Books  Sustainable Development  Energy 

Superfuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future

A lucid overview of a still-developing chapter in the story of nuclear power

By: Richard Martin (Author)

Palgrave

Paperback | Sep 2013 | #206184 | ISBN-13: 9781137278340
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £10.99 $14/€13 approx
Hardback | Jun 2012 | #197882 | ISBN-13: 9780230116474
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £18.99 $24/€23 approx

About this book

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 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 safe 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.

"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


Contents

1. The Lost Book of Thorium Power
2. The Thunder Element
3. The Only Safe Reactor
4. The Shadow Elements
5. The Birth of Nuclear Power
6. The Death of Nuclear Power
7. India and China: A Clash of Civilizations
8. Nuclear's Next Generation
9. The Business Crusade
10. What We Must Do


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Biography

Richard Martin is an energy expert and award-winning journalist. His work has appeared in Time, Fortune, Wired, The Atlantic, The Asian Wall Street Journal, and The Best Science Writing of 2004. Martin is a senior research analyst for Pike Research, a leading clean-energy research firm based in Boulder, Colorado, USA.

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