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Thorium, safer and cleaner than nuclear fuel.

On the Oct 28/31 program, we heard from Kirk Sorensen, a nuclear technology engineer with Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, Alabama. On his Twitter page he describes himself as a "thorium evangelist."

Thorium can power the ractors that now burn nuclear fuel. In the '50s, the U.S. looked into it until promoters of uranium reactors muscled it out. But thorium remains safer, and much cheaper after billion needed for start-up costs.

One Canadian listener, who was at the centre of thorium research, tells us that Canada took the thorium alternative seriously when designing the CANDU Reactor. (Click read more) 

Sorenson's interview...

John Archibald Law Robertson of Deep River, Ontario tells us:

For Thursday's broadcast of Dispatches you did not need to go to the U.S. to learn of the potential of thorium as a nuclear fuel. In 1978, as a scientist with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) I published:

"The good neutron economy of (Canadian) CANDU reactors permits them to exploit a thorium fuel cycle that is exceptionally efficient in its use of nuclear fuel. This ability to switch when necessary to a more conserving fuel cycle without having to develop a completely new reactor system, such as the fast breeder, is another very attractive feature of the CANDU reactor system."(The CANDU Reactor System: An Appropriate Technology, Science, Vol. 199, 10 Feb. 1978, pp. 657-664.)

And I provided a detailed reference to substantiate the claim.

In a CANDU reactor the present fuel, uranium oxide, would be replaced by a similar ceramic, thorium oxide. In-reactor tests by AECL, before I retired in 1985, demonstrated that the performance of the two is very similar.

The simple reason that thorium is not yet being exploited is that as long as uranium is at its present price it produces electricity at a lower cost.


Bryan Lokstet of Calgary adds:

It sounds like the final nail in the coffin for the liquid thorium reactor, is that it did not produce a viable weapon-grade byproduct to aid the US military's development of nuclear warheads. It seems the legacy of the nuclear arms race still haunts us to this day.

Martin Golder of  Victoria confirms that.

While researching this subject a few years ago I came across a statement that I didn't hear in your program.  The only reason that this process was not chosen as the preferred nuclear power source was because it produced no weapons grade fuel.

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