Why Not Thorium?

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Feature Article by Marin Katusa
The Fukushima disaster reminded us all of the dangers inherent in
uranium-fueled nuclear reactors. Fresh news yesterday about Tepco’s
continued struggle to contain and cool the fuel rods highlights just how
energetic uranium fission reactions are and how challenging to control.
Of course, that level of energy is exactly why we use nuclear energy –
it is incredibly efficient as a source of power, and it creates very few
emissions and carries a laudable safety record to boot.
This
conversation – “nuclear good but uranium dangerous” – regularly leads to
a very good question: what about thorium? Thorium sits two spots left
of uranium on the periodic table, in the same row or series. Elements in
the same series share characteristics. With uranium and thorium, the
key similarity is that both can absorb neutrons and transmute into
fissile elements.
That means thorium could be used to fuel nuclear
reactors, just like uranium. And as proponents of the underdog f
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