Soon after President Obama's SOTU speech mentioned nuclear power as an area needing revisiting in this time of energy crisis and use of oil from unstable or unfriendly sources, Gov. Mike Rounds of SD noted this as a hopeful point in Obama's speech.
Today, February 4, 2010 in the Governor's Press Conference broadcast on SDPB-TV before noon, Governor Rounds again discussed nuclear power as he had just been to Washington, DC attending a conference with President Obama and advisors and 10 or so other governors. Rounds got his tongue around either green fields and brown fields or some similar combination referring apparently to new nuclear plant construction on existing nuclear plant sites or on fresh or green sites....like Rounds backyard in South Dakota. He does not want the US government to fail to consider new locations like South Dakota.
This is not the first time a huge expansion of nuclear power in South Dakota has been discussed. Back in the 60's or 70's, an international consortium of some kind was apparently seriously considering building 8 or 10 nuclear plants in South Dakota along the Missouri River. Once those plans got out, they more or less disappeared... even if the Minuteman missiles had turned South Dakota into a major world nuclear power prior to that.
Now Rounds is talking like he knows something about nuclear power. He may for all I know, but he and everybody else thinking that nuclear power is a panacea for our current energy problems needs to consider the problems with uranium-based nuclear power plants compared with the advantages which seem to come with nuclear power plants running on Thorium instead of Uranium isotopes.
Wired magazine recently had a story on Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) indicating they work in a self-limiting way at near atmospheric pressures rather than requiring huge high pressure enclosures. That story which caught my attention a few weeks ago page 114 in the Jan 2010 issue Wired -- Uranium is so last Century.... by Richard Martin has a good summary of the advantages of the LFTR approach. Take a look at that first for the basics. You will find mention of Kirk Sorensen who more or less rediscovered the idea of LFTR (pronounced "lifter") ways to generate power in government documents from the 1970's. That idea got sidetracked then by the US military desire to have weapons grade waste generated in nuclear power plants which is not done easily with Thorium reactors.
Kirk Sorensen has a site with access to many resources at Energy from Thorium (Site) and he has current discussions at his blog also titled Energy from Thorium (Blog) . Checking those two sites and the summary at Wired will provide a lot of information which should be interesting to South Dakota Scientists and government officials interested in many options for green or at least somewhat greener energy production..especially compared to coal. (Note that one of the sites below indicates the running a coal plant for a year puts enough Thorium in the waste ash to generate the same energy for 10 years.)
Below is a list of other sites with more information or the same information presented in other ways with other perspectives.
Start with Thorium the Element and move on to LFTR at How Stuff Works . You can check The Pros and Cons by Yahoo and you can find a quick summary or buy a book at Aim High Rethinking Nuclear Power and there is even a Diary on the topic at Daily Koz , but wait, there is more at the organization calling itself IThEO.org . And another blog titled YottaWatts from Thorium .
But, if all this has caught your attention, go back to the Energy from Thorium Site and check the resources there. At one of these or a linked site, I found a pdf of a paper presented by Moir and Teller a few years before Edward Teller died in which the LFTR idea was discussed by one of the coldest cold warriors. I doubt I can understand much of it, but if it intrigues you let me know.
--- Doug Wiken with thanks to Governor Rounds and his in my backyard generosity and Wired Magazine as a starting point.