How Thorium Will Solve Our Energy Crisis

There's been a few mentions about Thorium on WSO, and I'm sure some of you are much more knowledgable about this so please excuse my ignorance. If you haven't heard about it, Thorium is a metal that can be used instead of Uranium as a fuel for nuclear power. What makes Thorium different is that it appears to have almost every advantage over conventional resources; it's green, safe, doesn't produce hazardous wastes, and produces enough energy for the world to last hundreds of years!

The first time I had ever heard about Thorium was from a friend who worked at Suncor as an electrical engineer. He proudly spoke about how Thorium's "the next big thing" in revolutionizing our energy industry. I quietly scoffed at his rosy predictions, explained my cynical views, and reminded myself that I was a capitalist, not an idealist. Didn't Wall Street 2 go something like this? Anyways, his demeanor sparked my curiosity and I soon began to delve more into the subject and to my surprise, found little to object:

Advantages include:

  1. Thorium is 4X more abundant than Uranium 2% weight of Thorium produced the same amount of energy as the same weight as Uranium.
  2. Thorium is safer than Uranium because the reactors avoids meltdowns and operates at lower pressure
  3. Nuclear power does not have a carbon footprint
  4. Thorium does not produce byproducts that can be used as weapons
  5. *Sidebit* The moon has plenty of Thorium, which can be used as a fuel source for colonization! Take notes Newt.

So if Thorium is so great, why aren't we using it yet? Some of the challenges include (quoted from whatisnuclear.com):

  1. Less experience with Thorium Technological hurdle
  2. Difficult to prepare Operates at 550 degrees, and also chemically inert
  3. Irradiated Thorium is more dangerously radioactive in the short term.
  4. Thorium doesn't work as well as U-Pu in a fast reactor. (see link for what this means)
  5. Financial and political hurdles

In the 1960s, Thorium was competing against Uranium, but ultimately lost out because Uranium reactors was more certain, created jobs quicker, and Uranium's byproduct produced Plutonium for the build up of nuclear weapons. India, China and Russia are now currently pushing hard for Thorium, given their growing middle class and abundance of the metal. India expects their first reactors to begin its operations by 2020, and nuclear power to account for 25%, from 3% today, of its energy consumption by 2050. Normally, I'm cynical about most technologies, but I don't know enough about nuclear technology to make a convincing prediction. I'm definitely hopeful though, as Thorium could possibly be the silver bullet in tackling poverty and our economic woes. I'm still learning about this, so if there's something I'm critically misunderstanding about Thorium, please let me know.

What do you think? Do you think Thorium will win out? Why or why not? If it does, how do you think it will affect society and our conventional energy industries ie. petroleum, coal, nat. gas., alt energy, etc.? What would you long or short?

Comments (58)

Best Response
Sep 8, 2012

I've got at least 80 stacks of thorium left on my warlock. Meet me in Org and I'll sell it to you at 50g a stack.

    • 2
Sep 8, 2012
holla_back:

I've got at least 80 stacks of thorium left on my warlock. Meet me in Org and I'll sell it to you at 50g a stack.

I lol'ed, SB.

Sep 8, 2012
holla_back:

I've got at least 80 stacks of thorium left on my warlock. Meet me in Org and I'll sell it to you at 50g a stack.

I've still got 20-30 stacks on Gilneas on the Alliance side. 40g/stack, pst. Or will trade a whole bank full of WoW crafting mats for the same on SWTOR.

Sep 8, 2012
bankerella:
holla_back:

I've got at least 80 stacks of thorium left on my warlock. Meet me in Org and I'll sell it to you at 50g a stack.

I've still got 20-30 stacks on Gilneas on the Alliance side. 40g/stack, pst. Or will trade a whole bank full of WoW crafting mats for the same on SWTOR.

Bankerella I think I'm in love with you.

Sep 9, 2012
bankerella:

I've still got 20-30 stacks on Gilneas on the Alliance side. 40g/stack, pst. Or will trade a whole bank full of WoW crafting mats for the same on SWTOR.

Oh you play World of Warcraft too? That's cool, I didn't think anyone else here did, haha. Do you have a favorite map? Which level are you at?

Sep 8, 2012

Great post. India is pushing Thorium since they happen to have a large amount of it. So good papers that were done when the atom bomb was being researched and developed on Thorium also.

Sep 8, 2012
TNA:

Great post. India is pushing Thorium since they happen to have a large amount of it. So good papers that were done when the atom bomb was being researched and developed on Thorium also.

India uses a Thorium-Uranium cycle to enrich to weapons grade Uranium. But , since India has signed a civilian nuclear deal with the US for reactor-enriched Uranium , and because nuclear warhead production in India is tapering down , demand for Thorium will probably decrease there.

In any case , if you export Thorium , you need to be very careful whom you sell it to - in case you wind up being the cause of something err nasty.
And if you've ever lived there you'll notice that it's too disorganized a country to embark on any major centralized projects. Most economic decisions are made at the state level , and not at the central government in Delhi

Sep 8, 2012

Unless we can somehow use it to fuel tankers and trucks and planes and other vehicles, it doesn't quite solve the crisis. The biggest reason peak oil will cause major problems is because basically all physical commerce requires it.

That said, if we continue to invest in alternative fuel sources for vehicles, it could help.

Sep 8, 2012

ZeroHedge posted an interesting summary and interview on thorium a little bit ago. I'm not technically proficient enough to be able to judge whether this stuff is actually practical, but if it actually works it sounds like it could make a huge difference to energy use and cost globally.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/kirk-sorensen-detail...

Sep 8, 2012

I've watched a few talks by Kirk Sorensen on GoogleTechTalk and TEDx, and his arguments does sound compelling. I'm not technically proficient either, so I wish there was more unbiased views on Thorium too.

Sep 8, 2012

Forget Thorium. We all know that Saronite deposits are much more profitable 60g/stack and easier to farm.

Sep 8, 2012

the reason the US pushed uranium/plutonium fuel development instead of thorium is because the byproducts can be used for nuclear weapons. the thorium technology has been sitting in a drawer at LANL since the '50s.

Sep 8, 2012

Thorium, helium-3, and hydrogen fuel are the silver bullets, as well as general fusion technology and autonomous vehicles. I can't believe how much money we've wasted and continue to waste on developing wind power, solar power, algae, ethanol, lithium car batteries, etc. It's an embarrassment. It's like spending money on Civil War cannons to put on your spacecraft.

Sep 9, 2012
Virginia Tech 4ever:

Thorium, helium-3, and hydrogen fuel are the silver bullets, as well as general fusion technology and autonomous vehicles. I can't believe how much money we've wasted and continue to waste on developing wind power, solar power, algae, ethanol, lithium car batteries, etc. It's an embarrassment. It's like spending money on Civil War cannons to put on your spacecraft.

Helium-3 is not a viable path. There is a rapidly accelerating shortage of this stuff as any grad student who works with any cryogenic apparatus can tell you. And autonomous vehicles are a mode of guidance, not power generation. Finally, nothing has been happening in fusion since the 1980s. It is a textbook case of an overhyped boondoggle.

It's a nice thing for people to cheerlead for new energy technologies, but unfortunately enthusiasm itself is not enough to make it happen.

Sep 9, 2012

Urbanization is the most environmentally destructive policy in our history.

Sep 9, 2012
TNA:

Urbanization is the most environmentally destructive policy in our history.

Suburbanization?

Sep 9, 2012
SirTradesaLot:
TNA:

Urbanization is the most environmentally destructive policy in our history.

Suburbanization?

Yes, thanks. Apologies.

Sep 9, 2012

I am as well no expert on this issue, but isn't fuels used to generate electticity and fuels used for commercial transportation different? Uranium is used for producing electricity and oil, natural gas, etc are all sources for cars, cargo ships, buses, airplanes etc.

That said, no matter what material we employ to generate electricity, I think it will not solve the problems associated with upward pressures on personal and commercial transport..

Or, I may be wrong here.

Sep 9, 2012
sanjose04:

I am as well no expert on this issue, but isn't fuels used to generate electticity and fuels used for commercial transportation different? Uranium is used for producing electricity and oil, natural gas, etc are all sources for cars, cargo ships, buses, airplanes etc.

That said, no matter what material we employ to generate electricity, I think it will not solve the problems associated with upward pressures on personal and commercial transport..

Or, I may be wrong here.

If you can use fusion or fission to create hydrogen, then you've solved your energy problem for transport (and everything else). Fission and/or fusion are the wave of the future.

Sep 9, 2012

You world of warcraft losers completely ruined this thread. Thanks.

Sep 9, 2012
Virginia Tech 4ever:

You world of warcraft losers completely ruined this thread. Thanks.

Sorry for partying.

Sep 9, 2012
bankerella:
Virginia Tech 4ever:

You world of warcraft losers completely ruined this thread. Thanks.

Sorry for partying.

???

How about you not hijack a perfectly good topic next time? It's fucking absurd.

Sep 9, 2012
bankerella:
Virginia Tech 4ever:

You world of warcraft losers completely ruined this thread. Thanks.

Sorry for partying.

Raid parties don't count.

Sep 10, 2012
Virginia Tech 4ever:

You world of warcraft losers completely ruined this thread. Thanks.

Seconded

Sep 9, 2012

Jeez, man. My bad. I didn't know there was anybody left alive who still burst a vein whenever someone is rude on the internet. I lost a few good friends to that medical condition and I hope you accept my sincere apologies. Stay strong, bro! Fight the good fight!

Sep 9, 2012
bankerella:

Jeez, man. My bad. I didn't know there was anybody left alive who still burst a vein whenever someone is rude on the internet. I lost a few good friends to that medical condition and I hope you accept my sincere apologies. Stay strong, bro! Fight the good fight!

I say this in all honesty and with the utmost respect--I think you're the worst WSO poster I've seen in over 5 years using this forum off and on. I look forward to the time when you go the way of Swagon. I'm not sure you've contributed a single meaningful thought ever...to anything...

At least people like Swagon are funny as hell and when they hijack threads I can at least chuckle at the hilariousness of their posts. You, ma'am, are just, I don't know, a waste.

Sep 9, 2012
Virginia Tech 4ever:

I say this in all honesty and with the utmost respect--I think you're the worst WSO poster I've seen in over 5 years using this forum off and on.

Thanks, dude, I like your shit too. Although I can't say I remember any of it or, come to think of it, even know who you are. Nonetheless, total respect!

Sep 9, 2012
Virginia Tech 4ever:

I say this in all honesty and with the utmost respect--I think you're the worst WSO poster I've seen in over 5 years using this forum off and on. I look forward to the time when you go the way of Swagon. I'm not sure you've contributed a single meaningful thought ever...to anything...

I'm not saying I necessarily agree or disagree, but just curious, what meaningful thought have you contributed?

Sep 9, 2012

Let's just move on.. So Thorium's great eh? :)

Sep 10, 2012

I just googled world of Warcraft. The only thing that came up was a video game. Is that what you guys are talking about or is it something I couldn't find on google?

Sep 10, 2012
SirTradesaLot:

I just googled world of Warcraft. The only thing that came up was a video game. Is that what you guys are talking about or is it something I couldn't find on google?

That is what we are talking about.

Example (which is certainly impressive):

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/character/dragonblight...
Have you really never heard of it?

Sep 10, 2012
detergent:
SirTradesaLot:

I just googled world of Warcraft. The only thing that came up was a video game. Is that what you guys are talking about or is it something I couldn't find on google?

That is what we are talking about.

Example (which is certainly impressive):

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/character/dragonblight...
Have you really never heard of it?

Haha...too old, i guess. They don't advertise it on The Disney Channel, ESPN, or CNBC.

Sep 10, 2012
SirTradesaLot:

Is it something I couldn't find on the google?

I fixed that for you.

    • 1
Sep 10, 2012
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Sep 10, 2012
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