Thorium Energy Alliance

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Thorium Energy Alliance
Formation 2009 Washington, D.C., USA
Type Non-governmental organization
Purpose Educational, Sustainable Energy
Headquarters Harvard, Illinois
Region served Worldwide
Executive Director John Kutsch
Website www.thoriumenergyalliance.com
Remarks See article for more details.

Thorium Energy Alliance (TEA) is a non-governmental, non-profit 501(c)3, educational organization based in the United States, that seeks to promote energy security of the world through use of thorium as a fuel source. The potential for use of thorium was studied extensively during the 1950s and 60s,[1] and now worldwide interest is being revived due to limitations and issues concerning safety, economics, use and issues in availability of other energy sources.[2][3][4][5][6][7] TEA advocates thorium based nuclear power in present reactors and primarily in next generation reactors. TEA promotes a number of initiatives to educate scientists, engineers, government officials, policy makers and the general public.[8]

Energy crisis and the role of thorium[edit]

TEA promotes the use of thorium using a diverse rationale. Increasing world population,[9] depleting resources[10] and global warming have put severe constraints on the choices of power generation available today.[11] Traditional fossil fuel based energy generation faces two-fold challenges in terms of depleting resources and need to keep greenhouse gas emissions in control.[12] While interim measures like natural gas and unconventional oil are proposed, these still have a carbon footprint and are not universally available.[13] Hydropower use has reached a natural limit in many parts of the world, and the existing capacity is under stress due to climate change.[14] Renewable energy is seen as an important component of future energy generation, but being essentially intermittent, can not be effectively managed by the current power distribution technologies.[15] Hence, nuclear energy is seen as an important option for power generation in many countries.[16]

Present generation nuclear reactors are all uranium based, fueled with either fresh mined uranium or recycled plutonium and uranium as the fissile material. There are concerns about a continued supply of uranium, due to resource depletion, as well as various obstacles to mining uranium deposits.[17] Moreover, the currently widely deployed nuclear reactors harness less than 3% of the energy content of uranium fuel. This in turn leaves large quantities of radioactive wastes to be disposed of safely. The issue of disposal of these wastes has not been addressed convincingly anywhere in the world. Moreover, a vast majority of the present generation reactors are based on the original design of reactors meant to power submarines, and whose safety is ensured by several active features and standard operating practices. Under various circumstances, these features and procedures were seen to fail, bringing about catastrophic consequences. Highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium are also the feed-stock for nuclear weapons.

Thorium has been proposed as a clean, safe, proliferation resistant and sustainable source of energy which additionally is free from most of the issues associated with uranium.[18][19] The average crustal abundance of thorium is four times more than that of uranium. Thorium is invariably associated with rare earth elements or rare metals like niobium, tantalum and zirconium. Hence, it can be recovered as a by-product of other mining activities. Already, large quantities of thorium recovered from rare earth element operations have been stockpiled in many countries. Thorium is fertile material, and essentially all thorium can be used in a nuclear reactor. Thorium is not fissile in itself, adsorbs a neutron to transmute into uranium-233, which can fission to produce energy. Therefore a thorium based fuel cycle produces very little, easily manageable waste compared to uranium.[20] Thorium based fuel cycle options can be used to 'burn' all the presently accumulated nuclear waste. Various thorium based reactor designs are inherently more safe than uranium based reactors.[21] Nuclear proliferation using thorium has proven to be extremely difficult and non-practical, although proof-of-concepts of the contrary also have been proposed.[22]

Despite all the favorable factors, and utilization in commercial reactors in the past,[23][24] interest in thorium diminished in the late 1980s due to various reasons. Critics of thorium claim that the advantages are over stated and it is unlikely to be a useful source of energy. Experts point the adverse economics and the availability of plentiful sources of energy that will deter full commercialization of thorium based energy. These and other issues regarding the use of thorium have been debated.[25][26][27][28]

Advocacy for thorium[edit]

One of the stated objectives of TEA is the vigorous advocacy for use of thorium as a nuclear fuel. TEA through its activities reaches out to scientists, engineers, government official, policy makers, and law makers to sensitize about the advantages of using thorium as a fuel. TEA has conducted a number of publicity campaigns and social media based outreach activities. TEA has emphasized the research and development done in the USA during 1950s to 1970s period on thorium based reactor designs and fuel cycle options. Of particular interest was the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) carried out at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA during 1964-1969.[29][30]

TEA argues the importance of enabling thorium energy, especially in liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR pronounced lifter), in public hearings, such as the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.[31] TEA promotes the establishment of a working thorium powered reactor. TEA is particularly interested in restarting the homogeneous fuels research program and the commercialization of molten salt reactor[32] and the supply chain infrastructure to support it.[33]

Another aim of TEA is supporting the reemergence of a Western Rare Earths Infrastructure by bringing together rare earth producers leading to establishment of a consortium for refining rare earths and sequestering thorium for future use.[34] TEA supports changes in existing thorium regulation in the USA to promote safe production and stockpiling of thorium as a by-product of associated mineral industries activity.

Activities[edit]

TEA organizes regular annual conferences since 2009, where scientific sessions and cross-cutting energy and fuel management discussions bring together a cross-section of interested domain experts.[35] Inaugural conference in 2009 was held in Washington D.C., followed by California (2010), Washington D.C. (2011), and Chicago (2012). The 2013 annual conference was held in Chicago, May 30–31.

TEA proposes to leverage education and training activities by:

  • creating educational resources and text books
  • providing scholarships
  • facilitation of expert speakers
  • producing museum exhibits presenting thorium based energy

TEA plans to engage politicians through round-table discussions and provide them with expert opinion, white papers, executive summaries and talking points to demonstrate thorium technology.[36]

There is a major initiative to engage the public through regular and social media channels. TEA facilitates experts to appear on radio and television and participate in group discussions and provide interviews. In this direction TEA generates a large quantity of its own media including, webcasts, podcasts, videos, pamphlets,[37] books and articles.TEA sponsors advertising campaigns in print, television and targeted mail.

In future, TEA plans to track the milestones in the creation of a thorium economy. One of the proposed methods will be to create a thorium and related technology stock portfolio and a Thorium ETF, which will allow the public to track and participate in the growing value of the thorium economy.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Seaborg, Glenn T. (1962), "Civilian nuclear power: A report to the President", Washington, D.C.: U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, p. 67 
  2. ^ Farrimond, Sturat (24 March 2011). "The Future of Nuclear Power after Fukushima: Thorium Reactors?". Doctor Stu's Blog. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  3. ^ McMahon, Jeff (3 February 2012). "UK Parliament Group to Study Thorium Reactors". Forbes. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Halper, Mark (26 June 2012). "U.S. partners with China on new nuclear". Smart Planet. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Russia, India to develop new-generation nuclear reactors". Voice of Russia. 21 December 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Evans-Pritchard, Ambrose (6 January 2013). "China blazes trail for 'clean' nuclear power from thorium". The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "India set to tap thorium as nuclear fuel". The Hindu. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  8. ^ Curwin, Trevor (21 December 2010). "New Power Source For Nuclear Plants In The Wings". CNBC. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "Booming nations 'threaten Earth'". BBC. 12 January 2006. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Howden, Daniel (14 June 2007). "World oil supplies are set to run out faster than expected, warn scientists". The Independent. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  11. ^ Biello, David (27 October 2011). "Another Inconvenient Truth: The World's Growing Population Poses a Malthusian Dilemma". Scientific American. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  12. ^ Porter, Adam (10 June 2005). "'Peak oil' enters mainstream debate". BBC. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  13. ^ Bilek, Marcela; Hardy, Clarence, Lenzen, Manfred & Dey, Christopher (2008). "Life-cycle energy balance and greenhouse gas emissions of nuclear energy: A review" (PDF). SLS - USyd - USyd-ISA - pubs - pandora-archive Energy Conversion & Management 49 (8): 2178–2199. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  14. ^ Urban, Frauke and Mitchell, Tom (2011). Climate change, disasters and electricity generation. London: Overseas Development Institute and Institute of Development Studies
  15. ^ Nicola, Stefan (12 December 2012). "German Power Grid Seen Needing $55 Billion on Renewables". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  16. ^ Dean, Tim (April 2006). "New age nuclear". Cosmos Magazine (8). Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  17. ^ Dikshit, Sandeep (9 March 2010). "Revive R&D in thorium, says India". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  18. ^ Hargraves, Robert; Moir, Ralph (July–August 2010). "Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors". American Scientist 98: 304–313. doi:10.1511/2010.85.304. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  19. ^ Sorensen, Kirk (16 March 2010). "Thinking Nuclear? Think Thorium". Machine Design. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  20. ^ Thompson, John (22 February 2010). "Could the Clean Energy We Need Be Right Under Our Feet?". GQ Magazine. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  21. ^ Shiga, David (23 March 2011). "Thorium reactors could rescue nuclear power". New Scientist (2805): 8–10. 
  22. ^ Ashley, Stephen F.; Parks, Geoffrey T., Nuttall, William J., Boxall, Colin & Grimes, Robin W. (6 December 2012). "Nuclear energy: Thorium fuel has risks". Nature (492): 31–33. Bibcode:2012Natur.492...31A. doi:10.1038/492031a. 
  23. ^ Adams, Rod (1 October 1995). "Light Water Breeder Reactor: Adapting A Proven System". Atomic Insights. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  24. ^ World Nuclear Association (1 October 1995). "Thorium". Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  25. ^ Edwards, Gordon (13 July 2011). "Thorium Reactors: Back to the Dream Factory". Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  26. ^ Makhijani, Arjun; Boyd, Michele (2009). "Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power". Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Physicians for Social Responsibility. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  27. ^ Cannara, Alexander (12 May 2010). "IEER/PSR Thorium "Fact Sheet" Rebuttal". Energy from Thorium. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  28. ^ Sorensen, Kirk (23 March 2011). "Sorensen Rebuttal of IEER/PSR Thorium". Energy from Thorium. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  29. ^ Thompson, Kalee (2011-06-27). "Concepts & Prototypes: Two Next-Gen Nukes". Popular Science. Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  30. ^ LeBlanc, David (May 2010). "Too Good to Leave on the Shelf". Mechanical Engineering. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  31. ^ Kutsch, John (8 September 2010). TEA Resources. Washington, D.C.: Thorium Energy Alliance. 
  32. ^ Niiler, Eric (29 February 2012). "Nuclear power entrepreneurs push thorium as a fuel". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  33. ^ Martin, Richard (21 December 2009). "Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  34. ^ Bond, Christopher S. (2010), "Brazil and U.S. Initiative on Rare Earths", Washington D.C. 
  35. ^ Jacoby, Mitch (16 November 2009). "Reintroducing Thorium". Chemical & Engineering News (American Chemical Society). ISSN 0009-2347. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  36. ^ Cannara, Alex (2010), "Grand Challenges",  
  37. ^ "Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor Fact Sheet",  

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]