Thorium in the news

[ When trucks stop running, civilization as we know it ends.  Nuclear electricity doesn’t matter a rat’s ass if trucks can’t be electrified to run on batteries or overhead wires — especially the tractors and harvesters that plant and harvest billions of acres of farmland.  Even if trucks can be electrified, it won’t matter if thorium or uranium nuclear power plants can’t be flexibly ramped up and down to match the ever-increasing amounts of renewable power mainly generated by wind and solar as fossil fuels decline.  Nuclear (and coal) plants now typically take 6 to 8 hours to ramp up or down, but wind and solar require a response within seconds as they abruptly stop and start, which is now done with natural gas, a finite resource that is fast disappearing despite all the hoopla about 100 to 200 years of energy independence.  And finally, money would be better spent on  determining whether the energy returned on invested is at least 8 or more (Lambert, Hall 2011), to mine, process, build, and maintain thorium power plants before we start building them.  Alice Friedemann ]

Bagla, P. November 13, 2015. Thorium seen as nuclear’s new frontier. Science 350:  726-727.

In the 1950s, U.S. nuclear scientists proposed building a fleet of nuclear-powered airplanes. That was probably a bad idea.

Compared with uranium, thorium is 3 to 4 times more abundant than uranium and harder to divert to weapons production, and it yields less radioactive waste. But thorium can’t simply be swapped in for uranium in standard reactors.  Driving the interest in thorium is the latest in a string of accidents involving uranium-fueled power reactors. The meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan in March 2011 prompted many countries to take operating reactors offline and to scale back or scuttle plans to build new ones. India plans to have a thorium power reactor running within 10 years.

Thorium holds little appeal for bomb makers: Daughter isotopes, born as thorium naturally decays, are highly radioactive, emitting gamma rays that would fry weapon electronics and make thorium-derived bombs cumbersome to store. At the same time, thorium-based fuels yield much less high-level radioactive waste than uranium or plutonium, and molten-salt reactors are touted by their backers as meltdown proof.

The catch is that thorium itself is not fissile…. it is like wood too soggy for a fire and must be converted into fissile material by bombarding thorium with neutrons to transmute it into fissile uranium-233.  The disaster-scarred track record of uranium reactors casts a long shadow on thorium, too. Ever since the United States during the Cold War went whole hog into uranium, “the world has been paying a price for the wrong technology choice,” argues Jean-Pierre Revol, president of the international Thorium Energy Committee in Geneva, Switzerland.

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3 Responses to Thorium in the news

  1. Maura Benton says:

    All this thorium talk is just talk.It will contribute to radioactive poison in the world.It has never been tried on a large scale.The mining issues are enough to kill it.It is another “too cheap to meter” delusion from our friends at business as usual central.

  2. Ricardo Moreno says:

    The fourth generation liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR) will have excess heat that can be used to recycle carbon dioxide to create Ammonia, Methanol and Dimethyl Ether. Dimethyl Ether can be used as a replacement for diesel fuel. There’s no need for a Thorium mine. Thorium is a waste product of rare earth mining already. And since the nuclear fuel is a liquid rather than a solid, like today’s reactors, it can burn up all the fuel leaving little waste. It is even possible to burn up today’s stockpile of nuclear waste. We desperately need to switch to Thorium and LFTRs.

    • energyskeptic says:

      You should read my book “When trucks stop running” which explains why a drop-in diesel replacement is essential to keeping trucks running, since without trucks (delivery, logging, mining, construction, garbage, and so on), civilization ends. I go to great length to explain why we can’t electrify trucks, so nuclear and thorium reactors don’t solve the liquid fuels transportation problem. We’ve got tens of millions of trucks worth trillions of dollars that use diesel engines, which can’t burn ethanol, diesohol, ammonia, and so on. We’re past peak oil (2005-6 for conventional, 90% of our oil), and don’t have enough coal to make coal-to-liquids, natural gas, biomass, or hydrogen fuel cells to run trucks on, and electric trucks are not going to happen either for reasons given in my book, and also see posts at this website in

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