So it seems to work, according to many sources, so why not use it?
The trouble is that, even though the technology has been around for ages, technical hurdles have prevented its widespread commercialization. Although China and other countries are making high-profile attempts to get the thorium party started, anti-nuclear activists say they’ll hit the same wall as the Indians – who’ve been running a thorium reactor for years, but still haven’t figured out how to make it work on a nation-wide scale.
As for all the benefits of thorium over uranium, those, say anti-nuclear activists, have all been overplayed. It produces less waste, sure, but nuclear waste is still waste, and skeptics say the nuclear lobby is downplaying the risk from the byproducts.
The UK recommended against the technology. And although the United States Geological Survey has been giving it a good, hard look, it’s so under the radar that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t even list “nuclear power” as a use for the material.
Besides, David Suzuki, who’s become just the latest to weigh in on the supposed renewable energy savior, says even aside from all the drawbacks and benefits, there’s one factor that’s been overlooked: Time.
Fossil fuel sources are accelerating man-made climate change, and Suzuki says, but replacing them all with enough thorium reactors to make a difference could take up to 50 years.
“Given the urgent challenge of global warming, we don’t have that much time,” Suzuki writes at EcoWatch.com. “Many argue that if renewables received the same level of government subsidies as the nuclear industry, we’d be ahead at lower costs.”
He doesn’t seem to be against the idea in theory, but he firmly prefers making a big push on renewable energy.
Whichever approach wins out, it’s still early days for thorium. Despite recent breakthroughs, it’ll be a good long while before we find out if thorium is the saviour its lobbyists say it is.