thorium

Thorium-Fueled Automobile Engine Needs Refueling Once a Century

Nuclear powered car? Hellyeah. Make it look a little less Tron-like and I’m in.

Funny thing about thorium… back when the first nuclear plants were being designed they chose uranium over thorium. Despite the fact that thorium reactors don’t explode or melt down if their coolant fails.

Why?

It’s much easier to make nuclear weapons from uranium.

Instead of giving up on nuclear power, say a group of nuclear scientists, we should just switch from uranium-based reactors to ones fueled by cheaper, safer thorium.

  • What is thorium?
    A silvery metal (symbol: Th; atomic number: 90) close to uranium on the periodic table of elements, with just two fewer protons. It was discovered in 1828, and is named after the Norse god of thunder. As an added bonus, it’s “almost as common as dirt,” says Antonia Zerbisias in The Toronto Star.
  • Why are fans so excited about it?
    Thorium-fueled reactors are supposed to be much safer than uranium-powered ones, use far less material, produce waste that is toxic for a shorter period of time, and is hard to weaponize. In fact, thorium can even feed off of toxic plutonium waste to produce energy. And because the biggest cost in nuclear power is safety, and thorium reactors can’t melt down, argues Michael Anissimov in Accelerating Future, they will eventually be much cheaper, too.
  • How cheap would it be?
    If a town of 1,000 bought a 1-megawatt thorium reactor for $250,000, using 20 kilograms of thorium a year with almost no oversight, every family could pay as little as $0.40 a year for all their electricity, Anissimov predicts. And small reactors like that aren’t just potentially cost-effective, he says; they’re much safer, too.

So, if thorium is cheaper and safer, why do we use uranium? Because we can make weapons out of its byproducts.

Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire? Possibly. - Forbes

For the past several months, a friend of mine has been telling me about the potentially game-changing implications of an obscure (at least to me) metal named Thorium after the Norse god of thunder, Thor.

It seems he is not the only person who believes thorium, a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, could provide the world with an ultra-safe, ultra-cheap source of nuclear power.

Last week, scores of thorium boosters gathered in the United Kingdom to launch a new advocacy organizing, the Weinberg Foundation, which plans to push the promise of thorium nuclear energy into the mainstream political discussion of clean energy and climate change. The message they’re sending is that thorium is the anti-dote to the world’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges.

So what is the big deal about thorium? In 2006, writing in the magazine Cosmos, Tim Dean summarized perhaps the most optimistic scenario for what a Thorium-powered nuclear world would be like:

 

What if we could build a nuclear reactor that offered no possibility of a meltdown, generated its power inexpensively, created no weapons-grade by-products, and burnt up existing high-level waste as well as old nuclear weapon stockpiles? And what if the waste produced by such a reactor was radioactive for a mere few hundred years rather than tens of thousands? It may sound too good to be true, but such a reactor is indeed possible, and a number of teams around the world are now working to make it a reality. What makes this incredible reactor so different is its fuel source: thorium.

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New York at its best by Patrick Copley

in the middle of a snowstorm Portra 400

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Not from the lab,  but something interesting (or at least it’s interesting for me). 

I tried, that various photographic lenses how will behave under UV light and got quite interesting results. I borrowed a few lenses from a really good friend and started to do some experiments. Some of the lenses fluorescence under UV light with blue/green/yellow/ect. color. 

Why do they glow under UV? Depending on the composition of the glass, it could easily contain mixtures a few rare earth elements, usually Lanthanum, Cerium and sometimes Thorium (yes, that radioactive thing at the bottom of the periodic table). These elements are added to the glass, since if they are present, the glass has a higher refractive index what means, that better optics could be made from them, with lower chromatic aberration.

What is chromatic aberration? It’s also called achromatism or chromatic distortion, is a type of distortion in which there is a failure of a lens to focus all colors to the same convergence point. It occurs because lenses have different refractive indices for different wavelengths of light. The refractive index decreases with increasing wavelength. An example.

The first pics, from the fisheye lens and many adorable looking picture from the blog could be purchased at Society6, now with free worldwide shipping: http://society6.com/labphoto/prints?show=new&promo=d28ef1