Motherboard TV: The Thorium Dream
This is a great documentary on the element radioactive Thorium. It was set aside in the early nuclear research days in order to produce uranium and plutonium for weapons. I highly recommend you give it a watch and research this element and the new research on the subject.
In our case, it was the latter. While the idea of building small, thorium-based nuclear reactors – thought to be dramatically safer, cheaper, cleaner and terror-proof than our current catalog of reactors – can be shooed away as fringe by some, the germ of the idea began in the U.S. government’s major atomic lab, at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the 1960s, only to be left by the wayside as the American nuclear industry plowed ahead with its development of the light water reactors and the uranium fuel cycle. It’s only in the past half-decade that the idea has picked up steam again on the Internet, thanks to enterprising enthusiasts who have chronicled the early experiments, distributed documents, and posted YouTube videos. But if thorium’s second life on the Internet has grown the flock of adherents exponentially, it’s also pulled in more than a few people whose nuclear expertise doesn’t extend far past Wikipedia, adding a sheen of hype to the proceedings.
Still, the idea has legs, if new research programs by India and China are any indication. The former has just announced a prototype thorium-based advanced heavy water reactor, while the latter is researching a liquid fuel reactor based on the 1960s design. In the U.S., the race is being advanced not by the government but by some of the central movers and shakers of the Internet movement.