It’s time to rethink Nuclear Power! Limitless Green Thorium Energy is coming
Nuclear power may not be as bad as you think. If we used Thorium instead of Uranium, we could greatly decrease dangerous radioactive by-products. There is enough Thorium in the world to meet all our energy needs for over 1000 years.
In this video I show you how nuclear power plants work, and how Thorium can change the game. I aim to shift your views on nuclear power.
This is how energy is created in a nuclear reactor: When you split some heavier atoms into two lighter atoms, you get a lot of energy. For example, if you hit an isotope of Uranium, Uranium-235 with a neutron at the right speed, it will split into two lighter atoms like barium-141 and krypton-92 & 3 neutrons. These neutrons then split other U-235 atoms, leading to a chain reaction, producing more and more energy.
The energy comes from the binding energy related to the strong nuclear force. Binding energy is the energy needed to break the bonds between the protons and neutrons in the nucleus of atoms. It takes a lot of energy to keep protons and neutrons tightly bound together. When you split the nucleus, this energy is released.
Each splitting of U-235 releases 173 million electron volts (MeV). For comparison, when you burn paper each carbon atom consumed in the burning releases 4 eV. So the nuclear process releases 40 million times more energy per atom than burning fossil fuels. 1 kilogram of U-235 is equivalent to aout 2.7 million kilograms of coal.
How do nuclear power plants work? Inside a nuclear reactor is a core containing fuel rods with nuclear fuel, like U-235. Inside the fuel rods, Uranium splitting takes place and heat energy is produced. The energy heats water into steam, whcih then goes into a steam turbine, which drives a generator producing electricity.
The chain reaction is controlled by control rods that temper how much heat the reactor produces by absorbing neutrons and keeping them from splitting more nuclear fuel.
There is no carbon emission from this process. The plumes you see from the cooling towers is steam not pollution.
Nuclear power isn’t renewable, because you do consume fuel. Also, the fuel, U-235, is turned into waste products like krypton, barium that are generally radioactive isotopes. So we have to be careful with this waste as it can be dangerous for humans due to radiation. However, this is not the most problematic part nuclear energy because the half-life of these waste products is generally short, from a few days to 30 years. So most of this waste turns into stable and safe isotopes within a few years.
The bigger problem is that the uranium fuel creates more dangerous waste products from transmutation, when an element absorbs a proton or a neutron, and turns into a different element. Most of uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor is NON-Fissile uranium-238, not U-235. U-238 absorbs neutrons, but instead of splitting it undergoes transmutation plutonium which is very toxic. And it can also be used for nuclear weapons.
This is the big nuclear waste problem. But Thorium is different. Whereas Uranium fuel is 95-97% U-238 which creates Plutonium, almost all of the Thorium fuel reacts and only creates safer fissile by products, instead of producing Plutonium. This is because the brown ore, Monazite, that contains Thorium has higher concentrations of Thorium than does the equivalent uranium ore of Uranium. In addition, there is three times as much Thorium in the world as Uranium.
What are the problems with Thorium? To make it work, you need to use a breeding reactor that creates its own fuel. The reaction is this: Thorium-232 absorbs a neutron to become Thorium-233. This decays to Protactinium-233. This transmutes to uranium-233.
Thorium is not fissile but U-233 is. Unlike with Uranium, there is little to no U-238 that turns into dangerous Plutonium. It also cannot be used to make nuclear fuel.
The reason Thorium is not being used is technical and political. Thorium nuclear power plant is expensive. Politically, people are averse to nuclear power because of Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters. And, since Thorium can’t be used to make weapons, government funding has been scarce.
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