The ever distant dream of the thorium nuclear future

Clamping down on tweets Mar 26th 2014,   by Economist.com Thorium the wonder fuel of Tomorrowland by Oliver Morton HOW the Doppler effect helped locate the likely remains of MH370, why thorium will not be the fuel of tomorrow and how Turkey (tried to) shut Twitter down

VIDEO:      http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2014/03/babbage-march-26th-2014?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/clamping_down_on_tweets
TRANSCRIPT by Noel Wauchope “……..Now we turn to thorium
Thorium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants  of a normal design.
There has always been a group of thorium fans who have been campaigning for this.
And there is a little  evidence that the idea of thorium nuclear power is making some  progress.

There is  a little  bit of interest about thorium in China, and in India .  The Indians have just unveiled a new thorium reactor design
It is an odd example of simultaneous nostalgia and neophilia .  You find this  in some technological areas where people  want the new thing  – that used to be the new thing but has never become the old thing –  because it’s never the thing that anyone did.
Thorium is  a great example of that  –   like airships
The purported  advantages are that :
Thorium is more common than uranium, that you can use it in  a form that doesn’t have to be enriched.You can design systems that don’t produce weapons grade uranium or plutonium
What are the benefits in a civilian sense ? The benefit basically that   – it hasn’t been done
We know today a lot of stuff about a lot stuff about of reactors –  about how  things go wrong and how not to go wrong
Most work on thorium reactors has been done by enthusiasts – but all this tricky stuff in which you look at ways that things could actually go  wrong and about how to engineer around them –  hasn’t been done.
 The idea that thorium can take off , whatever its intrinsic benefits  that thorium from a standing start canovertake uranium based reactors that you have 60 years’ of operational experience with. that’s very unlikely
Disadvantages _ To even start building a thorium reactor you have to have a uranium fast breeder reactor, which is pretty tricky  and pretty dangerous technology very few people have ever made to run very well
So this may end up being the fuel of the perpetual future  It’s hard enough to make nuclear reactors that you know how they work –  to work. Making these new nuclear reactors  work, I’m not sure that anyone will really put in the effort. It is true that there are some things that are quite attractive about it.
A reactor which works with molten salt to thorium has some advantages in that it doesn’t have to be kept under high pressure.  Some nice things technically – they’ve seduced some people, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will conquer the world

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