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Is thorium the answer to the world’s energy woes?

An Irish duo have set up an ambitious kickstarter campaign for a documentary on the issue, they told TheJournal.ie.

University of Chicago Physics Professor Albert V. Crewe points to a photograph which enables a single atom to be seen within a molecular structure for the first time. Enlarged 5 million times are thorium chains
University of Chicago Physics Professor Albert V. Crewe points to a photograph which enables a single atom to be seen within a molecular structure for the first time. Enlarged 5 million times are thorium chains
Image: Edward Kitch/AP/Press Association Images

TWO IRISH FILMMAKERS want to know if thorium could be the answer to the world’s energy woes – and they have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to finish a documentary on the topic.

Frankie Fenton and Des Kelleher want to raise £40,000 so that they can finish post-production on The Good Reactor, their documentary looking into the alternative nuclear fuel and whether it can generate clean, safe energy.

Documentary

They spent two years travelling around Europe and North America interviewing people on both sides of the debate for their documentary. Fenton told TheJournal.ie that all the funds raised will go exclusively into finishing the film, and they plan to work with professionals including animators, an editor, and distributors, as well as purchase stock footage.

Fenton said that when he was told by a friend about “this nuclear energy that could solve all the problems of the world’s energy crisis”, he didn’t believe him. When he investigated thorium himself, he became very interested and then started down the road of interviewing experts on the topic.

He spoke to thorium expert Kirk Sorenson about the issue, which was the first interview for the documentary.

I didn’t know if this was real or not – I kept on asking as many people as possible about it. If this stuff is true, what’s the story?

As well as those championing thorium, he spoke to thorium sceptics. The aim of the documentary is to have it as well-produced as possible, so that it can get out to a wide audience and spark a discussion about thorium.

Thorium is a radioactive chemical element which is more widely available than the uranium that powers nuclear plants, and as the Guardian explains, its proponents say that it could be used to generate large amounts of low-carbon electricity.

It has a number of benefits compared to uranium, as it is seen as safer with less potential for nuclear disaster; it is far more difficult to use its byproducts for making nuclear weapons and the waste it generates is not as dangerous for as long as uranium waste is.

The reactors that generate energy from thorium could burn up existing nuclear waste, said Fenton.

(Frankie Fenton/YouTube)

“We really just want people to talk about it. If this stuff isn’t true that’s absolutely fine,” said Fenton, adding their aim is to start a discussion or debate around the issue.

A UK government report last September said that the benefits of thorium have been “overstated”, the Guardian reported. It said that it has “theoretical advantages” but “while there is some justification for these benefits, they are often overstated”.

Fenton believes there is a “massive audience” for this subject, especially in the United States, and that “the actual subject matter appeals to more than one category of people”, as “climate change is in the news every day”.

We think it’s a really important film that needs to be made and the people need to know about.

“I could just make a terrible YouTube film but it would be a shame if that did happen. I think there is a really good story in it and very strong characters in it,” concluded Fenton. It is hoped that when the film is completed it will be shown in film festivals and distributed worldwide.

Read: World’s biggest nuke plant may shut: Japan report>

Read: Accident at Sellafield would have “no health effects in Ireland”>

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