A reaction with Thorium is a nuclear reaction and Thorium seems to be getting good press as of late. For example, the descriptions given by Kirk Sorensen in his TED talk.

  • Could Thorium reactor accidents occur?
  • What are the waste products?
  • Can Thorium be weaponized?

If so much energy can be extracted from it for electricity, I am confused as to what makes it different from Uranium.

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    Please quote the sentences from the video, in which he claims that Thorium reactors are "so safe"? And reference them by mentioning the approximate time-stamp of the sentence[s] within the video. – ChrisW Aug 26 '13 at 16:33
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    I tried to simplify the text, but I agree with @ChrisW that quotes establishing what the actual claims are will help us get you a good answer. – user5582 Aug 26 '13 at 16:35
  • "could something happen" is a question that can never be answered in the negative. Of course something "could happen". The sun could explode right now and we'd all be fried in 8 minutes, but what are the chances of that? – jwenting Aug 26 '13 at 16:48
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    The question is off-topic unless you identify a notable claim. If the notable claim is, "Everything he said in the video", then it's on-topic but is too broad to answer. The only specific claim in the current version of the question is, "Thorium seems to be getting good press as of late". Some specific claims about Thorium's safety can be found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reactor#Safety (if you'd like to question any of those claims, or in case they answer your questions). – ChrisW Aug 26 '13 at 18:20
  • IMO the Wikipedia section, referenced above, does answer your three questions. wrt "Could accidents occur?", an answer would be, "presumably yes, however if there were an accident it is alleged to be safer and to fail safe." – ChrisW Aug 26 '13 at 19:20

Thorium itself cannot be used as nuclear fuel, in the same way as Uranium-238 can't. This is because it absorbs neutrons instead of undergoing fission. However, it can absorb neutrons and become Uranium-233 which is fissile, in the same way as Uranium-238 can become Plutonium-239. If you have a neutron source, or some Uranium to jump start the process, you can builder a breeder reactor that uses Thorium.

Everything that can go wrong with Uranium breeder reactors can go wrong with your Thorium reactor, e.g. criticality accidents, having your facility hit by a tsunami, etc. The reaction still produces nuclear waste, and the US has successfully weaponized Uranium-233 in the past.

See Thorium fuel cycle on Wikipedia.

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