Thorium Reactors vs. Uranium Reactors

ThoriumReactors vs. Uranium Reactors

ThoriumReactors vs. Uranium Reactors

Thoriumand Uranium are known to represent the heaviest naturally availableelements on the planet earth. Uranium and Thorium reactors usedissimilar fission reactions, which imply that they generatedissimilar products and display different properties. The Uraniumreactors use the U-235 (Uranium-235) as the fissile fuel togetherwith plutonium-239 formed from uranium-238. However, in thoriumreactors, thorium-232 is converted to thorium-233 upon absorbing aneutron, and the unstable isotope decays into what is regarded asprotactinium-233, and then very fast into uranium-233 regarded as thefissile fuel. The production of the fissile fuel from thenon-fissile however fertile fuel is known as breeding. Therefore, thethorium reactor is known to be a breeder reactor type having similarinstability risk as those of uranium-based breeder reactors.Nonetheless, the fission of U-233 does not produce sufficientneutrons to continue the reaction. Therefore, additional neutronsneed to be included into the reactor to ensure that the reactioncontinues. Equally, distinct to the uranium reactor, there is noplutonium generated in the thorium reactor, and in the event thatplutonium is included in the reaction, the process breaks downthereby becoming a source of neutron for the reaction (Sorochan,2015). .

Severalpros for thorium reactors over the uranium reactors have beensuggested. First thorium is regarded as three times abundant innature compared to uranium. The thorium based reactors are thus takenas safer owing to the reason that the reaction involving this isotopecan be stopped and thorium operation does not happen under extremepressures. As opposed to uranium, the thorium reactors generate fareless waste and the generated waste is also increasingly lessradioactive and short lived.

Inthorium reactors, several quantities of other fuels can be addedwithout the possibility of the fuel sustaining a chain of reactions.This implies that the reactor can be used to generate energy fromdisposing off the materials, like plutonium produced from thedisassembled nuclear weapons.

Theother advantage of thorium reactors over uranium is that theygenerate more energy from a similar quality of material compared touranium. For instance, uranium weighing two hundred tones cangenerate a similar energy amount that one can get from a single toneof thorium. From the point of mining and purification, the pros ofThorium over uranium are evident. All except a trace of the naturallyavailable thorium is useful in the nuclear reactors. This is contraryto uranium where about 3 to 5% are the ones available in the formthey are required (Micks, 2012).

Apartfrom the merits that thorium reactors display over uranium reactors,the isotope also displays a number of disadvantages. These includethe concerns such as the nuclear handlers having no much experiencedealing with Thorium, Thorium fuel is slightly hard to make asopposed to that of uranium, the isotope does not work efficiently asU-Pu in a fast reactor, and irradiated Thorium is an increasinglydangerous radioactive over a short span.

Inconclusion, Thorium reactors remains the optimistic hype because theyare safer compared to uranium, generate less or limited hazardouswaste, it is easier to find its fuel, and very difficult to use forthe proliferation of nuclear. It is however important that all thepros and cons of thorium be examined prior to using the technology(Hadhazy, 2014).

References

Hadhazy,A. (2014). Why Aren`t We Using Thorium in Nuclear Reactors?.Retrieved from http://discovermagazine.com/2014/june/3-ask-discoverMicks,A. (2012). Thorium Reactors: An Improvement Over Uranium?Retrievedfrom http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2013/ph241/micks2/

Sorochan,W.(2015).Thorium-thealternative to nuclear uranium energy.Retrieved from http://www.freegrab.net/thorium%20vs%20uranium.htm