Thorium is a great alternative energy source


By Chris Dertz

Crisis begets change. At least, that’s the way it should be.

With last month’s horrible tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan, it should be evident, now more than ever, that there needs to be a shift in the status quo of global energy policy.

The instability of nuclear power is being demonstrated at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. According to CNN, the radiation levels in seawater near the plant are 1,850 times higher than normal. Uranium is a volatile, dangerous energy source. What if there was a material that could yield higher energy levels than uranium, and it was cheap, safe and clean?

There is. It’s called thorium, and it’s everywhere.

An Aug. 29, 2010 column in The Telegraph details the mind-blowing advantages of utilizing thorium as a primary energy source. It acts as an “eco-cleaner” by burning residue left over by normal uranium reactors and has a much higher neutron yield.

According to Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia, one ton of thorium produces the same amount of energy as 200 tons of uranium or 3.5 million tons of coal. Once again, that’s 200 times the neutron-yield potential of uranium.

According to The Telegraph, the material could wean the U.S., and possibly the world, completely off of fossil fuels in five years if it was fully endorsed. All it would take is for President Barack Obama to have the willpower to spur a monumental shift in America’s energy mentality.

I’m a lifelong skeptic; nobody can realistically believe that if the government signed off on an initiative to convert 100 percent of the nation’s nuclear plants to utilize thorium power, it would actually end our dependence on fossil fuels in even 10 years.

But the foundation needs to be laid, and it needs to be laid now. We knew the transition toward renewable energy sources would be slow; traditional fossil fuels are just too embedded in, and important to, our culture and day-to-day needs.

We’re only just beginning to tap the potential of solar power, and our nation’s largest automobile manufacturers are starting to (probably reluctantly) release primarily electric-powered cars. But the institutions that can harbor this change need to see that there is a real, tangible demand for it.

Outspoken people can complain endlessly about the energy crisis, but like it or not, there needs to be a sweeping movement of people actively communicating the need for new energy sources to the forces that can facilitate a transition toward them. Horrible name aside, hopefully someone buys the Chevy Jolt.

Thorium power can be the lynchpin – the catalyst – for the massive shift in culture that is needed to sustain the frenetic pace at which the world is moving.

A passage from the column in The Telegraph reads as follows: “Thorium is so common that miners treat it as a nuisance, a radioactive by-product if they try to dig up rare earth metals. The U.S. and Australia are full of the stuff.”

If your leftover cardboard boxes, gum wrappers and crumpled up pieces of paper in the corner of your bedroom could buy you groceries, wouldn’t you take advantage of it?

If the utilization of thorium seems obvious, it’s because it is.