With all the reporting about nuclear power I have been waiting for this discussion to gain some traction. A “letter to the editor” helps propel the issue forward.
“With the disaster in Japan highlighting the dangers inherent with today’s state of nuclear technology, it’s time to rethink this power source.
Today’s reactors use a solid-fuel system of enriched uranium encapsulated in ceramic pellets that are loaded into fuel rods to create electricity.
Because the fuel is solid, it necessitates a mechanical method to move the rods in order to regulate the nuclear reaction.
This is why Japan’s current nuclear nightmare is unfolding; it’s because mechanical methods need electrical power to operate.
There is an alternate nuclear reactor called the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, LFTR (pronounced “lifter”) that uses liquid fuel inside a spherical reactor core.
Because the fuel is liquid, if the core gets too hot, the liquid expands, which reduces the core density to reduce the intensity of the nuclear reaction. It is self-regulating.
Plus, with a liquid fuel, a heat-sensitive plug can be used to quickly drain an overheating reactor – the plug melts to drain the core and stop the nuclear reaction.
This feature will work passively and does not require elaborate control systems or human action in order to activate an emergency shutdown.
Draining liquid fuel from the ball-shaped core into a flat pool changes the shape of the fuel, which prevents the nuclear chain reactions from occurring.”