The Thorium Solution

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On September 12, 1932, a man named Leo Szilard was wanted to walk across the street in London.

But the “walk” light across the street was red, so he had to wait for 30 seconds.

In that 30 seconds, it occurred to him that when an atom split, it emitted neutrons… and those neutrons might hit OTHER atoms, splitting THEM! And a chain reaction could be started.

And that is how the atom bomb was conceived.

In 1945, theory was turned into practice. (I can’t even WRITE that without my skin crawling, but nevertheless, it can’t be un-done now).

Immediately, the scientists saw that if they just slowed down the reaction a bit, they could get controlled power.
Power almost without limit.
Power without pollution.

At the legendary Oak Ridge National Lab, countless Nuclear Reactor designs were theorized, simulated, built, and operated.

It quickly became apparent that we could use either of two different materials to run a Nuclear Reactor: Uranium or Thorium.
In a nutshell, the scientists approached the Federal Government and made the pitch:

“We can give you TWO kinds of reactors: URANIUM-based, where the by-product will be PLUTONIUM, which you can use to make bombs, or THORIUM, where the by-products will have little weaponization utility.. you won;t really be able to make bombs with the waste. Which Nuclear Power do you want? The one that makes the bombs, or the one that doesn’t?”

I think you know where this is going, right? The Government said: “Oh, give us the bombs!”

And the future of Nuclear power based on Uranium was cemented… with the eternal fear that he waste from the power would feed World War III.

In a nutshell, the scientists approached the Federal Government and made the pitch:
“We can give you TWO kinds of reactors: PRESSURIZED-WATER-based, which will require water being held at many atmospheres of pressure and constantly-circulated, or the reactor will melt down and irradiate everyone in the area, or a liquid flouride-based, which can run at atmospheric pressure for safety, be designed with a big overflow tank to be melt-down proof if the circulation ever stops, so will never melt down. Which Nuclear Power do you want? The one that will melt down if the water-flow ever stops, or the one that doesn’t?” (by the way, only the FIRST one will fit inside a Nuclear submarine)

I think you know where this is going, right? The Government said: “Oh, give us the one that will melt down!” (So we can install it in Nuclear submarines, which need the SMALLER reactor).

And the future of Three Mile island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima were cemented… all cases where water flow stopped (or suddenly started) and melt-downs or steam explosions resulted.

So you see, the Federal Government chose the Uranium-based Pressurized-Water reactor 60 years ago so it could power Nuclear Submarines (and then Aircraft Carriers) and provide them with Atomic BOMBS as well.

As for the possibility of a catastrophic melt-down? Weeeellllllll…. just don’t let the flow of cooling water stop, eh?
As for the radio-active waste that remains hazardous for TENS OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS??!?!!? Weeeellllllll…. we’ll just worry about that later, OK?

Obviously, when we switch from yesterdays obsolete needs to todays, we see that plutonium by-products of Nuclear Power are actually among the worst draw-backs of the energy source, and the need to make reactors that can fit in boats is now quite silly… the Navy now has the reactor technology that they need, and that need have no influence at all on civilian reactor design.

So let’s look at Thorium Power:

A Thorium-based Nuclear Reactor would use Thorium instead of Uranium as it’s power source. Thorium is actually much MORE plentiful than Uranium, so the fuel for a Thorium plant would be much MORE readily available than Uranium. In fact, Thorium is actually REMOVED as an UN-WANTED BY-PRODUCT of some Ore processing, so we have literally piles of it laying about!

A Thorium-based Nuclear Reactor could run as a liquid flouride at atmospheric pressure, reducing the need for the immensely-strong plumbing and containment vessels of current reactors.

A Thorium-based Nuclear Reactor wants a steady flow of neutrons to keep it going. These neutrons hitting the Thorium atoms split them and release the energy that drives the plant. The neutron-generator fails? Ok. The fuel stops getting hotter. There is no melt-down or other catastrophic event at all. We just don’t get any more power from the plant until somebody fixes the neutron-generator (not as hard as it sounds! ;-P )
You see, you have to go out of your way to KEEP the reaction going. This way, the thing never gets out of control and runs away from you. That’s one of the things that make it safe.

A Thorium-based Nuclear Reactor can be built with a bug empty tank underneath it. If the coolant ever stops flowing (as happened at Three Mile Island and Fukushima) then the coolant would simply melt it’s way through a simple plug that is designed to easily overheat, and simply fall down into the empty tank underneath it, at which point the coolant would simply gradually cool, without ever leaving the tank. There literally could not be a melt-down… the temperatures simply could not get high enough. You see, the temperatures are high enough to turn water to steam (to drive your turbines to make electricity) but not high enough to melt out of your backup containment tank, which is where the coolant will flow if everything goes caterwhampus at the plant, as happened at Three Mile Island and Fukushima. That’s one of the things that make it safe.

A Thorium-based Nuclear Reactor results in very little if any material that can be use to make atom bombs… which would be very convenient right now in our dealings with Iran.

And now, finally, the really big one: A Thorium Nuclear reactor would make much less radioactive waste than a convention Nuclear Power Plant, and most of the waste that it DOES make would only be dangerous for…. 300 years.

Can that radioactive waste be isolated for 300 years, instead of the tens of thousands of years that waste must be isolated with conventional plants? Of course! Compared to tens of thousands of years, 300 years is nothing!

So, the path for Nuclear Power was set in the 1950’s, the world has changed (much for the better!) since then, and it is now (past) time to aim Nuclear Power in the direction that it actually makes sense to go.

Contact your local Power Company (!) and Government representative to let them know.

I am going back to school (!) and getting a degree in Nuclear Engineering now, so I can write Nuclear Power Plant simulators to prove all of this in the coming years. (Hey, it worked with X-Plane!)

Anyhoo, Google “Thorium Power”, or grab “Superfuel” by Richard Martin to learn more. But don’t get it from Amazon. <a href=””>They Patent everything</a>.
(<a href=””>which can destroy other peoples’ freedom to do the same job</a>).

1 thought on “The Thorium Solution

  1. Michael Ottesen

    There is a company that has already made plans to make it economically feasible (cookie cutter) in manufacture, Look up Thorcon Power.


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