Thorium and the Future of Nuclear Energy

Astronomy
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Energy too cheap to meter – that was the promise of nuclear power in the 1950s, at least according to Lewis Strauss chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. That promise has not come to pass – but with some incredible new technologies, perhaps it still could. The question is – should it?

Hosted by Matt O’Dowd
Written by Matt O’Dowd
Graphics by Leonardo Scholzer
Directed by Andrew Kornhaber
Produced By: Kornhaber Brown

If we want to convert mass into energy, fission gives the most bang for our buck. Unfortunately that “bang” can be literal. Use of nuclear energy may risk the proliferation of nuclear weaponry, and there’s also the problem of nuclear waste, and the specter of horrible accidents. This last one was painted in terrifying detail in the recent dramatization of the Chernobyl disaster. Nuclear reactors sound scary because the disasters are pretty epic. However the reality is that far, far more people die from straight up air pollution due to coal-fired power plants than ever died in a nuclear reactor accident. In fact the radioactivity around coal-fired plants is also higher due to the trace but completely uncontained radioactive products of coal burning.

But the most compelling attraction is that nuclear power doesn’t directly produce carbon emissions. In fact nuclear power may be our most sure path to reducing carbon emissions and halting climate change. But can we do nuclear power safely enough? There are modern ideas – including the much-hyped thorium reactor – that suggest maybe we can. Before we can understand those we’ll need to review how nuclear reactors work.

Big Bang Supporters:

Anton Lifshits
David Nicklas
Fabrice Eap
Juan Benet
Justin Lloyd
Morgan Hough

Quasar Supporters:

Mark Heising
Mark Rosenthal
Tambe Barsbay
Vinnie Falco

Hypernova Supporters:
Chuck Zegar
Danton Spivey
Donal Botkin
Edmund Fokschaner
Hank S
John Hofmann
John R. Slavik
Jordan Young
Joseph Salomone
kkm
Mark Heising
Matthew
Matthew O’Connor
Syed Ansar

Gamma Ray Burst Supporters:

Adrien Hatch
Alexey Eromenko
Andreas Nautsch
Bradley Jenkins
Brandon Labonte
Carlo Mogavero
Daniel Lyons
David Behtala
DFaulk
Dustan Jones
Geoffrey Short
James Flowers
James Quintero
John Funai
John Pollock
Jonah
Jonathan Nesfeder
Joseph Dillman
Joseph Emison
Josh Thomas
Kevin Warne
Kyle Hofer
Malte Ubl
Mark Vasile
Nathan Hitchings
Nick Virtue
Paul Rose
Ryan Jones
Scott Gossett
Sigurd Ruud Frivik
Tim Jones
Tim Stephani
Tommy Mogensen
Yurii Konovaliuk
سلطان الخليفي

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