How much fuel does it take to power the world?
Ethan Siegel

A good example of responsible journalism. This article presents useful information without falling into advocacy, making a useful contribution to the debate over energy policy.

In that vein, I would expand on the nuclear portion, and note that there are good reasons that uranium is not a larger portion of the whole. The technology of uranium reactors is very expensive, made even more so by the way we do it in the US. France notably, and other countries, do it cheaper and no less safe. But uranium reactors are inherently problematic from concerns for safety and waste products.

Thorium, which gets little play in energy discussions, is much more abundant and easier, cheaper and safer to obtain. It is even a by-product of certain mining operations. Thorium reactors of a molten-salt design developed sixty years ago are vastly safer and less expensive than uranium reactors; they cannot melt down and explode; they can be scaled down to sizes suitable for third world applications; the problem of dangerous waste products is vastly less than with uranium.

So why didn’t we go that way back in the day, rather than uranium? Simply because we don’t get nuclear bomb material from thorium reactors, and that was the cold war imperative at the time. But now, that is no longer an advantage for uranium, but a disadvantage. Given the modern world, thorium nuclear power has much to offer as a major source of energy.

I would add one other dimension to Siegel’s article: the social dimension. Those third world societies that have had access to abundant and cheap energy have seen the most progress out of poverty. It would be morally bankrupt to end that progress or deny that progress to societies still trapped in poverty by preventing their access to cheap and abundant energy in order to satisfy political restrictions on carbon fuels.

Set aside a moment the intense scientific debate over what portion, if any, of the always changing climate would be foregone by reducing, even eliminating, carbon fuels. Regardless of one’s convictions about that issue, it would be a travesty to not put working alternatives in place before making fossil fuels too expensive or too scarce to continue lifting the third world out of poverty. Or continue supporting the economies of the industrial world, as well.

Thorium nuclear energy is uniquely well positioned to fill that need. At least, it certainly deserves an equal place at the discussion tables.

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