Wednesday 3 July 2013

Energy: The Wonders Of Thorium

In otherwise dark times - and they may turn out to be literally dark thanks to the Coalition Government's insane energy policies - one shining light is the raft of new technologies coming on-stream that despite the cynicism, timidity and mediocrity of our visionless Political Class do promise a bright economic future for our children one day.

Apart from the wonders of Shale Gas, about which I blogged yesterday, there is renewed interest in perhaps even greater wonders of Thorium nuclear technology. Recently, Thor energy in Norway fired up their Thorium reactor for a trial run.

Anyone interested should look at this short video for a concise technical summary, but the main benefits of this technology are described below.

Unlike Uranium-based Nuclear fission, Thorium is much safer because there is no need to use water as a coolant, and a loss of reactor power will just mean the reactor safely shuts down. Moreover, unlike Uranium, it is very plentiful in nature, with an almost literally limitless supply. As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard said earlier this year in the Telegraph, "it could do for nuclear power what shale fracking has done for natural gas -- but on a bigger scale, for much longer, perhaps more cheaply, and with near zero CO2 emissions."

The idea of using Thorium is not new, but it was brushed aside in favour of Uranium in the 1960s, partly because the Uranium by-product Plutonium can be used to make nuclear bombs, whereas Thorium is not so easily weaponized. Apart from the Norwegians, the Chinese are now seriously looking in Thorium power generation, as are many other nations.

So why are we not following?

You guessed it, because our beloved European Union has quietly shelved it's interest in it. It would, of course, be an outrageous libel to suggest that this has anything at all to do with powerful vested interests, not least France's investment in outmoded Uranium technology.

Even if shale gas is exploited and proves as big a bonanza as we hope it is, you plainly need a mix of fuels in any energy policy. UKIP's far-sighted and practical energy policy, which you can read here, already mentions the potential  of Thorium to fill part of our needs. The party should go further and commit to significant funding of research projects in this immensely exciting technology.