… but we won’t 😦
I’ve already written about the advantages of using thorium as a nuclear fuel. There has been quite a bit research on this topic in CERN in the nineties. The next step now is to build a prototype-reactor, but unfortunately EU hasn’t been willing to fund this.
So who could fund this? Professor in physics at the University of Bergen, Egil Lillestøl, suggests Norway. We have one of the largest known thorium-resources in the world, we already are a big energy-supplier (of natural gas) and we do have a lot of money. Egil says the prototype-reactor will cost 4.4 mrd NOK, which is only 400 million NOK more than the Norwegian government just decided to spend on handling CO2 from our new natural gas power plants.
Of course this is a big investment, and even though the possible profit (both economic and ecological) is enormous, this is many years ahead in time. However, it seems obvious that thorium should be on the agenda in Norway? We should at least arrange a conference to have a look at the possibilites of thorium?
Unfortunately, the politicians don’t quite agree with this. The only party mentioning thorium is FRP, a populistic party that I really don’t like to identify with. Well, one should be able to distinguish between case and ideology sometimes.. I do applaud FRP for submitting an interpellation to the Norwegian parliament on the thorium-topic this week. Unfortunately, none of the other partys showed interest, even for arranging a conference on thorium to discuss the possibillities.
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.
After a long summer holiday, which I mostly spent working at The Mediecentre, my thirst for new knowledge has again grown big – and starting to study therefore feels really good. This term I will be following courses in inorganic chemistry, chemical thermodynamics and basic mechanics. So far, especially inorganic chemistry appears to be in the middle of my sphere of interest. It starts with a basic look at orbital theory and the Schrödinger wave equation, which is really fascinating stuff. Also, the lecturer does research on Molecular Modelling, a topic that is a possible candidate for my Master thesis, which in itself is inspiring.