It might sound like the kind of material used as a plot device in a comic book blockbuster, but it could solve the fuel crisis in the real world.
Chemical element thorium is being hailed as the key in the bid to find safer and more sustainable sources of nuclear energy to provide our electricity. And just like in a Hollywood movie, the race is on to be the first to fully harness that power.
Named after Norse god (and Marvel comic book hero) Thor by the Swedish chemist who identified it in 1828, thorium has taken almost 200 years to be taken seriously as an energy contender.
After a period in the 1950s and 1960s in which it flirted with thorium, the US government shut down its research into the radioactive element, preferring to go the uranium route. Critics say thorium was pushed aside because uranium was an easier component for nuclear weapons. But times have changed, and thorium’s status as a safer alternative to uranium is now a help, not the hindrance it was during the Cold War.
India, which has hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the metal amid its terrain, has announced plans to build a thorium-based nuclear reactor by 2016.
But it faces competition from China, where the schedule to deliver a thorium-based nuclear power plant was recently overhauled, meaning scientists in Shanghai have been told to deliver such a facility within the next ten years.
While thorium nuclear exploration is not new – Britain had its own reactor in Dorset carrying out tests 40 years ago – the will to make it a viable energy source is growing stronger.
Professor Roger Barlow from the University of Huddersfield is part of a team researching thorium power generation.
‘Thorium is an alternative to uranium as a way of doing nuclear fission,’ he told Metro. He said thorium is safer because an overheating thorium reactor can be simply switched off, avoiding the problem that occurred at Fukushima, for instance.
Thorium also produces less radioactive waste than uranium, waste which needs to be secured for hundreds rather than tens of thousands of years. He added that it is extremely difficult to weaponise.
Winfrith opens reactor containment for first time
The removal of a 50-tonne concrete and steel plug has allowed access to the containment of the UK’s prototype steam generating heavy water reactor (SGHWR) for the first time since it was built in the 1960s.
The plug covered an access point used to install large plant items inside the reactor’s concrete containment shell during the plant’s construction. On completion of the installation, the access point was sealed with the reinforced concrete and steel slab which was then secured to the containment itself.
The project to decommission the reactor, which began in 1991, has now reached the stage where those large items of plant can be removed from the primary containment necessitating the removal of the plug for the first time. Some essential equipment and walkways had to be repositioned or removed to allow the plug to be extracted. After removing the securing bolts, trial lifts were carried out using a weight sensor to ensure that plant and equipment would not be overloaded.
The plug was successfully lifted clear of the containment and placed into storage, and has been replaced with a horizontal roller shutter door to seal the access point and act as a fire barrier. Work has now begun to remove the equipment from inside the primary containment.
The 100 MWe SGHWR is one of two reactors still undergoing decommissioning at the Winfrith nuclear research site in Dorset. Operating from 1968 until 1990, the prototype reactor supplied electricity to the grid as well as performing its prime function of supporting research into water-cooled reactor technology. Site licence company Research Sites Restoration Ltd recently announced a tender for a £40-60 million ($66-100 million) project to design, test and build specialist equipment to remove the remaining core components from the SGHWR.
Source: World Nuclear News
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China media: Nuclear summit
State media urge China to play its “characteristic role” in nuclear safety as a global summit opens in The Hague.
World leaders – including Chinese President Xi Jinping – have gathered in The Hague for the latest summit in a series devoted to improving the security of nuclear stockpiles around the world.
“China is weaker than the US and Russia in terms of nuclear capability, the international community have doubts over the transparency level too, so such a multilateral occasion is good for China to further explain its nuclear policies and the understanding on nuclear safety,” says theSouthern Metropolis Daily.
A commentary in the Economic Daily says that China has been abiding by international regulations on nuclear safety.
“China has shown the world that it is a responsible big nation, winning praise from the international community,” it comments.
Chen Kai, a military expert, tells the Beijing News that there is a lack of nuclear safety mechanisms around the world and Beijing needs to play its role in strengthening international co-operation.
Guo Xia, chief of China Economic Research Institute, adds that Mr Xi’s attendance at the summit shows that China is serious about nuclear safety.
“China will be concerned about how to prevent terrorists from using nuclear material to carry out terrorist acts,” he says.
Papers are also discussing the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Nuclear Security Summit.
The China Youth Daily notes that Mr Putin is not attending the summit, while Ukraine’s interim Premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk will be present.
The paper predicts that the Ukraine crisis and Mr Putin’s absence may overshadow the real issues of the summit.
‘Charming Chinese leader’
Meanwhile, media are analysing China-Europe relations as Mr Xi begins his first trip to the continent as leader.
The Oriental Morning Post says the trip is “delicately designed” to include the “big and small countries, bilateral and multilateral talks”, showing that China’s new leadership understands the need to “rediscover Europe and strengthen strategic partnership” with the continent.
“The EU is undergoing a difficult transformative period, China is facing a more complex and sensitive Europe. This is a new challenge for the China-Europe relationship,” it says.
On a more optimistic tone, an article in the China Information Internet Centre website says that “China’s dreams and Europe’s dreams will turn the dreams of the world into reality”.
“As two major forces, China-Europe co-operation will make the world a safer place… As two major markets, China-Europe co-operation will make the world more prosperous… As two major civilisation, China-Europe co-operation will make the world more diverse,” it adds.
The Dahe Net, a government news portal, concludes that Mr Xi has presented himself as a “charming Chinese leader” who is “confident, frank, flexible and pragmatic”.
“The trip… has also presented a big emerging market which is vibrant, open and inclusive as well as one with international influence”.
However, the Chinese edition of the Global Times points out that it is essential to have a better understanding of Europe “to see clearly if it is a cat or a tiger”.
Media are also commenting on Mr and Mrs Xi’s traditional costumes which they put on to attend dinner with the Dutch King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima.
“Wearing Chinese-style costume in such an important diplomatic occasion is not only a boost to ethnic fashion, but it will also showcase the traditional arts and culture of China to the world,” Qu Tingnan, a fashion designer tells the Southern Metropolis Daily.
And finally, Taiwanese police used water cannon and dragged out students who had been occupying the government headquarters to protest against a trade deal with China.
The protesters say the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement, which would allow the two sides to invest more freely in each other’s services markets, would hurt Taiwan’s economy and leave it vulnerable to pressure from Beijing.
Describing the students as “lacking ambition in regional economic integration”, the Global Times Chinese edition says that the student movement “will not hurt the interest of mainland China”.
“Public opinion in the mainland is not concerned about the final fate of the pact, most are more interested in knowing if the political mechanism in Taiwan has become problematic, that is why a trade agreement could turn into a ‘colour revolution’,” it says.
Colour revolution is a term used to describe various resistance movements that developed in several societies in the former Soviet Union and the Balkans.
Source: BBC News
It revealed global water withdrawals for energy production in 2010 were estimated at 583 billion cubic metres (bcm), out of which water usage – that was withdrawn but not returned to its source – was 66bcm or around 11%.
Water is critical for electricity generation as well as the extraction, transport and processing of fossil fuels and the irrigation of crops that go into biofuels. Water shortages in India and the US, among other countries, have however limited energy output in the last two years while the “heavy use of water in unconventional oil and gas production has generated considerable public concern”, the IEA said.
Its report looked at three difference scenarios – the New Policies Scenario, the Current Policies Scenario and the 450 Scenario.
Global water withdrawals for energy production reach 690bcm in 2035 in the New Policies Scenario, with growth slowing after 2020. Withdrawals in the Current Policies Scenario – which assumes no change in existing energy-related policies – continue to rise throughout the projection period, climbing to 790bcm in 2035.
Read more here http://www.energylivenews.com/2014/03/18/energy-sector-accounts-for-15-of-global-water-use/?utm_source=feedly&utm_reader=feedly&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=energy-sector-accounts-for-15-of-global-water-use
Source: Energy Live News