Excellent article on Prospects for Wind Energy in Mexico. Another country which has great Wind Potential in Latin America is Argentina.
Yes. China is marching ahead in Renewables in Leaps and bounds.
Good post. Germany is advancing in Renewables at a rapid speed. Naturally the Government wants to exercise some control on Money spent.
Excellent. Hope other states will emulate.
Wind is the most matured Renewable Energy and far ahead in installations compared to Solar. How could UN Conference Overlook Wind?
Great. It will be very useful.
Yes. US is advancing in Solar in leaps and bounds.
Why Solar alone,all Renewables are valuable in combating Climate Change.
Good post. I visited Turkey. There is good scope to harness Renewables in Turkey.
Excellent article. Yes. Nuclear Energy has also a major role in the Energy Mix with stringent Safety measures.
In the coming years Thorium based reactors are expected to play a major role.
• Thorium is more abundant in nature than uranium.
• It is fertile rather than fissile, and can only be used as a fuel in conjunction with a fissile material such as recycled plutonium.
• Thorium fuels can breed fissile uranium-233 to be used in various kinds of nuclear reactors.
• Molten salt reactors are well suited to thorium fuel, as normal fuel fabrication is avoided.
The use of thorium as a new primary energy source has been a tantalizing prospect for many years. Extracting its latent energy value in a cost-effective manner remains a challenge, and will require considerable R&D investment. This is occurring preeminently in China, with modest US support.
Nature and sources of thorium
Thorium is a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder. It is found in small amounts in most rocks and soils, where it is about three times more abundant than uranium. Soil contains an average of around 6 parts per million (ppm) of thorium.
Thorium-based nuclear power is nuclear reactor-based electrical power generation fueled, ultimately, by the element thorium. According to proponents, a thorium fuel cycle offers several potential advantages over a uranium fuel cycle—including much greater abundance on Earth, superior physical and nuclear fuel properties, and reduced nuclear waste production. However, it suffers from higher production and processing costs, and lacks significant weaponization potential. Since about 2008, nuclear energy experts have become more interested in thorium to supply nuclear fuel in place ofuranium to generate nuclear power.
A nuclear reactor consumes certain specific fissile isotopes to make energy. The three most practical types of nuclear reactor fuel are:
• Uranium-235, purified (i.e. "enriched") by reducing the amount of Uranium-238 in natural mined uranium. Most nuclear power has been generated using low-enriched uranium (LEU), whereas high-enriched uranium (HEU) is necessary for weapons. Disposal ofradioactive waste from power plants is problematic without reprocessing to recover plutonium, which may also be used for nuclear weapons.
• Plutonium-239, transmutated from Uranium-238 obtained from natural mined uranium. Plutonium is also used for weapons.
• Uranium-233, transmutated from Thorium-232, derived from natural mined thorium. That is the subject of this article.
Some believe thorium is key to developing a new generation of cleaner, safer nuclear power. According to an opinion piece (not peer-reviewed) by a group of scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, considering its overall potential, thorium-based power "can mean a 1000+ year solution or a quality low-carbon bridge to truly sustainable energy sources solving a huge portion of mankind’s negative environmental impact."
After studying the feasibility of using thorium, nuclear scientists Ralph W. Moir and Edward Teller suggested that thorium nuclear research should be restarted after a three-decade shutdown and that a small prototype plant should be built. Research and development of thorium-based nuclear reactors, primarily the Liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR), MSR design, has been or is now being done in India, China, Norway, U.S., Israel and Russia.
Estimated world thorium resources
South Africa 148,000
Other countries 413,000
World total 5,385,000
Source: OECD NEA & IAEA, Uranium 2011: Resources, Production and Demand (Red Book), using the lower figures of any range and omitting ‘unknown’ CIS estimate.
Types of thorium-based reactors
According to the World Nuclear Association there are seven types of reactors that can be designed to use thorium as a nuclear fuel. The first five of these have all entered into operational service at some point. The last two are still conceptual, although currently in development by many countries:
• Heavy water reactors (PHWRs)
• High-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTRs)
• Boiling (light) water reactors (BWRs)
• Pressurized (Light) water reactors (PWRs)
• Fast neutron reactors (FNRs)
• Molten salt reactors (MSRs, LFTRs)
• The Oak Ridge National Laboratory designed and built a demonstration MSR which operated from 1965 to 1969. It used U-233 (originally bred from Th-232) as its fuel during its final year.
• Accelerator driven reactors (ADS)
Additionally, in the 1958 Atoms for Peace publication entitled Fluid Fueled Reactors, Aqueous Homogeneous Reactors (AHRs) were proposed as a fluid fueled design that could accept naturally occurring uranium and thorium suspended in a heavy water solution. AHRs have been built and according to the IAEA reactor database, 7 are currently in operation as research reactors.
The World Nuclear Association explains some of the possible benefits:
The thorium fuel cycle offers enormous energy security benefits in the long-term – due to its potential for being a self-sustaining fuel without the need for fast neutron reactors. It is therefore an important and potentially viable technology that seems able to contribute to building credible, long-term nuclear energy scenarios.
Moir and Teller agree, noting that the possible advantages of thorium include “utilization of an abundant fuel, inaccessibility of that fuel to terrorists or for diversion to weapons use, together with good economics and safety features . . . “Thorium is considered the “most abundant, most readily available, cleanest, and safest” energy source on Earth", adds science writer Richard Martin.“
• Thorium is four times as abundant as uranium and as common as lead. The Thorium Energy Alliance (TEA) estimates "there is enough thorium in the United States alone to power the country at its current energy level for over 1,000 years." "America has buried tons as a by-product of rare earth metals mining," notes Evans-Pritchard. "Norway has so much that Oslo is planning a post-oil era where thorium might drive the country’s next great phase of wealth. Even Britain has seams in Wales and in the granite cliffs of Cornwall. Almost all thorium is fertile Th-232, compared to uranium that is composed of 99.3% fertile U-238 and 0.7% more valuable fissile U-235. There is enough to power civilization for thousands of years."
• Thorium is safer and cleaner than uranium because its radioactivity is significantly lower: "A chunk of thorium is no more harmful than a bar of soap", states Martin.
• LFTR reactors offer many attractive passive safety features. Kirk Sorensen notes that because LFTRs operate at atmospheric pressure, hydrogen explosions as happened in Fukushima, Japan in 2011, are not possible. "One of these reactors would have come through the tsunami just fine. There would have been no radiation release." Meltdown is impossible, since nuclear chain reactions cannot be sustained, and fission stops by default in case of accident.
• It is difficult to make a practical nuclear bomb from a thorium reactor's byproducts. According to Alvin Radkowsky, designer of the world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant, "a thorium reactor's plutonium production rate would be less than 2 percent of that of a standard reactor, and the plutonium's isotopic content would make it unsuitable for a nuclear detonation." Several uranium-233 bombs have been tested, but the presence of uranium-232 tended to "poison" the uranium-233 in two ways: intense radiation from the uranium-232 made the material difficult to handle, and the uranium-233 led to possible pre-detonation. Separating the uranium-232 from the uranium-233 proved very difficult, although newer laser techniques could facilitate that process.
• There is much less nuclear waste—up to two orders of magnitude less, states Moir and Teller, eliminating the need for large-scale or long-term storage; "Chinese scientists claim that hazardous waste will be a thousand times less than with uranium." The radioactivity of the resulting waste also drops down to safe levels after just a few hundred years, compared to tens of thousands of years needed for current nuclear waste to cool off.
• According to Moir and Teller, "once started up [it] needs no other fuel except thorium because it makes most or all of its own fuel." Because it is non-fissile, it can also be used with fissile material, such as uranium and plutonium, as a nuclear fuel.
• Since a LFTR core is not pressurized, it does not need the expensive high-pressure reactor vessel for the core of light water reactors. Instead, there is a low-pressure vessel and pipes (for molten salt) constructed of relatively thin materials. Also due to low operating pressure, a much smaller containment structure is needed compared to light water reactors, up to 1,000 times smaller.
• Since all natural thorium can be used as a fuel, and the fuel is in the form of a molten salt instead of solid fuel rods, expensive fuel enrichment and solid fuel rods' validation procedures and fabricating processes are not needed, greatly decreasing LFTR fuel cost.
• Comparing the amount of thorium needed with coal, Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia of CERN, (European Organization for Nuclear Research), estimates that one ton of thorium can produce as much energy as 200 tons of uranium, or 3,500,000 tons of coal. Coal, as the world's largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, makes up 42% of U.S. electrical power generation and 65% in China.
Summarizing, Martin writes, "Thorium could provide a clean and effectively limitless source of power while allaying all public concern—weapons proliferation, radioactive pollution, toxic waste, and fuel that is both costly and complicated to process.
From an economics viewpoint, U.K. business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes that "Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium," suggesting a "new Manhattan Project", and adding, "If it works, Manhattan II could restore American optimism and strategic leadership at a stroke . . ." Moir and Teller estimated in 2004 that the cost for their recommended prototype would be "well under $1 billion with operation costs likely on the order of $100 million per year," and as a result a "large-scale nuclear power plan" usable by many countries could be set up within a decade. The peer-reviewed scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology, concurs with the cost estimate, which benefits from preexisting research and technology:
A LFTR program could be achieved through a relatively modest investment of roughly 1 billion dollars over 5–10 years to fund research to fill minor technical gaps, then construction of a reactor prototype, and finally a full-scale reactor. Many of the engineering and technological problems of the ORNL program have already been solved through non-nuclear research, including liquid fluorides, resistant metal cladding, and high-temperature turbines. LFTR can mean a 1000+ year solution or a quality low-carbon bridge to truly sustainable energy sources solving a huge portion of mankind’s negative environmental impact.
Research and development of thorium-based nuclear reactors, primarily the Liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR), MSR design, has been or is now being done in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Brazil, India, China, France, the Czech Republic, Japan, Russia, Canada, Israeland the Netherlands. Conferences with experts from as many as 32 countries are held, including one by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 2013, which focuses on thorium as an alternative nuclear technology without requiring production of nuclear waste. Recognized experts, such as Hans Blix, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, calls for expanded support of new nuclear power technology, and states, "the thorium option offers the world not only a new sustainable supply of fuel for nuclear power but also one that makes better use of the fuel's energy content."(Some portion from Wikipedia).
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