EXTRACT – Another decade was lost. It was a sad triumph of vested interests over scientific progress. “We have very little time to waste because the world is running out of fossil fuels. Renewables can’t replace them. Nuclear fusion is not going work for a century, if ever,” he said.
Is Thorium the way ahead for energy production? The world economy needs a boost. So much of the last fifty years has been taken up coping with the problems of fossil fuels, whether that be warfare, inflation, recessions or all three.
As we head into a new slump in employment, and consumption, and the financial bubble blows itself out, what better way to look ahead than to a world in which the traumas of the past are no longer going to be around to haunt us further.
Here is yet another technology which we should have benefited from by now, but which has been blocked by vested interests. It’s time to release Thorium and it can show us what it can do.
The Norwegian group Aker Solutions has bought Dr Rubbia’s patent for the thorium fuel-cycle, and is working on his design for a proton accelerator at its UK operation.
Victoria Ashley, the project manager, said it could lead to a network of pint-sized 600MW reactors that are lodged underground, can supply small grids, and do not require a safety citadel. It will take £2bn to build the first one, and Aker needs £100mn for the next test phase.
The UK has shown little appetite for what it regards as a “huge paradigm shift to a new technology”. Too much work and sunk cost has already gone into the next generation of reactors, which have another 60 years of life.
So Aker is looking for tie-ups with the US, Russia, or China. The Indians have their own projects – none yet built – dating from days when they switched to thorium because their weapons programme prompted a uranium ban.
America should have fewer inhibitions than Europe in creating a leapfrog technology. The US allowed its nuclear industry to stagnate after Three Mile Island in 1979.
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