Thorium, US energy independence and Obama´s Sputnik moment

 By Carlos Calwianka, staff writer

 Back in the 1950´s  RC Briant, a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, worked to develop a long range nuclear powered plane to carry atomic bombs and first proposed reactor fuel be dissolved in liquid fluoride salts. A test reactor proved Briant´s idea both feasible and advantageous. Later Alvin Weinberg, Director of Oak Ridge saw that molten fluoride salt could harness  thorium-an abundant if slightly radioactive substance-and a 2nd reactor -the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment was built and operated for several years.  It proved control rods were unnecessary and a liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) could be safe and serve to decontaminate nuclear waste.  The push for atomic weapons, however, shelved the non weapon material producing LFTR.

 But the scientists were impressed with these reactors. A whopping 98% of thorium was consumed with this new process whereas only .6% of uranium was used up with traditional solid fuel reactors that left behind ample nuclear waste. 

 When stacked up against the energy costs associated with various sources, thorium is stunning. One lb. of Thorium according to Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia is equal to 200 lbs. of uranium, or a breathtaking 3.5 million lbs. of coal.

Fuel costs for thorium are a tiny $0.00004/kWh versus coal and natural gas at less than 10 cents/kWh; conventional nuclear at approximately 10 cents /kWh; wind appx. 14 cents /kWh; solar thermal about 26 cents/kWh and solar photovoltaic  a hefty 40 cents/kWh.

 The U.S.G.S.’ estimate of 915,000 tons of high quality thorium ore  (just considering  holdings in Idaho and Montana) establish  the U.S. as arguably the #1 thorium holding nation in the world.

 Now if Obama is known for anything it is for his majestic non-sequiturs.  His 2011 State of the Union proves the point. He stated: ” At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded.” Later on, he claimed “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment”.  

 While Obama curiously mentioned Oak Ridge in his address he did so highlighting  efforts to basically tweak existing nuclear technology and ignored  thorium reactors and the (if I can plagiarize his speech a bit) hard work and industry of our people (plus the millions of dollars already spent) to develop them.

Obama also seems to be oblivious to the fact that a Chinese delegation visited Oak Ridge in the autumn of 2010 and expressed interest in thorium fuel to scientists there.  America’s economic crisis demands a quantum reduction in energy generation costs through thorium based power and the spectacular job creating dynamics these massive savings entail. 

Following up, no doubt, on their visit to Oak Ridge, the Chinese announced within days of Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address that they intend to not only develop a research & development effort to  create molten salt thorium reactors, but also to develop and control intellectual property rights to thorium for their own advantage!  The Sputnik moment indeed has arrived.

 Call radio talk shows to inform the public and urge congress and the president to act. Remind them that Sputnik is flying overhead and is powered by our thorium reactor technology.

  To contact your Congressional Representative use this link:

 To read more about using thorium to power America use these links:

  This day in history May 17

 1954: The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled against segregated public schools in Brown v. Board of Education.

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