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Energy are renewables green  who is afraid of thorium  | Upload General

Are Renewables Green? Who is Afraid Of Thorium?

by: Sharai Hoekema
are renewables green  who is afraid of thorium  | Upload

Green energy and renewable energy are too often used in the same breath. That is to say, if someone mentions the concept of green energy, they usually refer to renewable sources like wind, solar, and wave power. It has created the false illusion that all green energy initiatives are renewable and that all renewable energy sources are green. Long story short: not necessarily the case.

Green Renewables: Wind Turbines And Solar 

In a similar sense, the term carbon-free is not exclusively reserved for renewables. Several energy sources are not-renewable, but carbon-free. This makes them great - and not frequently talked about - alternatives for the famed wind turbines and solar panels. The fact that they cannot be renewed means that they are not the all-inclusive solution to our current problem, nor can they be exclusively relied upon to power the growing demands of the world.

Solar panels, refection wind turbines

What that means to say is that renewables should always be a part of the energy mix. Yet they hold downsides, including the massive energy requirements for the build, maintenance, and storage. Furthermore, the amount of square footage required to build enough windmills and solar panels is substantial, meaning that either ground will have to be acquired or people will have to be encouraged to build it on their land.

Recommended: Vortex Bladeless Wind Turbine - The Future of Wind Turbines?

Nuclear Energy Has A Bad Rep For No Real Reason

It is about time that we stop referring to renewables as the only green source. It is unlikely that they will ever be generating sufficient energy for all of us, so the search for other green energy sources should never cease. Some are staring us right in the face, like nuclear energy. Over the past century, this form of energy generation has saved the atmosphere from millions and millions of tonnes of CO2 being emitted into it. Yet it is still suffering from a pretty bad rep.

Yellow Bumper cars
Bumper cars, Chernobyl

Most people will instantly mention ‘Chernobyl’ or ‘Fukushima,’ making the dangers of a potential meltdown seem much more significant than they are. With the proper precautions and warning mechanisms, I dare say that fears for a second Chernobyl have been reduced to mere figments of the mind. Yet the public opinion matters and that opinion is pretty loud and clear - we do not want more nuclear waste, nor do we want to live next to a nuclear reactor.

Recommended: Nuclear Power: Will It Destroy Or Save The World?

There might be a solution. Although it is not yet implemented anywhere in the world due to its priciness and complexity, there might be a way of splitting atoms without the waste, meltdowns, and costs associated with building and maintaining the reactors.

Green Renewable Energy Which Is Not Renewable: SMR Nuclear Is Ideal

Yes, it does have nuclear in the name. This might already lose some interest of some, but try to bear with me, as it might be the atomic implementation that we have been waiting for. SMRs, or Small Modular Reactors, could be the solution. In particular, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, or LFTRs, are showing great promise - in theory, that is.

Graphic SMR reactor

Thorium is an element on the periodic table of elements that is just two behind uranium. This makes it a weakly radioactive substance - with the upside that it is much more abundant than its radioactive brother. A golf ball-sized bit of thorium could, theoretically, power a small city for several decades. After that, it cannot be re-used, hence the non-renewable part - but that kind of pales in comparison to its upsides.

Recommended: Climate Change Halted By Nuclear Reactors: Fission, Fusion

Green Energy: Technical Details Of Thorium Power


                                                              Thorium and the Future of Nuclear Energy

The LFTR resembles an ‘ordinary’ reactor, although there are some technical differences. Thorium-232 and uranium-233 are mixed with fluoride salts in the reactor core. During the fission, the released heat and neutrons are absorbed by the salt surrounding it. This leads to the creation of a uranium-233 isotope, with thorium-232 taking on an additional neutron. Next, the salt melts and is used to heat gasses like helium, which power a turbine - and generate electricity.

Thorium Reactor interior, man

There is no waste. The uranium is separated from the salt after the process and then re-used in the core. Another benefit is the lower costs for the commissioning of the thorium reactor: the salts are about $150/kg and the thorium some $30/kg. This price is likely to go down if thorium becomes popular, as it is abundantly available in the earth’s crust. The world’s supply of thorium can power a large number of LFTRs for thousands of years. Not entirely renewable, but pretty close.

More arguments for those who need convincing: thorium can be used in its natural state, so no expensive processing is required. And the fuel used in the LFTR will almost wholly be re-consumed by the reactor, making it clean and low-waste.

Not Renewable: Why SMR Nuclear Is Safer Than Traditional

So, there is significantly less radioactive waste. Separated uranium can be re-used in the fission process, while the fluoride salts have a high boiling point, eliminating the need for high-pressure water coolants. This high boiling point, combined with the design of LFTRs to work as low-pressure systems, means that the reactors are much more stable and less susceptible to incidents.

Molten salt failsafe

Combine this with the failsafe shutdown sequence, where an overheated core will trigger a gravity-enabled passive response. The radiated salt will be sent into an underground containment chamber while the reactor is powering down. This makes it extremely safe: you just can’t argue with gravity.

Not Renewable: The Downsides

No energy source comes without its flaws. While the concept of thorium-based energy sounds excellent in practice, opponents will argue that it is as of yet untested, not commercially viable, and - most importantly - still nuclear. The safety arguments for this technology seem valid, although they have not been tested in real life. This forms the primary concern, with much-needed research on the necessary materials missing and the processing facilities for the used salts still a rough concept drawn up in explorative papers but nowhere near viable construction.

nuclear, yellow barrel, gun

The argument of it still being nuclear should not be overlooked either. Nuclear means that, theoretically, waste could be stolen and used to create deadly nuclear weapons or wreak all other sorts of havoc on the world. Although it has not been proven that LFTR reactors will have waste that could be used for this purpose, proper safety and security measures will be a must if we are to go through with this.

Recommended: Nuclear Floating Power Plants: A Floating Chernobyl: Russia

Green Energy Which Is Not Renewable: What’s Next?

Once again, let me reiterate that I do not believe that thorium-based energy will solve all of our problems. As mentioned before, it is all about getting that energy mix right. We can and must invest in renewable sources, regardless of their intermittent nature - and fill up the gaps with clean and green non-renewable sources. All energy sources bring along their own set of problems, which makes the balancing of the mix even more complicated.

earth, satelites, energy

Recommended: The Artificial Sun Is Heating: Nuclear Fusion On Earth

Yet the best we can do now is figure out how to make the most out of non-renewable green sources, even if that means diving in the deep with previously untested sources.

Before you go!

Recommended: Gravitricity: Fast, Versatile Energy Storage Solution, UK

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Frank - 24 WEEKS AGO
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India has a thorium plant. We must understand two important facts 1. We will run out of oil this century and renewables are not the answer. They require energy to build, will displace trees and are toxic to dispose of. 2. We must end toxic pollution, from entering the oceans. We lived 150 years ago without oil we may have to adapt to old ways we may have electricity if we're careful.
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Are Renewables Green? Who is Afraid Of Thorium?

Green energy and renewable energy are too often used in the same breath. That is to say, if someone mentions the concept of green energy, they usually refer to renewable sources like wind, solar, and wave power. It has created the false illusion that all green energy initiatives are renewable and that all renewable energy sources are green. Long story short: not necessarily the case. Green Renewables: Wind Turbines And Solar  In a similar sense, the term carbon-free is not exclusively reserved for renewables. Several energy sources are not-renewable, but carbon-free. This makes them great - and not frequently talked about - alternatives for the famed wind turbines and solar panels. The fact that they cannot be renewed means that they are not the all-inclusive solution to our current problem, nor can they be exclusively relied upon to power the growing demands of the world. What that means to say is that renewables should always be a part of the energy mix. Yet they hold downsides, including the massive energy requirements for the build, maintenance, and storage. Furthermore, the amount of square footage required to build enough windmills and solar panels is substantial, meaning that either ground will have to be acquired or people will have to be encouraged to build it on their land. Recommended:  Vortex Bladeless Wind Turbine - The Future of Wind Turbines? Nuclear Energy Has A Bad Rep For No Real Reason It is about time that we stop referring to renewables as the only green source. It is unlikely that they will ever be generating sufficient energy for all of us, so the search for other green energy sources should never cease. Some are staring us right in the face, like nuclear energy. Over the past century, this form of energy generation has saved the atmosphere from millions and millions of tonnes of CO2 being emitted into it. Yet it is still suffering from a pretty bad rep. Bumper cars, Chernobyl Most people will instantly mention ‘Chernobyl’ or ‘Fukushima,’ making the dangers of a potential meltdown seem much more significant than they are. With the proper precautions and warning mechanisms, I dare say that fears for a second Chernobyl have been reduced to mere figments of the mind. Yet the public opinion matters and that opinion is pretty loud and clear - we do not want more nuclear waste, nor do we want to live next to a nuclear reactor. Recommended:  Nuclear Power: Will It Destroy Or Save The World? There might be a solution. Although it is not yet implemented anywhere in the world due to its priciness and complexity, there might be a way of splitting atoms without the waste, meltdowns, and costs associated with building and maintaining the reactors. Green Renewable Energy Which Is Not Renewable: SMR Nuclear Is Ideal Yes, it does have nuclear in the name. This might already lose some interest of some, but try to bear with me, as it might be the atomic implementation that we have been waiting for. SMRs, or Small Modular Reactors, could be the solution. In particular, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, or LFTRs, are showing great promise - in theory, that is. Thorium is an element on the periodic table of elements that is just two behind uranium. This makes it a weakly radioactive substance - with the upside that it is much more abundant than its radioactive brother. A golf ball-sized bit of thorium could, theoretically, power a small city for several decades. After that, it cannot be re-used, hence the non-renewable part - but that kind of pales in comparison to its upsides. Recommended:  Climate Change Halted By Nuclear Reactors: Fission, Fusion Green Energy: Technical Details Of Thorium Power {youtube}                                                               Thorium and the Future of Nuclear Energy The LFTR resembles an ‘ordinary’ reactor, although there are some technical differences. Thorium-232 and uranium-233 are mixed with fluoride salts in the reactor core. During the fission, the released heat and neutrons are absorbed by the salt surrounding it. This leads to the creation of a uranium-233 isotope, with thorium-232 taking on an additional neutron. Next, the salt melts and is used to heat gasses like helium, which power a turbine - and generate electricity. There is no waste. The uranium is separated from the salt after the process and then re-used in the core. Another benefit is the lower costs for the commissioning of the thorium reactor: the salts are about $150/kg and the thorium some $30/kg. This price is likely to go down if thorium becomes popular, as it is abundantly available in the earth’s crust. The world’s supply of thorium can power a large number of LFTRs for thousands of years. Not entirely renewable, but pretty close. More arguments for those who need convincing: thorium can be used in its natural state, so no expensive processing is required. And the fuel used in the LFTR will almost wholly be re-consumed by the reactor, making it clean and low-waste. Not Renewable: Why SMR Nuclear Is Safer Than Traditional So, there is significantly less radioactive waste. Separated uranium can be re-used in the fission process, while the fluoride salts have a high boiling point, eliminating the need for high-pressure water coolants. This high boiling point, combined with the design of LFTRs to work as low-pressure systems, means that the reactors are much more stable and less susceptible to incidents. Combine this with the failsafe shutdown sequence, where an overheated core will trigger a gravity-enabled passive response. The radiated salt will be sent into an underground containment chamber while the reactor is powering down. This makes it extremely safe: you just can’t argue with gravity. Not Renewable: The Downsides No energy source comes without its flaws. While the concept of thorium-based energy sounds excellent in practice, opponents will argue that it is as of yet untested, not commercially viable, and - most importantly - still nuclear. The safety arguments for this technology seem valid, although they have not been tested in real life. This forms the primary concern, with much-needed research on the necessary materials missing and the processing facilities for the used salts still a rough concept drawn up in explorative papers but nowhere near viable construction. The argument of it still being nuclear should not be overlooked either. Nuclear means that, theoretically, waste could be stolen and used to create deadly nuclear weapons or wreak all other sorts of havoc on the world. Although it has not been proven that LFTR reactors will have waste that could be used for this purpose, proper safety and security measures will be a must if we are to go through with this. Recommended:  Nuclear Floating Power Plants: A Floating Chernobyl: Russia Green Energy Which Is Not Renewable: What’s Next? Once again, let me reiterate that I do not believe that thorium-based energy will solve all of our problems. As mentioned before, it is all about getting that energy mix right. We can and must invest in renewable sources, regardless of their intermittent nature - and fill up the gaps with clean and green non-renewable sources. All energy sources bring along their own set of problems, which makes the balancing of the mix even more complicated. Recommended:  The Artificial Sun Is Heating: Nuclear Fusion On Earth Yet the best we can do now is figure out how to make the most out of non-renewable green sources, even if that means diving in the deep with previously untested sources. Before you go! Recommended:  Gravitricity: Fast, Versatile Energy Storage Solution, UK Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your article about energy storage? Click on  'Register'  or push the button 'Write An Article' on the  'HomePage.'
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