How can nuclear energy be used in the future?

1 Answer
Mar 18, 2016

Two possibilities on the horizon - thorium reactors and fusion.


The nuclear industry is in a slump due to the most recent Fukushima nuclear disaster a few years ago, plus huge construction costs. Governments are increasingly fearful of conventional nuclear reactors. The costs of building a new conventional reactor is now near $5 billion and most private sector companies don't have that much capital. So reactors that are build, tend to be built by governments.

Thorium reactors are under development and have a number of advantages: thorium fuel more abundant, can't be made into weapons, can be retrofitted into existing reactors, and less nuclear waste. However, its still an unproven technology and would be costly to retrofit a current reactor.

Fusion is a fundamentally different kind of reactor that mimics what is going on in the sun every second. But scientists haven't perfected this technology yet and its very expensive right now. Some feel that a breakthrough in fusion reactors is close and a commercial unit could be developed in 10-20 years. If successful, this could provide almost unlimited energy for hundreds or even thousands of years.