Is Thorium the future?
With the Democratic debates taking center stage upon America’s political spectrum in recent months, the expected campaign bombardment is in full effect. Every 6 o’clock news stations bleats out the statistics, facts, opinions, goals, personal attacks, and eager little beavers take to twitter or Facebook proclaiming this and that. It’s the 7th inning stretch performed as mass hysteria every four years. After a while, one nearly learns how to turn it off. Yet this year, beneath the rubble and flames of propaganda we find an interesting proposition being advanced by one fringe Democratic candidate.
Enter Andrew Yang and his advocacy of Thorium as fuel for nuclear reactors. While support for the nuclear industry is not widespread among the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination, several like Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Amy Klobuchar have voiced their preference for it among the proposed options to combat climate change. What makes Yang’s support unique is the inclusion of Thorium as an alternative fuel source to the industry standard uranium-238. Yang, in his own words, is trying to change the domestic perception of nuclear energy this country has cultivated over the last 40 years since Three Mile Island: “the public’s conception of nuclear safety has been skewed by TV shows like Chernobyl and The Simpsons.” A current Gallup poll surveyed this year paints a country split down the middle on nuclear’s role in our energy future: 49% for it and an equal 49% who oppose its use.
So what is Thorium then?
First discovered in 1828 by Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, the organic radioactive metal is found in incremental traces among rocks and other ground minerals where it is far more abundant and easily accessible than uranium—with the average ground soil housing more than 6 parts per million of the metal. In actuality, Thorium by itself is not fit for use in a nuclear reactor—however, with the addition of an absorbent neutron, it converts to uranium-233 which is particularly effective in reactors as a fuel. In bypassing the irradiation threshold of U-238, Thorium also aids in the reduction of harmful byproducts such as plutonium. The overall advantage that Yang is stretching for is abundance. Thorium is simply more readily available on Earth than the more widely-used Uranium.
With India and China are already far ahead of the United States in Thorium research, Yang is eager to heavily promote advancements in the field. The American nuclear industry cannot wait because the world cannot afford its nuclear platform to be dominated by the inauspicious likes of China or Russia.
OTEK knows this well. That’s why we became as Class 1E/Appendix B company and developed our New Technology Meters (NTM) and the Solid State Analog Meter (SSAM) to aid the nuclear industry. With analog obsolescence coming to a head in the nuclear I&C rooms, the NTM and SSAM are designed specifically to replace old analogs wire by wire without retraining operators, incurring lengthy installation outages, and effectively combating cybersecurity expenses with C.S. Compliant (NTM) and C.S. Exempt (SSAM) designations. Whatever the future holds for the nuclear industry, Otek plans to be there at every turn and every juncture, ready to bring our technology to bear and help create a more energy-conscious future.
For more information on our efforts to help the nuclear industry or any of our technology-driven product lines, please call us at 520-748-7900 or email our sales department at email@example.com