"Thorium put to the test as policymakers rethink nuclear"
By Szu Ping Chan
"Scientists are turning their attention to thorium, a cleaner and cheaper alternative to uranium."
"Thorium's biggest enemy is often its own supporters, Mr Asphjell [Chief Executive of Thor Energy] adds. "There have been a lot of loud voices in the UK that have taken a very evangelistic perpective on thorium - that it's a green fuel that solves every issue, it's employable tomorrow, there's no waste and absolutely no risk. This evangelistic view is diluting the proper message of thorium in many ways [and] from our perspective is the biggest obstacle for thorium introduction."
If anyone knows of such a person in the UK please will they point them out to me. I am not aware of any such person, unless it is people like me and 2035 can be considered to be tomorrow in nuclear development terms.
The general position for a Thorium advocate:
1. It a nuclear fuel we are going to have to extract anyway if we want more rare earth metals out of the ground, and we certainly do!
2. Molten Salt Reactors have been shown to work in principle.
3. We well need to bring together new inter-disciplinary teams of engineers, scientists, materials technologists etc if we are to build molten salt reactors once again.
3. If engineered well there can be much less long lived high level nuclear waste than existing third generation nuclear reactors. Everyone accepts this.
4. If engineered well there will be much lower risk of a major nuclear accident than in existing third generation nuclear reactors. Everyone accepts this.
5. In collaboration with international partners the UK should look to devise a plan that enables us and others to start rolling out factory built and assembled fourth generation molten salt reactors by the mid 2030's, whilst at the same time building up a UK nuclear supply chain and sufficient engineering (including chemical engineering) expertise to support this endevour. This is what we are starting to debate now.
To get molten salt reactors on-line by the mid-2030's lots of things (even little things that don't cost much, but take a long time) need to start happening in parallel early enough.
In particular we need to think about how we safely and cost effectively handle, process and store the nuclear waste stream; from the outset of the plan, not as an after-thought added on to the programme at the end. Maybe the UK is best placed to concentrate most on this aspect - we have a lot of existing waste to process - and hopefully much more cheaply than according to existing plans!
Going back to the telegraph article...
"For now, the world must look east for thorium developments, though Mr Asphjell is confident that slow and steady wins the race, despite the enormity of the task. "This is an elephant we're trying to eat," he insists. "We have to chew one piece at a time." "
I agree slow and steady does win the race, but there is more than one track to this race. We have to pick up all the necessary skills and technologies along the way, without leaving vast numbers of people waiting near the finish line because of some little thing we didn't start start thinking about early enough.
Some developments will benefit from lots of competition, other things won't. Who decides? and How do they Decide?
Actually the "Who Decides?" and How do they decide? are the biggest questions of all right now.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Thorium Energy has a website and an introductory report out on Molten Salt Reactors.