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Is Thorium-Based Nuclear Energy a Viable Solution?

Thorium-Based Nuclear EnergyThe 2021-2022 global energy crisis is the most recent in a series of energy shortages in the last 50 years. However, because of the rise in gas prices along with the strain on the world oil supply caused by the Russia-Ukraine War, impoverished countries reliant on oil and gas as their primary sources of energy are affected by this crisis much more. Now more than ever, the importance of alternative energy sources, such as thorium-based nuclear energy, is evident as countries reliant on the now strangled supply of oil and gas face struggles.

What is Causing Increased Energy Prices?

The primary source of energy in the world is usually a type of fossil fuel such as oil, natural gas and coal.

However, as a result of the current global energy crisis, every form of fossil fuel has rocketed in price. Due to the sudden hike in prices, some countries could find it difficult to afford their required quantities of fossil fuels. As such, countries could be unable to obtain enough energy-producing resources.

What is Thorium?

Thorium is a naturally occurring, slightly radioactive element that can be used to derive nuclear energy. It is also far less radioactive than uranium.

Thorium does not contain fissile material and therefore it is far safer than uranium. It can be immediately switched off in the case of a disaster, preventing a meltdown, while the latter will continue to produce energy during a disaster, causing a meltdown to occur.

Along with being safer, thorium is cheaper and more plentiful compared to uranium as well. This is partly because the concentration of uranium within the earth’s crust is far less abundant than thorium, making uranium much rarer. This could make thorium-based nuclear energy a much more affordable option.

How Thorium Can Help Energy Shortages?

While the initial cost of mining thorium and constructing power plants would be costly, it is an investment that could pay off in the long run. Thorium is extremely efficient when compared to the most commonly used sources of energy in the developing world. For instance, a ton of thorium is equivalent to around 3.5 million tons of coal.

Even when compared to other nuclear resources, thorium still holds out as superior to uranium, to which thorium is around 200 times as efficient.

Throughout history, energy sustainability has been one of the forefront issues when dealing with fossil fuels. This is especially true in developing nations, as many rely on coal as their main source of energy.

However, due to recent developments in nuclear technology, thorium-based nuclear energy puts humanity a step forward in achieving energy sustainability. The use of thorium could possibly eliminate one of the biggest problems faced by those in poverty, being a reliable source of energy that does not cause frequent power outages while being able to readily supply heat.

Hope for the Future

Energy crises are complex and even life-threatening disasters. In developed countries like the U.S., reserved power and backup sources of deriving energy encourage recovery. However, even with these resources, truly getting out of an energy crisis could take years; if unsuccessful, many could lose their jobs/livelihoods along with losing their comfortable standards of living.

In developing countries, years easily turn into lifetime struggles with a crisis that could prevent much of their population from advancing out of poverty. Fortunately, many countries in the developing world are realizing the potential of nuclear power and are funding programs to provide its energy to their citizens.

For example, in 2021, Nigeria established the Russian-Nigerian Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) which plans to build the largest nuclear power plant in Africa by the end of the decade.

In 2018, Bangladesh’s signed into law the funding for a second VVER-1200 nuclear power plant, one of the most efficient in the world.

While thorium-based nuclear energy may not be the perfect solution to the energy problem, it certainly could be a good start in helping those in poverty live a life without energy instability.

– Humzah Ahmad
Photo: Flickr