Hello, I am writing about fourth generation thorium fueled molten salt reactors. #thorium
It is good to be skeptical, I totally respect that. When it comes to nuclear energy, we have to look at every kind of concern. For example risk of accidents, what kind of waste is produced, and the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.
The easiest of those three concerns to address is the risk of accidents. One thing you can do is compare the death toll of other energy sources to the existing nuclear industry. 300 people were killed in turkey in one accident mining coal this year alone.
Water cooled reactors, using solid fuel, is what is being used today. One advantage to using molten fuel reactors is they are walk away safe. You do not need a source of power to contain the reactor if something happens.
The reactor operates at atmospheric pressure. Unlike water cooled reactors, there is no chance of a high pressure release of radioactive material. That's why reactors today have huge containment domes to contain any release. If a molten salt reactor has a problem it can drain the fuel into a containment vessel. Passive safety, as opposed to engineered safety. Molten salt is around 700 degrees c, and ideal temperature for heat transfer, to turn the turbines and generate electricity. Even if there was a release of radioactive fuel, it would only spill onto the ground and be easily contained. Unlike situations like Chernobyl where the material was ejected up into the atmosphere.
Understanding nuclear waste is a bit more complicated. The problem with solid fuel reactors is that removing the waste gasses from a solid is very difficult. The gasses get trapped inside and the fuel rods lose structural integrity. In a molten salt reactor, the gasses merely bubble to the surface and are easily removed comparatively. Stock piles of nuclear waste are only about one percent actual waste by mass, but the waste just can't be separated easily.
The other aspect of this is considering the material used for the fuel. There are many possible ways to maintain a fission reactor, but using thorium as fuel has many advantages. The decay chain of each element, and isotope, is different. Essentially when using thorium you get two more fission reactions per atom before any actual waste is generated. It is literally hundreds of times more efficient. The energy from one kilogram of thorium used this way would generate energy equal to over fourteen thousand barrels of oil. The amount of waste would be about one gram. ;That waste would only be radioactive for a few decades, containing the waste safely is not much of an engineering challenge. Plutonium waste from light water reactors can actually be used as a fuel in molten salt reactors.
The concern of weapons proliferation would be reduced with the use of thorium fueled molten salt reactors. It has inherent proliferation resistance. That doesn't mean making a bomb would be impossible, but it would be nearly impossible. The reactor can be engineered to rend the fuel completely useless for a weapons source. I haven't looked into this aspect as much as the others. It fact that this kind of reactor does not produce weapons material may have been why it was not endorsed originally.
The list of benefits goes on and on. You would have an endless supply of medical isotope molybdenum 99 used in fighting cancer. You would also have a source of uranium 238 which is needed for space exploration. The waste heat produced by this kind of reactor would provide a convenient source of water desalination. That's a big deal, with places like California in desperate need of fresh water.
That is the best overview I can give of the benefits of this technology. It is our best if not only chance of fighting climate change. Water cooled reactors are much better than other sources of energy in many ways, but it is very expensive.
The main obstacle is getting politicians to listen to the scientists. This technology was known fourty years ago, and funding was cut. The infrastructure for water cooled reactors was already in place. Nuclear energy research and development is not cheap.
I hope more people will start paying attention to this technology.
I heard about it from my Dad. I learned most of what I know about from a freely available documentary series called Thorium Remix. There is plenty of material available for anyone interested.
My favorite company developing this technology is called Terrestrial Energy. It is a Canadian company which is projecting to have reactors commercially available within a decade. They have recently partnered with Oak Ridge National Labs, the site of the original thorium fueled molten salt reactor.
Here's a few links with relevant info.
An overview of the tech by forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2015/01/07/nuclear-power-turns-to-salt/
Terrestrial Energy's design for a reactor:http://www.daretothink.org/msr-development-programms/imsr/imsr-tech-talk/
A documentary great deal of information on the tech from several different perspectives:http://thoriumremix.com/th/
The wikipedia page with lots of technical information:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reactor
The wikipedia page about the original molten salt reactor experiment:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten-Salt_Reactor_Experiment
It is so essential for this technology to be embraced. Considering the urgency of our global energy crisis, pollution, and global warming. I am passionate about this tech, it's funny my Mom used to attend anti nuclear protests. I will be doing my best to get the word out.
There is plenty of disinformation about so called renewable energy out there. Solar and wind do have their uses, but we are in a major global energy crysis, we can't know if we still have a chance of fighting global warming before major global catastrophe. I am hopeful and I will do my best to make a difference.
thanks for your attention, I wish you all the best