Why is uranium-233 so precious? Because in a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor, U-233 represents essentially unlimited energy. How can that be so? Because in a LFTR, U-233 “catalyses” the consumption of thorium, which is natural and abundant. Every kilogram of U-233 represents roughly a megawatt of power in a LFTR–forever.
This might sound like some kind of “perpetual motion” machine, but it’s very much grounded in nuclear reality. U-233 is what thorium turns into when exposed to neutrons. U-233 is fissile, thorium is not. But thorium can capture the neutrons from fissioned U-233 and then replace the U-233 consumed.
So a LFTR, started on U-233, will burn through its original “start charge” fairly quickly, but will continue to form new U-233 at the same rate it’s consumed. So after 1, 10, or 100 years, the same amount of U-233 is there as was there when the reactor got started.
Here’s some images describing the inventory of U-233 that the DOE currently has at Oak Ridge National Lab.
One kilo of U-233 in a LFTR for 10 years: ten megawatt*years (87,600,000 kilowatt*hours)
One kilo of U-233 in a LFTR for 100 years: 100 megawatt*years (876,000,000 kilowatt*hours)
The longer you use U-233, the more it’s worth. Let’s say electricity sells for a nickel per kW*hr.
One kilo, one year: half a million dollars.
One kilo, ten years: 5 million dollars.
One kilo, one hundred years: 50 million dollars.
But the DOE is determined to destroy this precious resource (and we have about 1000 kg of U-233) by mixing it with U-238 and making it worthless for future use. What’s worse, they’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make this precious resource into waste!
Why are we sabotaging our future by destroying U-233?
Call your congressman (especially if you live in Tennessee) and beg them to intervene!