World, Meet Thorium
You’re probably thinking, what the hell is Thorium and why should I care?
It’s the future of energy.
As one of the experts on the subject, Kirk Sorensen, pointed out, any time humanity’s source of energy undergoes a major advancement or change, human society itself drastically changes.
So scientifically, what is thorium?
Named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder, thorium is an element you can find on the periodic table as Th and in nature in almost all soil and rocks. Basically, it’s found in small quantities nearly everywhere. To give you some perspective, it’s pretty much as common as lead.
“Thorium sits two spots left of uranium on the periodic table, in the same row or series. Elements in the same series share characteristics. With uranium and thorium, the key similarity is that both can absorb neutrons and transmute into fissile elements.
That means thorium could be used to fuel nuclear reactors, just like uranium. And as proponents of the underdog fuel will happily tell you, thorium is more abundant in nature than uranium, is not fissile on its own (which means reactions can be stopped when necessary), produces waste products that are less radioactive, and generates more energy per ton.” (source: Forbes)
Practically speaking, how is thorium a game changer?
That’s an easy one to answer. According to Sorensen, it is so energy dense you could hold a lifetime supply of thorium energy in the palm of your hand.
Sorensen then compares how much of our current energy sources are needed to power the earth for a year vs the amount of thorium needed to do the same.
Current Energy Sources Required:
Coal: 5,000,000,000 tonnes
+ Oil: 31,000,000,000 barrels
+ Natural Gas: 5,000,000,000,000 metric tonnes
+ Uranium: 65,000 tonnes
And how much Thorium would it take to supply the ENTIRE EARTH with energy for a FULL YEAR?
ONLY 5, 000 TONNES OF THORIUM!
Isn’t that mind blowing?
The LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactor) Revolution
Not only is it found everywhere including the moon, thorium is also super easy to extract from the earth. It is an energy source that will never run out and thankfully, it’s super safe. Thorium doesn’t function the same way as uranium so you don’t ever have to worry about nuclear reactor meltdowns with disastrous consequences.
The LFTR reactors can also serve multiple functions at the same time beyond just generating electricity. They can desalinate water which is essential for countries with depleted or few water sources and can also produce hydrogen used to create the ammonia in fertilizers.
It some ways it sounds too good to be true. Which naturally leads to the next question.
If thorium is so amazing, why is it not being used already? Why hasn’t anyone ever heard of it?
The quick and dirty answer: thorium, unlike uranium, doesn’t produce nukes.
When nuclear science was being developed, governments knew about thorium but were too busy trying to outdo each other in the race for nuclear weapons dominance. So all the money was invested in uranium, which we all know of thanks to the constant threat of nuclear weapons around the world (Iran, anyone?) and disasters like Fukushima.
Peter Lyons, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Energy, stated that “the fact remains that we have an entire fuel cycle built up around uranium and it would be a dramatic shift and a very costly shift to move on any sort of short timescale to thorium.”
Uranium was the solution that the military liked and large companies such as Westinghouse and General Electric wanted to retain the technological advantage they had, so they just ran with it and never looked back. Here is a pretty straightforward explanation of why thorium was never really used http://youtu.be/GQ9Ll5EX1jc?t=21m26s
Today so much money and politics are tied up in uranium/coal/oil/natural gas that it will take a global movement to push governments to invest in thorium and LFTRs.
The only way to help bring about this change now is by learning about thorium and spreading the word
You can start by watching the videos below and just educating yourself on the topic. There isn’t enough buzz because it’s not a hot topic and many governments want to keep it that way. China and India are ahead of everyone else, but there’s still a long way to go in raising awareness and generating a global change in policy.
Share what you learn and hopefully others will too. Change has to start somewhere.