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Thorium powered nuclear reactors have been touted as the solution to the world’s energy problems by some. They claim that is safer and cheaper than traditional uranium, that the nuclear waste leftover from the reaction is not toxic, and that it is impossible to build a nuclear bomb from thorium.
A recent report, prepared for the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), said that all of these claims have been wildly overstated.
“Thorium has theoretical advantages regarding sustainability, reducing radiotoxicity and reducing proliferation risk. While there is some justification for these benefits, they are often overstated.”
“Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that worldwide there remains interest in thorium fuel cycles and this is not likely to diminish in the near future. It may therefore be judicious for the UK to maintain a low level of engagement in thorium fuel cycle research and development by involvement in international collaborative research activities.”
The report also noted that the potential advantages of thorium would only be noted when used in a new type of high temperature reactor, and not the traditional water-cooled reactor used in the majority of power plants all over the world. In water-cooled reactors thorium still produces a highly toxic waste product with a long half-life, and will be a target for terrorists who wish to make dirty nuclear bombs. High temperature reactors solves these problems, but have not yet been successfully commercially produced.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com