[THORIUM] The far side of nuclear power

Thorium Molten salt reactor : a technology you’ve probably never even heard of. It’s hardly surprising since for 70 years, it has been inexplicably kept under wraps by the nuclear industry, despite the fact it could revolutionise energy production. It offers the promise of nuclear energy without waste and without danger. The “green atom” : fact or fiction? Research that was dropped without explanation in 1945, has now become a topic of lively discussion.

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  • a film by Myriam Tonelotto
  • animation director : Jérôme Jouvray
  • music & sound design: Marc Hansmann
  • director of Photography: Didier Ricou
  • second unit: Solène Doerflinger (China, London & Leiden) and Carlo Thiel (Delft)
  • camera assistant: Enzo Riedinger
  • poker animation: B-Gnet, Maud Bihan, Léa Boisson, Lilas Cognet, Amélie Guinet & Camille Marchand
  • Weinberg animation: Olmo Riedinger
  • background artits: Guillaume Martinez, Ben Lebègue & Anaïs Munier
  • colorist: Anne-Claire Jouvray
  • executive producer: Nina Robert
  • coproduction: Citizen Films (Nina & Denis Robert), Innervision (Luc Tharin), Juliette Films (Adrien Chef & Paul Thiltges), MoreFilms (Angelika Mohr) & NDR (Claudia Cellarius & Ulrike Dotzer)
  • distribution : PTD
  • support: Eurimages, CNC, Filmfund,  Regions Grand Est & Rhône-Alpes-Auvergne, Procirep & Angoa
  • channels: Arte NDR, France 3 Nord Est RTS, SVT & TG4
  • year: 2016

The peace activist and jazz artist, Herbie Hancock, recommends the use of thorium as safe and abundant environmentally sound power – and for the burnup of plutonium.

A speech held in Oslo on the 70th anniversary for the Hiroshima bomb. Norway has ongoing thorium/plutonium testing in its Halden test reactor.

Too good to be true? No, this reactor exists. Its name : Thorium molten salt reactor. A technology discovered in the 40s by American researchers at the very same period they were exploring the uranium process, but dropped a few decades later without ever having the chance to brought in the light. According to experts at CNRS in Grenoble, MIT in Boston, National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan and Japan’s Kyoto University, if such reactors had been in widespread use, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima would have been denied their place in infamy.

thorium1_nuclear-poker

But why then is this technology not in use? Why did a reactor that would provide the energy we need without creating tons of dangerous waste failed to make a breakthrough? Even today, the Generation IV international Forum, coordinating the international effort on fourth generation reactors, has selected the thorium molten salt reactor as one of the most promising solutions. But of the six approaches they are investigating, it is the only one without a country to champion the research. Yet some now see the thorium molten salt reactor as the way ahead. Bill Gates has announced his nuclear start-up company Terra-Power will explore the technology. China is spending one billion euro to develop its own prototype by 2018. From the very start the nuclear industry has sought to portray itself as the result of a series of miracles of physics, bestowing on humanity a wondrous source of inexhaustible and cheap energy. The reality has proved quite different. But why the sudden renewed interest in the thorium molten salt reactor, and why now? Could it be a cynical ploy by the nuclear industry, or does it present a real viable solution? Thorium, the far side of nuclear power gets to the heart of this puzzle. It looks at the interaction of military, political, scientific and industrial interests locked in a poker game that has lasted 70 years. Political ineptitude, the arms race, overruled researchers and financial interests dictating which hands were played and which were concealed. A game where citizens were the chips, and the word “security” was often used to bluff the other players. thorium5-zone-interdite_light

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