Imagine a form of nuclear energy with greater output and virtually no safety issues.
Such is the promise of liquid flouride thorium reactors (LFTRs), and we’ve had several past interviews with thorium expert Kirk Sorensen to discuss their potential:
- Much safer – No risk of environmental radiation contamination or plant explosion (e.g., Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three Mile Island)
- Much more efficient at producing energy – Over 90% of the input fuel would be tapped for energy, vs. <1% in today’s reactors
- Less waste-generating – Most of the radioactive by-products would take days/weeks to degrade to safe levels, vs. decades/centuries
- Much cheaper – Reactor footprints and infrastructure would be much smaller and could be constructed in modular fashion
- More plentiful – LFTR reactors do not need to be located next to large water supplies, as current plants do
- Less controversial – The byproducts of the thorium reaction are pretty useless for weaponization
- Longer-lived – Thorium is much more plentiful than uranium and is treated as valueless today. There is virtually no danger of running out of it given LFTR plant efficiency
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Kirk returns to the podcast this week to update us on the current state of thorium power. The bad news is that it still remains a theoretical concept; no operational reactor has been deployed yet — even as a prototype. But, as Kirk details, we have good “line of sight” on the science to build one — so, at this point, the limiting factor is mostly funding. In a world of privately-funded space travel, such a gating obstacle shouldn’t remain for long.
This is one of the “bright spots” in the technology universe that offers real promise for addressing many of the challenges presented by our global addiction to depleting, pollutive fossil fuels.
Of course, perhaps humanity gaining access to an abundant source of cheap, hi-yielding energy may not be the best thing at this point — as it will enable us to extract and consume the rest of the world’s depleting resources (key minerals, water supplies, developable land, etc) at a much faster rate…
Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Kirk Sorensen (47m:15s).