The word alone would swathe a city and the world with fear. Through a guest speaker at the university, she became aware of Thor Energy’s planned thorium feasibility study and the opportunity to do the work as part of her master’s degree studies. In between her work and research activities, she has also become the mother of two. Thorium oxide fuels can therefore operate with lower internal pellet temperatures and exhibit less fission gas release than uranium fuels (including MOX). Ceramic thorium oxide has excellent properties as a waste-form in its own right even after irradiation. Types of Thorium Reactors. The test reactor in Halden is located in a large cavern inside a mountain. Professor Chris Rhodes became involved with environmental issues while working in Russia during the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Thor Energy is developing a nuclear fuel technology based on thorium as an alternative to uranium. Klara has been a Thor Energy employee since 2008 and has combined her professional career as VP Research and Development with her education and research activities. – I might have completed the first stage, but this is ongoing research and every answer we find, normally spurs a series of new questions to be answered, she says. However, there are a whole host of scientific and engineering challenges that need to be overcome, and even identified in the first place because nobody has ever built one of these reactors, and hence the plans are still only on the drawing board. The main prerequisites for this work are that normal, cylindrical oxide fuel pellets are used, supporting our view that this fuel should be deployable in operating LWRs with a comparatively small licensing effort. fuel temperatures and rod pressures. Therefore, be careful when you argue for or against thorium reactors. Thor Energy develops nuclear energy technology based on thorium. Thorium will absorb neutrons in a thermal reactor and its reactivity will increase as its 233U content grows. © 2020 Forbes Media LLC. In the long-term perspective, thorium fuels can provide avenues to improve the credentials for nuclear energy by: In the news: Maximizing the cycle length for the reactor-fuel system. A vital part of her work – and also the most exiting – has been the ongoing Thor Energy irradiation campaign in the OECD Halden research reactor, now in its third year. She got in touch with CEO Øystein Asphjell and her employment was a reality. Uranium-233 made from thorium is harder to conceal than plutonium, since it is always contaminated with uranium-232, a strong gamma-ray emitter, and accordingly quite easily detected “in a suitcase” than plutonium which is principally an alpha-particle emitter and far more readily hidden. Norway Begins Four Year Test Of Thorium Nuclear Reactor. MIKE MCRAE. However, it is a very big accelerator that will be needed to do the job, and the estimated costs for the project are about 500 million Euros. It is very difficult to explain the possible advantages and disadvantages. News: Thorium oxide would therefore serve as a good matrix for once-through fuel designed specifically to ‘burn’ plutonium. It is possible to design viable thorium-plutonium fuels for LWRs balancing intersecting issues of fuel reactivity, safety margins and reactor operability. It can be used in several sorts of reactors. It has been in operation since 1959 and has performed almost 800 test irradiations. Thorium Research Center in Norway The new government in Norway has announced a plan to establish a thorium research center. This is done by operating the fuel in a core environment with high neutron-moderation (a high hydrogen-to-heavy-metal ratio). The thorium crowd is adamant that thorium trumps uranium for nuclear safety and efficiency. Aiming to cut the time to market for Thorium Fuels A Norwegian company is breaking with convention and switching to an alternative energy it hopes will be safer, cleaner and more efficient. Thorium is weakly radioactive, has a high melting point, and is available with more abundance than uranium as an element. It was first discovered in 1829 by Morten Thrane Esmark, an amateur mineralogist from Norway. Thor Energy - which is leading the consortium carrying out the research - said this is the start of the third phase of a five-year trial-operation of thorium-based nuclear fuels. This means that Norway is sitting on the third largest thorium resource in the world, which again is the basis for Norwegian interest in thorium reactors. Nuclear reactors work by harnessing the energy released during nuclear fission, a chemical reaction in which a larger nucleus splits into two or three smaller nuclei, releasing a large amount of heat and neutrons. Chris has given numerous radio and televised interviews concerning environmental issues, in Europe and in the United States and published more than 400 research and popular science articles and two books, "Toxicology of the Human Environment" (Taylor and Francis, 2000) and "Radicals on Surfaces" (Kluwer, 1995), along with his first novel, "University Shambles"(Melrose Books, 2009). It was a traditional water cooled, solid fuel reactor. Norway holds a resource of 170,000 tonnes of thorium, which amounts to 15% of the world’s total of 1.2 million tonnes. Ceramic thorium oxide (ThO2) has excellent material properties for serving as a nuclear fuel. Thorium is not fissile – but fertile. Thorium-plutonium fuels have good long-term radio-toxicity credentials. The fuel test irradiation rig is assembled from over a thousand parts at IFE’s workshop in Halden. The objective here is to qualify thorium fuel for use in existing and future generations of light water reactors. There’s no such thing as Thorium reactors. There are several basic facts of … Through the hole in the 70 cm thick reactor lid one can see the hexagonal pattern of fuel assemblies where the thorium fuel test rig now resides. The four-year test at Norway's government owned Halden reactor could help thorium inch closer to replacing uranium as a possible safer and more effective nuclear power source. The immediate future doesn’t look optimistic for thorium, certainly with the untested accelerator-driven reactors, and yet two thorium reactors have been operated, which were of the far simpler molten-salt reactor kind. Thorium itself generates essentially no plutonium, and no minor actinides as it burns – unlike uranium fuel. To this end, the design and licensing of uranium-plutonium (MOX) fuels has “paved the way” for thorium-plutonium fuels since it is only the added plutonium component that makes MOX fuels different from simple enriched uranium fuels. This is achieved by operating the fuel in a reduced-moderation core environment (lower hydrogen-to-heavy-metal-ratio), resulting in higher production of, New generation thorium mixed oxide fuel pellets loaded into reactor for testing, Putin krever svar om uran-erstatteren (in Swedish), Aiming to cut the time to market for Thorium Fuels, Achieving more sustainable energy generation in which mined nuclear material is used more effectively. Thorium is a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder. As for uranium based reactors, the basic classification of thorium nuclear reactors is based upon the average energy of the neutrons which cause the bulk of the fissions in the reactor core.From this point of view nuclear reactors are divided into two categories:. Conferences with experts from as many as 32 countries are held, including one by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 2013, which focuses on thorium as an alternative nuclear t… There are sizeable quantities of uranium on the world market, although the price has recently soared. Thorium is a nuclear fuel. These engineers stand atop the test reactor in Halden, Norway, which is now burning thorium. Klara’s thesis was on necessary steps for a successful commercialization of thorium fuels as well as simulations of how various mixes of thorium fuel perform in the reactor. In order to create a reactive thorium fuel capable of producing energy, some form of fresh or recycled fissile material is needed as a ‘driver component’. The Unicorn is Thorium Breeder reactors that can use Thorium with 99% efficiency. According to the US Geological Survey, Norway has a thorium resource of 170,000 tonnes or about 15 percent of the worlds total resources of 1,200,000 tonnes. Four commercial thorium reactors were constructed, all of which failed. the sun, of which a working model is not expected for at least another 60 years. Thorium-MOX fuels can be designed according to two distinct objectives: Maximizing the utilization – and hence the incineration – of plutonium. The first thorium fuel specimens were loaded into the Norwegian fuel-testing reactor operated by the Institute for Energy Technology in Halden in April 2013, and the second round were loaded in December 2015. 25 AUGUST 2017. It is with great joy, we are able to congratulate our colleague, Klara Insulander Björk upon receiving her PhD from Chalmers University in Gothenburg having with flying colors defended her dissertation on “Thorium Fuels for Light Water Reactors – Steps towards commercialization” at the Department of Applied Physics in May (2015). Here she is (right) with Market Director Margaret McGrath, the Halden Research Reactor’s Project Manager. He studied chemistry at Sussex University, rising to become the youngest professor of physical chemistry in the U.K. at the age of 34. Klara’s thesis was on necessary steps for a successful commercialization of thorium fuels as well as simulations of how various mixes of thorium fuel perform in the reactor. It is possible to achieve net ‘breeding’ of 233U in thorium fuels in faster-spectrum variants of light water reactors (LWRs) and in heavy water reactors. Both open and closed thorium fueling options exhibit higher proliferation resistance than their corresponding uranium based cycles, as assessed by internationally recognized methodologies. Putin krever svar om uran-erstatteren (in Swedish) The U.S. tried for 50 years to create thorium reactors, without success. But how did she become interested in thorium in the first place? Scientists at the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) have been encouraged by the government to help research on an Indian thorium-based reactor, and on a test programme in Norway. No nuclear power plant has ever been established in Norway; however, the country has a legal framework for licensing the construction and operation of nuclear installations. The fuel test rig was lowered into the reactor core on April 25, 2013. But this isn’t about ditching fossil fuels, but rather about making the switch from uranium to thorium. There is some opinion that thorium nuclear power might be a better environmental/energy-strategy for Norway than relying on carbon-capture which many consider to be uneconomic. A number of countries (including the US, Russia, the UK, France and Japan) have entrenched firm investments in uranium based reactors, and will use them for as long as they can. Thorium is a silvery metal with radioactive properties that was discovered in 1828 by Jöns Jakob Berzelius (a Swedish chemist) and was named after Thor (the famous Norse god of thunder).. unmentionable, certainly in the tabloid press. Lookup Thor Energy. Thorium is very insoluble, which is why it is plentiful in sands but not in seawater, in contrast to uranium. I write about peak oil, the end of globalisation and future energies, EY & Citi On The Importance Of Resilience And Innovation, Impact 50: Investors Seeking Profit — And Pushing For Change, Michigan Economic Development Corporation With Forbes Insights, "University Shambles"(Melrose Books, 2009). Scientists at the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) have been encouraged by the government to help research on an Indian thorium-based reactor, and on a … The primary advantage of a thorium reactor is that it is extremely friendly to the environment. – It is essential to monitor and verify how the neutrons and the fuel material in general behave in the reactor, Klara explains, – such data has never been collected before for these particular fuel types and is vital in order to qualify the fuel for commercial application as well as to calibrate and update our simulation software, she says. Thorium Reactors – Advantages and Disadvantages. Norway holds a resource of 170,000 tonnes of thorium, which amounts to 15% of the world’s total of 1.2 million tonnes. However, the matter of thorium reactors is not straightforward. As thorium reactor testing continues in nations like Norway and India, and major investors like Bill Gates (whose company TerraPower has also begun testing thorium reactors) get involved, attention to the metal will only grow... Research on these reactors will lead to implementation, and that will lead to profits for the well-positioned investor. There is far more thorium than that within the earth’s crust all told, averaging 8 ppm compared with around 2.8 ppm for uranium, but the above figures refer to richer ores, most commonly monazite sand which contains up to 12% of thorium. Klara’s colleagues say she is very dedicated and preoccupied with a sustainable lifestyle. 26.14 Norway 696 26.14.1 Thorium discovery in Norway 696 26.14.2 “Thorium fever” 696 26.14.3 Telemark geology 697 ... 26.15.3 Thorium-based reactor and its fuel cycle 703 A team from the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) the Netherlands has built the first molten salt reactor powered by thorium in decades. Several instruments are located inside the fuel rods or are directly connected with the rod interior, measuring e.g. He studied chemistry at…. Professor Chris Rhodes became involved with environmental issues while working in Russia during the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Some of the following points can be valid for one reactor design and another point can be invalid for another thorium-based reactor. Thermal Reactors. Thorium cycles exclusively allow thermal breeder reactors (asopposed to fast breeders). Thus it might prove more expedient to invest in this at least tried technology, which could extend the useful lifetime of nuclear power by hundreds of years. There are various advantages cited for this type of reactor, including the claim that it can be stopped easily if things get out of hand, and that it produces less long-lived nuclear waste than the uranium-fuelled fission reactors that are currently in common use. To further characterize these advantages, fuel design work is underway. – It’s like laying the pieces in a gigantic puzzle. Thorium exists in nature in a single isotopic form – T… Is Thorium in Nuclear Energy’s Future? Research and development of thorium-based nuclear reactors, primarily the Liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR), MSR design, has been or is now being done in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, India, China, France, the Czech Republic, Japan, Russia, Canada, Israel, Denmark and the Netherlands. It may well turn out that thorium is the better nuclear fuel as compared with uranium, since it offers the advantages that: (1) it is present in around 3 times the abundance of uranium on Earth, overall, (2) it can be bred into the fissile nuclear fuel uranium-233, (3) far less plutonium and other transuranic elements are produced than is the case from uranium fuel, (4) the thorium fuel cycle might be used to consume plutonium, thus reducing the nuclear stockpile while converting it into useful electrical energy. Thorium-MOX proved to be a viable and in many respects advantageous option. – So far, we have found no showstoppers for thorium to be used in light water reactors, but then we didn’t expect to in the first place. (ADS, MSR, A-LWR, etc.). Thor Energy also has a “sister company”, REEtec AS, which is in the process of commercializing a new method for efficient separation of REE. Some of the suggestions include using molten lead as the coolant for the system, but the reactor would run at a temperature above 700 degrees C. when the material becomes corrosive. Thorium as an Energy Source - Opportunities for Norway Acknowledgements The Thorium committee was established in the beginning of 2007 with well known experts in the nuclear area from Norway, OECD/NEA, Sweden and Switzerland as committee members. – In high school I chose the natural science curriculum and got to be part of a group of genuine nerds. Modelling shows that the decay profiles for dose rates from thorium-plutonium spent fuels are essentially the same as those for uranium-based fuels, but there are fewer chemical pathways for thorium fuels to be dissolved – especially in oxidizing environments. This implies that thorium oxide fuels should be able to operate safely to high burn-ups. Moving on to the university, the natural thing for me was to study physics, she says. No one should forget that we need to make our energy provisions against a backdrop of 10 – 20 years at best, as oil and then gas begin to run short (the “Oil Dearth Era”). Both rigs were intended to verify test results and are considered a further step towards commercializing thorium as a supplement fuel in conventional nuclear reactors. As of 2019, Norway's now only remaining nuclear reactor left in operation, the Jeep II reactor at Kjeller, is shut down after more than 50 years of service. Also, four research reactors have been built in Norway, the first was JEEP I which was operative from 1951 to 1966. ThO2 has a higher thermal conductivity and a higher melting point than uranium oxide and it is better able to retain fission products within its crystal lattice. A prototype reactor will power a paper mill in the town of Halden, Norway for the next five years. The irradiation of two fuel pins containing thorium-plutonium oxide pellets is under way at the Halden research reactor in Norway. The reason is that converting thorium-232 to uranium-233 is a form of “breeder” technology meaning that practically 100% of the thorium can be processed ultimately into nuclear fuel, rather than just the 0.7% uranium-235 isotope that exists in naturally occurring uranium, and which requires enrichment before it can be used. Flibe Energy with its Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) concept, is one of the three companies that was today awarded a GAIN Nuclear Energy (NE) Voucher to accelerate the innovation and application of … Thorium reactors are amongst those being suggested at this time. Hence presumably reprocessing is involved in the final stage, since if the protactinium-233 is left in the reactor it will be at least partly converted to protactinium-234, which is not a useful fissile material. It is found in small amounts in most rocks and soils, where it is about three times more abundant than uranium. In preparation for the manufacture of Th-MOX pellets, these (Th,Ce)O2 pellets were manufactured at IFE’s labs at Kjeller outside Oslo. More neutrons are released per neutronabsorbed in the fuel in a traditional (thermal) type of reactor Many of the parts are unique to this specific rig and are manufactured on site in Halden with extremely high precision. There is no doubt that we will see a rise in nuclear power and for a number of reasons – cutting CO2 emissions, and securing energy supplies. Thor Energy has undertaken a number of studies aiming to compare thorium-plutonium oxide fuel (Thorium-MOX) with other fuel types, uranium- and thorium-based. As the fuel operates, thorium is transmuted to uranium-233 which is an excellent fissile material that then yields energy in the fuel. Now we should embark on the challenge to make a conservative industry think of thorium as a viable supplement and alternative to uranium, she says. The openings through the test rig top plug enables on-line transmission of data from many sensors located inside the irradiation rig. Thus, a thorium-plutonium fuel will achieve much greater net plutonium consumption than a regular MOX fuel (which makes new plutonium as it burns). We had altogether 6 one day meetings in Oslo and some of the meetings continued into the following day. Thorium-plutonium fuel can be designed with a priority to maximise plutonium consumption – by maximizing the extent to which neutrons are moderated in the reactor. I maintain my reservations about how long other resources, e.g. We do not want to back a loser now, as it is a one-off bet with the future of civilization resting on the outcome of this particular race. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Employing fuels that generate less problematic waste streams, and that can also transmute (destroy) actinide components in current-generation thermal reactor systems. The primary goal of the HTR fuel development programme at STL is to produce fuel spheres containing thorium and uranium for irradiation testing in the short term, as well as thorium and plutonium in the long term. This is not because commercial production of energy based on thorium is needed in Norway. What is Thorium? Thor Energy’s largest shareholder is Thor Corporation. It was verified to produce more U233 than it consumed (breeding). Soil contains an average of around 6 parts per million (ppm) of thorium. A Dutch energy company has just embarked on a series of experiments testing the use of molten thorium salts in producing power from nuclear fission, the first of their kind since the early 1970s. The latter are reminiscent in scale to the putative nuclear-fusion reactors, said to mimic processes in stars, e.g. A vital part of her work – and also the most exiting – has been the ongoing Thor Energy irradiation campaign in the OECD Halden research reactor, now in its third year. This draws on the possibility for high conversion and eventually breeding of fissile. So there is enough to be found out about thorium to occupy me for the rest of my career, Klara concludes. Before we go around throwing accusations at early nuclear scientists for using uranium instead of thorium, let’s take a quick look at how nuclear reactors operate. Professor Egil Lillestol of Bergen University has been pushing thorium for some years now, and thinks that Norway should set the trend in building a prototype accelerator-driven reactor in which a massive particle accelerator converts thorium-232 to uranium-233 by irradiating it with slow (spallation) neutrons generated by the impact of a 1.6 GeV proton beam on a lead target. And because of the complexity of problems listed below, thorium reactors are far more expensive than uranium fueled reactors. Thorium fuel cycles are highly resistant to nuclear proliferative actions. I have always been interested in how things work and how they are built up, probably inspired by my father who is an engineer, Klara explains. It is highly insoluble, it is non-oxidizable and it retains both fission products and actinides extremely well within its lattice. The First Thorium Salt Reactors in Over 40 Years Were Just Switched on in Europe. Her Master’s degree – one of the best in Sweden that year – was part of Thor Energy’s comprehensive thorium feasibility study completed in 2008. This holding company also owns stakes in another company related to thorium fuels, Fen Minerals which has extensive muting rights in the Fen complex which contains large deposits of thorium and rare earth elements. There are serious issues of terrorism – dirty bombs at the very least, if not an out and out A-bomb detonation involving plutonium. At a test site in Norway, Thor Energy has successfully created a thorium nuclear reactor — but not in the sense that most people think of when they hear … The Halden reactor in the Sweden/Norway border is currently running irradiation experiments on several Thorium fuel formulations. The heat energy released during fission is utilized to evap… Possible Advantages It's still early days, but the use to thorium as an alternative to uranium could provide a cleaner, safer … We have developed an advanced thorium based oxide fuel, and we have established a consortium that finances and ensures the implementation of a five year irradiation project. All Rights Reserved, This is a BETA experience. Later she developed the interest for new applications of nuclear physics, energy systems and more efficient resource utilization. Nick Touran Ph.D.is the deputy Manager of design at TerraPower, LLC a groundbreaking Nuclear Power outfit started by Bill Gates. New generation thorium mixed oxide fuel pellets loaded into reactor for testing, Thor Energy strengthens collaboration with Cambridge University, Second round of thorium test irradiation is underway. In the late 1960s, a team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory designed a Molten Salt Breeder Reactor fueled by thorium and uranium dissolved in fluoride salts, but it could only breed uranium 233 by continuously removing impurities—including protactinium 233—from the reactor core. Nonetheless, there is likely to be resistance to the research and development of a brand-new technology based on thorium, in view of huge costs that will effectively be borne by the Norwegian taxpayer if they go it alone down this unlit path. You may opt-out by. I developed an existential attitude towards physics, defining the meaning of life as to finding out how the world fundamentally works – the atomic nucleus part of it. A plan to establish a thorium research Center, in contrast to uranium advantages and Disadvantages fueled reactors design another... Is a BETA experience swathe a city and the world Market, although the has... 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