Small ball of GREEN POWER

2015-07-01 06:05
PHOTO: tania sandberg

Pieter du Plessis with the wick of the old Coleman lamps, which consists of Thorium.

PHOTO: tania sandberg Pieter du Plessis with the wick of the old Coleman lamps, which consists of Thorium.

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

WALKING on the dry riverbeds of the Knersvlakte in Namaqualand, botanists discovered Africa’s source of a green nuclear called Thorium. “Thorium is a radioactive actinide metal, one of only four radioactive elements that occur in quantity in nature as a primordial element (the other three are Bismuth, Plutonium and Uranium). You could get enough power for your entire life from a Thorium ball smaller than that used for golf,” botanist, Pieter du Plessis told the Amanzimtoti South Africa Association of Retired Persons (SAARP) recently.

More than 90% of South Africa’s electricity is generated by coal and there remains only sufficient coal reserves for another 20 to 50 years. Thorium, in stark contrast, is the most prolific mineral on our planet, he said.

“Kusile, a 4 800 MW power station, will be in the middle of an already polluted area. It will use an estimated 17 million tons of coal per year and will generate an estimated 37 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually. This increases our country’s total contribution to climate change by an immense 10%,” Du Plessis said.

“The answer to this is a safe green nuclear power - Thorium. “Thorium is only slightly radioactive and cannot be used to make atomic weapons,” he adds.

Thorium was first discovered in 1828 by Norwegian mineralogist Morten Thrane Esmark and identified by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of Thunder.

To unleash the power of Thorium, you have to bombard it with neutrons. After absorbing two, a Thorium atom morphs to fissionable 233U. This is a relatively well-behaved form of uranium. The worst of its by-products has a half-life of about 350 years compared to 350 000 years for those from 235U or 239Pu (plutonium). It is not a new form of energy in South Africa, the old Coleman lanterns and the old 35 mm film cameras and lenses have the chemical compound, Thorium.

A sphere of Thorium, slightly larger than a tennis ball, could produce enough electricity for an average home for about 8 000 years.

“The Medupi and Kusile power stations under construction will each generate 4 800MW of electricity. This is at a cost of R142 billion on completion of each power station, with the extra operational costs at R120 billion a year. “It won’t even cost a quarter of that amount to build a Thorium power station,” Du Plessis said.

Medupi alone will need 960 000 coal trucks to deliver the 24 million tons of coal required to generate the 4 800 MW power. Imaging how much fuel these trucks are going to burn.

Thorium is already being mined in the Western Cape.Steenkampskraal Thorium Limited is in the business of developing and commercialising Thorium as a clean safe energy source for the future and it is being exported to Norway.

“One can have a reactor in every town. Electricity will be cheaper and transport will come down,” Du Plessis said.



Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.