Uranium killed the thorium star, but now it’s time for round two

By John Hewitt on December 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm

If you’ve not been tracking the thorium hype, you might be interested to learn that the benefits liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs) have over light water uranium reactors (LWRs) are compelling. Alvin Weinberg, who invented both, favored the LFTR for civilian power since its failures (when they happened) were considerably less dramatic — a catastrophic depressurization of radioactive steam, like occurred at Chernobyl in 1986, simply wouldn’t be possible. Since the technical hurdles to building LFTRs and handling their byproducts are in theory no more challenging, one might ask — where are they?

The enrichment of natural uranium is the first and perhaps most difficult step to building nuclear weapons. LWRs, which by their nature require enriched uranium, were the logical choice at the dawn of the nuclear age to develop an industry around. Richard Martin, a writer for Wired and author of Superfuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future, summarized the argument a little more succinctly: the US abandoned thorium reactors because they didn’t produce plutonium bombs. The larger truth, of course, is a little more complex.

Read more: Uranium killed the thorium star, but now it’s time for round two | ExtremeTech.

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