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Thorium is the future

A Thorium-Salt Reactor Has Fired Up for the First Time in Four Decades

The road to cleaner, meltdown-proof nuclear power has taken a big step forward. Researchers at NRG, a Dutch nuclear materials firm, have begun the first tests of nuclear fission using thorium salts since experiments ended at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the early 1970s.

Thorium has several advantages over uranium, the fuel that powers most nuclear reactors in service today. First, it's much harder to weaponize. Second, as we pointed out last year in a long read on thorium-salt reactors, designs that call for using it in a liquid form are, essentially, self-regulating and fail-safe.

The team at NRG is testing several reactor designs on a small scale at first. The first experiment is on a setup called a molten-salt fast reactor, which burns thorium salt and in theory should also be able to consume spent nuclear fuel from typical uranium fission reactions.
     — Michael Reilly



A forgotten war technology could safely power Earth for millions of years. Here's why we aren't using it

Called a molten-salt reactor, the technology was conceived during the Cold War and forgoes solid nuclear fuel for a liquid one, which it can "burn" with far greater efficiency than any power technology in existence. It also generates a small fraction of the radioactive waste compared to today's commercial reactors, which all rely on solid fuel.

And, in theory, molten-salt reactors can never melt down.

"It's reliable, it's clean, it basically does everything fossil fuel does today," Kirk Sorensen, the chief technology officer of nuclear-energy startup Flibe Energy, told Business Insider. Sorensen was speaking during an episode of Business Insider's podcast Codebreaker, which is produced with National Public Radio's "Marketplace. "

"And it does a whole bunch of things it doesn't do today, like make energy without emitting carbon," he added, though the same could be said of any nuclear reactor.

What's more, feeding a molten-salt reactor a radioactive waste from mining, called thorium (which is three to four times more abundant than uranium), can "breed" as much nuclear fuel as it burns up.

Manhattan Project scientist Alvin Weinberg calculated in 1959 that if we could somehow harvest all the thorium in the Earth's crust and use it in this way, we could power civilization for tens of billions of years.
     — Dave Mosher

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