Alternative nuclear tech

Last episode we talked about the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Towards the end of this discussion, we touched on the wisdom of continuing to pursue nuclear power in the light of the events at Fukushima. The usual suspects came up. Solar power, wind power, etcetera.

The main concern levelled at these alternatives is that they are too weak and to intermittent to power our modern economy. Proponents of nuclear insist that without investing in MORE nuclear, the only reliable sources of baseload power are coal and gas.

But as George Monbiot has recently argued, while nuclear power kills people when things go horribly wrong, fossil fuels kill people when they go right. The only time a coal-fired power station isn’t spewing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere is when it is turned off. And then there’s global warming.

So is this the choice? Conventional nuclear power that generates tonnes of radioactive waste that lasts for millennia and occasionally lays waste to cities like Chernobyl and Fukushima. Or fossil-based plants that threaten the stability of the global climate.

Not necessarily.

In this episode we talk to Dr Hywel Owen from the University of Manchester about accelerator-driven subcritical nuclear reactors fueled by thorium.

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