Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Thorium car


A piece in iknowtoday pushes thorium as the nuclear fuel of the future by asking us to imagine a thorium-powered car which needs refuelling every 100 years.

The Thorium car relies on nuclear thorium lasers to fuel it. And here is the knocker… the engine only requires 8 grams of fuel every 100 years or so. According to what Charles Stevens, CEO and chairman of Laser Power Systems, based in Connecticut, has to say, just one gram of thorium can yield energy equivalent to 7.500 gallons of gasoline.

Hmm - as things stand this seems more than fanciful, a means to raise public interest perhaps. Even so, there seems to be considerable and growing interest in thorium. For example, the recent HoC publication Small Nuclear Power has this to say.

We heard that there are a number of advantages to switching to a thorium fuel cycle. The UK must remain an active participant in thorium research and development. We recommend that the Government commission a study to confirm the potential benefits of thorium in the longer-term and how any potential barriers to its use might be overcome.

Or take this report from The Times Of India on the Indian government's interest in assessing thorium and uranium deposits in Andhra Pradesh.

According to GV Ramesh of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), who is the chief project engineer of the proposed Kovvada nuclear plant in Srikakulam, research is going on to ascertain the viability of setting up thorium-fueled power plants.

"India accounts for over 32% of the estimated global thorium reserves of 63,55,000 tonnes and that too of high quality. Keeping this in mind, it may be best for India to explore thorium-fueled power generation in the coming years. However, currently no country in the world has thorium-fueled power plants as its viability is yet to be proved," Ramesh told TOI.

So the car is pure hype, but the message behind it seems real enough. Potentially there is a huge prize to be won with thorium - those who get there first may be onto a winner.


Sackerson said...

And, so I understand, doesn't have the issues surrounding nuclear weapons proliferation that uranium and plutonium have.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - that's what I understand too, which is possibly why thorium was never developed as perhaps it should have been.

James Higham said...

If thorium is known and is the wonder solution, then why hasn't it become the preferred option so far?

A K Haart said...

James - as far as I can see it's a lack of development due to it not being the right technology for nuclear weapons.

Demetrius said...

In addition to the weaponry issues, big money had been put into uranium etc. with the result that serious vested interests were in play, already closely enmeshed with key government departments.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - presumably the initial atomic weapons impetus created those vested interests and it was all downhill from there. The next decade could be interesting.