Nuclear Technology / Volume 151 / Number 3 / September 2005 / Pages 334-340
Technical Note / Fission Reactors
This paper addresses the problems posed by running out of oil and gas supplies and the environmental problems that are due to greenhouse gases by suggesting the use of the energy available in the resource thorium, which is much more plentiful than the conventional nuclear fuel uranium. We propose the burning of this thorium dissolved as a fluoride in molten salt in the minimum viscosity mixture of LiF and BeF2 together with a small amount of 235U or plutonium fluoride to initiate the process to be located at least 10 m underground. The fission products could be stored at the same underground location. With graphite replacement or new cores and with the liquid fuel transferred to the new cores periodically, the power plant could operate for up to 200 yr with no transport of fissile material to the reactor or of wastes from the reactor during this period. Advantages that include utilization of an abundant fuel, inaccessibility of that fuel to terrorists or for diversion to weapons use, together with good economics and safety features such as an underground location will diminish public concerns. We call for the construction of a small prototype thorium-burning reactor.