I’ve been very sceptic to the idea of nuclear fuel as a solution to the worlds energy problem. However, there’s a new fuel in town. Carlo Rubbia has suggested the use of thorium in a new kind of reactor, called an “energy amplifier”. Some advantages of using thorium instead of uranium are:
- Weapons-grade fissionable material (uranium233) is harder to retrieve safely and clandestinely from the thorium reactor than plutonium is from the uranium breeder reactor.
- Thorium produces 10 to 10,000 times less long-lived radioactive waste than uranium or plutonium reactors.
- Thorium comes out of the ground as a 100% pure, usable isotope, which does not require enrichment, whereas natural uranium contains only 0.7% fissionable U235.
- Because thorium does not sustain chain reaction, fission stops by default if we stop priming it, and a runaway chain reaction accident is improbable.
So there are clearly some advantages. There has also been some talk about burning waste from old uranium-reactors… and some speculation on eliminating the waste completely by using multiple burn cycles.
- The Energy Amplifier: Carlo Rubbia’s solution to world energy demand
- Thorium: Is It the Better Nuclear Fuel?