Thorium reactors a silver bullet for our looming energy crisis

first_imgLike it or not, the world is facing a looming energy crisis as we continue to burn through the planet’s available fossil fuels at an alarming rate. A gallon of gasoline that used to cost under a dollar back in the 80’s and early 90’s is now averaging over $4.00, placing financial strain on industry and consumers the world over. Researchers have been working feverishly in the past ten-years to try to find viable alternatives that can produce abundant energy. One such technology that is being looked at closely is liquid fluoride thorium reactors, a “breeder” power source that could provide enough energy to satisfy the world’s consumption indefinitely.While that may sound like a pipe-dream, science is showing how Thorium could eventually replace fossil-fuels all together in the next twenty-years if the world’s countries would get serious about development. Researchers have shown that just a golf ball sized amount of the rare-earth element could provide enough energy for a family for thirty years with very little nuclear waste produced. That fact along with its inherent safety properties make it an attractive alternative to conventional nuclear reactors.Disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima have given the public a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to nuclear energy. In both cases, safety precautions either failed or weren’t present or adequate. While both events were obviously devastating to both the environment and human life, scientists point out that thorium could solve those issues because a nuclear meltdown is impossible as the energy production takes place in a molten salt reactor, which is already in liquid form. Add in the fact that the waste it produces has a much shorter half-life than current nuclear reactors, and a favorable picture does begin to form.While it’s true that it takes a significant amount of energy to ignite a thorium based reactor, the good news is that you only need to expend the energy once. An operational thorium reactor is capable of igniting others, causing an exponential chain of growth. Think of it like a group of people holding candles with only one that is lit. The person holding the candle containing a flame can pass that flame on down the line, with the limit to how much light can be produced only dependent on how many candles you have.Is thorium the silver-bullet that we have been looking for to solve the energy crisis? We don’t know yet, but the research has certainly been promising. Scientists have shown how a small amount of thorium could power an automobile for its entire lifespan, hopefully it can be scaled for the world’s power grids.More at WNYClast_img read more