Suppose—just suppose—that there were a tested energy technology out there that
- produces electricity cheaper than coal, because of lower capital and fuel costs,
- uses a fuel that is in almost inexhaustible supply, both in the U.S. and elsewhere,
- operates continuously, in baseload or peaking mode, for up to 30 years,
- operates at an efficient high temperature but at atmospheric pressure, *can be factory-built and deployed in compact 100-megawatt modules close to the end use of the power,
- contributes nothing to air or water pollution and needs no water for operation,
- safely consumes long-lived transuranic waste products from current nuclear fission reactors,
- produces high-temperature process heat that can make hydrogen fuel for vehicles, and
- is walkaway safe.
Science journalist Richard Martin's book SuperFuel makes the case that such a technology exists. It's thorium, and particularly the LFTR—the liquid fluoride thorium reactor.
The Federal government's regulatory apparatus has been well and truly captured by the companies that make conventional nuclear reactors. As long as they hold sway, it will be very, very difficult for anyone to build an LFTR power plant. The government should give innovative energy companies a chance to see whether thorium reactors really can be the green energy source of the future.