Whenever the idea of nuclear energy was first revealed to the public, many people thought it was a wonder power and would fulfill all their hopes and dreams. However, back then, how nuclear fusion was accomplished wasn’t as well know as today and a series of growing pains like Chernobyl and 7-mile island scared the public. These incidents weren’t caused by the inherent danger of Nuclear power, but by the mistakes made by workers.
The Chernobyl meltdown, for example, was caused by “Flawed reactor design, sloppy construction, and faulty emergency procedures.
” (Hargraves 2010). Thorium was discovered 1828, thirty nine years after uranium (Pappas 2017), This new element was used in the discovery of half-lives, or fixed decay, (Ross 2017). Uranium and thorium were both reacted when a red giant went supernova shooting these new elements all across the universe (Ross 2017). Plutonium, however, was created in a lab when scientist bombarded Uranium-238 with deuterons, which are the nucleus of a special hydrogen atom that’s double the mass of a normal hydrogen atom.
Many people see nuclear energy as powerful but dangerous, and while uranium is somewhat dangerous, thorium is much safer. In many aspects thorium is the best choice for Nuclear energy. Scientists and Governments agree thorium is the most effective, safest, and cleanest nuclear isotope. Although thorium is the best of the radioactive isotopes, the population that will inevitably have to deal with these reactors already have some complaints.
Before thorium is used in Nuclear Reactors, the local Government will want to know the specifics and see if thorium would be useful in their country.
One of the main users of Nuclear power, the United States, is trying to re-establish an infrastructure in places once controlled by terrorist cells. Nuclear energy would be an amazing foundation for a country being re-built, but the worry is the same一terrorist organizations may raid the nuclear power plants and steal the radioactive material and cause mass destruction with nuclear weapons.
Thorium is fertile, not fissile, which means thorium alone could never be used to make a bomb (Kazimi 2003). Many governing bodies have little faith in Nuclear power after its initial failures worldwide, so many of these governments need to see how safe thorium is. Thorium reactors work through neutron bombardment and beta decay.
The beta decay loops causing a chain reaction powering the reactor (Hargraves 2010). In liquid fuel thorium reactors the liquid thorium is contained in a plutonium core, and in the event of a meltdown, the thorium can drain into a backup tank away from the plutonium thus altogether stopping the meltdown (Hargraves 2010). Not the same can be said for uranium reactors as uranium is fissile and there’s almost no way to stop the power making process once is starts (Pappas 2017). The government spends tons of money safely disposing of Nuclear waste, but thorium is a cost-effective alternative.
Liquid thorium reactors produce about thirty times less waste and don’t have to be repaired as often because the liquid fuel doesn’t damage structural integrity as much as the solid alternative (Hargraves 2010). Another bonus is the little waste that thorium reactors do produce will be 83% stable in ten years and 100% stable in one hundred years (Kazimi 2003), allowing cycled nuclear waste disposal, removing the stable waste to make more room for the new; unstable waste.
Many scientists are interested in the prospect of Nuclear energy. Scientists from different fields have looked into nuclear energy and thorium, finding more advantages than disadvantages with thorium. The first step for finding the efficiency of thorium is discovering how thorium works. This research has brought to light the thorium Fuel Cycle. The thorium fuel cycle shows when liquid thorium is bombarded with neutrons it fuses into a rich Uranium-235 (David 2007), as uranium ore is 0.7% U-235 and 99.3% U-238 which will not cause fission (Pappas 2017).
This transference makes Thorium much more efficient than uranium as uranium must be enriched to reach high concentrations of U-235 thus causing much more waste, but thorium directly fuses into Uranium-235 when fission is started by plutonium, which is what the uranium fuses into next, causing a self-sustaining power production as the newly fused plutonium will cause a chain reaction with the liquid thorium around it causing it to start its fusion process (David 2007). In neutron breeder reactors, uranium by itself requires at least fifteen tonnes of ore to start fusion, but with thorium, since it’s slower neutrons, you only need about 1.5 tonnes (David 2007).
Some scientists have found certain problems with thorium that the public ought to know before thorium gets approved for wide-scale use. One of the biggest issues with thorium is that it’s too efficient at producing power. Researchgate estimates that using neutron bombardment the amount of uranium needed for a nuclear weapon could be fused out of liquid thorium in less than a year (Ashley 2012).
Processing plants of thorium fuel will have to deal with a highly radiotoxic isotope of uranium named U-232, which will make cleanup much harder, requiring heavily-shielded containment chambers and remote handling techniques for disposal of waste (Ashley 2012). However, all these benefits are overshadowed by the fact that thorium does not emit greenhouse gases and can power the world until the sun explodes (Rangarajan 2009).
The people who will live around the thorium sites want to know how this new radioactive fuel will affect their towns, lives, and family. All radioactive waste needs to be safely disposed of, but sadly this is hard and inevitably the public will be subjected to the effects of proximity to thorium waste. A study by “Alpha Publications” has surveyed the surrounding area of a thorium dumping site.
What the survey found is the surrounding residents had an increased rate of birth defects and liver problems, but both of these rates were negligible compared to other radioactive waste (Najem 1990). Studies also found the effects don’t differ in either possibility or severity depending on age, sex, race, or age (Najem 1990). The most important thing to note for residents near thorium waste sites is there is no increase in the risk of any cancer. One factor many people don’t even think to account for is how the thorium decay will affect the surrounding flora and fauna.
Radioactive isotopes like uranium and thorium have a unique ability to get into the cells of animals that eat off the ground. These Isotopes can find their way into the cells of a living organism through their food. The difference between uranium and thorium, in this respect, is that uranium in cells erodes into the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body, causing increased risk of cancer and toxin buildup, but thorium dissolves when it enters a cell and dies with the cell, shedding of as the cell is replaced, causing no permanent damage to the organism (Tsezos 1981).
Thorium has shown that, for the most part, it is better than the other nuclear options. The perspectives of governments, scientists, and public affected by thorium accurately show the differing views on thorium and how the biggest stakeholder groups in the nuclear energy debate consider thorium a superior alternative for all their causes. The government perspective shows the powers of the world have seen the studies and will give thorium a chance to power the future. The scientific perspective is the base of all information used to back thorium in the eyes of the two other perspectives.
Finally, the people who will live next to thorium sites want only what is best for the country, and their perspective is used to check that thorium is good for the economy but also safe and popular because the sheer population of this group eliminates all bias or greed that might cloud the results.