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The Next Energy Solution: A Thorium Reactor Explainer

A bunch of nuclear power plant cooling towers

It has become readily apparent that energy solutions are needed in the years ahead. The cost of extracting fossil fuels for energy use is increasing resulting in rising prices and price volatility. At the same time, issues regarding sustainability and climate change are also demanding innovative solutions. Many have touted renewable energy like wind, solar, and hydroelectric as saviors. But it is rapidly becoming apparent that renewable energy is not the complete answer. A different approach is needed, and many experts believe that nuclear power, and specifically thorium-based nuclear power may be it.

(Reality check: the Green Energy Movement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Read this Bold story to find out why!)

Thorium-based nuclear power offers many advantages over uranium-based nuclear power. Despite higher upfront costs of production, thorium looks to be a better option over time. In addition to its abundance, thorium offers greater sustainability and energy production. It also has the potential to provide much greater energy capacity for countries when compared to fossil fuels and renewables. These and other features are why industry insiders see the future of nuclear power being quite strong. And in all probability, this future will see thorium-based nuclear power surpass uranium-based sources in a relatively short time frame.

“All in all, the total amount of power conceivably available from the uranium and thorium supplies of the earth is about twenty times that available from the coal and oil we have left.” – Isaac Asimov

Why Nuclear Power?

Before we can consider thorium-based nuclear power as our energy future, we must justify nuclear power in the first place. Currently, in the U.S., 78% of our energy comes from fossil fuels and 12.5% from renewables. Amazingly, nuclear power comes in at #3 at roughly 9%. But this will inevitably change given some very practical issues. In terms of renewable energy sources, wind, solar and hydroelectric are certainly sustainable and environmentally friendly. But that doesn’t mean there not without issues. For one, wind turbines and photovoltaic panels take up tremendous real estate to meet energy needs. Plus, energy storage continues to be an issue with these energy production strategies. They will likely be a part of the energy production pie, but they’ll never be the lead source.

Next, we must consider fossil fuels, especially since they continue to dominate the energy sector. Oil, coals and natural gas are still in abundance for now, but that’s not going to last. We are already seeing the extraction of these energy sources becoming more difficult. This combined with depleting reserves will continue to push prices upward. And periodic fluctuations in access will cause ongoing volatility in prices on a global scale. That’s not to mention the concerns these energy sources have in relation to climate change effects. An alternative to fossil fuels is needed, and that alternative is nuclear energy. Not only are materials for nuclear energy in great abundance. But the energy production capacity of nuclear fission is tremendous. This why fossil fuels will progressively decline, ushering in the bold future of nuclear power.

“Compared to uranium reactors, thorium reactors produce far less waste and the waste that is generated is much less radioactive and much shorter-lived.” – Marin Katusa, Founder of Katusa Research

Why Thorium Over Uranium?

While most people have heard of uranium, many may not have any knowledge of thorium. However, just like uranium, thorium atoms can undergo nuclear fission to create tremendous amounts of energy. In order to produce energy from thorium, it must be combined with fluoride salts in a nuclear reactor. As a result, these nuclear reactors cost a bit more to construct. But in the long run, these costs are readily recovered due to the greater efficiency that thorium-based nuclear power reactions. This is why thorium reactions are believed to be the eventual future of nuclear power.

A bunch of control rods about to get their nuclear reactor on
The future of nuclear power? More thorium, less uranium.

Let’s compare uranium to thorium in its ability to produce nuclear energy. When it comes to thorium-based nuclear power, it is roughly 98% efficient while uranium reactions are only 5%. Likewise nuclear fission of thorium produces twice as much energy as uranium. Also, unlike uranium, thorium cannot be weaponized easily, alleviating these type of concerns. Finally, thorium is much safer, with its radioactive waste being much less in volume and much less n radioactive duration. While radiative waste from uranium lasts 10,000 years, thorium radioactive waste lasts only 500 years. All of this highlights why thorium should be the future of nuclear power over uranium.

“Our future is nuclear … in spite of Hollywood and misguided environmental activists who choose to get their science from that world. These phenomena slowed society’s progress in developing and benefitting from nuclear power by decades.” – Thomas Frey, Founder and Executive Director of DaVinci Institute

Why Thorium-Based Nuclear Power Is Our Best Energy Solution

For decades now, there has been less interest in nuclear power in favor of other alternatives. Radioactive waste issues and mishaps related to mostly human error persuaded many countries to back off on nuclear development. But comparing nuclear power to other energy solutions, there is little doubt that it’s our best alternative. This is especially true when it comes to thorium-based nuclear power. Not only are the waste issues much less concerning, but it is inherently safer. Thorium reactions are self-regulating and can be easily turned off when needed. This why thorium should be the future of nuclear power. And it’s also why nuclear power should be the future of energy.

In looking ahead several decades, it is likely other energy alternatives will emerge. Nuclear fusion is one of the more promising options, but it remains years away for it can provide global solutions. For this reason, we should be moving aggressively in a direction that supports thorium-based nuclear power development. It is the smart choice as well as the practical one when compared to other energy solutions. The future of nuclear power is now, and thorium offers the means by which this can be achieved.

 

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