Tuesday, December 11, 2012

is thorium the answer?

My long essay review of the book:
Superfuel – Thorium, the green energy source for the future.
by Richard Martin
Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN 978-0-230-11647-4

is out in Chemistry & Industry, December issue, pp 46-47.

I didn't know anything about thorium reactors before reading this book, but thought the author made a convincing case. Most intriguing, however, is the unravelling of the history of nuclear technology and the reasons why the reactor type predominant today was chosen. I think it's a fair summary to say that all of them were bad reasons, and a lot of them had to do with military considerations.

A snippet from my review: "It is always interesting to trace back the evolution of technology and work out why one route was taken rather than another. Why did petrol knock out ethanol fuel, when today we’re going back to ethanol? Why did planes that are heavier than air take off and leave the zeppelins behind? In the case of thorium liquid fuel reactors versus pressurized water reactors with solid uranium rods, Martin argues convincingly that the decisions favouring the latter type of technology were made for all the wrong reasons and that they blocked a technology that would today come in very handy as a green solution to the challenges of climate change and energy security."

For balance, note also that Stephen Ashley et al. say in the current issue of Nature that the arms proliferation risk of the thorium technology isn't as small as its proponents claim (Nature 2012, 492, 31).

SCI members can access the full text of my review here. If anybody would like a pdf reprint, leave a comment here or drop me a tweet.

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