Register on the mailing list
For developing countries to continue their economic advancement a source of stable energy needs to be secured. In the past and today, wood, coal, oil, gas have been the standard source of energy for centuries, in more recent time Nuclear has been a source of energy along with renewables.
In 2016 the total world energy came from 80% fossil fuels, 10% biofuels, 5% nuclear and 5% renewable (hydro, wind, solar, geothermal). Only 18% of that total world energy was in the form of electricity.
There is a push to develop renewables such as solar, wind and hydro yet they have not been very successful, and the cost has been made more attractive by receiving government funding.
The decades of 'Nuclear Fusion' research has still not yielded the miracle energy source touted by scientists.
Since 1953, the U.S. government has spent about $30 billion on fusion energy science (a figure that includes the National Ignition Facility) add to that all the other countries spending money on this. That's half a billion (US) or so a year, not a large sum of money compared to defence spending.
The issue is that there is an infrastructure in place to distribute energy to businesses and homes, etc. and the research is based on the use of this infrastructure. Now there are a few individuals who design passive houses, or houses with some sort of renewal energy sources that take them off the grid but this is not the norm and not what governments want because at the end of it all governments need tax and tax from customers, VAT and company tax is on the top of government's list.
There is also a massive movement towards reusable which incorporates electric cars (environmental disaster in about 8 years). Again, these cars are more expensive to buy although cheaper to run. Of course, one pays up front on electric cars for the privilege of using gas or diesel.
There is another fuel source most abundant in the universe, Hydrogen. It hasn't had the attention or development funds that electric cars have but it is being developed by Korean and Japanese manufacturers with Japan aiming to make all cars hydrogen powered in the near future. Hydrogen cars only need one battery. There have been some concerns about the method of manufacture of the hydrogen and its distribution, however, there are ideas being developed where the hydrogen is manufactured at local distribution (gas station) centre. More to come on this subject.
With regards to mainstream power supply, Thorium salt reactors have the potential to provide energy at a lower cost and with much better safe value. It has however not had anywhere near the investment and research that nuclear fusion has had. Thorium plants would be smaller in size and easier to construct.
There are some development issues with Thorium that need to be resolved but are not seen as major obstacles. All that I have read and seen indicates that Thorium is a better alternative to fusion, although there seems to be scientific war going on between the two camps.
The research in fusion over the last 70 years has been driven by the development of nuclear weapons starting with the Manhattan project. The cold war cemented the continuing research.
(Notes from Thorium site)
The Thing about Thorium
Thorium's advantages start from the moment it is mined and purified, in that all but a trace of naturally occurring thorium is Th232, the isotope useful in nuclear reactors. That's a heck of a lot better than the 3% to 5% of uranium that comes in the form we need.
Then there's the safety side of thorium reactions. Unlike U235, thorium is not fissile. That means no matter how many thorium nuclei you pack together, they will not on their own start splitting apart and exploding. If you want to make thorium nuclei split apart, though, it's easy: you simply start throwing neutrons at them. Then, when you need the reaction to stop, simply turn off the source of neutrons and the whole process shuts down, simple as pie.
Here's how it works. When Th232 absorbs a neutron it becomes Th233, which is unstable and decays into protactinium-233 and then into U233. That's the same uranium isotope we use in reactors now as a nuclear fuel, the one that is fissile all on its own.
Thankfully, it is also relatively long lived, which means at this point in the cycle the irradiated fuel can be unloaded from the reactor and the U233 separated from the remaining thorium. The uranium is then fed into another reactor all on its own, to generate energy.
The U233 does its thing, splitting apart and releasing high-energy neutrons. But there isn't a pile of U238 sitting by. Remember, with uranium reactors it's the U238, turned into U239 by absorbing some of those high-flying neutrons, that produces all the highly radioactive waste products.
With thorium, the U233 is isolated and the result is far fewer highly radioactive, long-lived by products. Thorium nuclear waste only stays radioactive for 500 years, instead of 10,000, and there is 1,000 to 10,000 times less of it to start with.
Thorium is well worth looking at as a potential energy source. There needs to be a policy that uses all types of energy, each fitting a particular scenario and servicing a local need.