Thorium as a Source of Energy


Friday, April 20, 2018

Whether one leans left or right, they are bound to notice the rising cost of gasoline at the pump. Some believe it is because the world is running out of fossil fuels, whilst others conclude that the methods needed to extract gas are only becoming more expensive. What cannot be denied is that alternative forms of energy are being pursued vigilantly, and with bipartisan support.

As Germany has learned the hard way, wind and solar power are too unpredictable, inefficient, and ineffective for a nation to structure their energy production on at this time. In the United States, both the left and the right seemingly want to find cheaper alternatives to the ever increasing prices that are plaguing the fossil fuel industry today.

Nuclear energy has been seen as an option, but there is a lack of complete support because of the risks that traditional reactors have posed in the past; namely Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima, and the threat of a terror organization obtaining nuclear material. Enter thorium.

Thorium is a radioactive element with an atomic number of 90. It contains 232 neutrons, but it’s very different from the other main sources of nuclear energy, which are plutonium and uranium. Thorium is defined as fertile, which in terms of nuclear material means that it is unable to undergo fission unless a neutron is supplied by a fissile element.

Democrats yearn for environmental safety when it comes to energy, and thorium provides that. Due to thorium’s fertility, it becomes a much safer material for commercial use because it can be separated from its neutron donor, to potentially prevent a meltdown. It also becomes much harder to weaponize because of its fertile state, although there has been concern about the potential plutonium by-product it can create.

Republicans believe in energy sources that are cheap, reliable, and proven to work. Thorium fits the bill almost perfectly. Thorium is also readily available in the United States, with the potential of hundreds of thousands of tons that could be harvested if need be. There are already five proven models of reactors that can harness thorium, as well as two reactors in the conceptual stage. Research and development of thorium reactors are actively being pursued by countries around the world, namely India and China, so there is already a base of knowledge in the international community.

Thorium isn’t without its problems, however. Its need of a donor neutron could be seen as a fault, as another radioactive element would need to be present to begin the energy creation process. Another fault is that, at least for the time being, thorium isn’t as efficient as it’s counterparts. A case could be made that the abundance of thorium outweighs the negatives.

With the passing of H.R. 1625 on March 23rd, $1.2 billion has been allocated toward the use of nuclear energy. That money could be used to promote an energy source that should have bipartisan support, as well as continue to show that the U.S. is a world leader in innovative technologies.

Matthew Mailloux of the American Conservation Coalition said that, “Thorium offers great potential as a new source of carbon-free energy. As conservatives, we should always support new innovation and allow all forms of energy to compete in the marketplace. Rather than picking winners and losers, all forms of energy should be on a level playing field—without undue government subsidies. Rather than relying on more government regulation, supporting an “all-of-the-above” energy approach is the most effective way to diversify America’s energy portfolio and retain our place as the global leader in energy production.”

In a time where the political sphere is so divided, both parties could come to support an initiative to secure American energy independence for decades to come.

Joseph Chalfant is the President of Lone Conservative. He is a political science major at Texas State University and plans to attend law school to study constitutional law after graduation.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Joseph Chalfant

Texas State University

Joseph Chalfant is the President of Lone Conservative. He is a political science major at Texas State University and plans to attend law school to study constitutional law after graduation.

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