According to a new Russian study, thorium reactors could provide a safer alternative to nuclear energy, while also safely disposing of nuclear waste(Credit: Thorium Energy World) Thorium reactors have long been proposed as a cleaner, safer alternative to conventional nuclear energy, and now a new Russian study has added another potential benefit to the mix. Scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) propose a new thorium reactor design that can burn weapons-grade plutonium, producing power and thermal energy while disposing of nuclear waste at the same time. Weapons-grade plutonium (plutonium-239) is one of the dangerous radioactive by-products of nuclear power, and with a half-life of over 24,000 years, it’s tricky to store and dispose of. The substance is still packed with potential energy, but reusing it requires chemical processing that can be expensive and complicated. Enter thorium. This element is more abundant in nature, cleaner and potentially more efficient than uranium, so thorium reactors have long been proposed as a viable alternative to conventional nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, the properties that make it attractive also raise new obstacles.
New Atlas 23rd Jan 2018 read more »