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Thorium Energy

What if we could build a nuclear reactor that offered no possibility of a meltdown, generated its power inexpensively with no "green-house gases" , created no weapons-grade by-products, and burnt up existing high-level waste as well as old nuclear weapon stockpiles? And what if the waste produced by such a reactor was radioactive for a mere few hundred years rather than tens of thousands? It may sound too good to be true, but such a reactor is indeed possible, and a number of teams around the world are now working to make it a reality. What makes this incredible reactor so different is its fuel source: thorium. So says Australian science writer Tim Dean In Cosmos. For the complete article, see http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/348/ and so do my Harvard physucist science advisers -see tab for Science Advisers.

Norway, a country with abundant North Sea oil and Hydro-power, is now in favor of thorium fuelled nuclear energy. It was reported by science writer Liz Williams as follows:

"Over the past eight months, there has been a substantial rise in public support for thorium reactors in Norway. In June 2006, polls showed 80 per cent of the population were completely opposed to any form of nuclear technology. Then in February 2007, the same percentage were in favour of investigating thorium reactors as a potential energy source.

"It is an absolutely incredible surprise that it has been possible to turn around the population in a country, just by quietly campaigning and explaining the benefits of the technology," said Egil Lillestøl, a nuclear physicist at the University of Bergen, Norway." For the full text of the article see :

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/1341 

 

Author’s comment:

I find it incredible that the world’s first thorium fuelled reactor was built and operated in the United States over fifty years ago and that the engineering expertise and “know-how” that had to have been developed has been allowed to evaporate. According to Jack Lifton, the governments of the world decided to use uranium instead of thorium for a reason that is now one of the many reasons why thorium should replace uranium as the primary fuel to produce electric energy. Writing in resourceinvestor.com on 10 Nov 2007 Lifton said, …“the U.S. government’s first go at a civilian nuclear reactor-based electric power generation station was designed to operate on thorium;… The one at Shippingport, Pa., built and operated in the 1950s under contract by Westinghouse, worked, but it was a prototype of a reactor of which the products could not be used for building nuclear fission weapons. This was reason enough not to continue with it in a world where the American military was concerned with having each nuclear reactor, even for civilian use, designed to produce fissionable material for weapons.” (Emphasis added) …” See http://www.resourceinvestor.com/pebble.asp?relid=37707for the above and other interesting news about thorium and world-wide energy issues.

I can't claim credit for it, but eight months after completing the manuscript for "The Dead Presidents Club" and circulating copies of it and my research on thorium to friends, and several months after the books publication in May, 2008, a Bill was filed on Oct 2, 2008 in the United States Senate kick-starting the project that I had President Washington and other dead presidents demand--a beginning to producing electrical energy with thorium fueled nuclear reactors. If my friends, and I know some of them contacted members of congress they knew, were instrumental in getting the Bill filed, I thank them and so should we all. For anyone interested, the text of the Bill is set forth below:

A BILL  --  To amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to provide for thorium fuel cycle nuclear power generation.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the "Thorium Energy Independence and Security Act of 2008".

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress finds that—
(1) the United States and foreign countries will require massive and increasing quantities of energy during the 20-year period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act to support economic growth;

(2) nuclear power provides energy without generating unacceptable quantities of greenhouse gasses;

(3) the generation of nuclear power in the United States and many foreign countries has been discouraged by concerns regarding—(A) the proliferation of weapons-useable material; and (B) the proper disposal of spent nuclear fuel;

(4) nuclear power plants operating on an advanced thorium fuel cycle to generate nuclear energy—(A) could potentially produce fewer weapons-useable materials than uranium-fueled plants; and (B) would produce less long-term waste as compared to other nuclear power plants;

(5)(A) thorium is more abundant than uranium; and (B) the United States possesses significant domestic quantities of thorium to ensure energy independence;

(6)(A) thorium fuel cycle technology was originally developed in the United States; and (B) cutting-edge research relating to thorium fuel cycle technology continues to be carried out by entities in the United States; and

(7) it is in the national security and foreign policy interest of the United States that foreign countries seeking to establish or expand generation and use of nuclear power should be provided—(A) access to advanced thorium fuel cycle technology; and (B) incentives to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.

SEC. 3. THORIUM FUEL CYCLE NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION.

Chapter 19 of title I of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2015 et seq.) is amended by inserting after section 244 the following:

"SEC. 251. THORIUM FUEL CYCLE NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION.
"(a) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:
"(1) CHAIRMAN.—The term "Chairman" means the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
"(2) OFFICE.—The term "Office" means an office established under subsection (b)(1).
"(3) SECRETARY.—The term "Secretary" means the Secretary of Energy.

"(b) OFFICES FOR REGULATION OF THORIUM FUEL CYCLE NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION.—
"(1) ESTABLISHMENT.—The Secretary, in consultation with the Chairman, shall establish, and provide funds to, an office for the regulation of thorium fuel cycle nuclear power generation in each of—
"(A) the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology of the Department of Energy; and
"(B) the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
"(2) REGULATIONS.—Not later than December 31, 2012, the Chairman, in cooperation with the
18 heads of the Offices, shall promulgate regulations for facilities and materials used in thorium fuel cycle nuclear power generation.
"(3) DEMONSTRATION PROJECTS.—The heads of the Offices, in cooperation with the head of the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, shall carry out demonstration projects for thorium fuel cycle nuclear power generation at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory.
"(4) INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS AND INCENTIVES.—The heads of the Offices shall provide recommendations to the Secretary with respect to methods of—
"(A) strengthening international partnerships to advance nuclear nonproliferation through the design and deployment of thorium fuel cycle nuclear power generation; and
"(B) providing incentives to nuclear reactor operators in the United States and foreign
countries to use proliferation-resistant, low waste thorium fuels in lieu of other fuels.

"(c) REPORT.—Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment- of the Thorium Energy Independence and Security Act of 2008, and annually thereafter, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report describing, with respect to the preceding calendar year—
"(1) progress made in implementing this section; and
"(2) activities carried out by the Offices pursuant to this section.

"(d) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.—There are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary to carry out this section $250,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2013.’’.