Could One Element Power the Entire Planet?

Illustration for article titled Could One Element Power the Entire Planet?

The world isn't too hot on nuclear energy today, and for good reason. But "nuclear energy" doesn't have to be the kind we've come to know and botch. Some engineers think the rocks we're walking on could change electricity forever.


Motherboard's new mini-doc, "The Thorium Dream," follows just that—the fantasy of ditching uranium in favor of thorium, which is claimed to create far safer, cheaper, and extremely abundant. So why aren't we using this tech that was developed decades ago? The film does a terrific job navigating this strange electrical counter culture, talking to the minds who envision a near future that sounds like sci-fi. They say it could be very real. [Motherboard]

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Thorium-232 occurs in nature and does not have to be isotopically separated to use a reactor fuel. When bombarded by neutrons from an external source it undergoes two Beta decay stages to become Uranium-233. The process produces much less radioactive waste than conventional reactors.

However, U-233 can be used to make weapons. The neutron flux inside the reactor can also be used to breed both Uranium and Plutonium for weapons use.

There's no such thing as a free lunch.