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Thorium: Green Friendly Nuclear Power

Thorium is the greener and safer alternative to producing nuclear power and has many advantages over uranium and plutonium.

Not only do Thorium nuclear reactors produce safe clean energy, but as a fuel source thorium is many times more abundant than uranium (itís classified as ďuncommonĒ mineral just like lead). Almost 100% of natural thorium can be used in a reactor compared to only half of 1% of natural uranium. Also thorium can be denatured using ionium so that it canít be reprocessed into weapons-grade material. Why is it not being used? Well, sadly itís because countries couldnít make weapons-grade by-products from their operation. In fact thorium reactors can do just the opposite as since they can be used to burn and destroy radioactive waste and even nuclear weapons! Another reason Thorium reactors arenít in common use today is that itís more of a liquid fuel and solid fuels are typically preferred due to their ease of transport and have more military applications. Reactor manufacturers historically make their money by fabricating fuel and since Thorium doesnít require any fabrication adoption of that type of fuel severely limits their profits.

Thorium power plants have many advantages over the current technology in use today. Not only can they produce power inexpensively and can utilize the existing electric grid infrastructure there is absolutely no chance of a nuclear meltdown! The cost savings of building these powerplants without the need for extensive safety back-ups required to prevent a Three mile island or Chernobyl style disaster is significant. In addition most of the radioactive wastes produced by a thorium nuclear power plant arenít nearly as long-lived as their uranium-fueled counterparts think a few hundred compared to 1000s of years!

There are still some technical issues to overcome before Thorium can displace Uranium as the fuel of choice for nuclear power plants, but itís a relatively proven technology already as the USA successfully operated a (generation IV) thorium fuel reactor in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (during the cold war) for five years as an experiment.

The distribution of economically available thorium throughout the world is fairly widespread, but most estimates conclude that Brazil and India may have the most. Australia, Turkey, USA, Norway, Greenland, Canada, South Africa, Egypt, and Malaysia have significant thorium deposits as well.

According to T.E.A. (Thorium Energy Alliance) of Mountain View California there is enough Thorium in the USA alone to power itís energy needs for over a thousand years.

Currently Indiaís Kakrapar-1 reactor is the worldís first reactor which uses thorium rather than depleted uranium. India is also developing a 300 MW thorium-based Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR), which should be fully operational in 2011.

HT3R (Teaching and Test Reactor) in Texas is planning on using thorium-based fuels in their (GEN-IV) reactor, the facility is still waiting for funding, but is proposed to be constructed by 2015.

A Democratic member of the United States House of Congress (Joseph Sestak) in 2010 added funding for research and development for a reactor that could use thorium as fuel and fit on a destroyer-sized ship. Lawrence Livermore national laboratories are currently in the process of designing such a self-contained (3 meters by 15 meters) thorium reactor. Called SSTAR (Small, Sealed, Transportable, Autonomous Reactor), this next-generation reactor will produce 10 to 100 megawatts electric and can be safely transported via ship or truck. The first units are expected to arrive in 2015, be tamper resistant, passively failsafe and have a operative life of 30+ years.

Related technology has been around for a long time, back in 1961 (via Project Pluto) the USA tested the worldís first nuclear powered ramjet engine, which was designed to power a cruise missile for extended periods of time (possibly months) and later in 1965 a more advanced model was tested for a mere 5 minutes and it produced over 500 megawatts of power.

According to Ken Burridge one the leading researchers and science journalists at EV.com says, ďThorium molten salt reactors could easily become one of the major key technologies that finally break mankindís reliance on fossil fuels. Without the threats of meltdown or weapon proliferation there would be few reasons such powerplants canít become more or less mass produced and make electric energy production very decentralized. These molten-salt breeders are very efficient no matter what cost category one chooses for comparison: capital and operating costs, social costs or cost per kW.Ē.

Thorium_(Th)

Thorium is greener than it looks!

Thorium is the greener and safer alternative to producing nuclear power and has many advantages over uranium and plutonium.

Not only do Thorium nuclear reactors produce safe clean energy, but as a fuel source thorium is many times more abundant than uranium (itís classified as ďuncommonĒ mineral just like lead). Almost 100% of natural thorium can be used in a reactor compared to only half of 1% of natural uranium. Also thorium can be denatured using ionium so that it canít be reprocessed into weapons-grade material. Why is it not being used? Well, sadly itís because countries couldnít make weapons-grade by-products from their operation. In fact thorium reactors can do just the opposite since they can be used to burn and destroy radioactive waste and even nuclear weapons! Another reason Thorium reactors arenít in common use today is that itís more of a liquid fuel and solid fuels are typically preferred due to their ease of transport and have more military applications. Reactor manufacturers historically make their money by fabricating fuel and since Thorium doesnít require any fabrication adoption of that type of fuel severely limits their profits.

Thorium power plants have many advantages over the current technology in use today. Not only can they produce power inexpensively and can utilize the existing electric grid infrastructure there is absolutely no chance of a nuclear meltdown! The cost savings of building these powerplants without the need for extensive safety back-ups required to prevent a Three mile island or Chernobyl style disaster is significant. In addition most of the radioactive wastes produced by a thorium nuclear power plant arenít nearly as long-lived as their uranium-fueled counterparts think a few hundred compared to 1000s of years! more

Thorium

World Nuclear Association

* Thorium is much more abundant in nature than uranium.
* Thorium can also be used as a nuclear fuel through breeding to fissile uranium-233.


Thorium continues to be a tanatalising possibility for use in nuclear power reactors, though for many years India has been the only sponsor of major research efforts to use it. Other endeavours include the development of the Radkowsky Thorium Reactor concept being carried out by US company Thorium Power (now Lightbridge Corporation) with Russian collaboration.
In mid-2009, AECL signed agreements with three Chinese entities to develop and demonstrate the use of thorium fuel in the Candu reactors at Qinshan in China. Another mid-2009 agreement, between Areva and Lightbridge Corporation, was for assessing the use of thorium fuel in Areva's EPR, drawing upon earlier research. Thorium can also be used in Generation IV and other advanced nuclear fuel cycle systems. more

History of The LFTR prototype
The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR, pronounced LiFTeR) is a modified molten salt nuclear reactor based on the original Molten Salt Breeder Reactor (MSBR) which was designed at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the 1960s. The MSBR design consisted of a uranium-233 prismatic core with a thorium-232 breeder blanket. The core and blanket contain uranium-233 and thorium-232 disolved in a fluoride salt respectively. The core is pumped through a graphite moderator to induce fission while the blanket is circulated through chemical treatment to allow it to be separated and decay outside the radiation flux into new uranium-233. more

Steenkampskraal Thorium Mine
What follows is a description of the early mining history of the Mesoproterozoic-age Steenkampskraal monazite ore body located in southern Namaqualand, about 340 km north of Cape Town in South Africa. Steenkampskraal is a massive-lode ore body, possibly originating by igneous processes from an immiscible phosphate-sulphide-oxide magmatic liquid. The monazite ore occurs in a thin lenticular-shaped body surrounded by Mesoproterozoic granitic gneiss country rocks. The ore body is about 400 m in strike-length, extending about 450 m down-dip, with an average thickness of about 0.5 m. more

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