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SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future

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Overview

 A riveting look at how an alternative source of energy is revoluntionising nuclear power, promising a safe and clean future for millions, and why thorium was sidelined at the height of the Cold War

 

In this groundbreaking account of an energy revolution in the making, award-winning science writer Richard Martin introduces us to thorium, a radioactive element and alternative nuclear fuel that is far safer, cleaner, and more abundant than uranium.

 

At the dawn of...

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SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future

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Overview

 A riveting look at how an alternative source of energy is revoluntionising nuclear power, promising a safe and clean future for millions, and why thorium was sidelined at the height of the Cold War

 

In this groundbreaking account of an energy revolution in the making, award-winning science writer Richard Martin introduces us to thorium, a radioactive element and alternative nuclear fuel that is far safer, cleaner, and more abundant than uranium.

 

At the dawn of the Atomic Age, thorium and uranium seemed to be in close competition as the fuel of the future. Uranium, with its ability to undergo fission and produce explosive material for atomic weapons, won out over its more pacific sister element, relegating thorium to the dustbin of science.

 

Now, as we grapple with the perils of nuclear energy and rogue atomic weapons, and mankind confronts the specter of global climate change, thorium is re-emerging as the overlooked energy source as a small group of activists and outsiders is working, with the help of Silicon Valley investors, to build a thorium-power industry.

 

In the first book mainstream book to tackle these issues, Superfuel is a story of rediscovery of a long lost technology that has the power to transform the world's future, and the story of the pacifists, who were sidelined in favour of atomic weapon hawks, but who can wean us off our fossil-fuel addiction and avert the risk of nuclear meltdown for ever.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Besides briefly covering everything technical you need to know about the 90th element on the periodic table, SuperFuel provides engaging detail on the history and likely future of using thorium as a comparatively safe and substantially beneficial nuclear fuel . . . [Martin] makes a solid, convincing case for thorium as a superfuel, not simply to replace uranium, but to reduce the use of much dirtier fuels such as coal . . . With readable presentations like SuperFuel, the path to a better energy future just got a little easier.”—The Washington Times

“Makes the case that thorium, an abundant, safe element that cannot easily be turned into a weapon, should be fuelling our reactors instead of uranium…Martin is at his best when describing the human struggles of the cold-war era that spelled their…convincing.”—New Scientist

“Traces the history of nuclear power development. . . Recommended.”–Choice

"Richard Martin has done an exemplary job of exploring a technically demanding subject in a gripping narrative form. The implications of this subject could not be more vital — for oil prices, energy security, the chances of coping with climate change — and 'Superfuel' clearly and fairly spells out the reasons for both optimism and for caution. If every technical book were written in this clear and engaging a style, we'd all be a lot better informed! I am very glad to have read this book."—James Fallows, The Atlantic, author of China Airborne

"Bringing back to light a long-lost technology that should never have been lost, this fascinating and important biography of thorium also brings us a commodity that’s rare in discussions of energy and climate change: hope."— Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired

"Thorium is the younger sister to uranium, less volatile, slower to self-consume, and as many have contended without success, much better suited as a source of nuclear power than uranium. Superfuel by award-winning science writer Richard Martin tells the Cinderella story of thorium in a fast-paced, insider’s account.  This short, well-written book is a must read for those interested in understanding thorium’s past and its potential to be a clean, renewable energy source for the future."— Cynthia Kelly, President Atomic Heritage Foundation

"Our future energy supplies rely upon hard choices.  Richard Martin educates us on our troubled history with nuclear energy, and even more importantly, how to develop this essential source of 21st century clean energy.  This is the type of book that can make a difference!"  —John Hofmeister, author of Why We Hate the Oil Companies

“The story of the slightly radioactive element thorium, a much-touted alternative fuel for nuclear power plants. Abundant in the Earth’s crust, thorium has been used in various industrial processes since its discovery in 1828. Advocates, writes Martin, an award-winning journalist and senior research analyst for Pike Research, a clean energy firm, say the silver-gray element has another possible use: as a cheap, safe energy source with the potential to solve our power crisis.…A lucid overview of a still-developing chapter in the story of nuclear power.” –Kirkus Reviews

 

Kirkus Reviews
The story of the slightly radioactive element thorium, a much-touted alternative fuel for nuclear power plants. Abundant in the Earth's crust, thorium has been used in various industrial processes since its discovery in 1828. Advocates, writes Martin, an award-winning journalist and editorial director for Pike Research, a clean energy firm, say the silver-gray element has another possible use: as an cheap, safe energy source with the potential to "solve our power crisis." Expanding on his Wired cover story, the author explains that the element was actually used as a nuclear fuel in an experimental reactor built and run by American scientists at Oak Ridge in the late 1960s. Since then, it has become a forgotten technology, losing out to uranium, which powers all reactors operating in the United States. In the wake of Japan's recent Fukushima Daiichi disaster, many scientists and entrepreneurs are now seeking U.S. government and corporate backing of thorium, which has become the fuel of choice for nuclear energy efforts in India, Japan and elsewhere. Martin focuses on the work of Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA engineer, now head of Flibe Energy, who urges U.S. utilities that are preparing to replace some 30 older reactors to build a new kind of reactor--a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor, which proponents consider to be more efficient and safer than existing plants. He describes how uranium-based nuclear reactors came to dominate the nuclear industry and how industry leaders are now thwarting the use of thorium power, while conceding its possible advantages. They complain of the high costs associated with converting to the alternative energy source. Martin also details Asia's enthusiasm for thorium power and its implications for reducing reliance on fossil fuels and slowing climate change. A lucid overview of a still-developing chapter in the story of nuclear power.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230116474
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/8/2012
  • Series: MacSci Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 430,453
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Martin was the first to write about thorium in the mainstream press. His feature story in Wired catalyzed the thorium power movement. An award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Time, Fortune, The Atlantic, and The Best Science Writing, Martin is the editorial director of Pike Research, a leading clean-energy firm. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and son.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Lost Book of Thorium Power 9

2 The Thunder Element 33

3 The Only Safe Reactor 55

4 Rickover and Weinberg 81

5 The Birth of Nuclear Power 101

6 The End of Nuclear Power 121

7 The Asian Nuclear Power Race 143

8 Nuclear's Next Generation 167

9 The Business Crusade 193

10 What We Must Do 215

Acknowledgments 241

Notes 243

Index 257

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 22, 2012

    This is a good read that unfortunately suffers from a few major

    This is a good read that unfortunately suffers from a few major flaws. I thought the author did a good job relating the history of of Alvin Weinberg's work and explaining the benefits of LFTRs but I was disappointed by his dismissal of that he calls the "nuclearati" who have provided us with the amazingly safe and efficient Gen I through Gen IV light water reactors. The author fails to even mention the so-called "nuclearati's" first successful U.S. commercial High Temperature Gas Cooled Thorium cycle reactor that went online at Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania in 1963 and operated until 1974, or the conversion of the nation's first commercial reactor at Shippingport into a Thorium-cycle LWR Breeder reactor in 1975. He also makes several errors of fact in a number of his technical descriptions of the operation of conventional uranium cycle LWR reactors. While still a very good read on the important topic of LFTRs, this book might have been a great read if the author had been less hostile toward those he condescendingly calls the"nuclearati.' Many of the technical errors could also have been avoided had consulted a few of them for some editing of technical details in his manuscript before it was submitted for publication.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2012

    An accessible introduction to an extremely important topic

    I'm a nuclear engineer. I thought I knew a lot about a wide range of nuclear technologies, including the Thorium fuel cycle. Well, I was right and I was wrong. I knew the theory from my nuclear engineering studies, but it was presented more like a more recent, fringe concept - "something someone once thought about" - instead of a real (and even better!) alternative to the Uranium and Plutonium fuel cycles. "Superfuel" tells the whole story: from Adam and Eve (in this case: Mme. & M. Curie) to the people, the military events, and the political decisions that caused the Thorium cycle to be shelved for decades. I can't decide whether there's a happy ending. Read the book, see for yourselves. Check the references if you are looking for more technical details.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2012

    Recommended as an alternative fuel!

    Richard Martin has produced a provocative idea book, that is not understood in the Nuclear family. The fact that it worked for 26 years in Shippingport, PA is testament that it needs to be considered. EXCELON should look seriously at it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2012

    Not what I wanted it to be

    I expected it to be much more on Thorium and not other misc. events going on in history. It was hard to stay motivated when reading this. Do not expect much on Thorium.

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