Retro Nuclear Power Goes Green

Are most scientists supportive of nuclear power @nlents?

Molten salt reactors might just turn nuclear power into the greenest energy source on the planet.


This is a very good article to read closely:

Based on their experience to date, most proponents are cautiously optimistic on this front as well. In Copenhagen, Schönfeldt and his colleagues kept hammering on the why of nuclear power, which was to fight climate change, poverty and pollution. “And we kept telling people the three big advantages of molten salt reactors — no meltdown, no proliferation, burning up nuclear waste,” he says. And slowly, people were willing to listen.

The why of nuclear power:

  1. reduce climate change
  2. reduce poverty
  3. reduce pollution

The why of molten salt reactors:

  1. no meltdown
  2. no proliferation
  3. burning up nuclear waste

I have no idea, but I certainly am, and most that I speak with seem to be. I think nuclear should be joined with hydroelectric (yes, building more dams), solar and wind farms, and rooftop solar, in an all-of-the-above effort to get fully off of carbon. Or, at least carbon that is carbon-neutral such as biodiesel or other freshly generated hydrocarbons.


This is only correct in a technical sense. While the molten salt reactors themselves can have no proliferation problems, the steps in getting the fissile materials to put into the reactors can be proliferation prone.

For example, the picture in the article of thorium-232 + neutron \rightarrow uranium-233 is hiding an intermediate step. The actual cycle is thorium-232 + neutron \rightarrow thorium-233 \rightarrow protractinium-233 \rightarrow uranium-233.

Indeed, thorium-232 can produce both protractinium-232 and protractinium-233. Protractinium-233 decays slowly to uranium-233, while protactinium-232 decays quickly to uranium-232 (see the table on this wiki page). Because of this, if you irradiate thorium-232 and wait a while, you can get a very pure hunk of uranium-233, which is bad news.


Is there a path to solve this issues?

I am not sure; perhaps there are safeguards that can be implemented, or a different fuel cycle for molten salt reactors that does not have this problem. However, perhaps nuclear proliferation is an inevitable risk of nuclear power, and the safeguards have to be policy based instead of engineering solutions.

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That’s the way I see it too. International oversight is the most obvious policy, tracking materials from cradle to grave as well as monitoring off-site facilities.

I will add my voice to other scientists who are pro-nuclear. We have the technology to make nuclear power relatively safe, and it is a solution we have right now. Renewable energy sources are great, but they are not ready to completely replace carbon based energy, and probably won’t for quite some time. In fact, I suspect we will construct the first fusion plants before wind or solar is a feasible primary energy source.

A chart always worth remembering: