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Will Japan replace nuclear reactors with Thorium?

Updated on April 5, 2011

In light of the nuclear disaster in Japan, do you believe the Japanese people will allow their Government to replace the nuclear power stations with uranium reactors again? I think it will not, and the disaster will stop most countries with a history of natural disasters from going ahead with uranium based reactors if the public have any democratic say in it. America is checking it's reactors and the fear of nuclear meltdowns has changed the face  of German politics.

This disaster has understandably scared the daylights out of the masses, but one or two things need to be said to allay some of the less rational fear.

  1. This is no Chernobyl, and there are good reasons why the events of Chernobyl will not be repeated in Japan or elsewhere.
  2. The fallout of radio activity in Japan has a very short life and loses almost all of it's life threatening capacity seconds after it forms, most of the seriously dangerous radioactivity is lost before it makes it out of the building itself.

Chernobyl used graphite, a carbon instead of water. When Chernobyl exploded this enabled the long term radiation to be carried high in to the atmosphere inside the graphite where it could be distributed over a wide area. The plants in Japan do not use graphite , it uses water which does not isolate the radioactive particles allowing it to gain altitude in this way. There is other graphite technology these days which are much safer, but why not consider thorium first. It is massively safer than uranium.

  • The waste from a thorium plant becomes inactive in only 500 years.
  • Uranium's bi-product takes more like 10,000 years to degrade sufficiently to be considered safe.
  • The world is running out of uranium  and we have plenty of thorium. The main reason that uranium was used instead of thorium was to do with price in the first place, when it was first considered in the early 1960's

This is my rationale.

It seems unlikely that countries will carry on building new nuclear power stations without giving some thought to using Thorium in future power stations in place of uranium.

I have not been able to see any valid reason not to switch to thorium so far, but will continue to look for any further information I can find. If thorium is indeed as safe as the science tells us, surely it presents a way forward in creating safe compact power stations with very high output which is the reason for using this type of power station for countries like Japan who have very little in the way of their own natural fuel resources.

There is an excellent article explaining alternatives here. http://www.smartplanet.com/technology/blog/thinking-tech/a-meltdown-proof-nuclear-reactor-may-alleviate-fears/6494/.

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    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR

      earnestshub 

      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I believe the only reason uranium was chosen was because the process of making electricity enabled the plant output to be used in nuclear weapons, otherwise thorium would have been the element of choice.

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 

      7 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I agree Thorium plants could become the great saviour to clean energy needs...

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR

      earnestshub 

      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Hello my friend! I agree Japan got it wrong. They got it even more wrong when America told them to update their safety and they refused.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      It is absolutely crazy and criminal to built a nuclear power station in view of the longevity of toxic waste. Furthermore, how could Japan built one knowing well about the frequencies of earthquake in their regions.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR

      earnestshub 

      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Hi Bob! Nice to see. The waste? I don't know where they put it all, but it will be a bloomin dangerous place for a very very long time.

    • profile image

      diogenese 

      7 years ago

      Living with these things is like living with a loaded gun pointed at you. If we get a bad scenario in Britain, the island will become uninhabitable as, indeed, Japan might. But they are BIG money to a lot of people with a powerful lobby and politicians, a bunch of weak, gutless shmucks, follow the blokes who pay the most campaign contributions (ETC!). I was astonished to see just how many of them there are world-wide...where in heck is all the waste going to go?...in the middle of the Simpson Desert? Watch out for the bastards! Bob

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR

      earnestshub 

      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I think 500 years is a bit of a wait as well ag, but I do wonder what alternatives a place like Japan has. Also the safety issue seems to a problem for Japan. The thorium process would be much safer although with less output per unit. There is also a group of reactors being built that use both. Apparently very safe with high returns of energy and much less use of the depleting uranium supply.

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 

      7 years ago from Australia

      You certainly do raise many points here with just one question? Surely even Blind Freddie could have seen that where these Power Plants were built was a disaster waiting to happen? Japan is notorious for it's Earthquakes and Tsunami's. It may not be as bad as Chernobyl (as yet) but according to information now coming in it has past the Three Mile Island problem in America. (I have no idea how they gauge these things). Plus Chernobyl and Three Mile Island did not have the severity of a Tsunami and Earthquake to deal with.

      Sorry I digress, you may have a good point about the idea to replace nuclear reactors with thorium but I personally don't care much about waiting around for 500 years or 10,000 years :-)

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR

      earnestshub 

      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I don't know RG, I guess it is not in common usage unlike uranium, perhaps another reader can help with your question about other thorium plants.I would assume their were only a few manufacturers in the early days and they would have gone with uranium because of cost.

    • RGAldriedge profile image

      RGAldriedge 

      7 years ago from Arkansas

      Why have so many people, like me, never herd of thorium? Are there any thorim plans in oporation?

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR

      earnestshub 

      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Probably should! The thing about Australia is the amount of natural resources are immense so the public will be hard to bring around to any type of radioactive process, regardless of the facts. With very few bad earthquakes Australia could build a thorium plant with high levels of safety, whereas the very low output alternatives such as solar and wind will never keep up with electricity use unless we spend billions on them and use masses of land. I'd go with thorium for Australia.

    • attemptedhumour profile image

      attemptedhumour 

      7 years ago from Australia

      Should Australia build thorium plants?

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