Further on Thorium

While Matthew Nisbet opines on peak oil being a uniting cause, this short essay on thorium power is instructive and relevant. – Anthony

Guest post by David Archibald

Early in June, I gave a lecture entitled “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” at the Institute for World Politics (a graduate school for the CIA and State Department) in Washington. From that lecture, following are a couple of slides pertaining to the advantage of thorium relative to uranium for nuclear power:

 

To run a 1,000 MW reactor for a year requires one tonne of nuclear material to be fissioned. In the case of thorium, only one tonne of waste material is produced with 30 to 100 grams of transuranics (Neptunium and plutonium). Alternatively, the Neptunium could be separated from the uranium and burnt separately in a reactor for that purpose, at the ratio of 49 thorium reactors per one neptunium reactor.

The very low level of transuranics from the thorium route compares to the large waste volumes and transuranic content of that waste from the uranium route, shown in the above slide. The one tonne of thorium from the first slide is shown in scale to the 250 tonnes of uranium needed to produce one 1,000 MWyear in the light water reactor route. That 250 tonnes of uranium produces 35 tonnes of enriched uranium, which becomes the spent fuel volume. Of that 35 tonnes, 300 kg is plutonium. The transuranic content of the uranium light water reactor route is some 10,000 times greater than that of the thorium route.

Once the thorium reactor is adopted as the nuclear process of choice, we will be wondering why we bothered with anything else.

About these ads

103 thoughts on “Further on Thorium

  1. We bothered with the uranium reactors because at the time we were in the cold war and wanted to have a quick and ready source of bomb making materials. This is the 1970s we are talking about. Thankfully, the need for a ready source of those things has vastly diminished. Hopefully as we decommission the old plants, we will replace them with thorium.

  2. This does seem like a very promising route for energy.

    The two drawbacks I see at the moment are
    1) “The neutron flux from spontaneous fission of 233U is negligible. 233U can thus be used easily in a simple gun-type nuclear bomb design.”
    2) “However, unlike uranium-based breeder reactors, thorium requires irradiation and reprocessing before the above-noted advantages of thorium-232 can be realized, which makes thorium fuels more expensive than uranium fuels.”

    Both quotes are from Wikipedia. Cost is always a concern, but cost is also relative, and it is certainly conceivable that as the process gets refined, the processing costs will come down. The weapons-grade U-233 is a concern, but that also seems to be something that can be mitigated by appropriate designs for the reactor.

    Overall, it is certainly a technology worth exploring further!

  3. So how many of these magical reactors are actually running? Are the paper advantages proven?

  4. If I read this correctly, a 1 Gig Watt reactor can be done with 1/250th starting material and significantly less waste/byproduct? I’m all for it, lets study what can done with the byproduct and get these up and running.

  5. Both the US and Canada needs to move to this, quickly. Otherwise it will be something else we import from China.

    The Indians are working fast and furious on this. There are huge reserves of Th in India.

  6. The better news is that there is enough Thorium within the US to supply our electricity needs for something like 8,000 years (which should be sufficient time for us to finally overcome the technical and engineering challenges presented by fusion).

  7. too late, too little (improvement).

    The thorium route still produces nuclear waste that needs to be taken care of for millennia. The reactor sites are vulnerable to natural disasters and terrorism.

    Why shall we now follow Michael Mann and James Hansen on their way to a nuclear energy future? They have been wrong before!

  8. Unfortunately I don’t see any interest from mainstream politicians in thr West. Our political classes are tied to wind, solar and biofuels to the exclusion of anything else.

  9. What I know about nuclear fission can fit inside a nucleus of a hydrogen atom but I got to ask some questions. If these graphs are accurate why not use thorium? What are the negatives of using thorium? Are the byproducts of a thorium reaction more poisonous, have a longer half life, harder to store than those produced from a uranium based reaction?

  10. Electricity is not a practical replacement for the majority of liquid fuel use. And it isn’t a pressing problem unless you buy into the CAGW meme where CO2 is the designated scapegoat. There’s plenty of natural gas and coal and it’s affordable and adequate for electrical generation. What we need is a compatible, LESS EXPENSIVE alternative to fossil gasoline, diesel, and kerosene at least in great enough quantity so we don’t need imports. That will stimulate the economy like nothing else.

    I trace the current economic funk back to roots in 2005 where over the next three years the price of oil went from $40/bbl to $140/bbl. That’s gotta end. Notice it’s happening again with oil at $120/bbl after a few years respite and, lo and behold the financial crisis got its second wind this week. Coincidence? I don’t think so. We’re getting played like a fiddle.

  11. Had the Tsunami hit Japanese Thorium reactors [not Uranium ones] there would have been no emergency and it is only the desire for Nuclear Weapons manufacture that led the Cold War opponents to avoid using Thorium being too safe, too stable, highly efficient, low waste and much less complex/expensive machinery. There is masses of Thorium available……….it may be more expensive than Uranium but almost all Thorium is used [with almost no waste] as opposed to very little Uranium actually used and massive waste problems.

    It is staring the politicians in the face and they are blind to its potential for almost limitless power and the ability to produce compact versions for outlying civilisations without ugly pylons everywhere.

  12. Is this another of those 20 years away technologies? I know it was 20 years ago.

    No one will stop you until you get close, then Big Green will take an interest, at first suport it, and then treat it like coal. In the long run, we could be getting free energy from bananas and they would oppose it for the radioactivity in bananas. It’s inevitably precautionary. We are prepared to pat them on their hands and bop them on their noses with a rolled up newspaper. They are prepared to kill us if necessary. Just give us something real – if you can – and we’ll have it out with them one way or another.

  13. How many nuclear engineers and physicists are we training in our US universities?

    Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.

    Better tap the Cold War geezers before they’re all gone

  14. Biofuel solves all our immediate problems it just needs to be more economical to produce. That’s happening as we speak. Synthetic biology is where it’s at. It’s near term and a perfect solution. No one is going to invest in a new generation of nukes if they are going to get obsoleted by genetically modified algae that drink municipal waste water and piss gasoline. Such organisms are already alive and patented. The US is, of course, leading the world in this. We innovate and others duplicate. Nothing has changed.

  15. ” John Davis says: August 9, 2011 at 9:24 am
    So how many of these magical reactors are actually running? Are the paper advantages proven? ”
    Yes in the 1960s they ran one for 5 years!

    – Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

  16. We bothered with the uranium reactors because at the time we were in the cold war and wanted to have a quick and ready source of bomb making materials. This is the 1970s we are talking about.
    Also consider before that. Uranium was a strategic issue in WW2. Before WW2, the Rockefeller dynasty had been hard at work for decades looking for ways create an economy for uranium and other radioactives they had a monopoly on.
    Thorium didn’t figure in their plans for the same reason it doesn’t today. Much harder to monopolise ‘cos it’s more abundant world wide, doesn’t require expensive (& therfore exclusive ) technology to utilise, and not the best radioactive for bombs.
    If big government is against nulcear power from Uranium because it provides cheap wealth indiscrimantly to the masses, then they’ll fight tooth and nail if need be to stop thorium power ever taking root in society.

  17. I agree that the thorium route is attractive. I have always been of the opinion that the best route for uranium reactors is a heavy water design run as a breeder to make plutonium, which can then be reused. This route provides more fuel as a byproduct than you put in. The downside of course is the level of transuranics that need to be handled during the reprocessing step to extract the plutonium.

  18. Check out Energy from Thorium, Kirk Sorensen’s site, for all the information needed on Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. LFTRs need to be brought to the attention of politicians.

  19. The government and the Greens don’t *want* us to have lots of energy. They want to shut us down. Once people start thinking about thorium, expect a veritable flood of scorn and lies to be poured upon it.

  20. The big negative of the Thorium reactor is the fact that it isn’t far beyond the scale of theory and some data won in experimental environments in the 1960s. You may want to research liquid salt thorium reactors to get a better picture of what it is about.

    As far as fissile waste goes, there’s the option to build specialized thorium based reactors to break those further down (and even gain energy from the process). Proliferation is a very small risk since the U-233 is in solution within salts that have to stay at above 500 C to remain liquid, which makes tapping in and stealing them very complicated.

  21. I think someone sent me a note to a slide set about a joint US/India Thorium project, I don’t have that handy here at work. I was glad to see it’s not completely ignored here in the US but remain appalled there’s so little development going on.

    On my Rossi post, gallopingcamel mentions http://energyfromthorium.com/

    China is pursuing Thorium reactors, and they’re certainly quite motivated to do so, I’d expect them to be the early adopter of commercial scale reactors. See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/30/china-announces-thorium-reactor-energy-program-obama-still-dwelling-on-sputnik-moments/

  22. Speaking of patented GM organisms for biofuel production I haven’t checked on Joule Unlimited in several months. As it turns out they were granted two patents on ethanol producers. These compliment similar patents granted last year for diesel producers.

    Joule Awarded Patents for High Volume Ethanol Production from Sunlight and CO2

    Cambridge, Mass. – July 26, 2011 – Joule Unlimited Technologies today announced the issuance of its first two U.S. patents covering its fundamental method for producing ethanol at volumes and efficiencies far surpassing biomass-dependent processes.

    Read more

    These aren’t incremental improvements in existing technology like a new generation of nukes or slight improvements in production costs for ethanol from corn or beets or diesel from jopthra berries. These represent leaps of an order of magnitude in downward cost and scalability. The best part is that’s just the beginning. There’s another order of magnitude improvement to be had as synthetic biology is still in it’s infancy but charging forward in a way that reminds me of the first transisters.

  23. Oak Ridge National Laboratory explored Molten Salt Reactor design back during 1960-1976, downloadable copies of their reports are available from the Energy from Thorium site. Charles Barton’s site The Nuclear Green Revolution has articles on the history of why the MSR was ignored by the politicians.

    It should be noted that MSRs can use either uranium or thorium based fuel salts, and can be tuned to “burn up” the non-useful actinides generated by the decay cycle. The MSR and its derivatives are better (safer and potentially much cheaper) than the Light Water Reactors we use today. But the Nuclear Regulatory Agency has never approved a new reactor design in its entire history, so there is a big regulatory hurdle to get over. While the ORNL research proved the physics and made advances in material selection, it did not result in a ready to approve reactor, so another iteration of research is needed.

  24. I’m afraid the weakest point of this technology is presence of U233 at early stage of the cycle. Having one such plant Iran would not need to invest insane money into their uranium enriching programs, they’d just plug a chemical separation machine to the reactor.

  25. This is the video (google Tech Talks) that convinced me that Thorium needs to have a reasonable (funding) chance versus “renewables”:

  26. I fully support Thorium reactor research and implementation. But what’s with all the depleted uranium that is shown as made in chart number 2? Is this all just waste, or is there more energy that can be gathered from it? Depleted uranium can be used for military applications, but loose bits of it afterwards still have a toxicity problem even after the battles are over.

  27. Anyone seriously interested in solving our future energy needs with a technology that is readily attainable, perpetually plentiful, sufficiently safe, and ultimately inexpensive must look at and understand the potential of LFTRs. We were on our way fifty years ago, but building bombs was too important at the time. Today, this is the only real answer that we know will work.

  28. We’ve discussed Thorium at WUWT before. Last year. It’s initial Development Specs was to be built to fit inside a large bomber which could stay aloft indefinately. A working model was developed which ran nicely but didn’t fit any near inside a bomber. It ran without problems, was unplugged on Friday PM and when they came into work monday, re-plugged it in and off it went (with some freezing and thawing of a regulating medium). Will the Chinese find a way to fit it into a bomber…….that should cause a stir some where. The US Answer is no. But then, that asumes (or rather ass-u-mes) we know everything. The world is going to run on Thorium and we’ve already sold the reactor design and technology to the Indians and the Chinese. We tossed it aside because we couldn’t weaponize the fuel back in the 50’s. Every municipality, medium to large sized plants, aircraft carriers, trains, and perhaps first strike bombers will have one some day although it is not completely glitch free at the moment.

  29. @Loopy Larry
    I think you mean Pu239 (‘bomb material’ – think Trinity & ‘Fat Man’ [Nagasaki]). 238 is an alpha emitter with a half-life of *only* 87.7 years.
    @all
    I know of some constructors of U – reactors who will fight tooth & nail to preserve 70 years (many, many man-years) of experience. Oh, and don’t forget the patents!

  30. We need a commercial size demonstration plant in operation to get experience. Also the fuel reprocessing steps. Not located in earthquake or flood zones. Or on top of volcanos.

  31. bair polaire says:
    >The thorium route still produces nuclear waste that needs to be taken care of for millennia.

    Apparently not so. Everywhere I read they are talking about 300 years. It is not like Uranium fuelled processes.

  32. You won’t see much action on this in the USA.
    The current administration has put in place regulators that squelch all but their favorite pet projects like windmills. Even the chairman of the NRC, Jaczko, is not pro-nuke. If you go over his resume, you’ll see he began his Washington, D.C., career as a congressional science fellow in the office of U.S. Rep. Edward Markey. Markey is about as anti-nuke (and anti-industry) as it gets. No way would he have Jackzo on his staff if he didn’t share his views.

  33. Johnnythelowery says:
    August 9, 2011 at 11:04 am

    What’s the point in having a bomber stay up indefinitely? They still need to land to fill-up with bombs, don’t they?

  34. There is an excellent article about thorium nuclear power in a past issue of the American Scientist.

    http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/thorium-fuel-for-nuclear-energy/2

    This way nuclear power has evolved shows how rigid people can be. There is a reluctance to consider alternate options once momentum builds behind a practice. The ‘quick’ start up path for uranium based nuclear power put thorium off partly because there was a cold war era demand for bombs.

  35. I think if one is considering the primary coolant to be molten salts you have a very challenging materials problem and design problem for all the system components in the primary system and for the reactor vessel with its internal structure. Water has been a significantly challenging primary coolant for the current LWRs operating around the world. Comparing to water, molten salts are a very severe environment for all the system materials. Not the least challenge for primary system and reactor vessel using molten salts as a primary coolant is the much more intensive corrosion with the associated issue of transport of irradiated system materials being transported after they corrode. The materials needed are not yet even being extensively tested. That would need years to complete before full scale prototypes are built to determine feasibility.

    The materials development for use in molten salt environment is just the example of one significant challenge.

    Be realistic. If they are proven to be feasible in a couple of full scale prototypes running for say 3 yrs only then are we talking about starting to engage in mass production of full scale thorium reactors. Then we are talking minimum 20 to 25 years from now having online and at full power just the first dozen or so. For a 100 such then another 10 to 20 years beyond that. We are talking minimum 30 yrs to first dozen. 40 year from now for the first 100.

    There is still a major alternate electrical power supply problem to keep up with current growth until 30 to 40 yrs from now we if is potentially possible for thorium molten salt reactors to make contribution. That is predicated on the molten salt thorium reactors being demonstrated as feasible in a couple of full scale units running for about 3 yrs. The certainty that they will be feasible is still unknown.

    John

  36. bair polaire says:
    August 9, 2011 at 9:40 am
    too late, too little (improvement).

    The thorium route still produces nuclear waste that needs to be taken care of for millennia. The reactor sites are vulnerable to natural disasters and terrorism.

    Why shall we now follow Michael Mann and James Hansen on their way to a nuclear energy future? They have been wrong before!

    See @ Crispin in Waterloo above re longevity. Even if that weren’t true, the volume reduction is a winner out of the gate. It also depends on what half-lives you want to use as your benchmark. If uranium waste is nasty out to 100K years, well we’ve already bought that ticket. So what’s 100K years plus another 1K years or so in the scheme of things?

  37. On the basis of personal recollection, the Thorium fuel cycle was considered the most viable power generation route in the years immediately following World War II. Like other kids who grew up reading the “boys’ books” Robert A. Heinlein produced for Scribners during the late ’40s and 1950s, I vividly recall that in Rocket Ship Galileo (1947), the author posited a reaction drive employing a Thorium pile to heat metallic zinc to its gaseous phase as a propellant.

    As other posters here have observed, the Uranium fuel cycle was favored in significant part because the commercial use thereof “blended” with the federal government’s efforts to obtain weapons-grade fissile materials. There is little – effectively no – such characteristic in the Thorium fuel cycle.

    Those of a peaceable disposition consider that a benefit.

  38. Brian Johnson uk says:
    August 9, 2011 at 9:53 am

    “Had the Tsunami hit Japanese Thorium reactors [not Uranium ones] there would have been no emergency”

    And if the operators had not freaked out over the radical drop in the containment vessel pressure as the automatics for the reactor scrammed due to the quake, and manually secured the emergency shutdown system, there might not have been a disaster when the tsunami arrived.

  39. U233 is not considered to be ideal for fission bomb production as it is much more difficult than U235 or PU239 to handle safely. This is because in the Thorium fuel cycle U232 is co produced with U233 and when it decays it generates high energy gamma rays. This problem actually worsens progressively after separation from the spent Thorium fuel occurs.
    See, for example,

    http://www.torium.se/res/Documents/9_1kang.pdf

  40. Johnnythelowery says:
    August 9, 2011 at 11:04 am

    What’s the point in having a bomber stay up indefinitely? They still need to land to fill-up with bombs, don’t they?
    ———————————————————————————–
    Back then–that was the Specs for Thorium. . The point of a bomber that could fly without having to land every so often was that it couldn’t be located…back then. It would be a retaliatory weapon as part of the detente of Nato. The role our submarines play today–(treasonable acts by gitts in governments aside), Now, the potential is to have a pilotless HEAVY bomber that could stay aloft for days…weeks, coupled with stealth, would have enourmous defensive and offensive uses (we already have armed Global Hawks which have some of these capabilities). .

  41. We’ve got lots of thorium in the UK, but we don’t need it. You see we’ve got off-shore wind farms that produce electricity for a mere 25 pence (40 American cents) per kilowatt/hour. That’s right, only four times the cost of nuclear. Bargain.

  42. John Whitman says:
    August 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    “I think if one is considering the primary coolant to be molten salts you have a very challenging materials problem and design problem for all the system components in the primary system and for the reactor vessel with its internal structure.”

    Exactly! That is why we need to continue development now, so that corrosion problems can be identified and solved before there are 100 reactors operating. A quick look via Google is encouraging; it looks like the corrosion problems are manageable. Lets be sure before we go ahead.

  43. The Joule process sounds interesting (see post at 10:18 am), but I see a bit of a problem of scale. I didn’t take the time to do an accurate conversion, but for every million barrels a day of fuel oil (we use over 19M barrels a day of crude, but it’s not all used as fuel) it would require about 1.5 million acres of land. That assumes 100% on line, operating at peak efficiency. There might be an issue with covering an area the equivalent of Alabama with bio-solar fields.
    Compact power wins every time. Electrical energy can be converted economically into another form of energy, like hydrogen, if the power is inexpensive. If the new battery technologies can be commercialized, they will be so compact, no fossil fuels will be needed for most transportation. I believe the combination of Nuclear and battery will likely be the main source of portable power in the future. Windmills and PV make no sense to me, and ethanol from corn is criminal.

  44. Just to make something clear about the above graphs:
    Both, Uranium and Thorium reactors, produce about 1 tonne of fission products per GigaWatt/year + Transuranics. However, the amount of transuranics produced by Thorium reactors is negligible. The fission products produced by either reactor type are very similar and they are indeed initially highly radioactive. But there’s a natural law that says that the more radioactive a substance is, the faster it decays.
    Of the typical fission product isotope mix, about 83% decay within one year (and the really highly radioactive ones in minutes). The remaining 17% have half-lives of about 30 years. Only very small amounts (grams) have longer half-lives. Which means after about 300-500 years of storage the remaining radioactivity of the 170 kg of longer lived fission products is lower than the ore from where the original fission fuel came from.

  45. pochas says @John Whitman :
    August 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    “””””Exactly! That is why we need to continue development now, so that corrosion problems can be identified and solved before there are 100 reactors operating. A quick look via Google is encouraging; it looks like the corrosion problems are manageable. Lets be sure before we go ahead.”””””

    ——————

    pochas,

    Your enthusiasm is infectious. : )

    However, I advise realistic expectations.

    The US gov’t reshuffles due to elections every 4yrs on the average.

    That is a problem for long term nuclear plant development. If the gov’t is heavily involved and is allowed intervention rights and if the ideological environmentalists do again what they did to the USA nuclear program in the 1970s and 1980s THEN WE ARE TALKING MAJOR roadblocks of an unforeseeable nature. I do not wish to be discouraging, but we need to see these things clearly to overcome them.

    I would have very high optimism if I saw a fundamental shift to freer capitalistic and entrepreneurial culture; I am talking about that being officially sanctioned by 99% of both political parties. THAT IS WHAT WE NEED TO MAKE HAPPEN BEFORE embarking on a long term (and it is long term) thorium program in earnest. But with the commitment there can still be no thorium feasibility guarantees . . . the feasibility is determined after several full scale prototypes have run for a few years . . . then mass production starts.

    While there are serious technical challenges in thorium plant development and testing that have no guarantees to be overcome, those are insignificant without a culture shift endorsed by 99% of both political parties and a general culture that will agree to set THE INTERVENTION THRESHOLD LEVEL THRESHOLD VERY HIGH on the ideological NGOs.

    Be of good cheer, it could work.

    But still if everything goes right you won’t see the first dozen plants online until at least 30 yrs from now and won’t see 100 plants online until at least 40 yrs from now.

    In the interim we still the need of additional electrical supply construction independent of whether thorium actualizes. That addition interim electric power supply has to be addressed also.

    John

  46. I was just speaking with a Fermilab colleague about thorium reactors, Anthony, and he mentioned that particle accelerators can be used to improve the efficiency of the process. Fermilab will be shutting down their large “Tevitron” accelerator ring in the near future, and they are seeking a new mission for utilization of their vast knowledge in this area. It could be a winner. See:

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf35.html

  47. KLA:
    are you saying that all of the shouting and screaming about long halflife radioactives and their storage and disposal in the last 50 years is about a few POUNDS of stuff.

    WTF…………..

    C

  48. To put something further into perspective:

    The “renewable” crowd is fond of specifying power in ” supplies x households”, while neglecting to say that this number is based on peak production capability, not actual production.
    However,
    A typical US household of 4 uses about 1 kW of electricity averaged over a year, or 0.25kWyear per person. For a human lifetime of 80 years the amount of thorium used in a MSR would be 20 grams per person over that persons lifetime.
    The primary use of Thorium until the 1990s was in welding rods. A typical thoriated welding rod contained about 1/4 gram of Thorium, enough to supply the electrical needs for a typical American for one year!!. If you imagine a US quarter made of Thorium, then that person would use up ONE such quarter every 37 years!!

  49. “Once the thorium reactor is adopted as the nuclear process of choice, we will be wondering why we bothered with anything else.”

    Yer such a dreamer. These currently can’t built and operated economically because of plumbing problems. Generation of highly corrosive toxic radiactive byproducts in dual fluid design which destroys plumbing if it’s not removed and is too expensive to process out for economical operation. In the single fluid design nothing but graphite can be used for plumbing and it gets brittle and cracks.

    Other than overcoming engineering problems with no known solution, however long that might take, and the usual 20 year wait for a new generation nuke to get certified this isn’t going to solve any energy problems. Buy a clue, please.

  50. Charlie Foxtrot says:
    August 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    “The Joule process sounds interesting (see post at 10:18 am), but I see a bit of a problem of scale. I didn’t take the time to do an accurate conversion, but for every million barrels a day of fuel oil (we use over 19M barrels a day of crude, but it’s not all used as fuel) it would require about 1.5 million acres of land. That assumes 100% on line, operating at peak efficiency. There might be an issue with covering an area the equivalent of Alabama with bio-solar fields.”

    Not a problem my friend. The Texas panhandle is suitable, it’s 20 million acres, and there ain’t nothin’ much on it now but oil wells, wind mills, and a few cattle. You could use 1.5 million acres of it and it would hardly put a dent in it.

  51. I think you may have misread or msiheard something about the single fluid design, There are variations of monel and various ceramics that appeared to be very promising when evaluated at Oak Ridge in the early 70’s. I wasn’t directly involved, but was working on a related project. This was a common lunch room topic. I don’t think anyone involved was considering graphite piping for future commercial designs. One problem will be that most of the develpment engineers from taht project have long retired.

  52. Charlie Foxtrot says:
    August 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    “about 1.5 million acres of land. That assumes 100% on line, operating at peak efficiency. There might be an issue with covering an area the equivalent of Alabama with bio-solar fields.”

    You dropped a couple decimal points there. Alabama is over 30 million acres in size.

    Other interesting facts. The Texas panhandle has one person living on it for every 150 acres. A million more employable adults would have to relocate there just to operate the sucker.

    I wonder how many illegals document-challenged low skill construction workers it would take to build it out in ten years. Contrary to urban legend those workers aren’t in infinite supply ya know. It would make Hoover dam project look like a wooden bridge in Vermont by comparison.

  53. Denier says:
    August 9, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Loopy Larry says:
    August 9, 2011 at 10:11 am

    > I prefer whichever makes the most Pu 238 for space probes.

    I think you mean Pu239 (‘bomb material’ – think Trinity & ‘Fat Man’ [Nagasaki]). 238 is an alpha emitter with a half-life of *only* 87.7 years.

    Pu238 is right. Larry said “space probes,” not “space bombs.”. Would you a thermoelectric source with a half life of 88 years or one heated by Pu239 with a half life of 24,000 years? (Hint – each decays with a n alpha particle with about the same energy, so you’d need 24000/88=272X more Pu239 for the same heating.) The Voyager probes outside of the solar system needed some power management reprogramming because their RTGs aren’t as young as they once were. The thermocouples also degrade.

    Wikipedia has a nice photo of a Pu238 oxide pellet glowing red thanks to self heating. Yikes!

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

  54. I agree with Mr Archibald with one proviso. The proviso is that all eggs should NOT be put into the molten fluoride system basket.

    After long experience with corrosive halide systems I can tell everyone that the engineering is VERY DIFFICULT, and typically the results do not meet the promises. There are very few successful molten halide systems, and none I know of which have the requirement of long term low maintenance that this system will require. (And before anyone objects Al potlines need plenty of maintenance, since pot lifetime is only about 4-10 years (and with no radioactivity blasting the materials of construction!) – which is why spent potliner is a continuing environmental thorn in their side – and that is not highly radioactive).

    The Indians as I recall are continuing with a more conventional fuel element design – this is likely to be much, much more robust and idiot-proof compared with molten salt.

  55. Does anyone know what the delayed neutron fraction is for a thorium reactor? in a U/Pu reactor most neutrons are born “prompt”, within 10^-14 seconds of the fission event (>99%). A small fraction is born delayed, via fission fragments that decay producing “delayed” neutrons (delayed neutron precursors). It is these delayed neutron precursors that make the reactor controllable by raising the neutron generation lifetime to value that allows practical control. Anyone know what the control philosophies are for a thorium reactor?

  56. MikeinAppalachia says:
    August 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    “I think you may have misread or msiheard something about the single fluid design, There are variations of monel and various ceramics that appeared to be very promising when evaluated at Oak Ridge in the early 70′s. I wasn’t directly involved, but was working on a related project. This was a common lunch room topic. I don’t think anyone involved was considering graphite piping for future commercial designs. One problem will be that most of the develpment engineers from taht project have long retired.”

    Sorry about that. I gots my single and dual fluid problems in reverse. Graphite plumbing is needed for dual fluid design. Highly corrosive chemistry is the problem in single fluid designs. Continuous processing of the molten salt to remove a variety of destructive byproducts has never been done and no known materials can stand up to it for long. You can’t build everything out of ceramics and not much can withstand the heat, the corrosives, and the neutron flux in a single material. It’s a LONG way from feasible. It doesn’t even work in a toy computer model.

  57. Thorium can be used as an oxide just as uranium is today and thorium oxide has better thermal conductivity and a higher melting point. There is no need for special materials because there is no need for these to be molten salt reactors.

  58. ->Doug Bodero
    Excellent question!
    According to this:

    http://www.reak.bme.hu/Wigner_Course/WignerManuals/Budapest/DELAYED_NEUTRON.htm

    (Great paper discussing the effect of delayed neutrons on neutron flux, and reactivity.)

    The delayed fraction per 100 fissions is .667 for U-233 and 1.621 for U-235, making U-233 reactor less stable.

    The chart doesn’t show how much material is needed of the neutron source to irradiate the thorium in order to covert it to U-233 before it becomes fissionable.

    Although it is probably much less energy than is needed to enhance U-20x to U-235.

  59. “bair polaire says: August 9, 2011 at 9:40 am
    The thorium route still produces nuclear waste that needs to be taken care of for millennia. The reactor sites are vulnerable to natural disasters and terrorism. ”

    No. Watch the video link I posted. 83% of the waste is inert after 10 years and can be mined for valuable minerals. The other 17% is dangerous for 300 years. Combined with greatly reduced waste due to much more complete utilization of the fuel you have a clear winner.

    Natural disasters and terrorism, while not impossible, are hard to figure out. In the Liquid (LFTR) design it is already molten at low pressure and goes solid if the power goes out. A simple gravity based drainage pipe system (kept solid by electricity) will melt when the power goes out and all the reactant will drain to the holding tank. They turned the power off on weekends when they went home with the 1960s test reactor.

    Not perfect but darn is that an elegant design. Check out the video. Well worth the time.

  60. “”””” Dave Springer says:

    August 9, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Biofuel solves all our immediate problems it just needs to be more economical to produce. That’s happening as we speak. “””””

    Better check the current issue of Scientific American magazine Dave.

    I’m afraid the bloom has gone off bio-fuels; all bio-fuels, including microbe created ones. Bio-fuels are as big a pipe dream as fusion energy. Yes I know there are people who can make all the ethanol they need to run their auto, in their bathroom, using basically nothing. So buy their stocks, they should be pretty cheap right now.

    I’d like a dollar for every time someone said their favorite alternative energy just needs to be cheaper to produce.
    It has nothing at all to do with cost. Simply put a big tax on oil and natural gas; say a million dollars a barrel. So now your alternative is cheap; so have at it and get rich. Well it would have been cheap if you had purchased all the energy you needed to run your still yesterday, before I put that stupid tax on it.

    If bio-fuels made sense from an energy budget point of view (don’t forget all that water you need), the Arabs would be pounding sand..

  61. Jim G,

    Thanks for the link….very useful. I think it might be an engineering challenge but possible to design a controllable reactor. The link by Walt above (1258pm) is also good. It looks like some practical designs may use U fuel as the initial neutron source to breed U233 which would raise the DNF further and make the reactor more controllable. The biggest tragedy in all of this is we stopped research on nuclear power for no good reason.

  62. One of the problems of the uranium LWR route is that it is not walk-away safe. Typically, the amount of decay heat that will be present in the reactor immediately following shutdown will be roughly 7% of the power level that the reactor operated at prior shutdown. One of the reasons that so many of the Fukushima reactors had hydrogen explosions was that the coolant wasn’t kept up to the cores. Once it gets hot enough, the zirconium cladding of the fuel rods reacts with water to produce hydrogen.

    At some future time, there may be an EMP attack on a country that has nuclear reactors. What if the electrics of the diesel backup system for the emergency cooling water get fried? The staff of the reactor won’t be able to do anything at all. The reactor will blow and be a festering sore on the countryside until billions are spent cleaning it up.

    One of the significant advantages of a thorium molten salt reactor is that in the event of a problem, the reactor fluid can be drained to a non-critical geometry. To be walk-away safe, the containment will have to have passive air cooling that can instantaneously handle 7% of the rated capacity of the reactor. It just means that thorium reactors will have large chimneys associated with them.

  63. David Archibald

    Very interesting article. One may only hope that such technology be rapidly proved and applied.

    A couple of questions about by products [not] shown in drawing #1:
    The drawing shows Pu239>>>38%>>>Pu240 what is the other 62%?
    The drawing shows Pu241>>>29%>>>Pu242 what is the other 71%?
    …or did I miss something in the drawing?

  64. F. Ross says:
    August 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    The other percentages are fission products. There wasn’t enough room on the slide to show that.

  65. Mr Archibald,

    Another design which has similar claims can be found here:

    http://www.terrapower.com/

    As my knowledge about these technologies is very limited, I wonder how this Traveling Wave Reactor compares to a Thorium Reactor.
    Can you share some light on this?

  66. DaveF says:
    August 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm
    We’ve got lots of thorium in the UK, but we don’t need it. You see we’ve got off-shore wind farms that produce electricity for a mere 25 pence (40 American cents) per kilowatt/hour. That’s right, only four times the cost of nuclear. Bargain.

    It’s even better than that Dave, I can see three farms off the North Wales coast and they operate occasionally, but they are brand new, they may corrode a bit out there

  67. About the theory of peak oil:
    Some wise guy whose name I cannot recall once said:
    “The stonage period did not end because stone-age peope ran out of stones.”
    They discovered copper.
    Likewise, the oil era will end not because we would run out of oil, coal or gas. In fact, the ‘new’ energy is already there for all to develop and use – nuclear. Meanwhile we still have hundreds of years of known reserves of coal, oil and gas. End then we have calthrates …..Wiki: The worldwide amounts of methane bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth. Peak oil? Peak stupidity.

  68. From my layman’s understanding the molten salt plan has many positives but you are left with a chemical engineer’s nightmare of doing almost perpetual separation of all those fission cycle compounds.
    This year I learned that my father was one of the scientists who worked on the first electricity generating reactor. He says that he (et al) rejected the fluid Thorium route on grounds of extreme corrosion of the pumps. He went on to design the High Temp CO2 cooled reactor and his preferred design for the future would be the Modular High Temp Gas Cooled Reactor which I believe used Thorium pellets inside ‘cricket balls” of graphite stacked inside 3m tall 0.5m dia mini reactors. It had all sorts of walk-away safety features which he regarded as being a must for any future design. Sadly, the German Greens pushed that reactor out of existence and the S. Africans ran out of R & D funds.
    Few nations can fund these major research programs alone any more. Like the International Space Station we may have to look at a multi-national design. Part of that would be to retire stupidly dangerous 1960s designs such as Chernobyl and the Boiling Water Fiascos in Japan.

    Great article D.A.
    Thanks.

  69. George E. Smith says:
    August 9, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    “”””” Dave Springer says:

    August 9, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Biofuel solves all our immediate problems it just needs to be more economical to produce. That’s happening as we speak. “””””

    Better check the current issue of Scientific American magazine Dave.

    I’m afraid the bloom has gone off bio-fuels; all bio-fuels, including microbe created ones. Bio-fuels are as big a pipe dream as fusion energy. Yes I know there are people who can make all the ethanol they need to run their auto, in their bathroom, using basically nothing. So buy their stocks, they should be pretty cheap right now.

    I’ve never had anything but bad things to say about ethanol production using feedstocks such as corn, beets, sugar cane, or cellulitic agricultural wastes. Sugars and starches are too valuable as food crops and require agriculturally productive land in their production. There’s too much labor and energy devoted to growing, harvesting, processing, transportation, fermentation, and distillation. That’s a boondoggle from the word go in almost all cases and I’ve saying so for years. While agricultural waste doesn’t particularly need any productive land committed to it such waste is usually plowed under to revitalize the soil and if it isn’t plowed under that’s going to create problems. The processing required for conversion of cellulitic matter into ethanol is far more costly than using sugars or starches. That’s a non-starter too. Vegetable oils converted to biodiesel is a slightly better approach with less processing involved but the source crops are still difficult to grow and harvest, the yield per acre is too low, and vegetable oils are valuable as food.

    Geneticially modified algae on the other hand have all the characteristics that other avenues are lacking. They can be produced anywhere there’s a source of non-potable water and plenty of sunlight. Municipal waste water is ideal because it’s loaded with nutrients. Brackish water works fine as does seawater although those need some nutrients added. We’re looking at 20,000 gallons of fuel per acre per year at a price equivalent to $30/bbl oil. And that’s just the first generation of an infant technology. Subsequent generations should be able to do an order of magnitude better in cost effectiveness. The best producers we have now in conventional agriculture can produce about 1000 gallons of fuel per acre and it’s a lot more expensive to produce per gallon. On a level playing field conventional crude has to be selling for about $200/bbl before conventional biofuels are competitive with it. National economies will fall like a row of dominoes if liquid fuel gets that expensive and stays there.

    The only good thing that came out of turning corn into ethanol fuel is it spurred the development and widescale deployment of vehicles with motors which can self-adjust to gas/ethanol blends anywhere from 0% to 85% ethanol. Without modification a gasoline engine can only tolerate about 10% ethanol.

    And by the way, speaking of Scientific American, which only dissed agricultural waste into ethanol schemes in the latest issue, you should read an article from earlier this year:

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

    Sorry you have to subscribe to read it all. I subscribe.

    It’s an interview with Vinod Khosla who is considered the leading green technology investor in the world. He’s heavily invested in fuel production from genetically modified algae and is hated in Washington because he says investing in ethanol-from-corn is a mistake. They hate him because it was he who got that particular ball rolling in the first place 20 years ago by investing in it and lobbying Washington, D.C. for support. He figured out it was a mistake after the first several years but by that time Washington had too much time, energy, money, and political capital in the program to just pull the plug on it so the big boondoggle continued and is still continuing today with the unintended but predictable consequence that it made food prices shoot up as staple crops and agricultural land were diverted to production of ethanol feedstocks .

  70. J.Knowles. says:
    August 10, 2011 at 8:52 am

    From my layman’s understanding the molten salt plan has many positives but you are left with a chemical engineer’s nightmare of doing almost perpetual separation of all those fission cycle compounds.

    This year I learned that my father was one of the scientists who worked on the first electricity generating reactor. He says that he (et al) rejected the fluid Thorium route on grounds of extreme corrosion of the pumps.

    As the Fonz would say, exactamundo! Molten salt at 1500F laced with a plethora of even more corrosive radioactive byproducts and a fry-yer-ass-in-a-millisecond neutron flux is so destructive in so many ways there is simply no collection of materials needed for the plumbing and pumps and whatnot that can hold up for long. This is just glossed over by the cheerleaders of this technology who somehow think that the needed materials can be easily engineered. It’s an engineering nightmare and it just ain’t gonna happen. Or it at least ain’t gonna happen soon enough to solve any problems. Adding insult to injury there is no pressing problem in generating electricity. Liquid fuels are the big problem and electrical generation from nuclear power plants isn’t going to solve it. The number of electrically powered commercial and personal vehicles is so small it’s laughable. There isn’t enough niobium in the world to make enough electric motors to replace all the internal combustion engines. The electrical grid can’t a vastly larger load inherent with replacing liquid fueled motors with electrical motors. WE NEED LIQUID FUEL THAT IS CHEAPER THAN FOSSIL OIL. This is where the energy crisis lies. Electricity just isn’t a practical replacement and because we have a very large domestic supply of affordable coal and natural gas it isn’t part of the crisis.

  71. Dave Springer says:
    August 9, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Other than overcoming engineering problems with no known solution, however long that might take,

    Molten Salt Reactors are on the Gen-IV International Forum’s ‘TODO’ list.
    Lot’s of interesting materials science research is taking place….

    http://www.gen-4.org/Technology/systems/msr.htm

  72. Well in Australia the Greens are working on a Red Ochre liquid grease reactor housed in a bark hut….. You hit it with a wooden stick to get it to work and the only waste it produces is time and money…… apparently. ;-)

  73. Dave Springer says:
    August 10, 2011 at 9:55 am
    …Liquid fuels are the big problem and electrical generation from nuclear power plants isn’t going to solve it. The number of electrically powered commercial and personal vehicles is so small it’s laughable. There isn’t enough niobium in the world to make enough electric motors to replace all the internal combustion engines. The electrical grid can’t a vastly larger load inherent with replacing liquid fueled motors with electrical motors. WE NEED LIQUID FUEL THAT IS CHEAPER THAN FOSSIL OIL. This is where the energy crisis lies…

    I agree, and this is how you power internal combustion engines with nuclear fuel:

    http://www.lanl.gov/news/newsbulletin/pdf/Green_Freedom_Overview.pdf

    Note that the costs per gallon quoted are mainly capital costs. Meaning after amortisation the cost/gallon would drop significantly. Plus there are lots of opportunities for further cost reduction from this proposal.

  74. Oh, there’s the reference I had seen. It was posted over at the Reference Frame by the gallopingcamel:

    Nine years ago, Charlie Bowman built an “Energy Amplifier” on his farm in Virginia that was tested at the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This work received minimal funding from the US government but it has blossomed into an interesting international collaboration. The latest proposal uses 20 MWe as input for a 1,000 MWt (300 MWe) output. The program committee includes Charles Bowman, Bruce Vogelaar and Carlo Rubbia.

    Check out the Ganapati.Myneni.pdf at:

    http://www.thoriumenergyalliance.com/ThoriumSite/TEAC2.htm


    Strictly speaking these guys are working on Rubbia’s ADR concept but it can be used to process all kinds of heavy elements. Because the fuel is “sub-critical” nuclear reactions require an external neutron source and it is the cost of neutrons that has prevented this type of reactor becoming attractive for commercial development. The Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) at Oak Ridge has set a new standard for “cheap” neutrons as can be seen from Charlie Bowman’s estimates in the TEAC3 update of the Ganapati presentation:

    http://www.thoriumenergyalliance.com/ThoriumSite/TEAC3.html

  75. James Vanderhaeghen says:
    August 10, 2011 at 2:39 am

    I can’t shed any light on the travelling wave reactor. It seems that the proponents don’t have much more than a concept.

  76. Pardon me for stating the obvious. As the orange box in the diagram near the top of the article suggests, Thorium-232 is NOT fissile. A Th-232 nucleus needs to acquire a neutron, and then undergo beta-decay, in order to form a U-233 nucleus, which is fissile.

    Guess where that friendly neutron comes from? From a conventional nuclear reactor. Why is this important?

    There are many hurdles to overcome, before we can transition to thorium reactors for electrical generation on a large scale. Some of the hurdles relate to nuclear engineering. Others are regulatory in nature. But even if policy-makers suddenly became thorium cheerleaders, it would take time and conventional reactor resources to generate the ‘seed’ U-233.

    In the long term, a ‘thorium economy’ may be the wave of the future. But it ain’t gonna happen overnight.

  77. Regarding biofuels – one of my colleagues at the University of Illinois in Urbana quoted the following in a powerpoint presentation on algae biofuel production:

    US produces 54 billion cubic meter of waste water and 200 million tons of manure (dry mass, human and animal). If all were used to produce algae and all waste was converted, it would be equivalent to 6.5 billion tons of crude oil. US consumed 1.2 billion tons of crude oil in 2006.

    It’s taking some time to do implement a program of this scale, but it will happen eventually. One algae company, Solazyme, just raised about $200M in a public stock offering. All of the major oil & energy companies are chasing this brass ring, someone will get it right eventually.

    My lab is growing microalgae with over 50% oil content at several times the growth rate of competing processes, so watch this space.

  78. Dave Springer says:
    August 10, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Liquid fuels are the big problem and electrical generation from nuclear power plants isn’t going to solve it. The number of electrically powered commercial and personal vehicles is so small it’s laughable. There isn’t enough niobium in the world to make enough electric motors to replace all the internal combustion engines.

    Dave, you’re glossing over all of the problems with algae exactly the same way you accuse the thorium backers. It’s nowhere near commercialization, press releases not withstanding. Open pools in the Texas panhandle face an unsolved problem of contamination. All sorts of unwanted species would be perfectly happy to compete with the good algae in your ponds and while sealed systems can obviously do a much better job keeping the critters out, their expense is not where it needs to be to be competitive. Don’t get me wrong. I do think that some sort of biofuel is the only practical long term mobile energy source, but algae ain’t close to being it. I see lots of press releases on Joule’s website, but not many demonstrated numbers. If you seriously believe that algae today can make ethanol for $30/bbl equivalent –sorry $20/bbl on one of their press releases–, then I’ll happily buy your IPO after you demonstrate those numbers. I suspect I won’t be investing in your company any time soon. I do retain some hope for Coskata’s pyrolysis process, but they haven’t done a very good job of meeting their milestones either. Oh, and Khosla loves them too.

    If you need a practical replacement for oil in the next few years, the only game in town is shale gas. Good thing it’s a good game.

    BTW, unless you intend for the non-viable electric car fleet to be even more non-viable by using superconducting motors, then I think you meant Neodymium and not Niobium. There actually is enough of it in the world, but we don’t produce enough of it in refined form on an annual basis. You can thank China somewhat for that.

    Finally, for all of your complaints about molten salts I wonder if you actually read the concluding paragraph in the ORNL link you provided. Here’s an excerpt that interested me:

    “Although much experimental work remains to be done before the construction
    of a complete power reactor system can begin, it is apparent that
    considerable progress has been achieved in solving the material problems
    of the reactor core . A strong, stable, and corrosion-resistant alloy with
    good welding and forming characteristics is available .”

    I remain agnostic on molten salt reactors, but the physics of Thorium are pretty compelling regardless.

  79. As Larry Fields pointed out in different words;
    Thorium is a nuclear poison. It absorbs neutrons.
    So you need to burn a nuclear fuel to get the neutron flux to convert Thorium to U-233.
    That isn’t free.

    So if you do have a high temperature, molten salt coolant, what happens if you get a leak?
    How do you cool pumps?
    Do you really want water in the vacinity?

    (Earlier I said enhancement of U-20x to U-235, I meant to say enrichment).

    And the complaints about Chernobyl, it would not have failed had the operators not overridden safety features and violated operational restrictions in order to perform their test. It wasn’t the design that failed, it was the decisions made that put the plant in an unsafe condition.

  80. Jim G makes the fair point that operator error caused the Chernobyl disaster and that the design did not fail, however, the manner in which humans operate a potentially devastating industrial plant IS part of the design of the plant. At Chernobyl it would seem they had used the spin-down time of the massive generators to provide in-house electricity on previous occasions. A diesel generator could have been up and idling on stand-by. Why not have an outside power line from the grid or from one of the other Chernobyl reactors?
    My father inspected numerous Soviet facilities during the 1980s and he commented that NOT ONE of them would have been given a license to commence operation under UK regulations.

    With some of the molten salt proposals leaks are not too drastic as the reactor chamber operates close to atmospheric pressure and as soon as the hot liquid oozes out, it spreads out, becomes sub critical and solidifies.
    Pumps are easy to cool with liquid CO2 loops.

    I’m all for developing the LFTR but maybe also another design along the conventional solid core idea because we have so much engineering expertise to draw on.

  81. J.Knowles,

    Chernobyl most certainly was not primarily caused by operator error. Sure the plant COULD be operated safely within a narrow operating envelope but it was not inherently stable outside that operating envelope and that envelope was not very large. It was rather like trying to operate an F-15E without its “fly by wire” controls. It was modified by graphite but cooled by water and had a positive void coefficient and power coefficient at the time of the accident.

  82. Doug Badgero, -I agree that the RMBK-1000 is inherently unstable, especially at low power operation but a dozen similar units, albeit with modifications, are still operating. It is a sad reflection upon the Soviet political mind-set that Legasov’s recommendations to improve the many dangerous aspects of the RMBK dinosaur were only implemented after he hung himself in protest.
    The combination of poor reactor stability, poor operating procedures, under funding and a constipated political hierarchy could all be cited as contributory factors.

  83. Let’s see now you anti nuclear weirdos. Umm we all starve to death versus nuclear energy. Ever heard of Peak oil or more simply. No Oil! Wonder what you will say when the lights go out and your petrol car is a giant paper weight and theres no food! The facts are that nuclear is comparatively safe in any form. Even if you have a meltdown. Using greeny logoc we should ban all cars and planes because you might have an accident. More people die in car accidents every day than ever died from nuclear. Thats how ridiculous the anti nuclear argument is. Fukishima was hit by one of the largest earthquakes in history. That all of sudden that makes nuclear Unsafe? How many other major accidents have there been? Chernobyl. Ok the Russians are not exactly noted for advanced technology. 3 Mile Island. No one hurt. Coal. tens of thousands affected and the damage to our planet? What about all the waste (with no half life) spewed about by coal burning generators. Waste with no half life. It lasts forever and some of it is radioactive. The clincher though. The absolute clincher. YOU SIMPLY CANNOT RUN A COUNTRY ON RENEWABLES. If you covered the whole planet in frigging windmills and solar panels you wouldn’t have enough to run the US. What about your baseload? You can’t just switch a grid on and off like a light switch. Geezez the Greenies are just as responsible as the Oil companies for the mess we are in.

  84. Here is a link to where I posted a video of a recent talk (this year) in Canada by Kirk Sorensen (energyfromthorium.com) on Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR). Also included are comments about the failure of the Fukushima reactors and an explanation of why we are not mining rare earth elements. He also indicates that China seems to be on track to build the first LFTR production units. These reactors appear to be inherently safe and eat most of their own waste. According to proponents, they have been dismissed in the past largely because they are incompatible with nuclear weapons technology.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/13/hey-how-much-thorium-you-got-under-the-hood/#comment-719291

  85. It looks like Kirk Sorensen has started his own company to develop a commercial Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. It is named Flibe Energy for the liquid Lithium Beryllium Fluoride salt reactor medium. Here is what appears to be his kick-off video presented at a conference in May of 2011:

    Kirk Sorensen – Introduction to Flibe Energy @ TEAC3
    57 likes, 0 dislikes 2,695 views (time 19:43)
    Uploaded by gordonmcdowell on Aug 4, 2011
    “Presented at the 3rd Thorium Energy Alliance Conference, in Washington DC. Kirk Sorensen & Kirk Dorius announce creation of Flibe Energy, a company devoted to making energy from thorium a reality, via the Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR).”

  86. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors–
    In looking over the comment thread here, I see that Dave Springer is highly skeptical of anyone ever solving the graphite plumbing problems associated two-fluid LFTR design. I understand that this was to have been the next stage of the Oak Ridge project after they had just finished the five-year proof of concept run. It is too bad they were not allowed to at least attempt to solve that problem. I believe Kirk Sorensen had a complete electronic archive of their work made and it is available from him on CD.

    I understand the salt being used is relatively inert even though its two components are highly corrosive in themselves because those components bond to each other more strongly than they will bond to any other atom. The big advantage being touted is the ability of these reactors to operate at normal atmospheric pressures (in contrast to today’s units) and be self-regulating.

    As far as I can tell, LFTR reactors are claimed to be a universal solution to the energy crisis, real or imagined. With the power from his reactors, Kirk Sorensen proposes to manufacture an artificial gasoline from the CO2 in the air for automotive and aircraft use.

    Now that Flibe Energy Inc. has been established we may see how far this concept can be taken.

Comments are closed.