Letter: Thorium — the ‘green’ nuclear alternative

Letter: Thorium — the ‘green’ nuclear alternative


Regarding Jay Lustgarten’s recent letter on May 17, I couldn’t agree more with his antinuclear stance, but with a huge qualifier: AS WE DO IT NOW.

A couple of years ago, I heard about a new book on the topic, which caused my thinking on nuclear energy to completely reverse course. It is “Superfuel,” by Richard Martin. It is in the library system.

In short, at the dawn of the nuclear age, there were two choices about how to proceed: the plutonium / uranium cycle, or with thorium. The former was selected precisely because it could be militarized, although a thorium reactor was built at Oak Ridge which worked perfectly. Thus, this technology is not pie-in-the-sky, always 20 years in the future, like fusion. It is a proven system; indeed, the Chinese are building some right now.

A few points:

• Thorium is an element that is everywhere. There will be no resource wars, because every country has it in abundance.

• The reaction cannot be militarized. If Iran were building thorium reactors, it would have to be for peaceful purposes, and we would not be talking about it. (We should assist other countries around the world to erect these things — climate change respects no borders...)

• They are true breeders, so there is no waste issue.

• The reaction cannot support a meltdown. There can never be a radioactive release like the ones listed by Mr. Lustgarten. (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima)

• Because of this inherent safety, they can be miniaturized, right down to the level of town or even neighborhood reactors. This kind of distributed generation means no further need for all those hideous, and hideously expensive, transmission lines everywhere.

If this is so good, why are we not doing it already?

Easy: there is a lot of money at stake in the status quo, and that money buys lobbyists.

Don’t get me wrong, I love solar and wind and they certainly have their place in the mix, but we can’t ramp them up fast enough to make a real difference. Thorium is the answer.

Don’t take my word for it, read the book. I have done further research, but the book alone is very convincing.

Gabriel Warren