Superfuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future
By Richard Martin
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, 272 pp.
Last year’s tsunami-induced nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, raised concerns about the safety of high-pressure water-cooled nuclear reactors and cast doubt on the future of nuclear power. Uranium-fueled reactors such as the ones at Fukushima pose a number of problems, including the risky disposal of radioactive waste. According to Martin, thorium is a far superior reactor fuel because it is less radioactive and more abundant than uranium and also produces much less waste. This thorough book details the history of research into thorium reactors. In the 1960s, the United States developed an experimental thorium reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but the Nixon administration later abandoned the project for budgetary and bureaucratic reasons. Today, the governments of China, India, and Japan are developing thorium reactors, as are private-sector players in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Martin urges the United States to get back into the action, since in his view thorium offers the ideal material for satisfying the world’s burgeoning demand for electricity without relying on fossil fuels.