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NORWAY BEGINS FOUR YEAR TEST OF THORIUM NUCLEAR REACTOR
Singularity Hub ^ | 12/11/12 | Peter Murray

Posted on 12/17/2012 8:00:19 PM PST by neverdem


A Norwegian company is breaking with convention and switching to an alternative energy it hopes will be safer, cleaner and more efficient. But this isn’t about ditching fossil fuels, but rather about making the switch from uranium to thorium. Oslo based Thor Energy is pairing up with the Norwegian government and US-based (but Japanese/Toshiba owned) Westinghouse to begin a four year test that they hope will dispel doubts and make thorium the rule rather than the exception. The thorium will run at a government reactor in Halden.

Thorium was discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius who named it after the Norse god of thunder, Thor. Found in trace amounts in rocks and soil, thorium is actually about three times more abundant than uranium.

The attractiveness of thorium has led others in the past to build their own thorium reactors. A reactor operated in Germany between 1983 and 1989, and three operated in the US between the late sixties and early eighties. These plants were abandoned, some think, because the plutonium produced at uranium reactors was deemed indispensable to many in a Cold War world.

Almost all of the world’s nuclear power plants are uranium reactors. But interest in thorium reactors is strong, particularly in nuclear happy China.

Thorium is ‘fertile,’ unlike ‘fissile’ uranium, which means it can’t be used as is but must first be converted to uranium-233. A good deal of research has been conducted to determine if fuel production, processing and waste management for thorium is safe and cost effective. For decades many have argued that thorium is superior to the uranium in nearly all of the world’s nuclear reactors, providing 14 percent of the world’s electricity. Proponents argue that thorium reacts more efficiently than uranium does, that the waste thorium produces is shorter lived than waste from uranium, and that, because of its much higher melting point, is meltdown proof. An added plus is the fact that thorium reactors do not produce plutonium and thus reduce the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

Some experts maintain that the benefits of thorium would be maximized in molten salt reactors or pebble bed reactors. The reactor at Halden is not ideal for thorium as it is a ‘heavy water’ reactor, built for running uranium. But it is also a reactor that has already received regulatory approval. Many thorium supporters argue that, rather than wait for ideal molten salt or pebble bed reactors tests should be performed in approved reactors so that their benefits can be more quickly demonstrated to the world.

But is thorium really cheaper, cleaner and more efficient than uranium? And if so, do the added benefits really warrant the cost and effort to make the switch? Data is still pretty scarce, but at least one report is urging us to not believe the hype.

Through their National Nuclear Laboratory the UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change released a report in September that stated: “thorium has theoretical advantages regarding sustainability, reducing radiotoxicity and reducing proliferation risk. While there is some justification for these benefits, they are often overstated.” The report goes on to acknowledge that worldwide interest in thorium is likely to remain high and they recommend that the UK maintain a “low level” of research and development into thorium fuel.

The place where thorium is proven either way could be China. The country is serious about weaning itself off of fossil fuels and making nuclear power their primary energy source. Fourteen nuclear power reactors are in operation in China today, another 25 under construction, and there are plans to build more. And in 2011 they announced plans to build a thorium, molten salt reactor. So whether it be Norway, the UK, China, or some other forward-thinking countries, we’ll soon find out if thorium reactors are better than uranium ones, at which point more countries may want to join the thorium chain reaction.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events; Technical
KEYWORDS: energy; norway; thorium

1 posted on 12/17/2012 8:00:25 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Good news!

Now, let’s see if it works under usual and ordinary maintenance and repair. 8<)

Rather than just in the lab.


2 posted on 12/17/2012 8:03:18 PM PST by Robert A. Cook, PE (I can only donate monthly, but socialists' ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: Kolath

I beat you.


3 posted on 12/17/2012 8:05:17 PM PST by neverdem ( Xin loi min oi)
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To: neverdem

Best news I’ve seen in years.


4 posted on 12/17/2012 8:26:15 PM PST by Vince Ferrer
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To: neverdem

Thorium doesn’t have to be more efficient than nuclear, it just has to be at least half as efficient. All other benefits make it much more desirable and less controversial and seemingly cheaper, particularly over the long run.


5 posted on 12/17/2012 8:30:56 PM PST by Crucial (Tolerance at the expense of equal treatment is the path to tyranny.)
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To: Robert A. Cook, PE

I am excited about the possibility of thorium reactors, finally, coming into the power generation mix. I believe it is several times more common than uranium, and more of the isotope mix is useable for fuel. I’m not at all familiar with how difficult it is to extract from ore. It is certainly “safer for export” than uranium reactors. It would also be much better to get technology over to more robust designs like pebble bed... I will always be at least somewhat leery of molten-salt reactors.

In any case, this is a very promising situation, and I really hope Norway has a tremendous success in this venture.


6 posted on 12/17/2012 8:32:47 PM PST by AFPhys ((Praying for our troops, our citizens, that the Bible and Freedom become basis of the US law again))
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To: neverdem

India’s first thorium reactor - the advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR) of 300 MW capacity might start operations by 2017. This Kudankulam Atomic Power Project will be located in the states of Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu.


7 posted on 12/17/2012 8:49:36 PM PST by jonrick46 (The opium of Communists: other people's money.)
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To: neverdem
The place where thorium is proven either way could be China. The country is serious about weaning itself off of fossil fuels and making nuclear power their primary energy source.

In 20 years we will be buying their technology anyway. I think China is now taking the lead in the type of development the USA once had held. Things like the Three Mile Incident and the Bhopal Disaster dulled our interest in affairs of technology and engineering.

IMHO, China has a strong reason to wean itself off fossil fuel and probably will. Back in the dear ole USA,we are too busy making political issues of it all.

8 posted on 12/17/2012 8:58:26 PM PST by oyez (Hell must be a Gun Free Zone.)
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To: neverdem
The place where thorium is proven either way could be China. The country is serious about weaning itself off of fossil fuels and making nuclear power their primary energy source.

In 20 years we will be buying their technology anyway. I think China is now taking the lead in the type of development the USA once had held. Things like the Three Mile Incident and the Bhopal Disaster dulled our interest in affairs of technology and engineering.

IMHO, China has a strong reason to wean itself off fossil fuel and probably will. Back in the dear ole USA,we are too busy making political issues of it all.

9 posted on 12/17/2012 9:01:43 PM PST by oyez (Hell must be a Gun Free Zone.)
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To: neverdem

They (new ones) will NEVER see the light of day in the US, so there is no reason for the optimism being expressed in here.


10 posted on 12/17/2012 9:05:57 PM PST by chessplayer
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To: neverdem

The campaign against thorium reactors has already begun.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/23/thorium-nuclear-uranium

And libs in the US oppose fusion reactors if they ever become possible. So no way in hell would they permit thorium reactors.


11 posted on 12/17/2012 9:16:49 PM PST by chessplayer
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Thorium: Proliferation warnings on nuclear 'wonder-fuel'

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12 posted on 12/17/2012 9:17:55 PM PST by neverdem ( Xin loi min oi)
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To: chessplayer

Thanks for the link.


13 posted on 12/17/2012 9:50:42 PM PST by neverdem ( Xin loi min oi)
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To: Robert A. Cook, PE

One shred of good news in an otherwise bleak world and bleaker united states. It will not come here though.


14 posted on 12/17/2012 10:11:29 PM PST by Sequoyah101
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To: neverdem

From what I’ve read about pebble bed reactors, it’s almost impossible for them to go critical.


15 posted on 12/17/2012 11:50:31 PM PST by Secret Agent Man (I can neither confirm or deny that; even if I could, I couldn't - it's classified.)
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To: Secret Agent Man
"From what I’ve read about pebble bed reactors, it’s almost impossible for them to go critical."

Since "go critical" means "start the chain reaction", I certainly hope that they can do so. What you are probably thinking of is "melt down", as the fuel elements can take higher temperatures without melting.

Unfortunately, pebble bed reactors have other problems.....it has recently found that the fuel elements are not nearly as good at containing the radioactive fission products as was postulated, so are MORE DANGEROUS than current uranium-fueled reactors.

16 posted on 12/18/2012 4:06:22 AM PST by Wonder Warthog
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To: neverdem

Thanks for the ping!


17 posted on 12/18/2012 8:42:43 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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