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Thorium: An Alternative Source of Nuclear Energy Essay

Are we begin to manufacture one of the most destructive and infamous substances on the face of the Earth once again? The experts say yes, but the public decides to decline no. The United States stopped making this element with the ban on manufacturing nuclear weapons. But with the continuing problem with our ever diminishing energy sources, some want us to begin using more nuclear energy and less energy from natural resources.

This paper is going to discuss other source called thorium that we can use to produce nuclear power, the advantages it’s production, and why we should consider using this as a great alternative to our nuclear power production. In recent years there has been renewed interest by experts in using thorium as a nuclear fuel in place of uranium to create nuclear power. Thorium, as well as uranium and plutonium, can be used as fuel in a nuclear reactor. 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 byproducts. 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.

According to proponents, a thorium fuel cycle offers several potential advantages over a uranium fuel cycle, including much greater abundance on Earth, superior physical and nuclear properties of the fuel, enhanced proliferation resistance, and reduced nuclear waste production. I think that Thorium is the answer to solve our feared nuclear waste that has harmful effects on our environment. “The risks, costs, and benefits of using thorium in the current generation of commercial nuclear reactors must be carefully weighed to develop a critical prognosis for its near-term prospects as nuclear fuel” as noted in Bulletins of the Atomic Scientist.

Thorium is safe to maintain than a traditional nuclear reactor and have great features that the standard nuclear plant does not have. Now we will compare the benefits of the thorium nuclear reactor. Many reactor designs run on thorium and small amounts of uranium 233. The reactor in India also uses some plutonium. This one is serving as a model for other countries of the great potential of an advanced heavy water reactor of this type. In this reactor there are many passive safety features. One key feature is cooling by natural circulation during normal operation or even in a shutdown condition.

Another key feature is passive shutdown. These are excellent features if pumps were non-functional, such as a worst-case scenario such as a systems failure or a natural disaster design. “It is possible, even likely, that much more thorium exists than has been documented and would be discovered if concerted exploration became warranted” as noted in the article Nuclear Fuel Resources: Enough To Last?. And also Thorium is more abundant than uranium in the Earth’s crust. “The world has an estimated 4. 4 million tons of total known and estimated Thorium resources” according to the International Atomic Energy Association’s 2007 Red Book.

Its has more source advantage than the traditional uranium that we use. In the world as being studied by the experts it is three to four times more plentiful than uranium the most common nuclear fuel. And also in energy production it is proven that it produces greater amount of energy compare to Uranium. A single ton of Thorium can generate as much as 200 ton of Uranium. “ The total of 300,000 tons of thorium in the United States can produce energy equivalent to one trillion barrels of crude oil, about five times the entire oil reserves of Saudi Arabia” Powering the Future: How Thorium Will Be Used To Sustain Energy.

Thorium reactors are safer than decades old designs, and new designs that put parts at risk of contamination. It is self-containing, and the fuel cycle is self-sufficient. Less manpower is needed in the mines to gather this abundant and easily extractable material and in the nuclear plants to control it because it is non-volatile” as being noted in the article Thorium Reactors As An Alternative Energy Source. We can start more research if we can fund this great science findings from the money we save on using thorium.

An it is said that we will need less manpower thus it will prevent less injury in an event of a mishap. . The thorium reactor is designed to have a lifetime of 100 years, much better than our standard nuclear reactors with their 40 year lifespan. It will be in service twice more than a traditional nuclear plant. Another safety feature is that a thorium reactor can produce a greatly reduced volume of high level waste. The expenses are much lower than our current nuclear reactors.

In the wake of the Fukushima meltdown in Japan, world governments are waking up to the reality that nuclear power is not necessarily safe. The promise of thorium-fuelled reactors remains great. The utilization of thorium as a nuclear reactor fuel would be extremely beneficial. I hope that I have proven that thorium is safe and more abundant, will cost less than a traditional nuclear plant. The investment in thorium power would grant a huge long-term benefit in providing the world with an inexpensive and clean energy source.


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