Since 1992, Thorium Power Ltd. has been working on a new kind of fuel that mixes uranium with thorium in a process that produces little plutonium-239. (a correction from Kirk Sorensen) The goal is to “sever the link” between nuclear power and weaponry. Backed by renowned nonproliferation experts and activists, including former British Conservative Party leader Michael Howard and American lawyer Seth Grae. Current nuclear reactors are powered by a mix of two isotopes of uranium that produce a third isotope—uranium 239, which ultimately decays into bomb-grade plutonium. In about three years they will have larger-scale development of reactors. Thorium-fuel technology will produce about 85 percent less plutonium, but that plutonium will be in an isotopic mix that is completely unusable for nuclear weapons.
This is not as good as Thorium liquid fluoride reactors but it is an improvement. It could also change the perception of Thorium approaches as less of a departure from current systems.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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