Most Helpful First | Newest First
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone interested in the future of energy,
This review is from: SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future (Macmillan Science) (Hardcover)In June 2012, I was present up at Cambridge University's Engineering Dept to hear thorium evangelist Rick Martin talking about his new book, Super Fuel, subtitled Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future.
For those of you not familiar with the buzz about thorium, it's an alternative to using uranium as a fuel for nuclear reactors. It's abundant, it's much easier to manage and the waste and proliferation issues are greatly reduced (though not eliminated). I could go on, but you'd do better to look at the book.
What's just as interesting to me is that thorium has evangelists, of which Martin is certainly one. Evangelists like Apple used to have evangelists? Yes, not so very different. But why would anyone evangelise nuclear power? Well, just as Apple was once a David pitching itself against Microsoft's Goliath, so thorium is very much a minnow when pitched against mainstream nuclear power. It's not just the fuel, it's how you use it and the buzz is all around liquid fluoride thorium reactors, known in thorium circles as Lifters, which don't need pressurising and have in-built passive protection against meltdowns.
This is not new technology. A Lifter was built and run for a while at the Oak Ridge Labs in the USA in the 1970s by Alvin Weinberg, the godfather of the thorium brigade. It worked fine but it got closed down because the USA decided that uranium reactors suited them better (at least in part because they could be used to produce enriched uranium for bombs). Since then very little has happened until very recently; the Chinese are now building a couple of lifters, and India is also starting to use thorium though as a solid fuel, not a liquid.
In the West, it's mostly down to the evangelists, notably Kirk Sorensen in the USA - you can watch his TED talk, it's only 10 minutes and, boy, does he sound like Steve Jobs. Rick Martin seems to be his John the Baptist, not as technical but just as keen. Sorenson's and Martin's enthusiasm is infectious because, due to them, we know have our very own British evangelist, Bryony Worthington, who just happens to have a seat in the House of Lords. Worthington started out as an anti-nuclear campaigner at Friends of the Earth but re-assessed her views after coming into contact with Kirk Sorensen and finding out about thorium. There is also a Weinberg Foundation dedicated to spreading the thorium message.
I'm afraid I'm a sucker for all this. I don't know enough about nuclear physics to judge whether thorium is quite as wonderful as the evangelists make out, but there is such a buzz about it that it's hard not to get excited about the possibilities, especially as I feel so bleak about so many of the other options facing us. Hell, thorium even has its own skeptic, Arjun Makhjani, who makes nit-picking points about why it might not be such a great idea. Somehow, having a tame skeptic makes it all the more believable.
Martin made the telling point that nuclear R&D pretty much ground to a halt after Weinberg was sacked from his job by Nixon in 1973. Then, after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979,R&D just froze up. Nuclear power went right out of fashion and no young grad student worth their salt ever considered dedicating their life to nuclear research. Renewables were just so much more fashionable. But now it's changed. Martin said the current situation reminds him of Silicon Valley c 1980 when there was IBM, who were everything in computing, and all these little start-ups with very different visions of what might happen.
This tacitly acknowledges that thorium lifters are not the only nuclear game changers in town and that there are other vision of where we could go with nuclear slowly gathering momentum, notably the travelling wave reactors which are being backed by Bill Gates. There are other designs too - known generically as 4th Generation Reactors. And let's not ignore the 10 billion being spent on the experimental Iter fusion reactor in France.
After decades in a semi-moribund state, nuclear research has once again come alive, promising solutions to many of the age-old issues that have dogged the industry. But to date it's only thorium and its lifters that seems to get evangelists excited. It's hard to know quite why this is but I feel that in large part it's because of the back story of how the initial research was shelved and forgotten and how it's been unearthed by an unlikely, non-establishment hero. There is a touch of the fairy tale here, a touch of magic. Nuclear power badly needed re-branding and Kirk Sorensen may just be the man to do it. Martin's book is a great, easy to read explanation of the thorium story.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No time to lose...,
This review is from: SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future (MacSci) (Kindle Edition)I found it highly rewarding to read this book right through, even though I was already convinced of the uniqe case for thorium energy. Richard Martin has used his experience as a journalist to produce a thorough, balanced and international review that is at once entertaining, realistic yet encouraging; it's a landmark, and should win awards. Thorium technology was investigated last century, but unfortunately the arms race meant that direct uranium technology, with its hazards and diseconomies, predominated. Now, only nuclear energy can supply what we need to avoid global warming becoming catastrophic, and only thorium can deliver it cleanly and quickly enough.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exposing the wrong path taken by nuclear technology,
This review is from: SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future (Macmillan Science) (Hardcover)Having just read Super Fuel by Richard Martin I can now understand how nuclear technology ignored the logical choice of radioactive elements, Thorium, after WWII and developed Uranium as the primary choice for electrical energy generation. The book SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future (MacSci) details a very convincing case for developing Thorium Molten Sodium Reactors as soon as possible to fill the gaps in energy generation world-wide. This will provide a green, safe energy source using an abundant fuel which will also solve the problem of present Uranium waste disposal.
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorium nuclear fission,
This review is from: SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future (Macmillan Science) (Hardcover)If you care about global warming and sustainability read this book.
This is the captivating story of radioactivity and nuclear power (from nuclear bombs to electric power generation) since WWII's Manhattan Project to the present day. It describes how and why the modern world ended up with the potentially dangerous (accidents like Chernobyl or terrorism) uranium based nuclear power generation, and advocates the development of the MUCH safer thorium fission process by western governments. Thorium fission provides the 100 year bridge between a fossil fuel economy and a nuclear fusion one (a Star Trek utopia...?) - forget wind turbines, solar power, wave power, biofuels etc. these don't have the umphf for present day energy consumption let alone the future.
The first two sections give an introduction to radioactivity science/engineering and the political/historical story. The last section although interesting is biased towards a USA political movement, but thorium fission is relevant to the whole world.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good!,
This review is from: SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future (MacSci) (Kindle Edition)Very good book.Well written,good technical background.It tracks the history if nuclear power from the early times to nowadays,with a look to the future,without stereotipes
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview and history of Thorium,
potential, let's hope we (in all countries) miss this opportunity. I am now starting to
read a lot of other books on this subject by Vaclav Smil and others.
5.0 out of 5 stars Super Fuel, Thorium - the green energy source forthe future,
5.0 out of 5 stars Superfuel,
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding in Importance,
What this means to the planet is mind-bending and, for once, in the most positive of ways. Environmental sustainability. Long-term global economic equality and stability (particularly for the poorest nations). The eradication of international warring over fossil fuel reserves, even, to name just three major issues we face. From the point of view of the survival of humanity, if this book is not regarded in future as one of the most important ever written, then we will have failed as a collective global society. Both the publisher and author are deserving of much, much more than a five star online review from some bloke called Steve Basnett.
If thorium is not the ultimate answer to our energy requirements from a universal perspective, then it is at very least the bridge to it.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future (Macmillan Science) by Richard Martin (Hardcover - 14 Jun 2012)