Thorium – the energy solution for the future

John Coleman

THORIUM will power the world. That is the bumper sticker of the future.

The ugly debate about energy has gone on and on. It is costing us billions of dollars. It is beginning to cripple our nation. I have been looking for a source of abundant, cheap electric power that short cuts the raging, highly destructive debate; a source all sides can support. I think I have found it. It is thorium.

Thorium is nothing new. It was successfully demonstrated in the 1960s. I am not the only one to find it; there are now 100s, maybe even thousands of scientists, promoting it. But it has largely been forgotten and overlooked ever since the military/industrial complex and their political and bureaucratic servants dumped it 50 years ago.

I am asking for all sides in the climate change, global warming, carbon dioxide, carbon footprint debate to consider supporting thorium. It is green; it produces no “greenhouse gasses”, no particulate pollution, leaves little waste and produces no risk of explosion, radiation or pollution in the atmosphere or ocean. It is cheap; an abundant resource found in the desert salts and rocks in virtually every country on Earth. It is relatively cheap and simple to use.

I see every reason why, despite their huge, continuing differences on other issues, that thorium power can be accepted and promoted by all sides. I think Richard Lindzen and Michael Mann, Joe Bast and Peter Glieck, Fred Singer and James Hansen, Lord Monckton and Al Gore, Roger Pielke and Joe Romm should all set aside their debate long enough to help get the move to thorium electric power generation rolling.

I have just finished my first television report on thorium. It is about five minutes long; a true monster of a long “package” by television news standards. Yet Steve Cohen, the News Director of KUSI-TV, gave his full support and approval and cleared it for telecast on Monday, May 21st. It has now been posted on the KUSI website at

http://www.kusi.com/video?clipId=7310055&autostart=true

After you have watched, please, do a little internet digging of your own. The Thorium Alliance.com website is a good place to look:

http://thoriumenergyalliance.com/ThoriumSite/portal.html

http://thoriumenergyalliance.com/

http://www.thoriumenergyalliance.com/downloads/ThoriumSummary_Alex_Cannara.pdf

It will take a mountain of enthusiasm from a broad range of well positioned people to move the politicians and bureaucrats to back thorium. It would also be great if a major supplier of generating stations would climb aboard. I fear it is going to take a lot of political donations to move our Congress. And, I don’t think this can move forward without Congress.

If you interested enough to learn about thorium power here and now, read on:

Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire? Possibly

By William Pentland, Contributor

For the past several months, a friend of mine has been telling me about the potentially game-changing implications of an obscure (at least to me) metal named Thorium after the Norse god of thunder, Thor.

It seems like he is not the only person who believes thorium, a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, could provide the world with an ultra-safe, ultra-cheap source of nuclear power.

Last week, scores of thorium boosters gathered in the United Kingdom to launch a new advocacy organization, the Weinberg Foundation, which plans to push the promise of thorium nuclear energy into the mainstream political discussion of clean energy and climate change. The message they’re sending is that thorium is the anti-dote to the world’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges.

So what is the big deal about thorium? In 2006, writing in the magazine Cosmos, Tim Dean summarized perhaps the most optimistic scenario for what a Thorium-powered nuclear world would be like:

What if we could build a nuclear reactor that offered no possibility of a meltdown, generated its power inexpensively, created no weapons-grade by-products, and burnt up existing high-level waste as well as old nuclear weapon stockpiles? And what if the waste produced by such a reactor was radioactive for a mere few hundred years rather than tens of thousands? It may sound too good to be true, but such a reactor is indeed possible, and a number of teams around the world are now working to make it a reality. What makes this incredible reactor so different is its fuel source: thorium.

A clutch of companies and countries are aggressively pursuing Dean’s dream of a thorium-powered world.

Lightbridge Corporation, a pioneering nuclear-energy start-up company based in McLean, VA, is developing the Radkowsky Thorium Reactor in collaboration with Russian researchers. In 2009, Areva, the French nuclear engineering conglomerate, recruited Lightbridge for a project assessing the use of thorium fuel in Areva’s next-generation EPR reactor, advanced class of 1,600+ MW nuclear reactors being built in Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamanville, France.

In China, the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and a clutch of Chinese outfits began an effort in mid-2009 to use thorium as fuel in nuclear reactors in Qinshan, China.

Thorium is more abundant than uranium in the Earth’s crust. The world has an estimated 4.4 million tons of total known and estimated Thorium resources, according to the International Atomic Energy Association’s 2007 Red Book.

The most common source of thorium is the rare earth phosphate mineral, monazite. World monazite resources are estimated to be about 12 million tons, two-thirds of which are in India. Idaho also boasts a large vein deposit of thorium and rare earth metals.

Thorium can be used as a nuclear fuel through breeding to fissile uranium-233. For those technically-inclined readers, here is a link to a geek-friendly explanation of what that means.

I have no idea whether thorium is the panacea many people claims it is likely to be, but I believe we’ll be hearing more about it in the years to come.

The entire article is on the Forbes website.

There is more to come. Let’s get focused on this concept and try to see it through. It could save our modern, high technology way of life.

John Coleman, KUSI
jcoleman@kusi.com

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