Friday, February 15, 2008

Norway opens dialog on thorium fuel

North Sea oil giant seeks new energy sources

Reuters reports that Thor Energy of Oslo is planning to build Norway's first thorium nuclear power plant near Porsgrunn, Grenland, in the east of the country, Norwegian financial daily newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv reported. Advocates said that the effort, if it is to be realized, could be for the energy sector in Norway what the Viking explorations of the new world were for the country a millennium ago.

Thor Energy's goal is to build two nuclear power plants in Norway by 2020, supplying up to 20% of the country's daily power demand, the company's chief executive Anders Hermansson told Dagens Naeringsliv. [slides] large PDF file.

However, scientists told the Norwegian government that exploiting thorium for nuclear power production is an interesting but far-away alternative with unknown economic potential.

* * * A report commissioned by the government found that current knowledge of thorium-based energy production and the geology of the natural resource are not solid enough to draw any conclusions about the potential value to Norway.

"Technically there is plenty of thorium, but what are the economics of thorium? That we do not know," Mikko Kara, a Finnish professor who led the study, told a news conference.

Some environmentalists have vigorously criticzed the idea of exploiting Norway's thorium, saying it detracts from the search for renewable energy sources and leads people to believe thorium is a "free lunch." They may have a point there. Even in the nuclear energy field, as science fiction writer Robert Heinlein famously wrote, TANSTFAAL "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

Oil and Energy Minister Aaslaug Haga backed away from some of the more energetic claims being made for Thorium and said that the report was meant to boost the level of knowledge about thorium, not to open a debate on whether Norway should adopt nuclear power. Norway currently bans nuclear energy within it borders.

A Thor Energy spokeman said the plant could be built by using existing technology to convert a regular nuclear power plant into a thorium burning plant. A retrofit could be expected to cost $4 billion.

"If we can define the fuel cycle and get the right permissions, it will not take many years to build a thorium plant," spokesman Sven Roest told Reuters in 2006.

Additional reporting on the science issues and a further response from the government is available at World Nuclear News.

India reports progress on design of thorium reactor

Hat tip to TOPIX

The chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission is reported to have said the country is making significant progress with design of a thorium power reactor.

According to the India Daily Anil Kakodkar said the power potential from thorium reactors is very large and availability of Accelerator Driven System (ADS) can enable early introduction of thorium on a large scale.

"The Advance Heavy Water Reactor design is complete. Pre-licensing has been done. Now, they are working on details." Kakodkar said. He reportedly claimed the construction of the prototype reactor will begin by the end of 2008.

Another media report, this one from the Hindu, says India will build a 300 MW thorium-based Advance Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) that would serve as a platform for developing and demonstrating technologies for large scale thorium utilization.

1 comment:

Alessandro said...

Hello, there.

I don't understand what kind of rectors (LWR?HWR or ADS acelelrators?) and fuel cycle (reprocess or not to reprocess) the Norvegians want to adopt to develop thorium.
IMHO, HWR is today the best technology to develop thorium, although I have many doubts about the recycling phase, it's very hard to develop a breeding or "near breeding" cycle if you don't envisage reprocessing and we all know that thorium recycle is not that easy (for example, high gamma U-232 production)