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Peter Gooley

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THORIUM. Is it really that safe and great alternative to Nuclear? Is it the Other Miracle that Bill Gates is looking for?

I've been against Nuclear all my thinking life.. so from about age 20 and am now 54. Japan has not helped me become a lover of Nuclear. One thing that I heard briefly in a news report, was the word Thorium. It is apparently a rare earth mineral that is found with Uranium and dug at the same time.
I read the following.. and are yet to check the facts...
* It is a very efficient source of power generating material.
* It has already been dug up and is sitting in piles
* If there is a problem, you just simply turn it off like a light
* The waste can not be used to make a bomb
* Current Nuclear plants can be converted to use it
* It's actually cheaper than Uranium
* It doesn't require those big exclusion zones

Personally, I don't know enough about it, but from what I've read in an article titled "A report on Thorium: The newest of the technology metals . by Jack Lifton" which certainly seemed comprehensive and informed, I'm starting to wonder why this conversation hasn't been had before.

Interestingly, I don't see any reference to Thorium on the Terrapower website even though Stewart Brand referenced it in his Debate FOR Nuclear Power at about the 7 minute mark in the debate. I do note that a search for Thorium on the Terrapower website gives no hits at all.. Refer 13:20 into the Bill Gates speech as well. Not sure why.

What do YOU think?

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  • Mar 25 2011: Wayne, nuclear energy and nuclear weapons are different things. I do think that the media's focus on the nuclear problems in Japan is out of proportion to, say, the hte thousands of people who have already died and the thousands more will will likely die as a result of desdtroyed sanitation systems, lack of food, water, shelter, and everything that comes with not having sufficient electricty for long periods of time in a disaster area.

    But on to thorium. The thorium fuel cycle is very different than the uranium fuel cycle. The most promising design is the liquid fluroide thorium reactor, or LFTR for short. I highy recommend checking out http://www.energyfromthorium.com and http://www.thoriumenergyalliance.com The ins and outs of the technology are too involved to go into here. But I'll mention a few:
    LFTRs run at normal atmospheric pressure
    Passive safety systems ensure meltdown will not occur
    LFTRs can use our existing nuclear waste as fuel
    The waste produced by LFTRs are much less in volume and the worst of the radioactive elements present in the waste are harmful for about 300 years. We have technical and geological solutions to storing waste for this long (in vitrified glass, for example)
    Thorium is more plentiful than tin - there is no middle east of thorium.I share concerns about current gen II reactors and think the world's nuclear reactor's are outdated.

    Switching to a thorium fuel cycle or building gen III and gen IV uranium-fueled reactors are the way to go moving forward.

    Passive cooling systems would have been enough to stop the disaster in Japan. If a 40 year old, outdated reactor built to withstand an 8.2 can take a 9.0 earthquake and then only have it's backup cooling systems fail as a result of a 35 ft tsunami, I think that's a good sign of the safety of nuclear energy. So look up LFTRs and also the integral fast reactor (IFR), another nuclear fuel burning reactor that solves all the problems with traditional nuclear energy.

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