine highly radioactive isotopes. But thorium-based accelerator-driven plants only produce a small amount of plutonium, which could allow the U.S. and other nations to skirt NPT.
Full story here.

Update, 9/8/13:  Last night at Best Buy there was a Greenpeace guy with a petition outside.  I considered asking if he knew who Patrick Moore was, and what his personal take on nuclear-generated electricity was, but instead I just went to my car.  Wasn't in a pugilistic mood.

3 comments:

Happy Elf Mom said...

COAL. Coal means American jobs. And when a coal accident happens, it usually happens to coal workers who know the risks and so on.

Nuclear accidents? Are forever, for all practical purposes. I'd rather clog up the air and hope science catches up, yk?

Darren said...

We know how to make safe reactors in this country. Thorium reactors would be even safer than what we currently have.

Nuclear power is safe, clean, relatively inexpensive, and mature. It's not a guess or a crap shoot.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Happy Elf Mom, coal releases a pretty substantial amount of radionuclides the key word being "releases". Whereas nuclear materials in a nuclear reactor are rigorously contained the radionuclides in coal necessarily have to be released when the coal's burned.

The point is that there's no upside without a downside and on balance nuclear power's a much more environmentally friendly source of power then coal although I'm willing to let the market sort out the winners and losers.

As to the actual utility of a thorium reactor, I'm not without doubts.

While it's clear the technology was torpedoed due to political considerations it seems to me that there would have been on-going research on the idea just for academic reasons. With all the physics departments around I have to wonder whether there's a worm in the apple that proponents soft peddle but acts as a deterrent to graft-writers.