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The Future Of Energy: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

1833 words - 8 pages

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors are seen as the future of energy. The concept is simple, yet thoroughly investigated. When people started to do research in the field of nuclear energy in the mid-nineties, the molten salt reactors were soon invented. However, it is only a few years ago since mankind seriously took the liquid fluoride thorium reactors into account. This decision to further investigate the liquid fluoride thorium reactors could be the solution for the earth’s energy problem. Currently, (non-) renewable energy resources are being used at a staggering speed. Soon, there will be only a little non-renewable energy resources left which will be very expensive. In addition to the other renewable resources, liquid fluoride thorium reactors would be able to increase the resources and meet the huge global energy demand.
Why were the liquid fluoride thorium reactors only five years ago considered to be a possible solution to the earth’s energy problem when it was invented many years before? Were there major drawbacks? How effective is a liquid fluoride thorium reactor? Has there been discoveries lately which could have made the liquid fluoride thorium reactors possible now? These and many more questions have led to the following research question: Is it possible to apply liquid fluoride thorium reactors to generate renewable energy? The research will start with some historic background information, recent investigations and the current situation concerning the liquid fluoride thorium reactors. Then, the basic scientific concept of the molten salt reactors will be explained. After that, the biggest advantages and disadvantages will be discussed in order to come up with the conclusion whether one should implement the concept of these liquid fluoride thorium reactors or not. Subsequently, there will be a research from a social and economic point of view if the reactors would be feasible in the current society. Finally, there will be a short summary and a conclusion.
The first steps to a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor were set by Enrico Fermi in 1942 when he created the first nuclear reactor in a pile of graphite and uranium blocks at the University of Chicago, not knowing that it could become the solution to the earth’s energy problem. A few years later three fissile isotopes were publicly identified for use as nuclear fuel by Alvin Weinberg in his memoir, The First Nuclear Era. These were the isotopes Uranium-233, Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239 (Hargraves, 2010 p. 304). Uranium-233 can be bred from Thorium-232, Uranium-235 was already fissile and Plutonium-238 can be bred from non-fissile uranium-238. Weinberg (1994, p. 109) wrote in his memoir ‘if one calculated all the combinations of fuel, coolant, and moderator, one could identify about a thousand distinct reactors. Thus, at the very beginning of nuclear power, we had to choose which possibilities to pursue, which to ignore’. The decisions one has made back then determined the development...

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