Thorium Article in Machine Design

Several years ago I had the opportunity to write an article for Machine Design magazine. Last year I was contacted again and offered another opportunity to write an article for them. They had had success with a series where questions were often asked were answered by experts. The question that they had often been asked by their readers was

What’s the Difference Between Thorium and Uranium Nuclear Reactors?

and the article was my attempt to answer that question as simply and succinctly as possible, but no simpler that that. For those interested in the much longer answer, consider reading my MS thesis from the University of Tennessee.

One thought on “Thorium Article in Machine Design

  1. A reactor using uranium fuel is based on the fission of the isotope 235 (with a very low content around 0.7% in Unatural) and 233 (which is not naturally available). The isotope 235 (or 233) absorbing a neutron has a high probability to split producing two or three fragment, between 2 and 3 neutrons and 200 MeV /fission. A condition that provide the Leo Szilard chain reaction in the Enrico Fermi-Eugen Wigner first ¨pile¨. Some neutrons interact with 238U; which by decay process, produce plutonium-239. That similarly to the uranium 235 (or 233) under neutron excitation will split. Plutonium make bomb. An 1000 MWe power plant produces/year 230kg of plutonium.
    A reactor employing thorium as fertile fuel, needs a neutron and two beta decay transition to produce 233U. An excellent fuel ( and Uranium 232 highly radioactive that make the fuel highly anti-proliferation); more, burn-out fuel, decay to natural level in around 400 years in opposition to U-Pu cycle being almost a million years.

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