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Symbiotic energy demand and supply system based on collaboration between rare-earth and thorium utilization

 KAMEI Takashi
Kinugasa Research Organization,Ritsumeikan University, Syugaku-kan 226, Tojiin Kitamachi 56-1, Kita-ku, Kyoto 603-8577 Japan
Abstract: Progressive economic growth as well as prodigious consumption of energy are expected among Asian countries. Nuclear power has myriad advantages, among them particularly being its status as a low carbon technology and therefore nuclear power would make a significant contribution to curtailing CO2 emissions. However, the prospects for nuclear power are hindered by some unresolved problems: perceived adverse safety, environmental, and health effects; potential security risks stemming from proliferation; and unresolved challenges in long-term management of nuclear wastes. Thorium utilization as a nuclear fuel will serve as a cornerstone of circumventing such problems, because thorium produces less radioactive waste (i.e. less plutonium) and thus safety, which is of paramount concern, will be enhanced.
The deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) as an alternative to supplant gasoline engine cars in the transportation network, will significantly contribute in the reduction of global CO2 emissions. Rare-earth materials such as neodymium and dysprosium will be essential as a new material for electric automobiles. Thorium is often obtained as a by-product of rare-earth metals, but it is still not utilized as a nuclear fuel currently due to the lack of its own fissionable isotopes and as such, it cannot be employed in the production of nuclear weapons. Recent trends of nuclear disarmament and accumulation of plutonium from uranium fuel cycle can propel the deployment of thorium. The implementation capacity of thorium nuclear power is estimated to be about 392 GWe at 2050. The utilization of thorium will both help to provide clean energy and to supply rare-earth materials for clean automobiles. In order for us to effect the commercial deployment of thorium resources, establishment of an international framework to supply resources from developing countries as well as to supply technology from developed countries is indeed imperative. Herein, the author propose “The Bank (Thorium energy Bank)” as such a framework.
Keyword: thorium; electricity; transportation; rare-earth; climate change
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