Is Thorium our future?
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.
Thorium, named for the Norse god of thunder, is much more abundant than uranium and has 200 times that metal’s energy potential. Thorium is also a more efficient fuel source – unlike natural uranium, which must be highly refined before it can be used in nuclear reactors, all thorium is potentially usable as fuel.
The Telegraph says thorium could be used as an energy amplifier in next-generation nuclear power plants, an idea conceived by Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia, former director of CERN.
The idea needs refining, but is so promising that at least one private firm is getting involved. The Norwegian firm Aker Solutions bought Rubbia’s patent for this thorium fuel cycle, and is working on his design for a proton accelerator.
The Telegraph says this $1.8 billion (£1.2 billion) project could lead to a network of tiny underground nuclear reactors, producing about 600 MW each. Their wee size would negate the enormous security apparatus required of full-size nuclear power plants. </em>