Thursday, August 04, 2011

New Forbes Blog: The Future of Energy by Kirk Sorensen

Kirk Sorensen has operated the Energy from Thorium blog for over 5 years now, and has recently begun to blog for Forbes magazine in "The Future of Energy". Here is an excerpt from one of Kirk's recent TFoE postings:
In 10000 atoms of natural uranium, only 72 of them will be uranium-235. If the red marbles represented uranium-235 and the white marbles represented uranium-238, then the picture above (taken with my wife’s cake pan) would be a pretty good depiction of how rare uranium-235 is in natural uranium.

As I mentioned, uranium-235 is the only naturally-occuring fissile material in the world. It’s really too bad that there isn’t some way to release all of that energy from the rest of the uranium, right? Well, it turns out that there is.

Uranium-238 will transmute into plutonium-239 over the course of a few days if it absorbs a neutron. Plutonium-239 is fissile, uranium-238 isn’t. But uranium-238 is cheap and abundant, accounting for 9927 of 10000 atoms of natural uranium. So there’s a way to make uranium-238 into fissile material, but it takes a neutron.

...Most fissions release two or even three neutrons and that opens up an exciting possibility. Like the Midas touch, these neutrons can turn worthless uranium-238 nuclei which aren’t fissile into plutonium-239 nuclei which are fissile. And this new fissile material that has been made is even better than turning lead to gold–made from something cheaper than lead into something worth six times more than gold.

There’s another way to exercise this Midas touch, using natural thorium. If thorium is struck by a neutron it will turn into uranium-233 over a period of about 40 days. Uranium-233 is fissile and will release energy too.

...So unlike gold that can only be sold for money once, fissile material if properly used has the Midas touch–it can keep turning worthless uranium-238 or thorium into fissile material indefinitely.

The bad news is that we are not using fissile material properly in today’s nuclear reactors. We’re wasting its Midas touch. The good news is that we can build new reactors that will be able to exercise this amazing ability. They will change the world. They will be the future of energy. _KirkSorensen
This excerpt allows you to get the feeling of Kirk's approach on his Forbes blog. Oriented toward the general public, the language is non-technical and easy to understand. The mood is extremely up-beat -- a refreshing change from the general doom and gloom approach to energy taken by mainstream journalists.

For those who are interested in thorium energy and require a more technical information fix, the Energy from Thorium blog contains an immense repository of technical downloads and links, as well as videos. We should all hope that Kirk's Forbes blog captures a large public following, for the sake of future energy supplies.



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