Advantages of Thorium Reactors Over Traditional Uranium Reactors

Advantages of Thorium Reactors Over Traditional Uranium Reactors – Sample Paper 1

Thorium reactors have been identified as the most viable alternative for nuclear energy reactors. A research conducted to evaluate the use of thorium as an alternative source of nuclear energy cited a number of advantage that thorium presents compared to current uranium experience. One of the main advantage that thorium has over uranium is availability. It has been estimated that the available uranium can also be enough to meet the energy needs for a period of 100 years only with similar consumption rate as the one recorded in 2008. On the contrary, thorium is readily available in different parts of the world and its mining is relatively easy as compared to that of uranium.

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The total cost of nuclear energy generation in a nuclear plant is controlled by capital cost, maintenance and operating cost, as well as the fuel cost. This is gauged based on uranium which is the main nuclear reactor in the market. The cost of running a uranium-based nuclear plant is extremely high. On the contrary, thorium-based nuclear power generation plants are anticipated to be more economical as compared to current uranium plant. It is estimated that uranium will require 10 times more money to produce similar unit of power as thorium. Thus, thorium-based plants are regarded to be 10 times cheaper than uranium-based plant with the same production power. In this regard, thorium reactors are highly economical as compared to uranium reactors (National Nuclear Laboratory, 2012).

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The other main advantage that thorium have over uranium in nuclear reaction is that higher quantity of actinides and only only small quantities of plutonium are generated in thorium fuel cycle. This lowers long-term spent nuclear fuel radio-toxicity. On the contrary, the spent uranium fuel radio-toxicity id for the first 500 years dominated by fission products. The fission products have typically after this time decayed and the process of radio-toxicity turns to be dominated typically by plutonium or any other transuranic element. This remains for about 100000 years before long-lived fission materials like I-129 turn to be dominant contributor. Thus, thorium cycles can be said to completely permit thermal breeder reactors and thus, it has a higher advantage as a nuclear reactor as compared to uranium since it stand a chance of producing more electrical power or energy than the uranium reactors.

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Thorium fuel cycle does not contain plutonium, unlike uranium cycles that contains about 1% of the plutonium. This lack of plutonium in thorium fuel cycle reduces its proliferation risk of its nuclear weapons. On the contrary the presence of that 1% of plutonium in uranium increases its proliferation risk. Plutonium remains moderately inaccessible in used fuel. However, separated plutonium oxide is created in a reprocessing fuel cycle. This requires to be subject to severe physical protection which increases uranium fuel production cost (Zou & Barnett, 2014).

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Advantages of Thorium Reactors – Sample Paper 2

Based on the world energy competition and the progressively unstable and fierce global security condition for the past few decades, scientist began to reinvestigate the probability of employing thorium as nuclear power fuel. This resulted to identification of a number of advantages of thorium-fueled reactors as compared to uranium reactors. One of the main advantages is that thorium-fueled reactors contain less waste and less probability for nuclear proliferation. Moreover, thorium is about three times plentiful in earth’s crust as compared to uranium. Thorium-bearing ores have been identified in a number of nations that include the United States, Canada, India, Venezuela, Turkey, Norway, Brazil, Egypt, Australia, and Russia among other nations. In addition, the currently used nuclear reactors are not efficient in mining energy from uranium. Just about 3% of the rods based uranium is consumed prior to the replacement of the rod as a result of fission byproducts build up in the rods. Thus, most of the uranium ends up not being used. This increases the volumes of uranium waste during any reaction. On the contrary, the byproducts of fission in liquid thorium salt can be reprocessed and removed to create extra fuel stock, as the reactor carry on with its operations (Zou & Barnett, 2014).

Thorium-founded reactors have been demonstrated to be extra economical as compared to uranium-based reactors. Contrary to conventional light water reactors by use of uranium, the thorium reactors capital costs would be less. According to Zou and Barnett (2014), $1.1. billion is currently needed in every one-gigawatt uranium-fueled reactor as compared to the approximated $780 million to be used in one-gigawatt in thorium power plant. Moreover, less labor will be demanded to operate thorium plant. It is anticipated that the labor cost will reduce to $5 million from the $50 million in uranium plant. Reduced radioactive waste is created; about 10% of the radioactive waste created in uranium case by volume. It is approximated that one gigawatt nuclear waste disposal from thorium plant will cost about $1 million or less in every year. Thus bases on the low waste disposal, fuel and capital costs, and the cost of thorium-generated power could be less than electrical power produced via coal or natural gas. In this regard, thorium has the ability to lower the electricity retail power a great deal.

Thorium does not oxidize and it is moderately inert, contrary to uranium that easily oxidizes to form uranium oxide. In this regard, permanent disposal and long-term interim storage are simpler in thorium founded fuel without oxidation issues. Chemically, thorium dioxide is more stable and it contains higher resistance to radiation as compared to uranium dioxide. The thorium founded fouls release rate of fission product is lower with a magnitude of one order as compared to that of uranium. In addition, thorium contains auspicious thermophysical properties due to lower thermal expansion coefficient and higher thermal conductivity as contrasted to uranium dioxide. In this regard, thorium founded fuels are anticipated to contain improved in-pile performance as compared to uranium dioxide and other uranium dioxide mixtures (IAEA, 2005).

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