Posted: 15 Jun 2012 02:27 PM PDTWhen I first received my copy of Richard Martin's book "Super-Fuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future," I was thinking to myself "Well, this is going to be just fabulous. Here we go with another loony story about alternative reactor designs - we all know that LWR plants (Light Water Reactor) are the only ones that made it, and everything else went by the wayside .. so why bother any more?"
I also thought about some reading I'd done when I was researching the article I did on this website about Elk River. That reactor, a unique indirect-cycle BWR plant, initially had thorium in its fuel (as did Indian Point 1, and a couple of other plants, too) but the program was abandoned almost as quickly as it started. Another volume in my library called "Minerals for Atomic Energy" which I consulted during the project relates the extreme difficulty in extracting thorium from monazite deposits - making it fairly uneconomical. Thorium never again figured in LWR plant operation, or any serious mainstream economic considerations about the nuclear fuel cycle, past the 60's. So, I thought, as I began to read the book, that I was about to be really unimpressed by a wild narrative of impossible designs and people all too willing to believe the unbelievable.
I was wrong by quite a long shot.