Saturday, January 2, 2010

US - USSR Cold War Stopped The Development Of Safer Nuclear Energy

Thorium once competed with Uranium as a safer and easier to use fuel for nuclear power plants in the 1950s and 1960s.

The element Thorium is more plentiful, requires less processing, has a much shorter half-life of hundreds of years instead of thousands, has safer by products and safety features are easier to build into power plants.

Uranium has one advantage. Uranium power plant radioactive by-products are used for nuclear weapons.

The 1950s and 1960s cold war need for nuclear weaponry resulted in the decision to use Uranium for nuclear power plants instead of Thorium, despite the known advantages of Thorium.
[Former US Director of Oak Ridge National Lab Defense Alvin] Weinberg and his men proved the efficacy of thorium reactors in hundreds of tests at Oak Ridge from the ’50s through the early ’70s. But thorium hit a dead end. Locked in a struggle with a nuclear- armed Soviet Union, the US government in the ’60s chose to build uranium-fueled reactors — in part because they produce plutonium that can be refined into weapons-grade material. The course of the nuclear industry was set for the next four decades, and thorium power became one of the great what-if technologies of the 20th century.
Read "Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke" by Richard Martin in Wired magazine.

(HT: Slashdot)

No comments:

Post a Comment