Wednesday, June 07, 2006

We're a Thorium emporium

Australia quakes with the prospect of a sudden proliferation of nuclear power plants. The debate rages. State Governments and the people resist the very idea but scientists are enthusiastic. The Federal Government also is enthusiastic and it is pushing the enthusiasm of the scientists, with a little help from nuclear power corporations, of course. We are meant to revere the superior knowledge of scientists, or so the scientists are always telling us. And we do acknowledge their points - that nuclear power is clean and green, if you discount its own lethal and long-lasting detritus.

We are in a bit of a cleft stick in the energy department, depending largely on fossil fuels which, of course are as filthy as they are finite. We have plenty of uranium, on the other hand. Here in South Australia we have a third of the world's uranium resources. We sell it to everyone. But we don't want to take their waste. We are into the raw product only. We don't want to use our uranium for anything other than nuclear medicine...and we will look after our own waste from that.

Meanwhile, we fret about power. Wind turbines are killing birds - but they are clean and cheap and our power is very expensive. Solar panels are unreasonable expensive, despite government grants to help pay for them. And the electricity grid system is a mess with power prices escalating post privatisation.
It's a pretty universal story.

The most universal story of all, however, goes back to the basics of economic rationalism - which is quick profit at any cost. We have rich geothermal power potential here in this state but it is slow and costly to develop. If I were a teenager I'd be putting money into stocks now - for only the young may get to see it.
And ditto Thorium. We have here in this state the second-largest thorium resource in the world - and thorium is the cleaner alternative to uranium. Thorium has all the hot potential, literally, but it is not being explored as a possibility because it would cost so much to develop the technology.

So we choose cheap and expedient.

Writhe and reject as much as we may, there is nothing surer than that the Government will have its way. Nuclear power will win. Watch this space.

1 comment:

Kirk Sorensen said...

Thorium energy doesn't have to be expensive to develop--in fact, developing thorium reactors that use liquid-fluorides will probably be much safer, simpler, and cheaper than trying to reprocess solid spent uranium fuel.

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