Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Is Thorium better for nuclear reactors than Uranium?

It's so tempting to just shout NO NUKES in a knee-jerk reaction to any suggestion of any sort of nuclear power. Nuclear anything produces radiation and is dangerous, or so goes the stereotypical claim. But...

Th Better than Uranium discusses the advantages of Thorium over Uranium. It comes down to the side effects that come from using one over the other. Uranium run through nuclear reactor systems converts to a variety of other elements, some are benign while others are dangerously poisonous for 10's of thousands of years. To adequately protect ourselves from the latter elements we have to think about building facilities like the Yucca Mountain storage facility, where the location is hopefully geologically stable over a drastically long period of time. Thorium on the other hand has byproducts that become safe within a relatively short period, and some of the byproducts are directly usable in commercial products.

The blog Energy from Thorium is said to be eminently useful to understanding the issues.

This is a great example of a general concept I'm thinking about. Our society often does not consider the byproducts of our actions, we just act. We, as a society, accept that fossil fuel oil is the only way to power our cars etc, and don't consider the side effects. And that's just one example, if you reflect on how we live you can see many examples where society at large simply goes about living and consuming products without considering the environmental, physical, emotional, mental or spiritual side effects. There's so many things we, as a society, do where the action has poisonous and polluting side effects.