Date of Graduation

Winter 12-12-2014

Document Type

Project/Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)

College/School

College of Arts and Sciences

Department/Program

Environmental Management

First Advisor

Maggie Winslow

Abstract

Thorium is an alternative fuel source for nuclear energy. Coupled with its use in a new reactor design, called a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, the two have the ability to disrupt the nuclear industry and power sector. Nuclear energy is a clean and reliable source of energy; however, it generates hazardous waste that must be stored away for hundreds of thousands of years and power plants are at risk of a catastrophic incident that can lead to a wide scale release of radiation. These drawbacks to nuclear energy can be mitigated using thorium in a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. These reactors have inherent safety features that eliminate the chance of a nuclear meltdown, operate under safer conditions, and prevent atmospheric exposure in the event of a reactor breach. Furthermore, using thorium instead of uranium eliminates the need to enrich and fabricate fuel and generates less waste that only needs to be stored for 300 years. The barriers that lay in the way of developing thorium fuel cycles and Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors stems from a mature industry and lack of governmental support for R&D programs. However, through an assessment of different forecast scenarios, the benefits and effects of a new reactor design and fuel cycle can be illustrated.

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