Thorium As An Alternative Form Of Nuclear Energy

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Nuclear Energy has been a source of power  for many years. When it was first revealed as a source of energy, the people became excited to think of a new energy source to counter energy issues, though nuclear energy has become more infamous than nostalgic. Thoughts of nuclear power from uranium and plutonium are crowded by its usage in nuclear weapons and the incidents with plant meltdowns like the Chernobyl incident, which was caused by a faulty reactor design that led to a meltdown and major radiation leak.

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These incidents ended public support, causing nuclear energy to be pushed aside, and increase the usage of fossil fuels . At the end of the next century, there’s a consensus that the world population may be saturated at the value between ten and fifteen billion. This means about ten kWH or seven kWH per capita on an average corresponding to the two times or three times increase in the world population, respectively (Thorium 1990). This is significant because with an impending energy crisis on the line, researches have turned back to nuclear energy as a possible solution, and extended their research into other types of nuclear energy besides uranium, specifically thorium. thorium is a metal with an atomic number of ninety. thorium and uranium are closely related in their properties, so thorium could be an alternate form of nuclear energy. thorium would be an effective energy source that can replace most of the usage of fossil fuels and other nuclear energy forms. Both scientists and energy consumers, that being the public, agree thorium based fuels would be safer than uranium based fuels in terms of meltdowns, proliferation, and cheap fast ways of waste removal, but the economist believe there would need to be more companies mining,  working with thorium, and a complete change of the infrastructure needed to produce thorium-based energy, an expensive process and not worth the benefits thorium has.

Scientists View on Thorium

Current nuclear reactors use plutonium and uranium to create the energy, through a process where the elements undergo nuclear fission, creating thermal energy. The issue with this is that plutonium can’t catalyze efficient consumption of uranium in slowed neutron reactors, and fast neutron reactors have their own challenges, including an increased chance of overheating and meltdown. If plutonium is allowed to instead fission near thorium, the thorium would absorb the neutron from the plutonium and become Uranium-233. In the three-phase plan for efficiently using thorium, a uranium-fueled reactor consumes U-235 and as it fissions it generates neutrons that are absorbed in U-238 to create Pu-239. The Pu-239 is chemically extracted from the reactor and put into another reactor for the second phase. The second phase consumes the Pu-239 through fission, releasing neutrons near thorium that generate U-233.

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