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Thorium has been gaining popularity as an alternative nuclear source recently despite being discovered over a century ago.

Denoted by the symbol Th with an atomic number of 90, thorium is the only other radioactive element that can fuel a nuclear reactor aside from uranium.

The diagram above shows the process of using thorium as a radioactive source in a molten salt reactor. Uranium is needed to start the reactor, however once the process has been running, the uranium generated from the process can be fed back into the core. Due to this, this reactor is also called the breeder reactor. The reason for the increase in popularity of thorium reactors is mainly because of the environmental benefits it has over the conventional uranium reactors. Thorium reactors are less dangerous in the sense that their design are reduces the risk of explosions, meltdown or fire in the event of an earthquake, tsunami or system failure. This is simply because there is nothing to burn or melt down. Furthermore, thorium reactors are known to produce less waste. The diagram above shows the difference between the radioactive waste generated by uranium and thorium

reactors. The wastes produced by thorium reactors are very much less and the waste do not need to be stored for such a long period of time.

Thorium is also much cheaper than uranium which is due to the fact that thorium is found much more abundantly. These kinds of reactors also do not generate dangerous products that can be used to create nuclear weapons. However, thorium reactors also bring forth several disadvantages. First off is the fact that thorium has not had as much development as uranium reactors, making the optimization of the process rather difficult. The process itself is rather complicated and would take some time to properly get it running. In conclusion, thorium certainly has the potential to replace uranium as a fuel source and may even one day become the main source of energy for humankind. However, as of right now, it is still not advanced enough. More attention is needed to develop this technology to even higher heights.

Bibliography
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