China announces thorium reactor energy program, Obama still dwelling on “Sputnik moments”

President Obama in his recent SOTU address said that “this is our generation’s sputnik moment” referring to the need to use science and technology to develop cheaper clean energy (among other things). It seems the Chinese were listening because last week they announced a focused effort to achieve technological leadership in thorium molten salt reactors.

From EnergyFromThorium

The People’s Republic of China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology, it was announced in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) annual conference on Tuesday, January 25. An article in the Wenhui News followed on Wednesday (Google English translation). Chinese researchers also announced this development on the Energy from Thorium Discussion Forum.

See the Press report (Chinese) below along with partial translation:

http://whb.news365.com.cn/yw/201101/t20110126_2944856.htm

(partial google translation follows)

“Yesterday, as the Chinese Academy of Sciences started the first one of the strategic leader in science and technology projects, “the future of advanced nuclear fission energy – nuclear energy, thorium-based molten salt reactor system” project was officially launched. The scientific goal is to use 20 years or so, developed a new generation of nuclear energy systems, all the technical level reached in the trial and have all intellectual property rights.”

What is a “thorium-based molten salt reactor system”? Please see this previous WUWT post on this technology.

Currently there is no US effort to develop a thorium MSR. Readers of this blog and Charles Barton’s Nuclear Green blog know that there has been a grass-roots effort underway for over five years to change this. The formation of the Thorium Energy Alliance and the International Thorium Energy Organization have been other attempted to convince governmental and industrial leaders to carefully consider the potential of thorium in a liquid-fluoride reactor. There have been many international participants in the TEA and IThEO conferences, but none from China.

Will the US accept the challenge or allow the Chinese to dominate advanced nuclear technology too? Using a technology invented in the US 40 years ago no less!

This isn’t a “Sputnik moment” Mr. President, it’s a “shit or get off the pot” moment for US energy policy. The US excelled at the space race, partly because of the swift kick in the pants that Sputnik provided. Perhaps this announcement will be the embarrassment like Sputnik for the US government that will compel them to finally do something about our energy future besides tilt at windmills.

============================================

Thanks to Charles Hart for the tip and info gathering.

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194 Responses to China announces thorium reactor energy program, Obama still dwelling on “Sputnik moments”

  1. Steamboat Jack says:

    Poor Harry Truman. 60 some years after the Communists attacked in Korea , Communist China becomes a scientific power house and these United States becomes a parochial backwater.

    This country is under the sway of superstitious, ignorant fools.

    And they think that they are the elite; the best and the brightest. The illuminati and the glitterati. They went to all the best schools and know all of the right people.

    Pray for our children.

    Regards,
    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)

  2. geoff says:

    It would seem that the current administration is not interested in any energy source associated with the word nuclear. New energy sources (beyond ‘renewable’ ones) is contrary to their plan to cause energy prices to necessarily skyrocket.

  3. latitude says:

    NASA is too busy painting happy faces on [trimmed]……….

  4. Bill DiPuccio says:

    Thorium is 6 times more abundant than Uranium. If we could scoop up one square mile of rock and soil to a depth of one foot, then extract all of the radioactive material from it, we would accumulate about 2,200 kg of uranium, 12,000 kg of thorium, 2,000 kg of Potassium-40, and 1.7 grams of radium. See http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/natural.htm

  5. Curiousgeorge says:

    Here’s a bit of advice. Ignore what Obama or anyone in his administration says, and instead observe what they do.

  6. Jeff says:

    They are playing catch up to the US in this case …

  7. etudiant says:

    There has been no US work on nuclear reactors of substance since the Three Mile Island accident.
    So there is no deep pool of nuclear expertise and engineering know how left in the US, these experts have largely died or retired in that 35 year interval.
    That means a serious nuclear effort will need to accept that we need to train a new generation of specialists, a slow and error prone as well as costly process.
    It is unlikely that the current political process can be galvanized enough to get this done. It will take a serious crisis before there is any progress, even assuming we are lucky enough to have knowledgeable leadership at that time. We’ll probably have to buy our reactors from China.when the crisis comes.

  8. David says:

    Great point geoff. Not only does the environmental movement want “clean” energy, they want expensive energy. They WANT expensive energy. Because as long as energy is cheap, we will use it to expand our civilization and enrich our lives in ways that use more resources of the planet. That will still be true even if that energy is generated by “clean” means. And that’s why nuclear, which is clean but could also, alas, be cheap, is not something they want considered.

  9. Dave Springer says:

    Yeah right. Advanced Chinese technology is an oxymoron. If they can’t buy it or steal from the United States they ain’t got it.

    REPLY: Pull your head out of your butt for a moment and realize that this liquid salt thorium technology is 40 years old. They can get it out of textbooks. They don’t need “advanced” technology, only the will to use what’s sitting on the shelf.

    The USA doesn’t have the will. While we are screwing around with windmills and sustainability, the Chinese are taking what should have been used years ago and applying it while laughing at the green folly of the west. – Anthony

  10. old construction worker says:

    “Curiousgeorge says:
    January 30, 2011 at 5:45 pm
    Here’s a bit of advice. Ignore what Obama or anyone in his administration says, and instead observe what they do.”

    Good advice. You can say the same thing about all career politicians.

  11. Mauibrad says:

    “This isn’t a “Sputnik moment” Mr. President, it’s a “shit or get off the pot” moment for US energy policy.”

    Right on.

  12. Stephen Rasey says:

    Fort St. Vrain comes to mind. It was a thorium cycle, HTGR (helium), and graphite core. The only one ever built. What did we learn from it to make it a commercial technology? The Helium heat exchanger was a weak point in the St. Vrain plant.

    Graphite moderators give me the willies. It may be illogical, but Chernobyl was made worse by a burning graphite core. Are the control rods graphite in this design?

    According to the WUWT link, they are going to use a lithium-floride salt. This stuff needs to be kept apart from water. So a what-if scenario needs explaining here.

    In this design, there is a continuous chemical reprocessing of the molten salt. What are the accident risks (chemical and financial) here?

  13. Dr. Dave says:

    If you have the time, this is a very informative video about LFTRs:

  14. mike g says:

    Maybe they’ll spur us to some nuclear action?

    Here’s my hope: I hope the Chinese start drilling for oil in our “territorial” waters. We can claim 200 miles all we want and they can claim we only have 3 miles and drill 3.1 miles offshore. What are we going to do about it?

    It really doesn’t matter who brings the oil to market, except for who gets the oil worker jobs. All I care about is not having to pay Obama’s “necessary” $6/gallon.

  15. Grant Hodges says:

    The Obama administration is substituting green energy for conventional/nuke energy for the simple reason that they are positioning their friends to make a cut. Their friends will in turn share the pillage with the Obamites. It’s simple and without regard to the needs of the country. The needs of the country are not even a part of the calculus of this reasoning on the part of the Administration. It is completely corrupt.

    If someone came up with a widget that generated limitless energy for all, the adminstration would drop a bomb on it since they might not get a cut.

  16. mike g says:

    @Stephen Rasey
    …What are the accident risks (chemical and financial) here?

    Are you kidding? The Chinese don’t have to worry about that kind of thing. If they do have an accident, they’ll just scoop up all the contamination and mix into crap for sale at Walmart. We never know what we’re getting in the Chinese crap we buy at Walmart.

    Actually, there’s very little accident potential in thorium reactors, from what I’ve read.

  17. TWE says:

    All intellectual property rights as well? Bad news for the US if they decide to use this technology in future after the Chinese have already developed it. Energy security is an impossibility if the US government continues to deliberately squander all its opportunities to get ahead while it still has time. Having to rely on China for this technology? Not a good idea!

    David is half-correct. Not only is it the enviromentalists who want expensive energy, it is all of ‘them’ in positions of real power as well. All those Club of Rome types. That is why the US is seriously dragging its feet on nuclear R&D.

  18. John F. Hultquist says:

    . . . and have all intellectual property rights.

    I’ve been reading at the site linked to by Anthony (Nuclear Green Blog, and from there – others). This is a 40 year old concept that has been investigated and tested in the United States. The people of the USA ought to have some claim to parts of the intellectual property, and I suspect other nations with active research. Is that not so?

    President (“lost in space”) Sputnik may be able to learn about this. Both houses of congress should pass legislation to make it happen. B.O. would then be faced with a need to respond.

  19. Gerry says:

    We are so screwed.

    My son learned Spanish in school but I think now I’ll tell him
    to pick up some Chinese in college, too.

  20. pat says:

    30 Jan: The Hill: White House official cites ‘education problem’ on climate
    By Ben Geman
    “It is an education problem. I think we have to educate them,” said John Holdren, who heads the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in an interview broadcast Sunday…
    Holdren, asked about advancing Obama’s agenda in the face of skepticism, said the scientific evidence of dangerous human-induced climate change is powerful. “The science of climate change is really very clear in its essentials,” Holdren said on Platts Energy Week.
    He said there is uncertainty about details, but noted that’s always the case in science. What’s plain, Holdren said, is that the climate is changing in damaging ways and that human activities – notably burning fossil fuels – are “overwhelmingly likely” to be the primary cause.
    “Those points are clear in the science, and we need to talk with the members of Congress who aren’t yet convinced of that to try and convince them,” Holdren said…
    “The president realizes that we need all the new energy sources we can get. We need energy sources that reduce our contribution to production of greenhouse gases that are altering the climate, we need those new energy sources to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and we need them to stay competitive in a global market.”…
    http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/141143-white-house-official-cites-capitol-hill-education-problem-on-climate-

    competitive like this, john!

    31 Jan: Daily Telegraph Australia: John Rolfe: Electricity shock as power bills rise
    POWER bills are set to rise by 25 per cent this year – twice as fast as forecast.
    The likely doubling is because households will pick up the tab for government green programs – meaning average electricity users face finding an extra $320 to $440…
    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/indepth/power-bill-scott/story-fn4x9za1-1225997113083

  21. u.k.(us) says:

    @ Anthony,
    Don’t let yourself get sucked in by the troll bait, we got your back.

  22. mike g says:

    I don’t think the Sonny Bono laws (which need repealing, btw) apply to this kind of thing. A patent is good for what, seven years? Or, is it less?

  23. Pete H says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm
    “Yeah right. Advanced Chinese technology is an oxymoron. If they can’t buy it or steal from the United States they ain’t got it.”

    Anthonys reply to you said it all Dave. Have you ever been to China? I have just finished 4 years there and although all is not perfect, I can tell you that not only are you way off the mark but your comment shows the lazy thinking that the has got the West into the mire it is in.

    Makes you wonder why such companies as Intel and Microsoft, to name but two huge companies, have huge research facilities right next to the university in Shanghai, right?

    Its no use moaning and gripping, China is forging ahead, as once the U.K. followed by the U.S. did and all we have are useless leaders and politicians who have know idea how to get a country producing and allow advocacy green groups to ban the exact products we need to be competitive.

  24. George Turner says:

    So the Chinese have started a massive LFTR program, and aside from safety and cost, LFTR’s happen to have high power densities and higher efficiencies than conventional reactors (we even built a uranium molten-salt reactor for a nuclear-powered bomber program) and are much better suited to mass production. There has been talk in the thorium community that LFTR’s would be ideal for naval vessels, even making sense in small surface warships where conventional PWRs don’t make sense.

    So you can bet that the Chinese program will eventually work its way into their navy, with all the benefits LFTR proponents see for our own ships. That means the US Navy had better start a program of its own, to investigate the benefits and pitfalls of a LFTR in submarines (faster? quieter? smaller?) and surface ships (more powerful radar? energy for beam weapons?). Developing a large blue water Navy, even less dependent on supply lines than our own, could be a game changer in the Pacific.

  25. John Goetz says:

    The only Sputnik moments in the US are coming from private industry. In two weeks IBM will play Jeopardy against the two most successful contestants in show history using a computer. It probably cost the company a few million in R&D to develop this capability. How much do you think the feds would spend to do the same? 5 billion? 10 billion?

    Would they ever succeed?

  26. Jay Alt says:

    I recall when the US had a LMFBR (Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor) program, called Clinch River, in TN. About $20 billion in 1973 dollars were eventually spent with little to show for it. Great stuff. The primary coolant circuit was liquid sodium. There could be no leaks whatsever, because it was coupled to the secondary circuit (powering the turbine) full of water. But –
    [rxn: Na(l) + H2O(l) -> violent hydrogen explosion].
    But they never found a technology to build stainless steel boilers that would not leak. The Senate took more than a decade to finally kill that Pork Monster. And it didn’t come back because coal is cheaper. “The Market has spoken, now shutupa your face!”

  27. KD says:

    Well put Anthony. The Administrations fascination with expensive, impractical energy sources is legendary.

    We need an administration who is grounded in reality, not this one with their heads, well, lord knows where – in the clouds or up their collective keesters (sp?).

  28. kramer says:

    I wonder if China had as many environmental NGOs as we do, if they would have had a harder time getting this started? I say this because of recent reports of democracy being a hindrance to progress in the US vs how good the Chinese got it. I think part of our problem is NGOs.

  29. Girma says:

    What the White House also knows—as do most sensible people—is that these promises mean little. The president has made grand nuclear gestures, but his regulators continue to sit on projects. Clean coal remains a pipe dream. Here’s to betting that if and when the president’s “clean energy” standard kicks in, the only mandated sources utilities have to choose from are wind, solar and biofuels.”

    The GOP has spent some long, sometimes uncomfortable, years explaining the perils of cap and trade. Yet they risk getting the same policy, all because they’ve yet to find the moxy to resist the “clean energy” drumbeat.

    http://on.wsj.com/hbwlCB

    What do they mean by “clean energy”?

    It is an indirect way of saying fossil fuels are not clean.

    It is an indirect way of saying the CO2 released from fossil fuels is a pollutant.

    As the CO2 that is released by fossil fuels is identical to that used by plants to produce their food, CO2 is not a pollutant so is use of fossil fuels.

    With millions living in the dark, what the world needs is “cheap energy”!

  30. Dave Springer says:

    Anthony:

    “REPLY: Pull your head out of your butt for a moment and realize that this liquid salt thorium technology is 40 years old. They can get it out of textbooks. They don’t need “advanced” technology, only the will to use what’s sitting on the shelf.

    The USA doesn’t have the will. While we are screwing around with windmills and sustainability, the Chinese are taking what should have been used years ago and applying it while laughing at the green folly of the west. – Anthony”

    Criminy. Who pissed in your wheaties?

    It’s actually 50 years old. The US was researching MSR technology in the early 1960′s for potential use in nuclear powered long range bombers. Try a google scholar search like I did to see who was doing what and when. The only operational thorium MSR reactor in the world was a 7.5mw research reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratories that ran from 1964 to 1969. If you think the reactor design is unclassified and anyone can “get it out of a textbook” you’re naive. The chemistry and physics is well enough described but there’s huge friggin’ leap from theory to practice. Similarly, in my area of expertise, microprocessor architecture is well described in the literature but you aren’t going to see any innovation there that worries Intel or AMD. Innovation in engineering just doesn’t come out of China and don’t think for a moment thorium MSR doesn’t require a whole heap of engineering to get to commercial operation. Research reactors don’t have to run at a profit. The chemistry involved in the single-liquid thorium fuel cycle is neither simple nor economical. Even the U.S. who at ORNL has the only practical experience with this type reactor estimates it will take 20 years to get a first commercial plant operating. If it takes the US 20 years it’ll take China 50 years. Someone has their head up their butt but it isn’t me.

  31. Holt says:

    If we need Education on Nuclear Engineering for our students, send them to schools in France on a Scholarship. America is famous for squandering a lead on technology and having to play “catchup”, usually at a high cost.

  32. cedarhill says:

    As Anthony pointed out, the technology is a few decades old. It will be a lot “cleaner” than all those coal plants. Imho, what the Chinese see is their dependence on foreign fuels is intolerable so they’re kicking off their nuke power industry. If they can gear up significantly, they’ll have energy sufficient to manufacture their hydrocarbons — also using technology that’s decades old. This move should have been an obvious next step to the West since China has been quietly going around the globe buying up resources it needs today and will need to expand in the future. If they solve their energy production and convert to synfuels production, they’ll just be following along with what the folks at Los Alamos wrote about a few years ago.

    And thorium is so abundant no one really knows how much of the stuff is lying around. Mines in the US (for example, in VA) can’t even give the stuff away.

  33. R. Shearer says:

    Split atoms, not birds!

  34. mike g says:

    Dave Springer,

    You’re all wet on this. I would take us 50 years to get it going, with the kind of leadership we have. It’ll take them 5. Same with going to the moon again. It’ll take us 30 years. They’ll be there by the end of the decade.

  35. mike g says:

    Of course, give a private company an incentive to do it (and protection from the parasitic class), and it would all be done in six months.

  36. mike g says:

    While we’re twiddling our thumbs, the Chinese are putting in new reactors like we’re putting in windmills.

  37. Marc77 says:

    An other point about nuclear energy, there is a lot of uranium and some thorium in sea water. Technologies to filter it are still expensive, but the resource is huge.

    A simple search with “uranium sea water” gives plenty of results.

  38. mike g says:

    Dave,

    Any oriental-looking people working at AMD or Intel? I suspect the Chinese have more than just what is in the textbooks on microprocessors. I suspect they know everything AMD and Intel know. It’s just a matter of does it fit in their plan to put resources to this now when they can buy the stuff like commodities on the open market (although, they probably have to pay a few pennies per thousand extra to get around any lingering export restrictions).

  39. Ted Gray says:

    Anthony this is what we are up against with Obama. Read it and weep for America the EPA will enforce this with no concern for the future. Pray the Republicans have the B***S to reverse the green madness!

    USA FED ENERGY COMMISSION STATED: THE US DOES NOT NEED NUCLEAR OR COAL POWER – OUR POWER REQUIREMENT CAN BE MET WITH WIND, SOLAR AND OTHER RENEWABLE SOURCES
    Wed May 6, 2009 12:59am BS

    (Reuters) – The nation’s top power industry regulator on Tuesday suggested that U.S. utilities don’t need to build big nuclear or coal-fired power plants to fill the nation’s future power supply needs.
    Instead, Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said future electricity demand growth can be met with a low-emission supply from wind, solar and other renewable sources, combined with more efficient use of all sources of electricity.
    “We have the potential in the country, we just have to go out and get it,” Wellinghoff said at a briefing with reporters at the American Wind Energy Association’s conference in Chicago, monitored by telephone.

    Wellinghoff’s vision of a U.S. future based on renewables and smarter electric use has been challenged by big U.S. electric utilities, who insist that they need to build nuclear and coal plants to provide “baseload” power to keep the grid supplied.

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2009/05/05/us-utilities-awea-wellinghoff-idUKTRE5447HI20090505

  40. savethesharks says:

    “Perhaps this announcement will be the embarrassment like Sputnik for the US government that will compel them to finally do something about our energy future besides tilt at windmills.”

    ========================

    Preach it!

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  41. u.k.(us) says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm
    “Yeah right. Advanced Chinese technology is an oxymoron. If they can’t buy it or steal from the United States they ain’t got it.”

    Dave Springer says:
    January 30, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    “Innovation in engineering just doesn’t come out of China and don’t think for a moment thorium MSR doesn’t require a whole heap of engineering to get to commercial operation.”
    ========
    Sounds like China copies our engineering, and sells it back to us.
    At a profit to them, and the company that revealed their manufacturing techniques.
    It’s all about cheap labor.
    What will happen, when we produce more (subsidized) college graduates than can be employed? Or have we already?
    At some point, somebody needs to produce, something.

  42. FrankK says:

    Well look what the US (and the UK) could have done if it had not wasted the billions on climate change “research”.

  43. Ray says:

    “The US excelled at the space race, partly because of the swift kick in the pants that Sputnik provided.”

    Don’t forget the important role the Canadian Engineers played in the Apollo program after the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow was suddenly canceled. Most of them went to NASA. Apparently, they already had the plans of the lunar module.

  44. India has been doing work on thorium cycle reactors for a while, because they don’t have a domestic source of U235, they do have a lot of thorium… India’s thorium cycle reactor design uses a pressurized heavy water moderator, probably derived from the CANDU technology (because AECL has been doing similar research going back decades).

  45. Layne Blanchard says:

    Perhaps O’sputternik will rise to the occasion and announce the solar powered windmill?

  46. smcg says:

    I’m with Barry Brooks on this – Australia has “bucket loads” of Thorium (in addition to its already established bucket loads of Uranium).

    Australia should be going “balls out” to inherit the US technology and advance it to production standard, especially if the US hasn’t got the wherewithall to do it…

  47. Sun Spot says:

    The Canadian heavy water CANDU reactor technology is thorium capable, we have to be in this race. Low tech expensive green energy will strangle us economically.

  48. eadler says:

    John F. Hultquist says:
    January 30, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    “. . . and have all intellectual property rights.”

    I’ve been reading at the site linked to by Anthony (Nuclear Green Blog, and from there – others). This is a 40 year old concept that has been investigated and tested in the United States. The people of the USA ought to have some claim to parts of the intellectual property, and I suspect other nations with active research. Is that not so?

    President (“lost in space”) Sputnik may be able to learn about this. Both houses of congress should pass legislation to make it happen. B.O. would then be faced with a need to respond.

    The life of a patent is 20 years in the US. If the technology is 40 years old, it is unlikely that intellectual property is a real issue.

  49. Dave Springer says:

    re; windmills and green technology

    Windmills have a place. Where there’s adequate wind they produce electricity that’s cost competitive with nuclear energy and it doesn’t take 20 years to build a windfarm. They’re ready to go today and public resistance from the environmentalist whackos and NIMBY hotheads is minimal. Texas is putting them up by the thousands. The problem with windmills is essentially limited suitable locations and lack of ability to adjust supply to meet demand. But where and when they work they feed into the grid and allow on-demand power plants (read fossil fuel powered plants) to throttle down. One nice thing about wind power is, unlike solar, the wind keeps blowing at night.

    I stand by my prediction that the big winners will be photovoltaics and biofuels. Nuclear will be never be cheap enough or safe enough unless some fringe-science low temperature fusion which has no theoretical explanation is discovered by trial and error. Trial and error is how high temperature superconductor R&D is proceeding (no theoretical guidance) so I won’t rule it out since HTSC is real but breakthroughs of this kind are unpredictable. Photovoltaics are solid state electronics with no spooky unexplained theory of operation. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t follow the path of every other solid state electronic gimcrack beginning with the transister 50 years ago and get progressively less expensive to manufacture. Halving the manufacturing cost twice will make them competitive with combined cycle natural gas fired turbines which is the cheapest (by far) thing going right now and also squeeky clean and green to keep the CO2 and nuclear waste nutjobs happy – they’ll have to work overtime to find something to bitch about. PV of course won’t replace all conventional electrical generation due to availability and storage issues but it’ll take over a lot of the load from conventional on-demand sources when the sun is shining. Biofuels are the most near-term practical energy source. Ethanol from corn is something of a boondoggle as corn is too valuable as a food crop to divert for transportation fuel. The primary benefit of the exercise was to get a handle on biofuel logistics and drive the automakers into producing E85 engines capable of running on anything up to 85% ethanol/gasoline blend. Currently most gasoline is a 10% ethanol blend which is the most that an unmodified gasoline engine can tolerate. Electric vehicles are a total boondoggle without a single redeeming feature aside from making morons like Bill Maher feel like they’re doing something heroic to save the planet. As a practical matter the race is on to find, breed, and/or genetically modify extant microbes to go in one easy step from air/water/sun/nutrients straight to ethanol and biodiesel. There are pilot plants using recently discovered algae species right now that are close to unsubsidized cost parity with gas and diesel cracked from crude oil. If oil rises much over $100/bbl they will be at parity right now. The exciting thing is these microbial biofuel producers are in their infancy and can easily see a ten-fold improvement in the next decade which makes them almost free compared to oil and unlike electricity or hydrogen as transportation power sources biofuels are a seamless drop-in replacement for fossil transportation fuels.

    By the way, I just finished reading a wonderful interview of Vinod Khosla, billionaire co-founder of Sun Microsystems, who in 2004 founded Khosla Ventures, and angel investing company focused on innovative alternative energy technologies. Khosla is only interested in things which are both cleaner AND cheaper than extant technologies – if it doesn’t hold out a solid promise of being less expensive than extant technologies he isn’t interested in it. Like me, he considers “green” to be nice but the primary consideration is cost. Raising the standard of living for everyone in the world can only be accomplished by less costly sources of energy. Making energy more expensive solely for the purpose of low-carbon footprints will just add to the suffering the world rather than reducing it.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=in-search-of-the-radical-solution

    Scientific American – January 2011

    In Search of the Radical Solution – A Q&A with Venture Capitalist Vinod Khosla on New Energy Technology

    The greatest energy payoffs, says investor Vinod Khosla, will come from fundamentally reinventing mainstream technologies”

    Interview by Mark Fischetti

    Quote from article:

    “The most interesting area is the one people have soured on the most: biofuels.”

    Khosla has that right. Anyone who is up-to-speed on state of the art microbiology and genetic engineering knows this and luckily venture capitalists like Khosla are betting heavily on it.

  50. Lonnie Schubert says:

    Anthony, I agree with your sentiment. Perhaps, but I am not optimistic. Nuclear will win. PWRs, BWRs, and thorium varieties are inevitable, and we are likely to go back to molten metal breeders like EBR-II. When we built it, we lead the world. Then NBC called it a “fleecing of America,” and it has been all down hill from there. http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/index.php/dr-john-sackett/171-operating-and-test-experience-for-the-experimental-breeder-reactor-ii-ebr-ii

    While I think nuclear power will dominate all electrical production within a few decades, I have little hope that the West, save for France, will have a leading role. The Chinese and Japanese are likely to race in the lead for many years.

    I learned what I know doing research for materials for fusion reactors. Don’t believe anyone that tells you we will have fusion energy before your grandkids have grandkids. Cold fusion, polywell, or some other variety, perhaps, but I believe it will take an unpredictable genius breakthrough before any such becomes commercially viable.

  51. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    It looks like Asia is the new land of opportunity. America not so much.

  52. MDR says:

    If thorium reactor technology is supposedly ready to be plucked off a shelf and inserted into someone’s power grid, and given the huge demand for energy, why has no one worldwide done so? (I don’t believe there is a working thorium reactor anywhere.)

    Is it a cost issue? An issue of dealing with unwanted byproducts? A distribution issue? An engineering issue? A physics issue? There must be a stumbling block somewhere. What is it?

  53. The General Atomics Energy Multiplier Module looks good and uses depleted Uranium. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_multiplier_module Someone just needs to get off the stick.

  54. Dave Springer says:

    China’s nuclear power expertise (my emphasis):

    NUCLEAR STRATEGIC BALLISTIC MISSILE SUBMARINES (SSBNs)

    Xia (Daqingyu) Class SSBN (Type 09-2 [No. 406]):

    The Xia-class SSBN is a modification of the Han-class SSN, lengthened to house 12 missile tubes. China has stated that it has built two Xia-class SSBNs, each of which can carry 12 JL-1 SLBMs. However, reports conflict as to whether China has actually deployed two SSBNs. Most analysts estimate only one is operational (the 09-2).

    The 09-2 SSBN first went on patrol in 1986. It is still unknown if the submarines are deployed armed with nuclear missiles, as China has been secretive about nuclear deployment details in order to enhance the survivability of the launch platforms.

    The strategic value of the 09-2 SSBN is questionable; it uses very old technology and is thus highly vulnerable to acoustic detection and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) systems, and has never sailed beyond China’s regional waters, operating for only short periods in China’s coastal waters. Also, a minimum of three SSBNs must be operational in order to have one constantly on patrol. The 09-2 has also been hindered by the low level of reliability of its nuclear power plant. Other questions remain regarding the Xia’s operational status. In August 2000 the Agence France Presse quoted an annonymous Asian military expert saying, “The Xia has not been out to sea for several years and it has not fired any ballistic missiles since at least the early nineties.”

    What? You mean China can’t just get the design for a submarine nuclear power plant “out of a textbook”? The U.S. has been sailing reliable nuclear powered submarines that never need refueling and can stay underwater for six months at time for the last 50 years. China still can’t do it. But they’re going to sail right past Oak Ridge thorium MSR reactor expertise sometime soon? What a joke. They’re just trying to save face and distract the rest of the world from the fact they’re building dirty coal-fired power plants as fast as they possibly can. If it was Japan or maybe even South Korea making the announcement I might find it slightly more credible but even those two technologically advanced countries aren’t world class when it comes to nuclear reactor design, construction, and operation in any of commercial, military, or research areas of endeavour.

  55. Gary Hladik says:

    Well, as long as somebody is doing it (China and India), there’s hope for humanity yet.

    When they have it working, maybe we can trade them some swampland in Florida for the technology. As a bonus, they would probably turn the land into productive real estate. :-)

  56. Douglas DC says:

    How to murder a perfectly good Reactor program FFTF:
    http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2009/06/03/599996/fftf-shutdown-completed-at-hanford.html
    Dammit..

  57. DCC says:

    “. . . and have all intellectual property rights.”

    How’s that? The Chinese invoking intellectual property rights? Just paying off what they owe Microsoft would even out the trade deficit!

  58. Pat says:

    Obama knows about much about energy and science as a toad. It may be hard to believe, but this man is truly stupid. And he has infested himself with incompetent crack pots. Browner, Van Jones, etc. Oh yeah. Those are normally educated people.

  59. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Sorry, but this could be a bit of a smokescreen. China already has CANDU reactors, which can breed fuel from thorium. CANDU’s are very flexible in their fuel choices, and can burn the “waste” from standard light water reactors, which China also has.

    There is no need for such a thorium-only program, especially with the engineering challenges of using molten salts, strictly for energy production. Perhaps they want a dedicated optimized thorium reactor, might have a lot of thorium on hand.

    But I think the “intellectual property rights” are what they’re really after. Thorium is touted as “the better nuclear” if you’re worried about weapons-grade material being generated in the waste product. If China has a system they can call all their own, with all the rights, then they have something they can sell. They can also point to the nuclear weapons angle, and gain international acceptance for selling them to countries that sane governments prefer to not even have enriched uranium. They can flood the third world with cheap nuclear power plants, and all those countries will know who they have to turn to for parts, service, and training.

    Meanwhile, based on what I’m reading in the Wikipedia Thorium entry, I wouldn’t trust certain countries even with those reactors, they can still extract material suitable for nuclear bombs. I’d rather give them coal plants and risk the globe going up a few tenths of a degree a decade, than risk small bits of the globe suddenly achieving several thousands of degrees in under a second.

  60. wobble says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 30, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    I stand by my prediction that the big winners will be photovoltaics and biofuels.

    If you’re really interested in biofuels, then you should buy your own plant. There are dozens in bankruptcy selling for a small fraction of the capital that was used to build them. And they’re all running at 30% capacity despite $90 oil.

    Nuclear will be never be cheap enough or safe enough unless some fringe-science low temperature fusion which has no theoretical explanation is discovered by trial and error.

    Nuclear could easily be cheap enough if the US decided to allow fast track regulatory pipeline for cookie cutter design plants. There is absolutely NO reason why a nuclear plant should take more than 5 years to build.

  61. Mike Jonas says:

    Are the Chinese really ahead, or are they playing catch-up?

    I recall India making Thorium noises some years ago, and some sort of deal with the USA. I found this page
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf53.html
    which gives quite a lot of information (dated Jan 2011). The Indian effort apparently began around 2002, and may be making reasonable progress (see under Thorium fuel cycle development in India) :
    In 2002 the regulatory authority issued approval to start construction of a 500 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam and this is now under construction by BHAVINI. The unit is expected to be operating in 2011, fuelled with uranium-plutonium oxide (the reactor-grade Pu being from its existing PHWRs). It will have a blanket with thorium and uranium to breed fissile U-233 and plutonium respectively. This will take India’s ambitious thorium program to stage 2, and set the scene for eventual full utilisation of the country’s abundant thorium to fuel reactors. Six more such 500 MWe fast reactors have been announced for construction, four of them by 2020.

    See also
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/energy/nuclear/is-thorium-the-nuclear-fuel-of-the-future
    http://www.hindustantimes.com/US-firm-offers-India-thorium-reactors/Article1-248288.aspx

  62. Manfred says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 30, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    “There’s no reason why they shouldn’t follow the path of every other solid state electronic gimcrack beginning with the transister 50 years ago and get progressively less expensive to manufacture.”

    They will get cheaper, but this comparison is false. Solid state electronics got cheaper by miniaturization, solar panels cannot volume may only be reduced in 1 dimension (depth).

  63. JimF says:

    One thing is clear. Our wonderful legal system has been transmogrified into the Gordian Knot. We need an Alexander to cut through it. For example:
    1)Congress (in concert with the President’s support and approval, as in all references to Congress hereinafter) declares “energy security” to be a matter of utmost national importance.
    2) Congress forbids the courts from entertaining lawsuits having to do with energy generation except as described below.
    3) Congress passes legislation regarding the permitting and construction of new power facilities mandating: a) a strenuous but reasonable permitting process (No you cannot site your molten salt bath thorium reactor on the San Andreas fault); b) assuming a project passes the permitting test, there is a window of opportunity – “challenge phase” – for complainants to sue to stop the project, on a “loser pays” basis; and c) if the project survives the challenge phase, it goes forward and no suits regarding its operational basis are allowed. (Other suits can of course be brought, but always “loser pays”.)

    It’s time to transform the environmental crowd from their current stature as the night creatures in “Soylent Green” or more charitably, Luddites, into something positive like they are “said” to have been back in the 50s (I say “said” because I’ve read some articles by conservative thinkers who state they once acted beneficially. My experience is they have been essentially terribly destructive to the US and civilization in general).

    My 2 bits.

  64. Patrick says:

    Kirk Sorensen, the guy who runs the website http://energyfromthorium.com, presented a talk recently at Google on the vital importance of the U233 that the US gov’t has created and which it is in the process of destroying. U233 play an important role in kick starting the LFTR.

    Contact your representative today – save the U233!!!

  65. Could not agree more with Curiousgeorge,

    We in the West really need to stop stupidly falling for what our politicians say they want to do and look at what they actually do. Words are cheap!!

    When we hire people or make work appraisals – what sane employer would only go by what employees say they want to do? You look at their achievements and performance and largely ignore the rhetoric.

  66. FrankK says:

    smcg says:
    January 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm
    I’m with Barry Brooks on this – Australia has “bucket loads” of Thorium (in addition to its already established bucket loads of Uranium).
    Australia should be going “balls out” to inherit the US technology and advance it to production standard, especially if the US hasn’t got the wherewithall to do it…
    =======================================================

    Yes indeed. But we have the Greens Bob Brown in bed “screwing” our PM Julia Gillard so fat chance well see nuclear this side of the next decades to come.

  67. Mike Jonas says:

    Ted Gray quoted : “USA FED ENERGY COMMISSION STATED: THE US DOES NOT NEED NUCLEAR OR COAL POWER – OUR POWER REQUIREMENT CAN BE MET WITH WIND, SOLAR AND OTHER RENEWABLE SOURCES
    Wed May 6, 2009 12:59am BS

    Spot on. It is indeed BS.

  68. Colonel Sun says:

    From a foreign perspective, lots of US jingoism,
    little in the way of information so far.
    Oh well, Chinese jingoism can be just as histrionic . . .

    Anyways, back to thorium

    The first thorium molten salt reactor was developed at Oak Ridge, TN, USA
    by Alvin Weinberg’s team:

    http://goo.gl/qQPsd

    Funding and development was discontinued because
    1/ the US Navy wanted pressurized light water reactors for it’s vessels; and
    2/ the US govt and military wanted reactors that would produce copious amounts of plutonium during the Cold War for the US nuclear weapons program.

    Current thorium based reactor projects are based in

    1/ India. Based on the CANDU design

    http://goo.gl/rewge

    Btw, the Canadians, meanwhile, are looking to sell off their AECL despite being positioned to take advantage of the thorium fuel cycle:

    http://goo.gl/JWVD6

    An idea possibly even more short sighted than their beloved and much bemoaned Avro Arrow.

    2/ Japan. The miniFuji – IThEMS thorium molten salt reactor project:

    http://goo.gl/AqOep

    3/ China. As announced above.

    A summary of the history of and argument for the thorium fuel cycle:

    http://goo.gl/bTwW9

    Arguments for and again the thorium fuel cycle: http://goo.gl/jQWs

    Other advanced nuclear reactor projects: http://goo.gl/ejIL

  69. Dr. Dave says:

    I encourage all of you who can spare an hour to watch the video I linked to @ around 6PM (above). This is probably the best explanation of thorium reactors I’ve ever seen.

    @Dave Springer. Sorry, but you’re nuts. There’s no way wind turbines, solar or biofuels will make a measurable dent in our energy needs in the decades to come. As a country, had we invested even a fraction of the money we squandered on the AGW fraud on LFTRs and other newer generation nuke designs we would be way ahead of the game. We have greedy politicians, avaricious lawyers and the church of environmentalism to blame.

  70. Slabadang says:

    Well!
    China has ambitions and finds possibilities for thier nations future.Cheap availible electricity from a newly rediscovered old American inviromental safe nuclear tecnology.Its a proof of a nation that is going somewere while USA and ther rest of the west is going nowere.
    Leaders of the west do everything they can to make energy expensive and unavailible by skyrocketing taxes and prices.China is creating the opposit possibility.Ban Kii Moon wants a “revolution” against the free market and market ekonomy.You dont have to be an Einstein to realize whats gonna happen in the future.West is crippled by its leaders with no ambitions for its people whats so ever more than increase thier control and power on the expense of our future.The misantropic elit with MSM and gouvernments in an alliance is the new stealth dictatorship pact ruling our way into to powerty and disaster.We have to surrender our rights and needs under a new order where they say that they know what the “planet needs” and thier interpetation of that need is whats to control our lifes. This new fascism has become the new state religion.And I tell you folks these green fascist that infiltrated our democracys is a serious problem for our future.You now have these faschist implementes in the hole democratic apparatus and they are spread like a virus.
    T Jeffersson:

    “Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.”

  71. R. de Haan says:

    What a ‘Sputnik’ moment would be for me is Obama on a single trip to the moon.
    What a hack.

  72. Brent says:

    A molten salt reactor is a sweet reactor to run. according to the researchers at oakridge. The work left to be done on it is materials testing. the fission product are processed online, which is one reason it burns up most of the fuel. You also have to develop a heat exchanger.

    The reason no one has built one is you need a bunch of U-233 to start it. The government has all there is. U -233 is expensive to make but once you get the reactor going it makes its own u-233. So the government has a bunch of expensive u-233 which you could burn in any reactor. so what do they do with it? they pay someone to bury it.

    China will this year send 100,000 students to study in the USA according to jon Huntsman jr, ambassador to china. So who is kidding who about where the knowledge is now.

  73. Liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs) have one big advantage. They start the reaction further down the periodic table with the result that they produce one ten-thousandth of the transuranics that any uranium-based process does. That is 30 grams of plutonium versus 30 kg from a light water reactor, per Gw year of output.

    The second big advantage over plutonium breeder reactors is scale. Because plutonium fast breeder operates in the fast neutron spectrum, it must use molten sodium and because of the low thermal capacity of sodium, the reactor must be six times larger than an equivalent LFTR.

    For neutron economy reasons and thus a positive breeding ratio, the LFTR has to be a two-fluid liquid reactor. Thus the Indian thorium effort is a dead end.

    This development has the potential to make China the Boeing of the nuclear industry – pushing out a reactor a day. And don’t believe the 20 year bit – the J20 fighter came out of the blue and very fast. Buying a conventional nuclear reactor is like ordering a car and having it assembled in your front yard over several years.

    The Chinese will have first mover advantage and economies of scale. And it will bring enormous political leverage too. As the oil runs out and coal is bid up to the oil price in energy terms, getting electrical power is going to be expensive and tricky for many countries.

    I recommend Googling “Kaya Bey powership”. The Pakistanis find it difficult to run a national electricity generating system, so they ordered a 250 MW, Turkish-built ship which is now sitting in Karachi harbour providing power from burning diesel.

    The Chinese could and will offer a similar service – 250 MW powerplants that just sail in and are connected to the grid. Regimes find it easier if their populations have cheap, reliable power. If the Chinese are the only ones offering that service, they will get enormous leverage from that in getting countries to toe the Chinese line.

    As far as getting a Western LFTR up, it won’t involve anyone from the current scientific establishment, which are so stupid that they believe in global warming. We will adopt the Chinese solution in putting an electrical engineer in charge of the effort.

  74. Dave Springer says:

    Dr. Dave says:
    January 30, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    “We have greedy politicians, avaricious lawyers and the church of environmentalism to blame.”

    That’s a credible claim in the United States but it’s a big world and hardly explains why other industrialized nations aren’t building out a vast number of nuclear power plants. The Soviet Union is a prime example. They’ve had nuclear expertise equivalent to ours since forever. If it made economic sense they’d do it. They don’t have to deal with greedy capitalists, environmentalist whackos, or public opinion. If it was cheaper than fossil fuel they’d just do it. Yet they didn’t.

    The following table is all you need to look at to determine why the world isn’t going crazy for nuclear power:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_cost_of_electricity_generated_by_different_sources

    Advanced nuclear is 20% more expensive than conventional coal and whopping 50% more expensive than conventional natural gas. Nuclear power is a largely failed experiment which began in 1970, saw a flurry of construction which lasted until 1985, and hasn’t grown since then with fewer and fewer new reactors under construction every year.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nuclear_Power_History.png

    You might be in denial but the people who put their money at risk to build these hideously expensive things are not buying into it. Follow the money.

  75. johanna says:

    Dave Springer said:

    Innovation in engineering just doesn’t come out of China
    ——————————————————-
    Just hold that thought, Dave, while the West continues its relative decline.

    This kind of racist jingoism and complacency is reminiscent of the last throes of the British Empire, on which the sun was never going to set because of the inherent inferiority of people in the Colonies.

    Anyone with direct experience of Chinese effort in technology (including training up a whole generation who are starting to make their mark) knows that what you say is arrogant foolishness.

    If China and/or India can get thorium plants up and running, they will be doing us all a favour. I just wish the world was arranged so that people like you could be marooned with nothing but ‘renewable’ energy sources, paying the full cost, of course.

  76. Robert L says:

    Thorium is good, and the molten salt reactors can have excellent passive safety (The 60′s design had a plug of salt that if over-heated (or uncooled) allowed the thorium to drain into a dish where it could no longer achieve criticality).

    But don’t give up on Uranium and breeder reactors – they are actually a better long term bet, and the only technology that mankind needs to give us power till the sun dies.

    1kg of uranium in a reactor can produce about 400000kWh electricity (about $20000 electricity at 0.05/kWh). For conventional reactors you need 8kg of uranium to produce 1kg of enriched reactor fuel (creating 7kg of depleted uranium) , but a fast breeder uses all the uranium, plus eventually any depleted uranium that might be laying around, and produces orders of magnitude less long-term waste.

    But the key is that Japanese have developed tech to extract uranium from seawater for $250/kg – an inexhaustible supply given plate-techtonics and erosion that requires no mining . Uranium is far more abundant and accessible in seawater than thorium will be in the long term.

    So $2000/kg for reactor fuel from seawater in current plants, and $250/kg for future breeder reactors, either giving $20000/kg worth of electricity… forever.

    There are already several million tonnes of depleted Uranium sitting around that can be used in fast breeder reactors – enough to supply US electricity for about 100 years.

  77. Juraj V. says:

    “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.”
    – Jeremy Rifkin, Greenhouse Crisis Foundation

    “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”
    – Prof Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University

    More at
    http://www.infowars.com/enviroment-eugenics-quotes/

  78. Dave Springer says:

    From the US Department of Energy:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_cost_of_electricity_generated_by_different_sources#U.S._Department_of_Energy_estimates

    Total system levelized costs (US/2008) for new power plants per megawatt/hour:

    Advanced Nuclear – $119
    Biomass – $110

    Who in their right mind is going to invest in a nuclear power plant when biomass generation is already cheaper, in its infancy, and the price per megawatt is plummeting rapidly as the technology improves? People with money to invest usually didn’t get that money by making stupid investment decisions. Nuclear power generation is history. Stick a fork in it. It’s done. A non-starter. A money losing proposition with about as much future as the horse & buggy had when Henry Ford started mass producing automobiles, the Pony Express after the invention of the telegraph, the gas streetlight after General Electric started building the modern electrical grid, the vacuum tube after the invention of the transister, ice production and distribution after the invention of refrigeration heat pumps, video cassette tapes after the invention of DVD, floppy disks after the invetion of the CD-ROM, photography using film after the invention of the CCD camera, the rotary pulse dial telephone after the invention of the push-button tone system, and so on – the list of new technologies first displacing then replacing older technologies is endless. Nuclear energy is SO 1970s’. It ain’t coming back.

  79. Dave (UK) says:

    The US has allegedly spent $70+ billion trying to prove AGW. If the money had been invested in Thorium research, the US would be a world-leader in this branch of nuclear power. Instead, the US is sprinkled with stupid wind turbines that make some landscapes look like pin-cushions.

  80. Varco says:

    Off topic – sorry, but this made me laugh…

    Latimer Alder at Bishop Hill has christened a new title for the Teams’ esteemed Climate scientists: ‘Climatologits’.

    Sums it up nicely for me.

    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/1/30/teacher-training.html#comments

  81. Richard S Courtney says:

    Anthony:

    This is a great post. Thankyou.

    But, sadly, the important point is made by etudiant at January 30, 2011 at 5:55 pm who points out that the US has lost its expertise in nuclear technology. Indeed, I add to that by pointing out that – for the reason that etudiant explains – in the West only France now has significant expertise in commercial nucear technology for large scale power generation.

    Regaining that lost expertise in nuclear technology requires education and training of nuclear engineers which cannot be conducted overnight, and after that those engineers will require decades to obtain an adequate pool of operational experience.

    Also, all energy technology has risks, and thorium reactor technology is no different from any other in this respect. But misanthropic ‘greens’ have a campaign policy to overstate risks while downplaying benefits of all useful energy technologies (e.g. AGW, ANWAR, etc.). So, there is very likely to be opposition to any RD&D (i.e. research, development and demonstration) program for any nuclear power program. Indeed, an example of such opposition to thorium power is provided by Stephen Rasey at January 30, 2011 at 6:05 pm.

    Hence, an adequate RD&D program for thorium power may not be possible for decades in much of the West.

    So, it seems that we in the West now have only two options that are practically available to us while we act to regain the needed expertise in nuclear technology; viz.

    1. Let the Chinese develop thorium reactor technology then buy it from them

    and/or

    2. Pay the French to develop thorium reactor technology under contracts that let the rest of us utilise the results of their RD&D.

    All very sad, so very sad.

    Richard

  82. old construction worker says:

    ‘Dave Springer says:
    January 31, 2011 at 12:32 am
    You might be in denial but the people who put their money at risk to build these hideously expensive things are not buying into it. Follow the money.’

    France may disagree with you.

  83. phlogiston says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 31, 2011 at 12:32 am

    Much of the “cost” of nuclear is virtual, not real. For instance in the planning and contruction of the Sizewell B reactor in the UK, the appeals process took 20 years, propelled by the environmentalist circus that surrounds anything nuclear or indeed any technology more recent than the 18th century. The gross fallacy of the zero threshold radiation carcinogenesis model – just as corrosive a fallacy as CAGW – deliberately cripples the nuclear industry by imposing belief in fictitious radiation risk at very low dose levels. Large volumes of totally harmless material (in some cases less radioactive than the human body) has to be treated as uniquely dangerous or satanic for thousands of years.

    Snap out of this superstition and nuclear power is not that expensive.

  84. Fred Bloggs says:

    Interesting to hear all those castigating the Chinese for their lack of innovation and using the US man on the moon as a reference.

    You forget that most of the US rocket technology was obtained from Werner von Braun, the Nazi scientist who had developed the V1 and V2 rockets which tormented London in the war.

    Basically China does not innovate right now because it’s faster and lower risk to copy. When they get to the cutting edge, I expect their scientists to be as innovative as ours.

  85. Steve Koch says:

    This is a great development. I’ve been banging the LFTR drum for awhile. It is the nuclear energy that is most appealing from a green perspective. It is safer to operate, cheaper to build, produces orders of magnitude less nuclear waste, the waste it produces decays in several orders of magnitude less time than conventional nuclear power plant waste, thorium is abundant and cheap, the fuel is utilized 2 orders of magnitude more efficiently, terrorism threat is way lower, operates at near normal air pressure (enabling much cheaper and smaller plants).

    My guess is that the Chinese are trying to stampede us into figuring out the intricacies of LFTRs so they can steal the technology from us via corporate and academic espionage. Scientific espionage is the cheapest way to get new technology, millions of times cheaper than doing the R&D yourself. Hope this motivates the USA to work on LFTRs because it would be great for the USA and the world to get LFTRs commercially viable.

  86. DirkH says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 31, 2011 at 12:32 am
    “and hasn’t grown since then with fewer and fewer new reactors under construction every year.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nuclear_Power_History.png

    That chart ends in 2007. Here’s data from Sept 2010:
    http://www.euronuclear.org/info/encyclopedia/n/nuclear-power-plant-world-wide.htm

    442 reactors in operation, 65 under construction.

    Wikipedia might need to update their artwork.

  87. Steve Koch says:

    “Instead, the US is sprinkled with stupid wind turbines that make some landscapes look like pin-cushions.”

    Wind turbines are now called bird processors.

  88. Myrrh says:

    Adding to Colonel Sun
    January 30 2011 11:27 pm

    Producing depleted uranium for weapons a major reason for rejecting thorium power, these bombs have been used extensively in Iraq, Serbia and Afghanistan,
    http://nwoobserver.wordpress.com/2010/04/02/depleted-uranium-radiation-resulting-from-nato-bombings-in serbia-high-incidence-of-cancer/

    The other major reason is the usual follow the money trail, who owns the uranium in the West? The US share of electric power from nuclear has risen from 11% in 1980 to around 20%accounts by 2008.

    And the bottom line as always, screw the people to put more and more wealth into the control of the few. Cheap thorium power plants for every householder a pipe dream if the lengths they’ve gone to demonise cheap coal are anything to go by..

  89. Barry Sheridan says:

    The problem here is that unfortunately, for the most part anyway, western political elites are essentially the product of ignorant universities whose speciality centres around producing nonentities. These people absorb absurd notions that remain strong enough to exclude any form of practicality in favour of an endless, fraudulent and elaborate fantasy.

    Examples of this include the ideal of human equality, or more properly its perversion, for in reality there is no such thing, either physically or intellectually. I know beyond any doubt that there are millions and millions of men and women in this world, both young and old who are far more intellectually capable than I could ever hope to be. The same can be said for physical prowess, however you care to measure its charactistics.

    The upshot I suppose really is do we have an answer, a way out of the determined course that can only lead us further down. Frankly the response must be no, at least not while much of the population thinks government is the answer. As Ronald Reagan reminded us, ‘Government is not the answer to the problem, it is the problem.’

    Clearly Barack Obama is not up to leading America out of its plight, in truth the only ones who can are its people, however far too many are not yet ready to shoulder the necessary burdens that will begin the process of reversing decline. That can only begin when a real majority see modern elites for what they are. Self serving weaklings without principle or strength to make tough decisions, only then, perhaps, will it be seen that a bright future can only be constructed by healthy and enduring dose of reality and plenty of effort.

  90. Roy says:

    The criticisms made of US energy policy apply just as much if not more to British policy. Britain built the world’s first nuclear power station, the Calderhall station at Sellafield in 1956.

    Sellafield
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sellafield#Calder_Hall_nuclear_power_station

    In 1999 British Nuclear Fuels acquired the American nuclear power company, Westinghouse Electric Company, but in 2006 it sold it to Toshiba and now there are no British owned companies with know-how to build nuclear power stations.

    Most of the existing nuclear power stations in Britain are rapidly approaching the end of their planned lives. When they are being de-commissioned we will also be shutting many of our conventional power stations to meet CO2 reduction targets agreed with the European Union.

    It is painfully obvious that unless something is done very soon there will be major energy supply problems in Britain in the not too distant future. The government’s reponse is to TALK about building some new nuclear power stations and thousands of wind turbines. However they have ruled out subsidies for nuclear power while being willing to spend huge sums on wind turbines that do not work in conditions like we experienced recently when we had the coldest December for 100 years.

    By the time the chickens come home to roost the present lot of politicians will be out of office (I nearly wrote “out of power”) anyway so why should they worry?

  91. Ian H says:

    Most of the people high up in the Chinese government have science and engineering backgrounds. Most of the people high up in the US government are lawyers.

  92. Roy says:

    johanna wrote:

    Dave Springer said:

    Innovation in engineering just doesn’t come out of China
    ——————————————————-
    Just hold that thought, Dave, while the West continues its relative decline.

    This kind of racist jingoism and complacency is reminiscent of the last throes of the British Empire, on which the sun was never going to set because of the inherent inferiority of people in the Colonies.

    Why blame the British for Dave Springer’s remarks? Most British people know perfectly well that for most of its very long history China had an outstanding record of innovation. Gunpowder, the compas, printing, and paper money are just some things that were invented in China. It was a British scientist and historian, Joseph Needham, who did most to make it clear how great the West’s debt is. His main work, which is being continued by others, Science and Civilisation in China now runs to 27 volumes.

    If Joanna knew more about history she would realise that the saying “the sun never sets on the British Empire” described its geographical extent. Unlike previous empires it spanned the globe and therefore there when it was night in one part it would be daytime in another part.

    Rudyard Kipling, the poet, novelist and short story writer is often regarded as a typical imperialist but he foresaw the decline and end of the British Empire in his poem Recessional.

    http://www.web-books.com/Classics/Poetry/Anthology/Kipling/Recessional.htm

    I quote the first and third verses below.

    God of our fathers, known of old–
    Lord of our far-flung battle line
    Beneath whose awful hand we hold
    Dominion over palm and pine–
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget – lest we forget!

    Far-called, our navies melt away;
    On dune and headland sinks the fire:
    Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
    Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
    Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
    Lest we forget – lest we forget!

    If could quote other passages from his writings that show that the arch-imperialist Kipling had a much greater respect for the abilities of the peoples of the Orient than some of the commentators on this blog who seem to think Chinese history began with Chairman Mao.

  93. RichieP says:

    Tom Lehrer said it all (both on space and China). Go to 1 minute 50 – it’s a shame Tom isn’t still writing, he could apply his tale to Soros.

  94. RichieP says:

    re last comment: Sorry, 1.30 or so in this version.

  95. 1DandyTroll says:

    @MDR says:
    “January 30, 2011 at 9:16 pm
    If thorium reactor technology is supposedly ready to be plucked off a shelf and inserted into someone’s power grid, and given the huge demand for energy, why has no one worldwide done so? (I don’t believe there is a working thorium reactor anywhere.)

    Is it a cost issue? An issue of dealing with unwanted byproducts? A distribution issue? An engineering issue? A physics issue? There must be a stumbling block somewhere. What is it?”

    Don’t you know your own history?

    All power generation by nuclear energy stopped dead in development in 80′s but the processes started in the 70′s.

    The irony being that it helped further coal and oil.

    So, essentially, the lack of development is due to policy design and so by rules and regulations and not for the lack of wanting or lack of money.

    But maybe you would’ve invested in power generation that was supposed to be dismantled in a generation? :p

  96. Alex the skeptic says:

    I believe that in ten years time China and India would be selling LFTR’s to the USA and Europe, just because the USA refused to develop the technology that was already achievable way back in the 60′s. Due to that decision, we are today sufferring from further stupid political decisions, effectively and artificially inflating the price of energy in such a way that this is now out of reach of the poor of the world and hard to get by the lower-middle classes. It is not yet too late for the US to take the Thorium road to cheap and reliable energy; all it takes is for the President to pull his socks up and take the energy bull by the horns instead of by the tail.

  97. cedarhill says:

    This is really funny. Folks who’ve never sat on a tractor, shucked a single ear of “field corn” or prayed for rain, or prayed for no rain or ran a combine think that putting “bio” in front of energy someone makes it “renewable”. Ignorance is great but growing stuff to make fuels is so close to unreal that it’s borders on stupidity. Compare the land use for, say, 100 nuke plants compared to grabbing that old Ferguson and riding off into bio-makin’ land. It’s really funny. Oh, and those wind choppers seem to be about as good a device as the old vegi-matics but for birds. I’m all for extinction of birds. They simply ruin the finish on our SUVs. Just think we can collect the bits o’birds and feed them into that biomass energy compactor. I’t be all automated – zillion of miles of conveyors. Why, we can even put seed corn on the top of each windmill to attract them. What we could do is take our surplus biomass and, through diligence, save it. I believe it’s called coal. Can you image how much surplus biomass we can store for the next winter? Must be simply staggering. We can even send it over to the Brits to keep them from freezing. Say, maybe we can dry it using solar lamps? It’d cut down on the shipping. Just think. We’d almost eliminate our trade imbalance with China since there’d be no ships left over after biomass becomes the energy commodity it’s destined to be. Man, just a perfect solution!

    The fact is, today, nuclear power is competitive. And it works. And it works a lot. When you see France plowing under their vineyards and harvesting biomass for energy you’ll know that biomass wins the race. Any non-biased study of greenie energy has always shown it’s just not worth the effort. And, for example, the Brits have shown how really, really stupid it is to foist windmills as replacements for good old power plants.

    Sadly, we won’t see nuke plants in the US in our lifetimes. So, that leaves us with natural gas. Oh well, since our gas reserves will last a few hundred years it seems we’ve plenty of time to convert to nuclear and just manufacture our hydrocarbons.

  98. Richard S Courtney says:

    Dave Springer:

    Your trolling of this thread is becoming annoying. As others have pointed out, everything you have posted here is blatant nonsense.

    Now, at January 31, 2011 at 1:12 am you assert:

    “Who in their right mind is going to invest in a nuclear power plant when biomass generation is already cheaper, in its infancy, and the price per megawatt is plummeting rapidly as the technology improves?
    [snip]
    the list of new technologies first displacing then replacing older technologies is endless.”

    Biomass is a “new technology” that is “in its infancy” so can be considered to be among the list of new technologies first displacing then replacing older technologies“!!!??

    Are you mad? Biomass has been used since mankind first discovered how to use fire: it was the original fuel.

    And all the other technologies you advocate are also merely the latest developments of technologies which have been used for thousands of years.

    So, I will explain the basics of the issues of energy supply to you so you can go back under your bridge and stop disrupting this thread with your silly assertions.

    The energy supply increased immensely when the greater energy intensity in fossil fuels became available by use of the steam engine. Biomass, animal power, wind power and solar power were abandoned because the laws of physics do not allow them to provide as much energy as can be easily obtained from using fossil fuels.

    And none of those displaced technolgies is a “new technology” that is “in its infancy”. What would you consider the newer technology of the steam engine to be: a fetal technology?

    Energy supply enables the growing of crops, the making of tools and their use to mine for minerals, and to build, and to provide goods, and to provide services.

    Material Science limits what can be done with the energy. A steel plough share is better than a wooden one. Ability to etch silica permits the making of acceptably reliable computers. And so on.

    People die without energy and the ability to use it. They die because they lack food, or housing, or clothing to protect from the elements, or heating to survive cold, or cooling to survive heat, or medical provisions, or transport to move goods and services from where they are produced to where they are needed.

    And people who lack energy are poor so they die from pollution, too.

    For example, traffic pollution has been dramatically reduced by adoption of fossil fuels. On average each day in 1855 more than 50 tons of horse excrement was removed from only one street, Oxford Street in London. The mess, smell, insects and disease were awful everywhere. By 1900 every ceiling of every room in Britain had sticky paper hanging from it to catch the flies. Old buildings still have scrapers by their doors to remove some of the pollution from shoes before entering

    Affluence reduces pollution. Rich people can afford sewers, toilets, clean drinking water and clean air. Poor people have more important things they must spend all they have to get. So, people with wealth can afford to reduce pollution but others cannot. Pollution in North America and Europe was greater in 1900 than in 2000 despite much larger populations in 2000. And the pollution now experienced every day by billions who do not have the wealth of Americans and Europeans includes cooking in a mud hut using wood and dung as fuel when they cannot afford a chimney.

    Adoption of the use of fossil fuels provided that affluence for the developed world. The developing world needs the affluence provided by the development which is only possible at present by using fossil fuels and nuclear power.

    The greater energy supply provided by adoption of fossil fuels enabled more people to live and the human population exploded. Our population has now reached about 6.6 billion and it is still rising. All estimates are that the human population will peak at about 9 billion people near the middle of this century.

    That additional more than 2 billion people in the next few decades needs additional energy supply to survive. The only methods to provide that additional energy supply at present are nuclear power and fossil fuels. And the use of nuclear power is limited because some activities are difficult to achieve by getting energy from the end of a wire.

    If you doubt this then ask a farmer what his production would be if he had to replace his tractor with a horse or a Sinclair C5.

    So, holding the use of fossil fuels at its present level would kill at least 2 billion people, mostly children. Pleasenote that reducing the use of fossil fuels would kill more millions, possibly billions. The only possible significant reduction to use of fossil fuels is afforded by increased use of nuclear power and that potential reduction is limited.

    That is not an opinion. It is not a prediction. It is not a projection. It is a certain and undeniable fact. Holding the use of fossil fuels at their present levels would kill billions of people, mostly children. Reducing the use of fossil fuels would kill more millions or billions and only increased use of nuclear power could reduce the number of those killed.

    Improving energy efficiency will not solve that because it has been known since the nineteenth century that improved energy efficiency increases energy use: as many subsequent studies have confirmed (google Jevons Paradox if you do not understand this).

    Fossil fuels and nuclear power are the ONLY viable energy supplies capable of meeting our needs for the foreseeable future.

    A return to use of biomass, animal power, wind power and solar power is not a possible option.

    So, go back under your bridge and stop your trolling behaviour on this thread. As my above explanations demonstrate, your comments only consist of silly nonsense that distracts from rational discussion.

    Richard

  99. Brian H says:

    Lonnie Schubert says:
    January 30, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Don’t believe anyone that tells you we will have fusion energy before your grandkids have grandkids. Cold fusion, polywell, or some other variety, perhaps, but I believe it will take an unpredictable genius breakthrough before any such becomes commercially viable.

    LPPhysics.com , focusfusion.org .
    5 years to licensable prototype for global distribution and use.
    5¢/W, 0.3¢/kwh.

    Keep your extremities crossed!

  100. Brian H says:

    P.S. The outfit is entirely financed by private “qualified investors” like this guy:
    http://unreasonablerocket.blogspot.com/2010/11/ways-to-save-world-and-more-rockets.html
    That means you do your own investigation, and have serious money to play with. The largest single backer, AFAIK, is the Abell Foundation (Baltimore).

    No gubmint money or ‘cratic strings. Yay!

  101. johanna says:

    Roy:

    Kipling’s views on non Europeans were rather less flattering than you contend, as the opening stanza of his famous poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ demonstrates.

    “Take up the White Man’s burden—

    Send forth the best ye breed—

    Go send your sons to exile

    To serve your captives’ need

    To wait in heavy harness

    On fluttered folk and wild—

    Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

    Half devil and half child.”

    And, while your explanation of the meaning of the expression about the sun never setting on the British Empire is literally true, its symbolic meaning (which many Britons took as the literal one as well) clearly refers to world domination for an endless day.

    I do agree wholeheartedly with your point about many people’s perception of China being wildly distorted by focusing on a blip (1949 – c1990) in its long and distinguished history. Silly accusations like a few on this thread along the lines that they are primitives who are incapable of creativity or technological accomplishment stem from ignorance and xenophobia.

    Underestimating your opponent is rarely a winning strategy.

  102. cal says:

    Dr. Dave says:
    January 30, 2011 at 11:29 pm
    I encourage all of you who can spare an hour to watch the video I linked to @ around 6PM (above). This is probably the best explanation of thorium reactors I’ve ever seen.

    I have just finished watching it. Yes it is extremely interesting and well worth the 80 minutes. One question that was not answered was the exact nature of the problem with graphite in the two fluid reactor which, as David Archibald says in his comment, looks the best bet. The problem did not seem to that difficult to overcome but it did cause them to switch to the far more complex single fluid reactor so it is not trivial. However that was 40 years ago, it might be easily soluble now.

    David Archibald mentions the probable evolution of this technology to compact and ultraflexible plants built into ships for mobile power generation. This would also extend to mobile desalination plants and might even extend to other energy intensive activities like smelting in order to reduce tranportation costs.

    A lot of energy is also lost at the moment through the electical transmission system. It would be a huge bonus for geographically large countries like China and India to build a distributed system of power generation. There would also be the added advantage of using waste heat for community heating. This latter point would make it particularly interesting for Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. It is the inherent safety and scaleability of the two fuel thorium reactors that allow this.

    Like most things it is sure to be more difficult to achive all this than it looks on paper. However history tells us that, if the rewards are great enough, a way is normally found. In this case the rewards look enormous and I am not at all surprised that India and China are racing to the finishing line.

    The situation reminds me of the 1960s when the transistor was invented. At that time the top ten manufacturers of valves were household names for technology. Not one of them took up the new technology. Half of them went out of business and the others (like Philips where I worked) bought out start up companies like Signetics when they realised their mistake. Similarly no railway company invested in the car.

    This is not a justification to jump at every new (or old) idea that comes into fashion but sometimes an idea has to wait for its right time. It seems to me that this technology demands to be looked at. How much money have we poured into Nuclear fusion world wide? I know which one I would give the shorter odds on working in my lifetime.

  103. Black Sabbath says:

    Many of you in the comments here have it right.
    The environmentalist wackos – and they ARE environmentalist wackos – WANT us to have expensive energy. I have personally talked to examples of these people and they’re philosophy revolves roughly around:
    1) Hatred of anything Rightwing
    2) Hatred of humanity
    3) Hatred of civilization
    4) Hatred of Democracy
    5) Hatred of Capitalism
    6) Hatred of civilization
    7) Hatred of white males

    Essentially, Limbaugh was right years ago when he said the Communists would fade away and re-emerge under the environmentalist banner. And don’t even try to use reason with this kind of mindset. I’ve had them tell me that we shouldn’t have cars, shouldn’t live in homes larger than a few hundred square feet, shouldn’t eat meat, shouldn’t heat our homes, shouldn’t reproduce, etc.
    So when you hear Obama talking, know that he’s one of THEM. He hates this country and all it stands for. Sure, he’ll benefit as much as possible from all the resources America has to offer but he’ll denounce them and keep us from enjoying them as much as possible.

    Solution? Hammer your representative as much as possible with demands to open up all our natural resources, including nuclear. Vote more Conservatives into power. Not the worthless RINO Republicans, but true Conservatives. They are interested in exploiting American energy resources.

  104. stephen richards says:

    China appears to be a vacuum cleaner for western technology. In france recently 3 Renault senior managers were dismissed for selling vehicule batterie technology to the Chinese. They are sucking it up randomly (apparently) and then assessing it’s potential. You should not forget that there are many, many chinese studying at european and american universities and paying for the privelege.

  105. stephen richards says:

    Don’t worry people, we, the french, will build all the Nuclear Power Stations you need. Just give us the money, he he

  106. tarpon says:

    Obama is America’s WTF moment.

  107. stephen richards says:

    Steve Koch says:
    January 31, 2011 at 2:10 am
    My guess is that the Chinese are trying to stampede us into figuring out the intricacies of LFTRs so they can steal the technology from us .

    This was a trick the japonese used to pull. I used to make and test high reliability semi-conductors (not all by myself, of course) mostly in GaAs. The Japonese at that time produced a paper claiming massive speed and density. When I read the paper I knew it had to be false but a lot of other researchers starting criticising the Japonese by telling them where they were going wrong et voilà they got all the data they needed to carry out further research, clever eh?

  108. Flask says:

    goal is to use 20 years or so, developed a new generation of nuclear energy systems, all the technical level reached in the trial and have all intellectual property rights.

    What a laugh, “all intellectual property rights”, so they are basically saying “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is ours”.

    Nuclear power production is necessary for continued growth. Our side should be working on it too.

  109. stephen richards says:

    The argument about property rights seems to be a bit premature. I know very little about them but if the US had a reactor up and running, experimental or not, it would be had for anyone to claim property rights on the technology but on parts of a new rector, yes. Secondly, the chinese have been stealing property rights from the west for years without paying and they have not yet signed any agreement to stop.

  110. stephen richards says:

    Don’t believe anyone that tells you we will have fusion energy before your grandkids have grandkids.

    Absolutely right. The single biggest problem for fusion in the containment of the plasma. We really have no idea if it is at all possible. The new fusion reactor being built here in france should tell us a great deal because it will potentially be big enough to actually produce a self-sustaining fusion reaction. On verra .

  111. polistra says:

    Face it, we’re sunk. We’re the next Haiti.

    Unless we’re lucky enough to be taken over by a Pinochet-style dictator who has the guts and the guns to remove the genocidal EPA and the parasitic lawyers.

  112. Carl M says:

    If you did not take the opportunity to view the video posted by Dr. Dave early in this thread, I encourage you to go back and take a look. I plan to forward a link to that to my congressman and senators in hopes of generating some interest and knowledge of that on Capitol Hill. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for your representatives to see it either.

  113. Pull My Finger says:

    Most of the brightest Chinese Engineers come to the US for their advanced degrees. Their innovation is coming straight from the U.S. We have plenty of bright kids to pick up the NucEng slack, pretty quickly, but since dumbass Carter killed nukes most of these kids are going into programs where there are jobs, and their are tons of Eng jobs out there.

    Innovation in engineering just doesn’t come out of China and don’t think for a moment thorium MSR doesn’t require a whole heap of engineering to get to commercial operation.

  114. theBuckWheat says:

    BHO’s solution to growing our economy? Not an “Ipod moment” where a burst of private entrepreneurial activity creates new products and new wealth, but a burst of central planning that results in a single directed response, a response that created very little new wealth in comparison, and created a lot more jobs dependent upon government rather than a lot of jobs in the independent private sector.

    “Sputknik moment” equals another socialist analogue to “Manhattan Project”.

  115. harrywr2 says:

    The US overbuilt base load generating capacity in the 1970′s and 1980′s. With the exception of natural gas and windmills us generating capacity has been flat since 1990.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec8_44.pdf

    Obama can blather on endlessly about ‘Sputnik’ moments but in the US we don’t need massive amounts of generating capacity anytime soon, the Chinese do, which gives them the advantage of ‘necessity’.

    We had a bit of debate on the numbers at Pielke Jr’s place here.
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/01/how-to-get-to-80-clean-energy-by-2035.html

    To get to Obama’s 80% clean by 2035 if we count natural gas as 50% clean which Obama almost certainly would we only need the equivalent of 150-300 nuclear reactors built by 2035. The Chinese will build 100 nuclear reactors by 2020.

    Personally I don’t think 80% clean means 80% CO2 free. I think it means we will be getting 20% of our electric from traditional coal fired capacity in 2035.
    Which puts us as needing about new 100 nuclear reactors by 2035.
    Applications are already pending before the NRC for about 20 of them.
    Tne NuScale and mPower Small Modular reactors are still 5 years away from design certification.
    http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/new-licensing-files/new-rx-licensing-app-legend.pdf

    Pretty much all US nuclear research money is flowing towards the International GenIV Consortium.
    http://www.ne.doe.gov/geniv/documents/gen_iv_roadmap.pdf

  116. wsbriggs says:

    Unless the American public gets educated and involved in energy, there will be a perpetual energy shortage in this country based on denial (there’s that word) of scientific fact. Wind, Sun, Waves – they make great press, they make lousy dependable energy sources. Nuclear, Coal, Gas, Oil – everything to fear (according to the greens), they make dependable, extensible energy sources.

    We all, on this website (excepting the Trolls) know that “Climate Challenges/Change/GW…” has virtually nothing to do with man (I say virtually, because UHI and land re-purposing do contribute to temp changes) and everything to do with our Spaceship Earth and it’s delightful companions in this intergalactic journey.

    The pols will continue to manipulate the facts to get and stay re-elected. Obama is just practicing good old Chicago politics, just like Newt Gingrich with his support of Ethanol is playing good old Georgia farm politics. Don’t let party labels get in the way of understanding where the players are coming from, and where they want to take you. Just say NO to all subsidies. The market will do an excellent job if left alone, the problem is to get it left alone. /rant

  117. Roy says:

    Dave Springer wrote:

    “The Soviet Union is a prime example. They’ve had nuclear expertise equivalent to ours since forever. If it made economic sense they’d do it. They don’t have to deal with greedy capitalists, environmentalist whackos, or public opinion. If it was cheaper than fossil fuel they’d just do it. Yet they didn’t.”

    Russian rulers are not completely immune to public opinion. Chernobyl won’t have done the case for nuclear power in Russia much good. Also Russia has abundant supplies of oil, natural gas and coal. Therefore the need to develop nuclear energy there is not yet urgent.

    @ johanna

    Your opinion of Kipling is very superficial. What do you think the two lines you quoted below mean?

    “Go send your sons to exile
    To serve your captives’ need”

    At the time that Kipling was writing almost the only wealthy countries in the world were those in Europe plus the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. “The White Man’s Burden” was originally published with the subtitle “the United States and the Philippine Islands.” Perhaps you think the United States should not have taken over the Philippines or Hawaii or Puerto Rico or Alaska or some of the Virgin Islands (or more recently, Afghanistan) but only a very dogmatic left-winger would think that imperialism was wholly bad.

  118. Gary Pearse says:

    Jeff says:
    January 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm
    They are playing catch up to the US in this case …

    Horses are playing catch up with the quartermile pole when gate opens, but only for half a minute

  119. Jeremy says:

    Thank you China for showing Americans what optimism used to be like. Hopefully enough of my fellow Americans will understand the example you’re setting.

  120. eadler says:

    I don’t see the justification for Obama bashing with respect to nuclear power. One of the first acts of his administration was to launch a loan guarantee program for nuclear power reactors.

    http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/obama_administration_to_provide_loan_guarantees_for_nuclear_power/

    This is an important aid to the development of nuclear power, because of the time and expense of building reactors and putting them into place. The barriers to construction are local in nature, based on NIMBY, rather than federal.

  121. Lonnie Schubert says:

    stephen richards

    If you are talking about ITER, don’t get your hopes up. D-T reactors of commercial size and potential, Tokamak, etc., are more likely to be built on the moon before we can afford to build them on earth. Materials embrittle by the neutrons.

    The physicists at Princeton essentially proved the physics of it, but look up what they did with it after only a few seconds of actual fusion reaction time.

    Besides, tritium must be made from lithium in fission reactors.

  122. Tenuc says:

    If the West where not concerned with maintaining a large nuclear weapons arsenal, the move to more modern GenIV reactors, and developing other new nuclear technologies wouldn’t be taking so long. Until the West relinqueses their toys little progress will be made.

  123. Lonnie Schubert says:

    Brian H

    It is great to hear private investors are interested. The polywell guy has been saying for years he only needs a few hundred thousand a year to commercialize his devise. That would be cool. I’m guessing it ain’t as easy as he says.

    I will remind you that fusion energy is still more than 20 years from being commercially viable, just as it has been for 70 years now. ;-)

    Missed factors and genius breakthroughs can completely change the game, but so far, I don’t see anything that makes me want to change my prediction of ~15 years ago. I then predicted it would be 100 years before fusion power generation was commercially viable. I’m still not sure I wasn’t being optimistic.

    Statements from scientists like Kaku make me wince. Here is an example: http://bigthink.com/ideas/25303

    He ends that one by saying fusion is clean. I call such nonsense crap. I again refer to the Princeton reactor. http://www.pppl.gov/news/pages/tftr_removal.html

    The clean up was a success. They buried a building in the desert. Not exactly what I call clean. Note that they shut it off in 1997 and began clean up two years later after the radioactivity decayed enough. Again not what I call clean. I cannot find the reference by recollection is that the two-year cooldown was required after less than 30 seconds total of actual fusion reactions. 14MeV neutrons do not play well with others, and nothing we have come up with so far can withstand it for long.

    Now I’ve climbed up on my high horse, so feel free to disregard, but I was in the above referenced desert when Princeton was succeeding so well. The physicists and politicians were so flush with success that they zeroed out the rest of the government’s budget for materials research to divert the funds to more physics. NOT! Fortunately cooler heads prevailed, but that is the kind of nonsense involved. The physicists can make grandiose claims like Kaku, but the engineers have to build it, and it has to last long enough and stay safe enough to pay off the investors. The materials are not going to be ready to deal with D-T any time soon, which is why others are talking about other possibilities like pB11.

  124. Jeff K says:

    History will look back and show how the greenie religious movement took the most advanced nation on Earth and turned it into a third world backwater intent on navel gazing while the rest of the world has their eyes on the stars.

  125. Dave Springer says:

    I don’t know where you guys think China is going to come up with nuclear reactor expertise. They can’t even produce a reliable nuclear reactor for a submarine yet you think they’re going to lead the world in LFTR? That has absolutely no basis in reality. Conversely the US has had dependable nuclear powered submarines for 50 years and built the only LFTR reactor in the world – a 7.5mw research reactor at ORNL which ran from 1964-1969. Their announcement is utter BS. The only way China will ever build an LFTR is if they steal the technology from someone else. For Pete’s sake they wouldn’t even have nuclear weapons small enough for ballistic missiles, which are far easier to make than nuclear power plants, if they hadn’t stolen the designs from Los Alamos in the 1980′s which was hushed up until 1995. For anyone who missed that story you can read about it in the New York Times here:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DE5DB153FF935A35750C0A96F958260

    BREACH AT LOS ALAMOS: A special report.; China Stole Nuclear Secrets For Bombs, U.S. Aides Say
    By JAMES RISEN and JEFF GERTH
    Published: March 6, 1999

  126. Mark T says:

    This is the UN’s goal, Jeff K. The only wait to hoist global government and statism on the people is to break the US. As long as we remain a power (particularly economic) they cannot institute their plan.

    The sad part is the players involved in this attempt openly state this as their goal, yet anyone that points it out is a conspiracy theorist or some sort of right-wing nut job. Go figure. It is maddening.

    Mark

  127. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    I was in Shanghai in September, 2010 to attend the World Expo…..you are not allowed to flush used toilet paper down the loo, since their sewage treatment system (whatever it is) can’t accommodate the loading. Therefore, each public bathroom has a rather smelly pail filled with soiled TP.

    I guess I’m really not all that world about Chinese world dominance. Shanghai looks lovely & impressive, but it is a true Potemkin village of new skyscrapers, designed & build by American firms.

    They are a competitor for resources, but not terribly innovative. Nice folks though, the guys on the street, vendors etc. were very friendly & helpful.

  128. Robert Doyle says:

    The Department of Energy [DOE] has funded the network of national laboratories, university and private institutional research since WWII.
    Two points:
    1. An audit of the investment vs. results is sorely needed. In my opinion, the labs and DOE itself are emblematic of governmental mismanagement.
    2. Those, who argue for the green economy around the corner should take the political lead by demanding independent report from congress an of the last 60 years. Or alternatively, stop blogging… shut up.
    thttp://www.science.doe.gov/National_Laboratories/index.htm

  129. Wyrg says:

    Funny. Back in the 90s, when I was getting my grade in math, I had this odd friend doing his PhD in nuclear physics. He was frustrated because nuclear physics was essentially useless those days, with more and more nuclear centrals being dismantled (I’m Spaniard, so dealing with nuclear weaponry wasn’t something he even considered). From his point of view, studying nuclear physics had no future.

    How many decades (and money, work, and real progress and welfare) have we wasted thanks to the green paranoia? Even worse, when you find a fault, there surely are lots of other faults undiscovered. I wonder how many bright projects and young minds are being wasted right now in the name of superstition.

  130. Dave Springer says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    January 31, 2011 at 3:28 am
    Dave Springer:

    “Your trolling of this thread is becoming annoying. As others have pointed out, everything you have posted here is blatant nonsense.”

    Your ignorance is saddening.

    “Biomass is a “new technology” that is “in its infancy” so can be considered to be among the list of new technologies first displacing then replacing older technologies“!!!??”

    “Biomass” includes, among other things, ethanol generation from agricultural waste products. That and other means of processing waste into useable fuels are infant technology. Read up on it then maybe you can keep your foot out of your mouth in the future.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomass#Biomass_conversion_process_to_useful_energy

    If you have an attention span longer than 5 minutes, which is a matter of great doubt at this point, try to read the whole article.

  131. Matt says:

    Does anybody remember the wonderful old Life Science Library books? I have most of them here on my bookshelf at home. In the volume entitled Matter, there is a brief breakdown of the uses and properties of each chemical element. Under the heading of thorium it says this:

    THORIUM, form Thor, Scandinavian war-god; discovered in 1828. Thorium can be used instead of scarce uranium as a reactor fuel because it is readily converted into uranium. Almost as abundant as lead, earthly thorium contains mor energy than all uranium, coal, oil, and other fueld combined.”

    I remember reading these as a kid and wondering why we weren’t working on it. The book was first published in 1963. Go figure.

  132. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    I guess I’m really not all that world about Chinese world dominance. Shanghai looks lovely & impressive, but it is a true Potemkin village of new skyscrapers, designed & build by American firms.
    —–
    Sorry, meant “worried” and “built”!

    Shanghai skyline….
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shanghai_Skyline_2009.jpg

  133. Mark T says:

    Dave Springer says:

    Your ignorance is saddening.

    If you have an attention span longer than 5 minutes, which is a matter of great doubt at this point, try to read the whole article.

    The irony* of these two statements, coming from you, is saddening, but expected.

    Mark
    *assuming the colloquial misuse of the word irony, of course.

  134. PhilJourdan says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Hmmmm…. I wonder where Gun Powder came from?????

  135. Dave Springer says:

    CRS, Dr.P.H. says:
    January 31, 2011 at 8:12 am

    “I was in Shanghai in September, 2010 to attend the World Expo…..you are not allowed to flush used toilet paper down the loo, since their sewage treatment system (whatever it is) can’t accommodate the loading. Therefore, each public bathroom has a rather smelly pail filled with soiled TP.

    I guess I’m really not all that world about Chinese world dominance. Shanghai looks lovely & impressive, but it is a true Potemkin village of new skyscrapers, designed & build by American firms.

    They are a competitor for resources, but not terribly innovative. Nice folks though, the guys on the street, vendors etc. were very friendly & helpful.”

    I spent a fair amount of time in Taiwan in the late 1990′s migrating as much as practical of Dell’s laptop engineering to Compal and Quanta. Substantial guidance and oversight remained requisite but it could be done through daily conference call between me and their engineering team. I also worked extensively with Acer in Hong Kong migrating desktop engineering in the same way with the same result as in Taiwan – substantial guidance through daily conference call going through the issues one by one remained necessary. I have great respect for their diligence, attentiveness to detail, work ethic, desire to please the customer, and the exceedingly polite culture but creativity stayed in short supply. Every culture has its strengths and weaknesses. Americans are spoiled and lazy in comparison as a general rule but are exceedingly creative and tend to work smarter instead of harder. I’m a prime example. When I took over engineering outsourcing to China there were two people working at it full time with disappointing results. Within six months I was the only person left as the engineering interface, I spent about 10 hours a week at it in daily (actually nightly in my time zone) conference calls, and we had twice as many projects going at one time and all of them were very successful.

  136. Rick W says:

    Wasn’t there a severe nickel corrosion problem with the early molten salt reactor we tried? Is that an issue that has been solved?

    Is a MSR required for a Thorium reactor or is it preferred for heat transfer?

  137. Dave Springer says:

    Mark T says:
    January 31, 2011 at 8:53 am

    “The irony* of these two statements, coming from you, is saddening, but expected.”

    Way to not address the issue and just dodge it with a cheap sniping comment. Typical.

  138. G. Karst says:

    Yes, these technologies have been around in a prototype/research design for many years. The problem is no one has attempted, to construct a large COMMERCIAL operating demonstration yet. This is where the rubber meets the road. To take such designs and scale them up to extremely large design (>1000MWe units) will probably create a expensive “white elephant” initially (an accident may also be involved). From these initial attempts, engineers will perfect an efficient, practical model, for universal benefit.

    Having commissioned 8 of our largest fission reactors, I see no reason for concern in our “stand-by” mode as we allow India and China to make the first attempts at “up scaling”. We will all learn many lessons from their efforts. Since they do not have to worry about political realities (public opinion) and crippling environmental concerns – it seems only logical and fitting. We are in a pretty good position, to rapidly take advantage of any PROVEN design concept.

    I realize that many are disappointed… that others are in the spotlight, but must we always be the ones who shoulder, all the risk and costs. GK

  139. Colonel Sun says:

    Not clear to me what a thread on thorium molten salt nuclear reactors has to do with the state of sh*tters in Shanghai or with “Chinese world dominance” or what US fears of “Chinese world dominance” has to do with thorium reactors.

    American architects are flocking to places such as Shanghai as that is where the money and the work is.

    China is now the 3rd largest economy after the EU [1st] and the US [2nd], having recently surpassed Japan [4th]

    http://goo.gl/eFQO

    Anecdotally I’ve noticed a significant increase in original research papers coming out of China.

    The US response, if this thread is anything to go by, appears to be one of histrionic demonization just as it was with Japan.

  140. racookpe1978 says:

    The heavy water thorium reactor will be less troublesome than the liquid metal versions, but I would remind readers that the US Navy tried liquid metal back in the fifties (using NOTHING slide rule calculators and chalkboards and analog meters and drafting boards – complete with plastic 3D models to analyze designs!).

    Two full reactors were built: The USS SSN 575 Seawolf prototype engine room and power plant in Schenectady NY (inside a steel containment dome) and the full submarine USS Seawolf in Groton CT at Electric Boat shipyards.

    I started decommissioning planning for the Seawolf back in the late-80′s – after her replacement pressurized water reactor had been running for almost 30 years – but no one was willing to discuss what design problems or design threats required the (very expensive!) change-out from liquid metal to pressurized water for her first reactor. There had been no accidents, but “near-misses” ? Too hard to maintain? Too hard to keep operating with liquid metal always threatening to “freeze” out in the pipes and pumps and reactor? Leaks? Excess radioactivity? Easier to only have “one version” of reactors? (Probably not – Rickover kept “his” prototypes up almost forever – hard to figure him admitting his second liquid metal reactor design was a mistake unless he was really, really finding problems that threatened the rest of his much more successful, less expensive, less complicated, more forgiving, more robust, easier to maintain conventional light water programs.)

    This from

    http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/usw/issue_34/one.html

    “Second Nuclear Sub, But Another First-of-a-Kind

    The U.S. Navy’s second nuclear boat also presented unique design challenges. Preliminary development work on nuclear power involved the investigation of a number of reactor design concepts, but only two were chosen for construction: the pressurized water reactor used on Nautilus, and the sodium-cooled reactor used on the follow-on nuclear submarine USS Seawolf (SSN-575).

    As with Nautilus, the development of Seawolf’s liquid sodium plant involved the construction of a land prototype plant. Seawolf was launched on July 21, 1955, and conducted sea trials in January 1957. After acceptance, Seawolf operated as an active unit of the Atlantic Fleet and in 1958 made a record-breaking submerged run of two months, traveling more than 13,000 miles submerged, producing air and water for her crew the entire time.

    Seawolf operated more than two years and steamed 71,000 miles on her sodium-cooled reactor, but, in 1958, the Navy had her refitted with a pressurized water reactor similar to the one in Nautilus, and that design is still the standard today. On her replacement plant, Seawolf steamed for another 27 years, finally being retired in 1987.”

  141. harrywr2 says:

    Matt says:
    January 31, 2011 at 8:46 am

    “I remember reading these as a kid and wondering why we weren’t working on it. The book was first published in 1963. Go figure.”

    Expansion,contraction and metal fatigue become big issues at 700 °C.

    The forging temps of many metals are just too low.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forging_temperature

    The ‘nuclear’ part is the easy part.
    The hard part is the materials for the pipes, valves etc.

    30 years ago we hoped breakthroughs in ceramic technology would yield us a new class of materials for high temperature applications. It just didn’t happen.

  142. Gary Pearse says:

    Dave Springer, several places re biomass energy:

    Biomass has been one of those motherhood buzz words for a generation – it did manifest itself in converting food grain to ethanol and causing serious hikes in food prices. A seemingly little understood matter about biomass is this is not a waste. In the forest sector, it has served to protect seedling trees and to ultimately convert itself to fertilizer for the new forest. In agriculture, cornstocks etc are also not waste, but rather also fertilizer that introduces organic matter back into the soil improving tilth, moisture retention and adding mineral nutrients back. To take this and make it into fuel, causes… guess what … higher food prices and impoverishment of new forest growth. Somebody has to take the green crowd and detoxify them of their y=mx+b thinking and teach some systems math. Had we done this earlier, they wouldn’t have brought us the mercury curly light bulbs to save energy. Science is fun but you got to do the grub work, too.

  143. wobble says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 31, 2011 at 12:32 am

    the people who put their money at risk to build these hideously expensive things are not buying into it.

    The financiers are worried about regulatory risk and activist obstruction. Eliminate these two items and the numbers work out great.

    Dave Springer says:
    January 31, 2011 at 1:12 am

    Total system levelized costs (US/2008) for new power plants per megawatt/hour:

    Advanced Nuclear – $119
    Biomass – $110

    Much of that is regulatory costs. Using a cookie cutter design approach drops that number significantly.

  144. beng says:

    Dave Springer, are you the same one that otherwise posts intelligent responses here? Seems odd if you are.

    Unless we envision a future of stagnant advancement & population decline, the only reasonable long-term future energy source is nuclear-based. It’s a matter of energy-density, as I think you would know. Solar & wind will never, ever cut it in that respect, other than specialized applications.

    If France & China can cut thru the bureaucratic-regulation mire & enviro-scare-mongering, so can the US or the rest of Europe. The only alternative is to eventually surrender the future to others, and then we’ll really be dependent on foreign technologies & resources.

    Time to grow up, I think.

  145. Mark T says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 31, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Way to not address the issue and just dodge it with a cheap sniping comment. Typical.

    Typical? Is it typical of a 30-year engineer, one that knows so much about the real world as you – “trust me I’m right because I know,” to fail to dig into any of the details of his claims?

    I don’t need to “address the issue.” It has been addressed, sufficiently in fact. I am only pointing out your apparent inconsistency in claiming others are ignorant, because they refuse to educate themselves regarding things that you just know, while at the same time you are incapable of educating yourself regarding things you might not know.

    Education: it’s not just for smart people. Learn to do the same and maybe educated folks like me won’t wholly dismiss claims from the likes of you simply on the basis that you haven’t done your homework. If you at least gave the impression that you were willing to dig deeper, a characteristic any engineer should have even before calling himself an engineer, people would tend to take you much more seriously.

    Mark

  146. Mark T says:

    wobble says:
    January 31, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Much of that is regulatory costs. Using a cookie cutter design approach drops that number significantly.

    Any of the so-called “clean fuels” also benefit from huge subsidies for research and development, not to mention implementation and usage (tax breaks, etc.,) which keeps costs down. The real cost of such sources of fuel should include these offsets.

    Mark

  147. Vince Causey says:

    Jeff K,

    “History will look back and show how the greenie religious movement took the most advanced nation on Earth and turned it into a third world backwater intent on navel gazing while the rest of the world has their eyes on the stars.”

    It’s not just the US being turned into a third world backwater. the UK is led by a prime minster who is so far into eco zealotry, he makes Barack Obama seem like James Delingpole :).

  148. Jeremy says:

    eadler says:
    January 31, 2011 at 6:41 am
    I don’t see the justification for Obama bashing with respect to nuclear power. One of the first acts of his administration was to launch a loan guarantee program for nuclear power reactors.

    That was lip service. The bashing is fully justified because while Obama did do those loan guarantees, they are meaningless because the problem with Nuclear in America is that no one wants the waste stored anywhere near them. The solution was Yucca Mountain. Obama Killed the Yucca mountain project just before it was set to open. With no national storage area for the waste to make sure that NIMBY doesn’t kill a project, those loan guarantees are meaningless. Any local government will block a nuke plant because the locals will thoroughly oppose the storage of nuclear waste near their homes. This isn’t new to Obama or any administration, pay lip service while backstabbing those projects your allies dislike.

    So yes, bashing Obama for his failure to encourage nuclear power is fully justified. In fact he is helping to kill off nuclear in this country.

    A lot of people want to praise Obama for his human spaceflight funding too. The problem is this, The shuttle is due to retire this year. There is no replacement. Obama killed off the Orion project (as bloated a piece of federal pork as it may have been), and has offered no replacement. As of next year, the United States, unlike China and Russia, will have no manned spaceflight. Now some praise this and say, “well NASA is a bloated federal agency, not the nimble organization of motivated nerds it once was.” And they are correct to state this. However, NASA occupies less than 1% of the federal budget and its endgame represents the future of humanity. When was the last time any rational responsible parent spent less than 1% on their children’s future?

    Obama = Just another politician, spineless in the face of requested political favors.

  149. Minuteman says:

    Two words that should always be found in any discussion regarding dissimilar energey sources: Energy density. This is why nuclear power should always be considered the superior source of energy. Of course there are considerations that must be addressed, but it seems the considerations are not viewed as problems to be worked out but are roadblocks to stop use of this superior source altogether. That is not to say that fossil fuels are not a good source of energy as well, as they will be superior for automobiles until either there is a scaled down nuclear source for transportation (unlikely) or the road system itself delivers electricity from a nuclear station directly to the moving automobile. Battery powered transportation again runs up against the problem of energy density.

  150. Roy says:

    A few people have correctly pointed out that China lags a long way behind the US in technology.

    CRS, Dr.P.H. wrote:

    I guess I’m really not all that world about Chinese world dominance. Shanghai looks lovely & impressive, but it is a true Potemkin village of new skyscrapers, designed & built by American firms.

    Dave Springer wrote:

    The U.S. has been sailing reliable nuclear powered submarines that never need refueling and can stay underwater for six months at time for the last 50 years. China still can’t do it.

    If I could travel back in a time machine to London in 1851 at the time of the Great Exhibition when British industry was in advance of that in all other countries, it would not surprise me in the least if I overheard people make similar comments about the threat from rising powers such as Germany and the United States, but we all know now that any such comments would have been very complacent.

    Many of my ancestors came from Dowlais, a small town adjacent to Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. For much of the 19th century Merthyr and Dowlais dominated the world’s iron industry. Not many Americans are aware of it but South Wales had a powerful influence on the industrial development of both the United States and Russia. The early American railroads and the Trans-Siberian Railway were built using rails made in Dowlais.

    Later on the US Government caused a lot of damage to the economy of Dowlais by imposing high tariffs on the import of rails in order to protect the American iron and steel industry. When it was a developing country the United States did not really believe in free trade just like the Chinese don’t really believe in it today!

    A Welsh industrialist, David Thomas, was largely responsible for the development of the US steel industry and a lot of skilled workers emigrated from Wales to Pennsylvania to work in the steel works there.

    David Thomas (industrialist)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Thomas_%28industrialist%29

    Similarly, another Welshman, John Hughes, was responsible for the development of the steel industry in the Ukraine and Russia and quite a few skilled workers emigrated from Wales to the Ukraine to work there. The town where the industry started was originally called “Hughesovka” after John Hughes but when the Communists came to power its name was changed to Donetsk.

    Hughesovka
    http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/hughesovka.htm

    China today may depend on foreign technology. It may also depend on foreign experts as well as on Chinese people who have studied in American and other Western universities. There is nothing very surprising about that. China, and India too, are following the same path as countries such as the United States and Russia 100-150 years ago.

    There is no reason for complacency. As Britain discovered a country trying to catch up with the leader can make much faster progress than the leader did.

  151. rbateman says:

    It would seem the US is only interested in “Green” perpetual motion Energy, thusly tilting at the windmills in bliss.

  152. TimM says:

    A “Sputnik moment” indeed! That was when another country scared the living hell out of us by doing something really cool. The Russians poor design of warheads (larger and heavier) were the accidental source of their more powerful rockets. Necessity is truly the mother of invention.

    So here we have a country requiring massive amounts of energy that they can control and what do they go for? LiFTR tech. Well done China.

    Get off the pot. How true but it makes me wonder which “pot” the administration is on? The one you sit on or the one you smoke? Maybe they are on both! That would explain a lot.

  153. JohnH says:

    History repeats itself, Japan in the 50′s and 60′s was cast as the copy cat low quality manufacturer that could only copy and never innovate, now look at Japans reputation for quality and engineering skill. Where Japan have been the Chinese will follow, only difference will be their Govt will take a more active role in deciding where they will focus on instead of leaving it to the free market.

  154. Richard S Courtney says:

    Dave Springer:

    You have persisted with your (deliberately ?) ignorant trolling of this thread despite my request that you desist.

    Now you have the gall to write to me at January 31, 2011 at 3:28 am saying:

    “ Your ignorance is saddening.

    “Biomass” includes, among other things, ethanol generation from agricultural waste products. That and other means of processing waste into useable fuels are infant technology. Read up on it then maybe you can keep your foot out of your mouth in the future.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomass#Biomass_conversion_process_to_useful_energy
    If you have an attention span longer than 5 minutes, which is a matter of great doubt at this point, try to read the whole article.”

    No, I have no intention to waste my time reading some wiki article.

    Instead, I suggest that you read these items by me:

    http://ff.org/centers/csspp/pdf/courtney_082006.pdf
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/originals/biofuel_issues.html
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/reprint/richard_courtney_2006_lecture.html

    The first link is to an analysis of the potential for biofuels that I published in August 2006 prior to the USA legislating to enforce displacement of crude oil products by biofuels.

    The second link is to is an analysis I published in December 2008 that analysed the outcome of the predictions I had made in that 2006 paper. The synopsis of that 2008 analysis says:

    “This paper reviews effects of large use of biofuels that I predicted in a paper published in August 2006 prior to the USA legislating to enforce displacement of crude oil products by biofuels. The review indicates that policies (such as that in the EU), subsidies and legislation (such as that in the USA) to promote use of biofuels should be discontinued. The use of biofuels is causing significant problems but providing no benefits except to farmers. Biofuel usage is a hidden subsidy to farmers, and if this subsidy is the intended purpose of biofuel usage then more direct subsidies would be more efficient. But the problems of biofuel usage are serious. Biofuel usage is
    • damaging energy security,
    • reducing biodiversity,
    • inducing excessively high food prices, and
    • inducing excessively high fuel prices, while
    • providing negligible reduction to greenhouse gas emissions.
    All these effects were predicted in my paper on the use of biofuels that was published in August 2006 and can be seen at
    http://ff.org/centers/csspp/pdf/courtney_082006.pdf
    My 2006 paper also predicted objections from environmentalists if large use of biofuels were adopted although this then seemed implausible because many environmentalists were campaigning for biofuels to displace fossil fuels. But this prediction has also proved to be correct.”

    The third link is to an Annual Prestigious Lecture that I had the honour to provide in 2006. It Section 14 (starting on page 13) provides an overview of the viability of all existing and potential ‘renewables’.

    Please feel free to continue your trolling after you have read and digested all three documents. But, until then, stop wasting space on this thread.

    Richard

  155. Al Cooper says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    January 31, 2011 at 3:28 am

    Thank you.

  156. DaveS says:

    I think from the physics, its abundance and its potential it deserves to have a serious research program, even a test plant. Its deserves this as much, if not more than solar, wind, algae and bio mass. I think we have capabilities and technologies today that did not exist in the 60s. The realization of cheap energy for a millennium would be Obama’s greatest legacy. Lets see how much vision the guy has.

  157. Mike_S says:

    There are three reactor designs who can use thorium, which are in an very advanced state of development.
    -CANDU 6
    A heavy water reactor of which a dozen have been build around the world. This can operate on thorium, but not very efficient. It can also be used in a dupic fuel cycle. Here the used nuclear fuel out of a normal light water reator is used in the CANDU reactor. For the US this is a interesting option.
    -ACR1000( advanced CANDU reactor)
    The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has finished Phase 3 of the Pre-Project Design Review of this reactor.
    http://nuclearstreet.com/nuclear_power_industry_news/b/nuclear_power_news/archive/2011/01/31/acel-reaches-design-review-milestone-for-the-advanced-candu-reactor-acr_2d00_1000-013103.aspx
    It has the same options as the normal CANDU reactor. It should be less costly to build such a reactor.
    - PBMR (pebble bed modular reactor)
    This reactor was developed out of the THTR-300 which was especially designed for using thorium.

    The development of the molten salt reactor costs at least a decade.

  158. George E. Smith says:

    Well I already had my own personal Sputnik moment; either sputt-nick; or spoot-neek, as you wish; way back in 1957.

    Using an ordinary communications short wave receiver (at 20 Megacycles), and a stop watch; along with some ionospheric prediction tables; we managed to guess about where the orbit was, just by listening to it when it was above the radio horizon.

    So when the Auckland Star reporter called at lunchtime to the Radio-Physics Department; to ask, when people could go outside and see the satellite, stupid me- just blurted; go out at 8 PM tonight and look up and it will go overhead.
    OOOoops !! really bad move; the early evening edition of the star said on the front page, that “The radio-Physics Department ” had predicted that Sputnik, would go ovehead at 8:00 PM tonight (that night).
    Well tens of thousands of people drove up to the top of nearly all of Auckland’s 60 volcanoes to watch. Not me, I was off to bed for a good night’s sleep after listening to that blasted beep for two days.

    So I had to go out the next night to see it for the first time. As for the previous night; well it went dead center straight over the city at 8:00 PM. I don’t think I’ve been right on anything ever since; but I never talk to reporters any more either.

  159. Mike Jonas says:

    Johanna 2011 AD : “Underestimating your opponent is rarely a winning strategy.

    Sun Tzu ~300 BC : ““Never underestimate your opponent.”

  160. kwik says:

    JohnH says:
    January 31, 2011 at 10:42 am

    “History repeats itself, Japan in the 50′s and 60′s was cast as the copy cat low quality manufacturer that could only copy and never innovate, now look at Japans reputation for quality and engineering skill. ”

    Some posts here reminds me of the japanese invasion of Singapore.

    The british general and most of the leading Brits was not afraid of the Japanese because, they said, the Japanese had bad eyesight. Look at the glasses they are using, they said.

    In the mean time the Japanese bicycled into Singapore via the back-door. So much for bad eyesight. It is funny how a myth can be taken as a fact by the ruling classes.

    At the same time as some say they cannot “be inventive”, “they can only copy” and all that. Let me tell you, that can be turned around very quickly. As the japanese did.

    Dont you worry about that.

    And, additionally to all this, some here seem to think that the U.S. should have some kind of monopoly on having a high-tech industry, to be a leader of the world, to be number one, and so on.

    Well, I think that time has passed. It was nice as long as it lasted, but, you know, the world moves on.

    Why be so afraid of getting a developed friendly China filled up with techno-freaks and mobile phone lovers? With a free marked? Instead of a gang of Pol-Pot’ers? (There are a couple of Pol-Pot’ers in Washington now.)

    As you all know Milton Friedman went to Chile well aware of that a dictatorship has a hard time surviving a free marked.

    It seems to me the leadership of China nowaday is slowly introducing free markeds in a steadily growing area in China. We should welcome that, I think. I think this will result in a more and more democratic China. A China that prefers to do trade with its neighbours, instead of war. They have seen that this brings much more prosperity than commanding millions around with spades in the countryside.

    The talk about intellectual ownership (or whatever) reminds me of the jet-liner “Comet”. The British shared all the technology from the Comet project with the Americans. When the Brits asked for something back from the americans, the answer was; “Sorry,its classified”. And then came the Boeing.

  161. Dave Andrews says:

    Hey, remember the hype about fast breeder reactors in the 1960s? Well here we are 50 years later and even the country that has pursued them most assiduously, Japan, is still saying it is years away from a viable commercial reactor.

    Likewise the thorium reactor has been around as an idea for roughly the same time, yet it is even further from any chance of commercial viability.

    So perhaps we should concentrate on more immediate problems. And I haven’t even mentioned the nuclear weapon proliferation problems associated with both types of reactor:-)

  162. Mark T says:

    Not that I am a fan of “authority,” Richard, but certainly the phrase “ignorant” does not apply to you w.r.t. biofuels, eh? Hence my point above regarding irony, and, more importantly, the benefit of education even for those that think they are already educated. You never know what you might not know.

    Mark

  163. DirkH says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    January 31, 2011 at 10:47 am
    “The use of biofuels is causing significant problems but providing no benefits except to farmers.”

    Exactly, Richard, and that is why politicians in the EU *love* it. It solves our problem of overproduction and keeps the farmers happy by rising the prizes. Happy farmers – more votes.

    This could in part also explain the fact that they love subsidizing wind and solar; as there are many owners of small solar installations and owners of wind park funds, the subsidies make many possible voters happy.

  164. Steve Fletcher says:

    FTA: “The scientific goal is to use 20 years or so, developed a new generation of nuclear energy systems, all the technical level reached in the trial and have all intellectual property rights.”

    So they will respect IP rights when it is their ideas? Lets just steal it from them like they steal our DVD’s.

  165. Billy Liar says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 31, 2011 at 8:28 am

    And I thought ‘biomass energy’ was a fancy new name for wood burning…

  166. mike g says:

    @Dave Springer

    The wackos will put the brakes on any biofuels technology that involves genetically modified anything.

    They are already putting the brakes on new technologies for getting at naturnal gas.

    True. Nuclear is 20% more expensive than coal and 50% more expensive than gas at this moment. However, I’m still paying a fuel adjustment premium from the last natural gas spike that I wouldn’t be paying now if my utility wasn’t ONLY 30% nuclear. Even without any GHG worries, my utility is under EPA mandate to spend more than the cost of two new reactors to bring its fleet of coal plants into compliance with best-available technology mandates and it’s been a while since anybody in the SE US got a significant coal plant permitted.

    My take is natural gas will be the feedstock for transportation fuels, not some hoped for biofuels breakthrough.

  167. eadler says:

    Jeremy says:
    January 31, 2011 at 10:18 am

    eadler says:
    January 31, 2011 at 6:41 am
    I don’t see the justification for Obama bashing with respect to nuclear power. One of the first acts of his administration was to launch a loan guarantee program for nuclear power reactors.

    That was lip service. The bashing is fully justified because while Obama did do those loan guarantees, they are meaningless because the problem with Nuclear in America is that no one wants the waste stored anywhere near them. The solution was Yucca Mountain. Obama Killed the Yucca mountain project just before it was set to open. With no national storage area for the waste to make sure that NIMBY doesn’t kill a project, those loan guarantees are meaningless. Any local government will block a nuke plant because the locals will thoroughly oppose the storage of nuclear waste near their homes. This isn’t new to Obama or any administration, pay lip service while backstabbing those projects your allies dislike.

    So yes, bashing Obama for his failure to encourage nuclear power is fully justified. In fact he is helping to kill off nuclear in this country.

    A lot of people want to praise Obama for his human spaceflight funding too. The problem is this, The shuttle is due to retire this year. There is no replacement. Obama killed off the Orion project (as bloated a piece of federal pork as it may have been), and has offered no replacement. As of next year, the United States, unlike China and Russia, will have no manned spaceflight. Now some praise this and say, “well NASA is a bloated federal agency, not the nimble organization of motivated nerds it once was.” And they are correct to state this. However, NASA occupies less than 1% of the federal budget and its endgame represents the future of humanity. When was the last time any rational responsible parent spent less than 1% on their children’s future?

    Obama = Just another politician, spineless in the face of requested political favors.
    It seems that your opinion is uninformed.

    Yucca Mountain was not a slam dunk as a safe site to store nuclear waste.
    The coup de grace was a previously undiscovered fault line in 2007 which bisects the storage facility. None of the research on the safety of Yucca Mt. considered the fault.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/sep/25/usa

  168. phlogiston says:

    In 2001 China joined the WTA (world trade association). This organisation has rules for preventing expropriation of intellectual property. China was allowed to opt out of these rules. They now routinely require “sharing of technology” as part of big contracts within China. This is why motorcycles copied from Kawasaki are now being manufactured in increasing numbers in China. A few years ago they obtained the detailed designs of a Japanese high speed train (dont remember the company). Now they have surprised everyone by making their own train which goes significantly faster than the Japanese train. The Japanese company in question have placed a moratorium on further big deals with China – but the “horse has already bolted”. In further pursuance of this policy, when Airbus signed a large contract to supply airliners a few years ago, they handed over to the Chinese what is essentially their crown jewels – the design of the Airbus wing which is uniquely efficient. Now China is busy creating airliners which will soon rival Airbus and Boeing, at first in the small-medium single-aisle category.

    Thus complacency about China’s ability to implement Thorium or any other kind of nuclear reactor is not well justified.

    This all shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a threat, just a reality to get used to. The analogy of Japan in the 60′s is indeed apt.

  169. Dave Springer says:

    DaveS says:
    January 31, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    “I think from the physics, its abundance and its potential it deserves to have a serious research program, even a test plant. Its deserves this as much, if not more than solar, wind, algae and bio mass. I think we have capabilities and technologies today that did not exist in the 60s. The realization of cheap energy for a millennium would be Obama’s greatest legacy. Lets see how much vision the guy has.”

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory designed a 7.5 megawatt LFTR research reactor and operated it from 1964-1969. It simply didn’t win the competition for which reactor designs were chosen for commercial use. The main interest in it was for use in nuclear powered bombers as it had the greatest power-to-weight ratio of anything else. A different design was chosen for nuclear-powered submarines which have an infinite supply of cooling water and lesser restrictions on reactor weight. LFTR is old hat for the United States but only for the United States as the ORNL reactor is the only LFTR reactor ever built. The putative reason given by overly excited LFTR pundits why LFTR never went anywhere is that LFTR doesn’t produce as much plutonium (read fissile material for nuclear weapons) as the winning designs.

  170. phlogiston says:

    On the other hand, in military technology all is not necesarily as it seems:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12321492

  171. Charles Hart says:

    Dave Springer says:
    January 31, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    “Oak Ridge National Laboratory designed a 7.5 megawatt LFTR research reactor and operated it from 1964-1969. It simply didn’t win the competition for which reactor designs were chosen for commercial use. The main interest in it was for use in nuclear powered bombers as it had the greatest power-to-weight ratio of anything else. A different design was chosen for nuclear-powered submarines …..”

    The submarine LWR designs were already in-service by the time LFTRs were prototyped. The commercial reactors used the LWR proven military technology because it was the low risk approach (and because it produced a lot of plutonium, desirable at the time by the military). This was in-spite of the fact that LFTR was an inherently safer technology (no fuel rods to melt and no high pressure water to burst). Safety was not given the same priority in the 60s as it is today. Today’s reactors are very safe but the safety has been “bolted on” at great expense. The biggest problem with LWR nuclear today is cost. LFTRs significant cost advantage (competitive with coal) is one of it’s strongest advantages.

    http://energyfromthorium.com/timeline/

  172. George Turner says:

    As an aside, I don’t know if anyone involved in LFTRs has pursued all of the design versatility a liquid fuel offers. All of the designs I’ve seen have been reactors with a constant volume and constant geometry, though allowing the fuel to drain out into a different vessel. But there are other clever things you can do to change the distribution of a liquid fuel to control reaction rates.

    For example, instead of draining your fuel into another tank, put your liquid fuel in the bottom of a tall containment cylinder and have a solid rod of slightly small diameter suspended from above. To shut the reactor down just drop the rod, forcing the fuel up into the space between the rod and the containment cylinder, reconfiguring the geometry of the fuel into a thin cylinder, just like shoving stackable drinking glasses together.

    Or make a reactor shaped like a mercury thermometer. In the upright (dynamically unstable) position, the fuel is down in the bulb. Tip it over and the fuel runs into the pipe, shutting down the reaction.

    Or make a reactor shaped like an egg or a cow horn fractionally filled with fuel. Point down concentrates the fuel, tipping it over spreads the fuel out.

    There are so many options to explore.

  173. Dave Springer says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    January 31, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Who died and left you the authority to determine who can say what on this thread?

    I quite agree that ethanol from corn is a non-starter. In fact you can search uncommondescent.com back a few years ago when I was writing articles for it and I also predicted the same things you did. It was painfully obvious. Corn has too much value as a food crop to divert for ethanol and the process of converting corn starch to alcohol is inefficient – it’s basically just a scaled-up moonshine operation . We appear to be talking across each other. I’m not disagreeing with you about about current biofuel production and you’re just not moving beyond that to what I’m actually talking about.

    Biofuel is going to come from genetically engineered organisms designed for the sole purpose of producing liquid and gas fuels with very little interference directly from sunlight, water, air, and nutrients. No such organisms exist in nature because there’s no survival value in it – no selection pressure for evolution to produce such organisms. The organisms being used now produce only small quantities of what we want and they produce it as a metabolic byproduct. When we take what nature has produced as a starting point and mix/match (genetic cut & paste) metabolic function so those byproducts become the primary metabolic product the result will be virtually free fuel that can seamlessly replace all existing fossil fuels. GM organisms don’t have to survive in the wild competing against other organisms because we supply them with a suitable environment while excluding their competitors in various ways so the GM organisms can happily devote all their metabolic resources to producing biofuel for our use whereas in the wild they’d die out fast because they’re devoting all their energy to producing something totally useless to their own survival.

    Let’s look at fungi for an example. There are fungi which can digest ligneous (woody) plant matter and produce carbohydrates as a primary metabolic product. These are primarily mushrooms and other colonial fungi that grow on wood or woody soil detritus. There are different fungi, primarily yeasts, which can digest carbohydrates and under anerobic conditions produce ethanol as metabolic byproduct. There is no fundamental reason why synthetic biology can’t produce an organism that digests ligneous materials to produce carbohydrates then proceed to produce ethanol from the carbohydrates. That would be one great leap in biofuel production technology. But it doesn’t stop there. There’s no fundamental reason why the same organism can’t be made to skip the need for ligneous feedstock and simply go straight from sunlight, air, water, and nutrients straight to biofuel as a primary product of metabolism. All these capabilities are extant in nature today but they aren’t all incorporated into any single organism because there’s no evolutionary pressure to produce such an organism. But as our capabilities in synthetic biology grows we will eventually be able to build an organism that does exactly that for us. This will mark the beginning of the next great technological revolution. Just the beginning. The engineering oppotunities represented by custom designed microorganisms building macroscopic things with molecular precision are mind boggling.

    The advances being made in synthetic biology are proceeding at a pace that reminds me of Moore’s Law for semiconductors. Just ten years ago it cost the US goverment a billion dollars to fully sequence the first human genome (Francis Collins led the effort). At the same time a private individual, Craig Venter, produced a full human genome sequence for $200 million with a proprietary technology call shotgun sequencing. Today a human genome can be sequenced for $10,000 and there’s an X-prize waiting for the first company to do it for $1000 dollars. Meanwhile Venter hasn’t been sitting still. Venter circumnavigated the global ocean taking samples of microorganisms from various depths and he had the vessel equipped with a shotgun sequencing lab and he built a gene library containing millions of unique genes found in the microrganism survey – sequencing them right on the ship literally going from water sample container to genetic sequencing machine. Back on the farm the Venter Institute a few years ago became the first (and only) lab to produce an artificial organism. Venter took the simplest complete genome known (microplasm genitalium, a human gut bacteria IIRC) and stripped it down until there was nothing left but what was absolutely required for basic metabolic and reproductive function. He then took that minimal artificial genome sequence and built it up from mail-order DNA snippets perfecting the process of producing an error-free DNA molecule with tens of thousands and base pairs and hundreds of gene sequences all using a sequence map in a computer database feeding into a gene splicing machine. Then he tested it by gutting a different species of bacteria (removing its native DNA) and inserting his artificially produced genome in the empty shell. The new bacteria, with an artificially produced synthetic genome, came to life and grew out in a culture plate to become the first synthetic organism in the world.

    Venter’s first stretch goal, all along, has been to produce a synthetic organism that produces biofuel and with the gene library he has it won’t be long before he’s figured out how to make bacteria build all the things that natural organisms can build only do it under program control. There’s no fundamental reason why a wooden house has be constructed from milled lumber when in principle you can program a hoard of bacteria to make the wood on-site in the form of the house. Various other organisms produce all kinds of structures from materials like calcium, transparent proteins, and just about everything you’d need for a livable dwelling directly from materials on-site and all of it powered by the sun. Nature served up these biological capabilities to us on a silver platter. The only thing we have to do is reverse engineer what nature produced and modify it for our own purposes. This is the future and it is approaching at an accelerating rate as synthetic biology emerges from its infancy. Meanwhile someone is going to waste their time and money on obsolete bulk construction technologies like nuclear power plants and about the time they get the next generation up and running the Venter Institute (or someone else) is going to announce a synthetic organism that produces refined liquid and gaseous fuels at such a low cost that nuclear power generation has no remote chance of being able to compete in cost.

  174. Dan in California says:

    eadler says: January 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm
    “Yucca Mountain was not a slam dunk as a safe site to store nuclear waste.
    The coup de grace was a previously undiscovered fault line in 2007 which bisects the storage facility. None of the research on the safety of Yucca Mt. considered the fault.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/sep/25/usa
    ————————————————————————
    Fault lines have zero relevance to the mountain’s usefulness as a waste repository. If a large magnitude earthquake struck there, it might prevent any additional storage due to the passageways being structurally unsafe for workers. All previous stored waste would just sit there, whether a quake hit or not. It’s what it is supposed to do.

    I have an innumerate friend in Las Vegas who is scared of the possibility of Plutonium getting into the water table. This is a typical scare tactic that doesn’t stand up to quantitative analysis. If anywhere in the world already HAS plutonium in the groundwater, it’s around Yucca mountain, because that’s where the plutonium has rested since the hundreds of underground bomb tests there.

    Instead of rational waste storage policy, the US has a defacto policy of storing power plant waste at the generating plants.

    Also, using Wikipedia as NOT a good reference for nuke power discussion. Their anti-nuke bias is rather extreme. Here’s a well-researched paper claiming nuclear in the US is cheaper than natural gas. Several other countries are listed also, as local factors affect costs:
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html

  175. Dave Springer says:

    Alright folks. This is my last entry in this thread. I’m outnumbered by LFTR cheerleaders, evidently including the blog owner, by at least 10 to 1 and my efforts to present contrary opinion have landed me in the moderation queue. I understand and since I don’t want to remain in the timeout corner I’ll duck out.

    Who’s right isn’t going to be determined until if and when commercial LFTR reactors start going on line and that will take years if not decades. I said my peace, I heard yours. No one’s opinion appears to have been swayed. I’ll just reiterate that a nation that can’t reproduce 50 year-old reactor technology to reliably power a nuclear submarine isn’t a nation that is going to lead the world in producing an economical LFTR reactor. If it becomes a successful technology it won’t be China that does it. Mark my words.

  176. Roger Carr says:

    To Dave Springer (January 30, 2011 at 7:21 pm)
    Qualifications noted, Dave. Thanks.

  177. Roger Carr says:

    Dave Springer says: (January 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm)
    Alright folks. This is my last entry in this thread.

    I hope you will reconsider. We need the depth and spread.

  178. George Turner says:

    Dave Springer, one problem with any genetically engineered bio-fuel production is that you can’t economically keep the organisms seperate from the environment. Photosynthesis (which we’re not going to improve on) is only about 3 to 10% efficient. That’s much worse than a photovoltaic array, and you don’t have to coddle solar cells to keep them warm, fed, happy, and disease free. If you have to build a greenhouse you’d make more money growing off-season blueberries.

  179. Steven Mosher says:

    They will stumble the first time they hit a challenge that is not in a cookbook somewhere. big dollars for guys who can solve tough problems. spruce up your cv guys.
    ( 25 years experience working in the region.. defense and consumer electronics)

  180. E.M.Smith says:

    The whole “development” meme is just a distraction.

    We have dozens of already developed technologies for all sorts of “alternative” power sources. There simply is no energy shortage. Thorium fuel bundles are already being run in exiting nuclear reactors (Russian design and in India) and some are designed and fabricated by a US company.

    What’s needed is the “get off the pot” part. Shut down the department of energy and get the Feds Out Of The Way. The rest is sitting on the shelf, ready to go.

    Heck, we had Toshiba offer a FREE very small scale nuke to a town in Alaska just to get one demonstrated and approved. The US Govt choked it.

    What we have is NOT a shortage of technology nor a need for ‘research’, what we have is a broken government standing in the way.

  181. Roger Carr says:

    Say it out aloud, E.M.Smith, we need reconciliation…

  182. Richard S Courtney says:

    Dave Springer:

    At January January 31, 2011 at 6:39 pm you ask me:

    “Who died and left you the authority to determine who can say what on this thread?”

    No person died but it seems your brain has.

    I did not define the subject of this thread as being “China announces thorium reactor energy program, Obama still dwelling on “Sputnik moments” “.

    Anthony Watts defined the subject of this thread when he posted the item (above) that this thread exists to discuss and, therefore, he “determined” what is appropriate for discussion in this thread. I had no part in that and there is no reason for anybody to think I did.

    But you have come on to this thread with repeated attempts to disrupt the discuusion by irrelevant, untrue and stupid blather about renewables. In response, I have repeatedly attempted to stop your trolling behaviour and I have taken the trouble to give you sufficient information to demonstrate to you – and to others – that (in addition to being irrelevant) your disuptive comments are untrue (see my posts at January 31, 2011 at 3:28 am and January 31, 2011 at 10:47 am).

    I repeat. Stop trolling this thread.

    Richard

  183. kwik says:

    Steven Mosher says:
    January 31, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    “They will stumble the first time they hit a challenge that is not in a cookbook somewhere. ”

    That reminds me of the last “sputnik” moment of the US; Going to the moon.

    There was no way the US could solve the problem of designing a rocket that had repeatability regarding quality. It was almost random every time whether it would explode on the ground, or in the air.

    German scientists were almost kidnapped to fill up a whole town, and that did the trick.

    Remember Wehrner von Braun and his SS assistant?

    And it was the same, or even worse for the russians. They too kidnapped germans to fix the problem. Under slightly worse living conditions, one might add.

  184. Dave Springer says:

    @Roger Carr

    Thanks for recognizing that contrary opinions are valuable.

    For whoever else it was that said something about biofuel always taking away valuable resources (even cornstalks) that’s simply not true. I posted this before on WUWT:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joule_Unlimited

    This company is building a pilot biofuel plant located about 20 miles from where I live in Texas. The pilot plant is located next to a wastewater treatment plant. It grows a patented genetically modified cyanobacteria (algae) in wastewater in a process called helioculture. The cyanobacteria are genetically modified to produce any of an assortment of alkanes, ethanol, and hydrocarbons that need no refining. They believe the pilot plant will produce 20,000 gallons of fuel per acre.

    Please read the article and references before going on further about how biofuels displace food, destroy soil, or other misconceptions. It doesn’t even use valuable fresh water but rather brackish or gray water that is otherwise a nuisance to treat and dispose of. This company is well funded and has well known industry players and scientists behind it. It is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts largely because that’s a hotbed of talent in synthetic biology. It’s all about getting the biology right. After you have the right organism the rest is as easy as finding a place where there is a source of wastewater and reliable sunlight. Where I live in Texas is ideal. We’re constantly fighting city governments to stop them from dumping treated wastewater into our lakes and rivers instead of using it to irrigate golf courses and stuff like that. Now there’s a great use for it – making biofuel in helioculture.

  185. Richard S Courtney says:

    Dave Springer:

    At February 1, 2011 at 10:13 am you persist with your trolling.

    I suggested that you read the links I provided before writing anything else about biofuels. You clearly have not.

    This thread is about the thorium reactor and it is not about biofuels. It is being (deliberately ?) deflected from its purpose by your mistaken and ridiculus assertions concerning the different subject of biofuels. Your comments are so mistaken as to be risible and you have ignored the facts which I and others have provided to correct your multiple misunderstandings.

    I am sure that you are feeling pleased at your success in deflecting this thread from its purpose and onto your nonsense. But I find such blatant troll behaviour annoying, and I am sure others do, too.

    Stop it.

    REPLY: Ok let’s call this fight over – Anthony

    Richard

  186. keith at hastings uk says:

    Well, I’m sorry to see this excellent science blog somewhat diverted into politics and ad hom attacks on whole countries.

    Thorium reactors must surely be worth a good look. Never underestimate the inertia of vested interests, whether they be invested in U235 type reactors, or in Carbon scams. I seem to recall that the UK would have pushed on with Reactors had it not been for North Sea gas, which brought the trumpeted “dash for gas” electricity generation. Gas power stations being cheap/quick/good financial returns I believe.
    Lots of gas being found now, too. Shale gas etc.

    Incidentally, sad to see the beginning of the slow decline of the American Empire. As a Brit, I know the signs – we are further “down” than the USA, and have ecoloonies in charge.
    As of now, in rounded %, UK is getting electricity 38% from gas (CCGT); 41% coal; 16% nuclear; 3% Wind; 2% other. Some 50 GW, with wind doing 1 1/2 GW out of 5+ GW installed wind capacity. Its a windy day – we usually get <1%, at vast expense.

  187. Dave Springer says:

    @Anthony

    Thought you might be interested in this. If you google thorium reactor this article is currently the 8th hit from the top.

    Nice page rank. Interestingly the text google displays in the listing is my comment describing the ONRL research reactor.

  188. Mark T says:

    And here we all thought, because you told us so, that you would not post any more. Sheesh, coming across like a journalist more and more.

    keith at hastings uk says:
    February 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Well, I’m sorry to see this excellent science blog somewhat diverted into politics and ad hom attacks on whole countries.

    I’m guessing you don’t really know what an ad hominem is. Certainly this thread, though it may contain a few argumentum ad hominems by posters, is not an argumentum ad hominem in and of itself. Really, look it up.

    Mark

  189. keith at hastings uk says:

    Mark T says:
    February 1, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Mark, sorry for the loose English. I was rushed. I meant the somewhat emotional attacks on certain countries, coupled with similar emotional defence of US creativity, etc.
    Where I come from, it would be regarded as close to prejudice to assume that the Chinese cannot make technological advances on their own. And why not start by copying? Cheaper and quicker.
    For me, the key factor is that technological solutions in the USA (and here in the UK) are being constrained by dirigiste politicians in the grip of Global Warming panic and what Americans call pork barrel politics (I think).
    I take no pleasure in seeing my transAtlantic friends hog tie themselves, and have family in the USA, as it happens.
    Apologies to Anthony and the Mods if this is rather far off topic.

  190. fireofenergy says:

    What’s the deal with the silly anti-global warming ads?
    Everybody knows that CO2 is an infrared absorber (and that FF’s are finite). It heats up the lower atmosphere to a certain and definite degree which will cause greater storms (yes, even snowstorms). Once all you anti GW dummies finish off the ICECAPS (by your insidious desire to dismiss alarm, thus making the rest of us to continue to burn FF’s because “nobody cared to make us burn carbonfree”), there will be no more snow (and a dying world for the future). This is the ONLY planet, please let’s keep the CO2 levels at a closer to natural 300 ppm! This requires over 100,000 square miles of solar and billions of batteries OR simply LFTR

    Pro LFTR!
    Go China too! (Maybe they will sell us our electricity to power our electric cars at a rate cheaper than the going rates for “not so easy oil” in the not so distant future).
    Fireofenergy

  191. fireofenergy says:

    Apologies for being drastic, but YA! we need to stop CO2 emissions (without the need to say at all costs). It does not have to be expensive :)

  192. Smokey says:

    fireofenergy,

    The ads are chosen by WordPress.

    And clearly you have not read the article and comments. Or other related comments and articles about China and CO2. Really, your comments seem to be coming from another planet. Maybe another universe. Use the search box. Put in “CO2″. Or “China.” Try to learn something, instead of regurgitating unthinking talking points.

    You praise China, while China is building 2 – 4 new coal-fired power plants every week, and has announced plans to continue at that rate until at least 2024. U.S. CO2 emissions are decreasing, but China’s CO2 emissions are skyrocketing. While praising China you demonize CO2. That makes zero sense.

    CO2 is entirely harmless and beneficial, so I am unconcerned. More is better. China is doing its part to raise CO2 emissions far in excess of the rest of the world. Yet you praise them. WUWT??

    Finally, China will never be selling electricity to the U.S. because of the line losses. Most of the power would be dissipated as heat well before it reached the U.S.

    In clicking on your name I now realize that I am trying to reason with a crazy person. My mistake. I’ll bow out now and let you have the last word. The really frightening thing to me is that you’re probably over 18, and have the right to vote. Egad.

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