Nuclear power is clearly failing. Power plants just cost too much, and with Westinghouse’s bankruptcy earlier this year, the number 1 producer of nuclear reactors is gone. On top of that, many currently open nuclear power plants are shutting down, including plants near Cleveland, such as Perry Power Plant. However, nuclear power may just have been pulled back from the grave. Why? On August 28, a Dutch firm called NRG (Nuclear Research and Consultancy) has started up the first thorium reactor in 40 years.
What’s this? Thorium reactors have proved to generate lots of electricity, but major research was stopped after the closure of a thorium reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory 40 years ago. According to a technological news site called “The Geek”, had this reactor technology been put into commercial use then, Fukushima would never have happened. But how could a reactor not meltdown? After all, a chain reaction cannot be controlled naturally, there has to be some sort of interference. The reactor relies on molten salt to work (not table salt, it’s thorium salt).If something happens, the reaction can be stopped by simply not giving the reactor any more salt. If the salt stops melting, the reaction stops. On the other hand, a traditional reactor can stop the reaction in a mere 5 seconds, but there still is radiation emanating from the reactor; you can’t just waltz off after hitting that “Emergency Stop” button. This radiation is what caused the most damage at Fukushima. The controllers stopped the reaction itself, but the radiation remained as the tsunami made landfall. This isn’t the case with thorium reactors, as they emit much less of this radiation. Another benefit of a thorium-salt reactor is it can take some of our nuclear waste being stored an generate electricity. Plus, waste it produces stays radioactive for 300 years at the max, unlike 900 years+ for traditional reactors. But what does this really mean to you? Well, this means you don’to have to worry about everything you touch being irradiated after some incident at the power plant, and because these reactors are easier to maintain, valuable government money isn’t going into maintaining other traditional nuclear power plants. Although its clear you don’to have to worry about instantly dieing after something goes wrong, thorium nuclear technology is safe from another angle too, not just safety from a meltdown.
As many of you know, many countries possess nuclear weapons, which come from weaponized reactor fuels. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, thorium is very expensive and nearly impossible to weaponize. Because of this, switching to thorium reactors can help stop nuclear proliferation (when countries build nuclear weapons), and keep the global community safe.
As you just read, RNG’s new plans just may start another nuclear renaissance (this time with no nuclear weapons and meltdowns), and for good this time.