There’s a viral video making the rounds that suggests we have the capacity to build a car that will run for 100 years on the extremely common and relatively harmless radioactive material thorium, and we aren’t taking advantage of it because the petroleum industry doesn’t want us to. This might invite a certain amount of skepticism on the part of a reasonable person. And if you’ve already read our piece on the Solar Freakin’ Roadways concept, you know that the role of reasonable person is sometimes played by Phil Mason, better known to his YouTube fanbase as thunderf00t. Here’s his take on the thorium car. (Spoiler: he doesn’t like it.)
The original concept comes from designer Loren Kulesus, whose name for the vehicle—the World Thorium Fuel (WTF) Concept—suggests that at least part of his tongue may have been in his cheek when he designed it. In any case, there is certainly some basis for the idea that liquid-salt thorium plants may be safer than light-water uranium plants, giving us the option of nuclear power with less risk. The documentary The Thorium Dream explores this idea, and the people who support it, in some depth.
The truth is that the scientific community hasn’t studied thorium power in much detail; as the documentary points out, the vast bulk of the research conducted on our current nuclear power cycle has to do with the fact that the ingredients we use now can be easily weaponized. Thorium is much less useful in nuclear missile design (though the liquid salt approach is not completely safe), so it didn’t benefit from the same level of research. But it does warrant further scientific study.
We don’t know for certain we won’t be driving thorium-powered cars one day; we just don’t have access to that kind of technology yet. If you’re excited about the possibility of investigating the use of thorium in nuclear power plants (and maybe one day in smaller devices like automobiles), you should check out the Thorium Energy Alliance; they’re a small organization and would probably appreciate your help.