Nuclear energy is a scary concept. With all the waste that it produces and the fact that if unchecked can cause a horrible meltdown killing everyone in a thousand square miles, it’s no wonder why people would rather look to solar or wind as a clean energy option. But there is a way to produce clean nuclear energy that can be safer to operate. An energy source and method that minimizes the risk and maximizes the fuel spent so we’re not left with massive amounts of plutonium. The fuel source is Thorium and with it comes a new type of reactor.
Thorium reactors differ from the cheap and easy to produce standard nuclear ones. In a uranium 235 reactor, neutrons are slowed down to prevent a chain reaction. The fission process is kept in check by coolants such as heavy water. The rods generate heat which coverts the water into steam that move the turbines. With this set up, it’s not hard for something to go wrong. We’ve seen it with Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island. A pump goes out or the coolant evaporates and the fuel source is now going critical.
Reactors with thorium as a fuel source lessens human error because at higher temperatures, fusion stops. It still requires uranium to work and make it a fertile material. Both materials are placed in a molten salt bath where they transfer neutrons to each other which, over time breaks down to materials that have a shorter half-life. In case of emergencies, the salt bath will be drained through a freeze plug into some emergency dump tanks killing the fission process.
It’s not a completely perfect system. When using radioactive materials, people do find a way to cause hazardous accidents. But it’s better than having a ton of waste that can only be used in an ICBM. If implemented right, it would provide a clean energy source instead of fossil. We could cut down or carbon foot print if we switched to thorium power plants.
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