A Review of ‘Thorium: energy cheaper than coal’ by Robert Hargraves

Guest post by David Archibald

Robert Hargraves lives in Hanover, New Hampshire. Mr Hargraves believes that “Global warming is harming us all.” Using the temperature – solar cycle length relationship from Friis-Christensen and Lassen theory, for cycles 24 and 25, this is what Nature has in store for Hanover, New Hampshire:

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So the coming years will be a severe test of his faith in the State-sponsored belief system.

In the meantime, he has done the World a good service by writing a book which describes why Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) are the solution to maintaining a high standard of living when the fossil fuels run out.

He starts the book by describing the basic physics of energy and then goes on to rehash IPCC material on global warming. Sometimes authors let slip, by their pronouncements, that they don’t have a good grip on the physical world. One of the better examples of that in Mr Hargraves’ case is this passage, ”Changes to life in the ocean will also be dire. Ocean life thrives in cold water; Caribbean water is blue and clear because it has less life than temperate and polar oceans.” Brian Fagin is another warmer author who betrays a lack of understanding of the physical world; in a number of his books he has describes arrow heads as weighing 1 kg. At any rate, on reading this sort of thing, the reader is alerted to not take any statement as being necessarily true.

The useful part of the book begins on page 115 with a discussion of the costs of existing energy sources – coal-fired power at 5.6 cents/kWh using coal at $45 per tonne and natural gas-based power at 4.8 cents/kWh using natural gas at $5/MBTU. Wind is far more expensive at 18.4 cents/kWh. Using pumped hydro storage to pacify it for the grid would add at least another 6 cents/kWh. Solar power is much the same cost at 23.5 cents/kWh.

Thorium is relatively abundant in the earth’s crust, as seen in this map of the USA.

Discussion of nuclear power begins in Chapter 5 on page 176. LFTRs will operate by having neutrons from the reactor core irradiate thorium in a blanket, converting it to fissile U233. That U233 is periodically rinsed from the blanket salt and fed to the core. Power from LFTRs is expected to cost of the order of 3 cents per kWh all up. The LFTRs will need a starter fuel at the rate of 1 kg per MW. The best source of that is the more than 72,000 tonnes of spent fuel rods that has accumulated in the US. That contains at least 648 tonnes of plutonium which is enough to start more than 3,000 200 MW reactors. Those spent fuel rods that have accumulated over the decades are a precious resource.

There is an interesting section on China’s LFTR project starting on page 260. China’s interest was triggered by an article in July 2010 in American Scientist. A delegation visited Oak Ridge National Laboratories where molten salt reactor work was done in the mid-1960s. The Chinese LFTR project was announced at a meeting of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in January 2011. Oak Ridge had 1,894 Chinese visitors in 2011! The project currently employs 432 people, expected to rise to 750 in 2015. A working 2 MW (t) reactor is expected by 2017 and a 10 MW (e) by 2020. The Chinese reaction to that July 2010 article reminds me of John Boyd’s OODA loop. There was a mere six months between reading an article and committing to a major new thrust in nuclear research. The contrast between that and the billions spent in the West on recreating medieval fear and superstition, and calling it climate science, could not be more stark.

This book is also comprehensive. A section on synthetic liquid fuels and how they might be made using nuclear power starts on page 355. It is realised that sources of carbon might become so scarce that the cheapest source might be carbon dioxide extracted from the atmosphere. A scheme to do that is illustrated on page 361. This is ironic in a book that asserts that carbon dioxide is the scourge of Mankind.

King Hubbert, of peak oil fame, realised that Mankind’s fossil fuel use would only be a blip in time and that the future, of necessity, will be nuclear-powered. This is Figure 30 from his 1956 paper “Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels”:

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Mr Hargraves’ book has updated that insight and added flesh to the bones of the idea. His book is a useful addition to the comity. He is also to be lauded for self-publishing it. My edition is simply marked “Made in the USA; Lexington, KY; 09 September 2012”. The book’s website is: www.thoriumenergycheaperthancoal.com It can be purchased from Amazon.

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Below is a video describing the concept. Long, but informative – Anthony

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118 Responses to A Review of ‘Thorium: energy cheaper than coal’ by Robert Hargraves

  1. jorgekafkazar says:

    Flouride won’t work. Flour is dusty and makes people sneeze. Much better to use fluoride, which prevents tooth decay.

  2. Doug Huffman says:

    http://www.torium.se/res/Documents/124670.pdf
    Molten-Salt-Reactor Technology Gaps, Charles W. Forsberg, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    (Session: 3.09 Liquid-Salt-Cooled High-Temperature Reactors-III
    2006 International Congress on the Advances in Nuclear Power Plants (ICAPP ‘06)
    Embedded Topical in the 2006 American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting
    American Nuclear Society June 4–8, 2006 Reno, Nevada)

  3. Tom in Worcester says:

    Pardon my ignorance. Has a working one ever been built?

  4. Betapug says:

    The Chinese program to develop thorium MSRs is headed the US educated Dr. Jiang Mianheng, the son of the President of the Peoples Republic .China has huge stockpiles of thorium as a byproduct of the rare earth mining to supply all the neodymium for all those wind turbines they export. http://energyfromthorium.com/2011/01/30/china-initiates-tmsr/

  5. What is wrong with the reactors like those used on US Navy ships and submarines. If there is a power failure they are SCRAMed by gravity, the operating experience with the reactors is extensive, and the designs are well understood. Contrast the US Navy reactors with those of Fukashima, which could not be SCRAMed without electric power to operate the pumps and servos that drive the SCRAM rods against gravity (perhaps not so good a design).

    After the tsunami that overwhelmed Fukashima the issue of the safety of nuclear power became paramount in peoples minds. For educated non hysterical folks the issue of the differing safety properties of various reactor designs also come into focus. The video

  6. Doug Huffman says:

    @Tom, not that I know. MSR’s have been built. The most recent, the Japanese Monju has suffered a series of accidents and produced an hour of power at a cost of 10 -T- Trillion Yen.

  7. Paul Martin says:

    Liquid Flouride? Fluoride, surely? Though many a flour mill has gone up like a bomb due to a dust explosion.

  8. pochas says:

    “Power from LFTRs is expected to cost of the order of 3 cents per kWh all up.”

    Ha, Ha, Ha! Cant begin to cover the costs from regulators, enviros and lawyers, lawyers, lawyers!

  9. GlynnMhor says:

    Tom asks: “Has a working one ever been built?”

    To the extent that an experimental one counts as ‘working’, then yes:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten-Salt_Reactor_Experiment

  10. Tom in Worcester says:
    October 2, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    “Pardon my ignorance. Has a working one ever been built?”
    Yes.

  11. Doug Huffman says:

    The USN HEU PWR have the most experience of all reactor designs. They are fantabulously expensive. As economies are introduced, so are risks.

  12. GlynnMhor says:

    Chris asks: “What is wrong with the reactors like those used on US Navy ships and submarines?”

    In order to generate considerable power in a small package, shipborne reactors use highly enriched Uranium or high concentration Plutonium (80%-90% is not atypical) as their fuel, approaching weapons grade reactivity.

    In contrast land-based power reactors use 6%-10% fissible concentrations, well below levels required for nuclear warheads.

  13. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Couple of comments.

    First the SC25 estimate of temperature should probably be nearer to SC24 because the pSCL-temperature correlation appears to saturate above about 13-14 years cycle length. The Maunder was cold, but not that cold. Other than that I fully agree with David’s temperature expectation.

    Second, the problem with LTFR’s is the engineering. As a guy who has direct experience with molten salt systems and many other halide systems they are a source of much engineering angst and failed processes. Very unforgiving. Corrosion and materials of construction issues have a high chance of killing this technology. Also if you get a contamination issue, such as moly or boron, then the whole big bath will be contaminated, whereas individual contaminated fuel elements could be segregated.

    I’m concerned that the hype for LTFR will shoot the promise of thorium nuclear energy in the foot. Thorium would do much better as a fuel element or pebble bed design. KISS principle.

  14. Paul Westhaver says:

    I used to be a Nuclear Engineer… back in the day. My professional area of interest was reactor shut down and cooling systems for the CANDU 600, heavy water reactor using U235 as the fuel. I was a young engineer back then and have since moved onto other things.

    Great reactor by the way. There would be more of them but the Green Peace types lied about nuclear energy in the 1970s and 80s so a moratorium was place on their construction.

    Now that nuclear energy is looking good again, Thorium IS a practical alternative to fossil fuels. I don’t see anything wrong with fossil fuels by the way, I just think that we are going to need more and more energy, and in North America we have a well establish grid so put 1000 gigawatt nuclear plants here and there and let the middle east cave in.

    I don’t like electric cars, and the battery systems are terrible but some people might like them for short commutes if the electricity was cheap, which it would be if there were more nuclear plants.

    I don’t accept that CO2 from man has any effect on the climate that is measurable. That is not a motive in my book.

    Nuclear energy is safe, abundant right here, and inexpensive.

    I will still need gas for my V8 F250.

    .

  15. Doug Huffman says:

    USS Seawolf’s S2G reactor was a liquid Sodium cooled reactor. The design was abandoned for PWR.

  16. GlynnMhor says:

    The thorium cycle (actually U233 is the active fissile product) can be utilized by existing CANDU reactors without major design changes.

    And the CANDU is inherently way safer than Fukushima’s boiling light water reactors.

  17. Richard G says:

    Another good video about LFTR:
    Kirk Sorensen (length 1hr 37min)

  18. Sparks says:

    Thorium Reactors… I’ll have to wait until I understand a bit more about them to even begin to form an opinion.
    What is a CO2 Heating effect? No wait… never mind!

  19. Paul Westhaver says:

    Fukashima was a 1 in 1000 year event where there was 1 in 1000 year earth quake, a 1 in a 1000 year Tsunami and a total failure of the grid to boot. The answer is to increase the safety systems, NOT PUT THE SPENT FUEL IN THE ATTIC like GE did and move on with better systems. France is 80% nuclear.

  20. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Temperature records starting in 1835 in Hanover? Robert, does he say where he got them? The earliest records I can find for Hanover go back only to 1895 …

    w.

  21. Doug Huffman says:

    I’ve asked Rod Adams of Adams’ Atomic Engines and Atomic Insights to stop by.

  22. Stevec says:

    PWR’s have inherently more risks which the nuclear industry didn’t want to discuss, especially compared to the essentially unpressurized Thorium Reactors, aka LFTR’s. Plus LFTR’s don’t produce much useable weapons grade nuclear byproducts. As a result LFTR’s were abandoned. What a shame then… and now an opportunity to use LFTRs!

  23. Dan Evens says:

    I work in the nuclear industry. When the “fourth generation” folks give their cost estimates, I always have to choke a bit. They have a couple experimental reactors. They have not gone through the licensing process. In some ways, they are pretty naive about the nature of this process. Design changes to satisfy regulators cost money. Now don’t get me wrong. In nearly every instance I agree with the regulator. But it inflates the cost of nuclear. Right now the fuel costs are, depending on the design, between 1% and 10% of the cost of the electricity. (That’s where the “too cheap to meter” thing came from.)

    Now there are several passive safety features in 4th gen. So they hold promise and really should be worked on very vigourously. And Thorium is very attractive for several reasons. Just don’t expect cheaper than coal, at least not right away. Maybe after we built five or ten of them to work out the gnarly bits. So units 11 through 20 might compete on price with coal, and after that we might be very pleased.

  24. John A. Fleming says:

    Oohh, thorium, fluoride,rinsing fissile U233 out of molten salts from an operating reactor.

    Is it even possible to get any farther away from the suplreme engineering principle of KISS? Here obviously is a guy who has never had to design, build and operate something while making a profit in all three stages.

    And look, one guy writing a book about some inexplicably overlooked breakthrough complicated technology that will provide all the world’s energy, that all the engineers of the world have missed? If we just get started on his fabulous idea, it will work out great? Sorry, the world just doesn’t work that way.

  25. Dan in California says:

    Costs per KWH are not easily projected for nuke power plants. There’s a factor of two to three difference between Western and Eastern countries. Fuel cost is a small fraction of the total, which is dominated by capital costs. Depending on country, today’s nuke power costs between 4cents/KWH and 10 cents/KWH. In the West, power plants are built by private industry who have to borrow the money, and interest payments are large. Western plant owners also have to add years to construction time to get the many legal battles settled. Lots of well-meaning but stupid people, and people who *want* energy costs to be high, bring legal proceedings to halt construction. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html
    Also, in the West, most employees of nuke power plants never enter the reactor buildings. They work next door in the admin offices pushing paper. Manpower costs are not trivial.

    In my opinion, the reason to start using Thorium is plentiful supply, not fuel cost. That’s still an excellent reason though.

  26. wayne says:

    A lot of people know little of LFTR reactor designs. Here are a few advantages they could hold as I understand:

    ● No fuel rods. No control rods to jam of have no electricity to lower them. None. They are self-regulating by simple thermal expansion/contraction as power loads vary.

    ● The core operates at room pressure. No twelve inch thick steel trying to hold back the unbelievable pressure of super-heated steam within the core itself. High pressure steam may still be used on the generator side, could be gas, but the cores environment and the generating environment are completely separated by heat exchanges.

    ● If the core somehow were to leak out, like a cracked core, it will just turn to a glass-like salt. The criticality can only exist within the core itself. It is self quenching.

    ● If the core overheats, a plug of cooled salt at the bottom overheats, melts, and the entire core is dumped into catch containers by gravity. The Oak Ridge implementation did this every weekend, let it overheat, the plug melted, core dumped, the crew would spend the weekend at home. Monday, heat the the salt back to liquid state, pump back into the core and the core was restarted. Get that, weekly.

    ● Operating temperatures can be designed for much higher temperatures which boosts the generation efficiencies from about today’s 33% to nearly 50%, limited by available high temperature materials for the coatings of course.

    ● Continuous fuel replenishment. Shutdowns for refueling is unnecessary.

    ● They burn nearly all of the fuel put in, like 99%. Probably this is the greatest advantage, little waste left to store. If the thorium cycle can be perfected the waste has a very short half-life. Useable compounds can begin being extracted from the waste for medicine and space exploration within about ten years.

    Now why would ANYONE not want us to see if this dream for mankind, or part of this dream, could be fulfilled? I can’t imagine, unless it being restrained by pure greed for other reasons.

  27. Don K says:

    Temperature records starting in 1835 in Hanover? Robert, does he say where he got them? The earliest records I can find for Hanover go back only to 1895 …
    =========================
    FWIW, Hanover, NH = Dartmouth College. I sort of vaguely think there are temperature records from there well back into the 19th century, but I have no idea where one looks for them.

  28. India (rich in Thorium, but without uranium) is starting development of a small reactor (300 MW)
    but it won’t be operational until 2020. China is also developing a Thorium reactor, in this case a molten salt version. As far as I can tell, a Generation 4 (fast reactor) can do everything a Thorium reactor can do, and fast reactors are here – they also consume nuclear wastes (there’s enough energy in our nuclear wastes to provide all the electricity this country will use for the next 1000 years), rendering the wastes low radioactive material, And a fast reactor is intrinsically safe as well. .Nor are we likely to ever run out of nuclear fuel for our conventional reactors : although not yet cost competitive, the technology exists that can extract uranium from seawater and there is a hell of a lot of seawater. Better still, last week a mobile plant shipped from Australia demonstrated the ability to extract almost all of the uranium from a phosphate stream at a fertilizer plant, leaving the stream otherwise unaffected. The cost is fully competitive with mining – about 20 to 30 dollars per pound. The output was shipped to a processing plant for our nuclear fleet.
    According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, nuclear power became cheaper than coal in 1999
    and currently is about 30% cheaper, around 3 cents and a fraction per kWhr. Uranium fuel cost component is around 6/10th of a cent per kilowatthour. These costs may be overstated, since
    disposal of nuclear wastes will undoubtedly be less that what is being collected – those nuclear costs cited include nuclear wastes disposal and decommissioning costs, I believe.

  29. Peter Laux says:

    Thorium reactors can operate at normal atmospheric pressure and therefore there is no danger of a containment explosion.
    It has never been the nuclear fuel of choice with the political class because you can’t build bombs from it.
    Another plus is that thorium reactors will consume the worlds build up of uranium waste and has none of its own.

  30. Dan in California says:

    Paul Westhaver says: October 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm
    Fukashima was a 1 in 1000 year event where there was 1 in 1000 year earth quake, a 1 in a 1000 year Tsunami and a total failure of the grid to boot. The answer is to increase the safety systems, NOT PUT THE SPENT FUEL IN THE ATTIC like GE did and move on with better systems. France is 80% nuclear.
    ————————————————————-

    I think the 3 big lessons learned from Fukushima are:
    1. Don’t put the diesel generators in the basement where they might get flooded.
    2. Don’t let the hydrogen collect where it can explode.
    3. Don’t evacuate people and scare them by telling them they might get cancer from a miniscule amount of extra radiation. Many places around the world have higher natural background radiation than outside the fence at Fukushima. http://www.radiation-hormesis.com/

  31. Paul Westhaver says:

    GlynnMhor says:
    October 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    The thorium cycle (actually U233 is the active fissile product) can be utilized by existing CANDU reactors without major design changes.

    GlynnMhor, During my extensive training in the nuclear industry, I recall one of the physicists describing how much of the “U235 waste” may be reprocessed to be used in a Thorium reaction. I don’t recall the cascade but I do recall the assertion, as you state, that the conversion would be relatively easy in a CANDU.

  32. Pamela Gray says:

    Not sure if this blog post is about predicted temp swings based on solar cycles or sources of energy. Could you clear that up Mr. Archibald? Did you just use a bait and switch? If so, should we talk about the bait or the switch?

  33. First, Hubberts “peak oil” is more Carbon control nonsense. Earth produces Hydrocarbons on a continious basis, likely less than current usage, but not finite in the near future. See “Fossil Fuel is Nuclear Waste” on this aboigenic reality. Next, the US operated a Thorium reactor at Indian Point, NY starting in Sept 1962. With a half-life of 14 billion years it is stable and the by-products are not nearly as dangerous as Uranium….BUT….the head of the NRC at the time was ADMIRAL Hyman Rickover. The decission to end Thorium research was based mainly on using the electricity rate payer to subsidize the nuke weapons industry. In the words of Ben Buchwalter:

    “Before it was born, Thorium was killed by the sins of Uranium.”

  34. MattN says:

    Cycles 24 and 35?????

  35. MattN says:

    I do not understand why the US is not ALL OVER thorium reactors by now….

  36. Paul Westhaver says:

    Dan in California,

    Absolutely. The Japanese engineers did design for a Tsunami. The seawall that surrounded the plant was just not tall enough. If they are to put anything below ground it should be the spent fuel and the core. In a worst case scenario, let gravity flood the spent fuel and core with any water. The CANDU core cooling system incorporates a cooling pond that, should an earthquake occur, or the plant gets hit by a missile, gravity would flood the core and the spent fuel.

    The hydrogen is a problem of dynamics. It is a by-product of fission and will collect in high points if flow is stagnant. There are in-line hydrogen reactors to reduce the amount of H2 gas but you need power…or venting.

  37. India has had Thorium research reactors for 30 years and has yet to build a commercial reactor, despite building (and planned) 20 conventional nuclear reactors. Which tells me significant issues still remain.

  38. banjo says:

    Good grief! Look at that graph, no wonder the catastrophists wanted the science `settled` so quickly. Just a few short years and the whole edifice will crumble into sea…or possibly land on the beach if sea levels fall.
    And of course YAY THORIUM!

  39. SOYLENT GREEN says:

    The Sorensen piece above is must viewing for those who know nothing about Thorium.
    It is ubiquitous. Reaction products have much shorter half-life. Reaction products and fuel cannot be weaponized. No catastrophic meltdown, fuel is already liquid. Loss of power just shuts down reaction.
    We should have been doing this in the 50s, but they needed the plutonium cycle for weapons. Westinghouse wins.

  40. MarkB says:

    What a terrible post. Since the first days of Internet comment sections, damn near every thread that touches on nuclear power ends up with at least one thorium or ‘nuclear pebbles’ comment. I can only assume that these people re-read old copies of Popular Science over and over. Did you know you can get 100 mpg with water as fuel? When A. Watts associates with this stuff, he just makes himself look bad. If this was a freshman writing assignment I’d hand it back for a rewrite before I”d even bother grading it.

    REPLY:
    Well, thanks for expressing how much you hate it, but the post stays whether you like it or not. China is jumping on LFTR reactor development, but obviously you know far more than they do. – Anthony

  41. George says:

    Sidebar – scrapped reactor glass is a favorite of hobby gem cutters. It has a high lead content and has refractive indices approaching that of diamonds. It is usually yellow, easy to cut, and makes a real sparkler. Just cut it wet as one of the precautions with the high lead content.

  42. Don K says:

    Peter Laux says:
    October 2, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    It has never been the nuclear fuel of choice with the political class because you can’t build bombs from it.
    ———————————-

    I believe that it is perfectly possible to convert Thorium to fissionable U233, isolate the Uranium, and build a U233 bomb. In fact, I think India has actually tested a small (0.2 KT) U233 bomb. But you’re correct, The technologies to build U235 and Plutonium bombs don’t require a lot of additional R&D for countries that already have them in place.

  43. Okay so my thoughts on the US Navy reactors was not so good. But is my notion that boiling water reactors like GE made and the Japanese used at Fukashima are at best crufty to SCRAM and as with the tsunami impossible to SCRAM essentially true.

  44. _Jim says:

    I say – look at the prospect of buying stocks in Nickel-mining operations … the reason should become very apparent soon …

    Oh, and look to prepare to short-sell your carbon/hydro-carbon stocks or rather what it takes to prepare for quantity hydrogen production.

    /cryptic

    .

  45. dg says:

    Thorium LFTR explained in the first 5 minutes:

  46. RHS says:

    SCRAM – Safety Control Rod Ax Man. Don’t fall asleep on the JOB :)

  47. As I delve into this my understanding is that the US Navy reactor designs are pressurized water reactors. My point was that PWRs are a proven technology: the US Navy reactors, two generations of French reactors, the European Pressurized Reactor. There is considerable experience designing, building, and operating PWRs. The Thorium reactor is an interesting experiment, but it is still experimental.

  48. Gunga Din says:

    MarkB says:
    October 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm
    What a terrible post. Since the first days of Internet comment sections, damn near every thread that touches on nuclear power ends up with at least one thorium or ‘nuclear pebbles’ comment. I can only assume that these people re-read old copies of Popular Science over and over. Did you know you can get 100 mpg with water as fuel? When A. Watts associates with this stuff, he just makes himself look bad. If this was a freshman writing assignment I’d hand it back for a rewrite before I”d even bother grading it.
    ==================================================================
    So what would you suggest Anthony put up as a post that would make him look good in your eyes? Anything?
    If the US would invest $500,000,000 into researching this and it came to nothing, would we lose anymore than we lost on Solyndra?

  49. Gunga Din says:

    Paul Martin says:
    October 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm
    Liquid Flouride? Fluoride, surely? Though many a flour mill has gone up like a bomb due to a dust explosion.

    ==============================================================
    I think the world’s leading expert on liquid flouride is named Betty Crocker.
    I tried to follow her directions once and, yes, my efforts bombed.

  50. Paul Westhaver says:

    Soyulent Green,

    Back in the day AECL settled on the CANDU heavy water U235 system because it was believed that it produced no nasties, even in the heavy water D2O moderator fluid. After a few years of operation, and after many a soul waded chest deep in moderator fluid, it was found to contain T2O which is tritiated water. Titrated water is radioactive and has a half-life of 12.5 years.

    It is further nastified because water is assumed into the human body and then the radioactive hydrogen are right there, mixing it up with your DNA…for the rest or your days.

    Further still, tritium is the main supplement ingredient to the H-Bomb which an A-bomb packed with extra tritium to make a bigger bang.

    Canada, in it’s effort to make a super safe reactor, accidentally made a breeder of Tritium. They never saw it coming. So who knows what will born in the womb of a Thorium reactor.

  51. Juan Slayton says:

    Phillip Bradley
    India has had Thorium research reactors for 30 years and has yet to build a commercial reactor, despite building (and planned) 20 conventional nuclear reactors. Which tells me significant issues still remain.

    India makes bombs, too. If that was a policy factor here, perhaps it is also a factor there.

  52. John Coleman says:

    I did a TV report on Thorium about six months ago. It is TV simplistic, but here is a link to the video on Youtube.

  53. John Coleman says:

    And, did you all notice that Anthony plugged Thorium in his PBS interview? That didn’t make the air, but was posted on the website.

  54. j.pickens says:

    In condemnation of the Fukushima plant disaster, some perspective needs to be applied.

    Deaths due to direct tsunami effects: Approximately 19,000
    Buildings destroyed: 1.2 million
    Economic damage: $574,000,000,000 (that’s Billion)

    366 days later review:
    http://earthquake-report.com/2012/03/10/japan-366-days-after-the-quake-19000-lives-lost-1-2-million-buildings-damaged-574-billion/

    Deaths due to Fukushima reactor failures: 0
    “Predicted” deaths due to radiation leakage (excess cancers): 130

    Actual percentage of deaths caused by reactor failure: 0.000%
    Predicted percentage of deaths caused by reactor failure: 0.68%

    This from a “worst case” extrapolation review,
    http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2012/ee/c2ee22019a

    Which is criticized by another study by MIT, which stated “It is interesting that, despite the evacuation of roughly 100,000 residents, the Japanese government was criticized for not imposing evacuations for even more people. From our studies, we would predict that the population that was left behind would not show excess DNA damage — this is something we can test using technologies recently developed in our laboratory,”

    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/prolonged-radiation-exposure-0515.html

  55. K.Periasamy says:

    India is going to use Thorium fuel in a big way in another 25 years. The type of Reactor, LFTR or normal LMFBR or APWR, it will take some time for the final decision to be evolved. But for sure Thorium is the only bet for India.

  56. feet2thefire says:

    Quite a few of the comments here seem to be by folks who haven’t informed themselves of the history of Thorium back in the 1950s and 1960s. The science was developed fully back then. With limited funding, only one small reactor was able to be built, and it proved the concept and that engineering it all out was possible. With the science proven out and the engineering for that small reactor successful, all that needs to be done now is to engineer up somewhat of a replication of that earlier one, then step that up if it proves itself out.

    It needs to be said: This is an engineering problem; the science is proven. People arguing the science or pointing out this or that difficulty are obviously people who have never designed and built any equipment of any kind. Difficulties arise in any project, especially in new or relatively untried technologies. This technology isn’t new, technically speaking (no pun intended), since it was done before. But since everyone from that era is now dead, it certainly is new to those who might be tasked with driving it forward and producing results. There will certainly be a learning curve. But it is an engineering learning curve, not a scientific one. That is a HUGE difference. As an engineering problem it is only a matter of taking the ball and running with it and seeing what problems DO arise, and then solving them.

    The money needs to be allotted to make this happen. Here in the USA. The Chinese are willing to take the ball and run with it. THAT ALONE should be a huge clue that we’d better get off our butts and get going. Yes, we could jump in later, because it would still behoove us to do so, even then, because of all our stored Thorium – but if all the patents go to the Chinese, we would be sucking hind teat for a VERY long time. But we would get cheap energy, either way. It’s just that we would be at the mercy of the Chinese if we don’t get in the ballgame NOW. All it takes is money and will. And stop being stupid and stop listening to people yammering and just take a flyer on getting it to work. It IS only an engineering problem.

    Steve Garcia

  57. donald penman says:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19785689
    This may also help by making electricity production more efficient.

  58. Jim Petrie says:

    I wonder if the Yanks have any elderly nuclear submarines which they would like to sell cheaply?
    We would need a very scaled down model.You would need the nuclear power unit, and a cable taking the power to shore. You would also need rapid info on whether you needed more power or less power and the ability to switch the power source on and off rapidly. A nuclear sub has that already – otherwise it would have blown up already.
    You need enough of a motor to take it some miles offshore to sink it in the mud.
    You don’t need a weapons system, because you sub will not be deploying weapons.
    Since you’re not shooting at anything you don’t need a sophisticated GPS system to find you a target.
    You don’t have a problem disposing of nuclear waste – it just sits where it is!

  59. K.Periasamy says:

    Excellent post by Steve Garcia. Most of the people seem to have no idea of what is all about Nuclear Reactors. Nuclear energy is a relatively high tech area. Common people must accept it and leave it to the experts. No one debates a Heart surgery or Liver transplant like this. Just they read something written in the common media about nuclear energy and think that whatever written there is gospel ! These people do not want to listen to the experts, because it is a bit too complex to understand. This is the reality throughout the world.

  60. David Archibald says:

    Bruce of Newcastle says:
    October 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm
    LFTRs will operate at up to 700 C, not 1,100 C as in an aluminium smelter. Also the salt is a carrier fluid not a working fluid. No chemical reactions involved.

  61. Kasuha says:

    Of all people here who say that Thorium reactors operate at atmospheric pressure and room temperature, can someone enlighten me on how the hell are they willing to extract any energy from a reactor working in such mode?
    Even current nuclear reactors could be operated at room temperatures and atmospheric pressures, there would be no problem with that. We intentionally build them to work at elevated temperatures and high pressures because there’s a steam turbine waiting for the steam and pressure generated by that heat to give us electricity, the whole reactor would be pointless without it.
    And I seriously doubt it will be any different with Thorium reactors. If they make it to energy production, there still will be heat, steam, and high pressures involved. There still will be risk of explosions caused by the pressure and risk of radioactive contamination. Some – and some of the more dangerous – risks of current nuclear reactors can be eliminated and that’s a good thing. But it will never be as completely safe as some people are trying to suggest.

  62. Billy says:

    Certainly, further development should be undertaken. It would be far better value than making more copies of renewables that have proven to be unable to respond to load demands.
    Calling LFTR the future energy source is premature until a working full scale production unit has been demonstrated and tested.

  63. K.Periasamy says:

    Unlike in other Reactors where water is the Heat Transport medium, in LFTR it is Molten Salt operating at high temperatures which works as the heat transfer medium. Due to very low Vapour pressure of Molten salts, it is possible to maintain high temperature at near atmospheric pressures.

    This is as simple as that. We need not call Heaven or hell to achieve this !

  64. David Archibald says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    October 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm
    I went to my spreadsheet and it has data from 1835. On the spreadsheet is a link to the data source, which is the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) at Oak Ridge National Laboratories. CDIAC is the nuclear industry’s contribution to the campaign against coal. They needn’t bother because coal will become too valuable for power generation soon enough. I try the link again and the data starts from 1895. So it seems that the forces of darkness have decided that pre-1895 temperature data is powerful juju that the public should no longer have access to. So this is an appeal for long term, uncorrupted US temperature data.

  65. David Archibald says:

    Pamela Gray says:
    October 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm
    Discussion of science can be distressing, can’t it Ms Gray. Avert your eyes then. It gets worse. In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, I was accused of using biblical language:
    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/fact-is-abbott-must-be-watchful-of-joness-distorted-views-20121002-26xaj.html#ixzz28BA4ZmGM

  66. David Archibald says:

    Paul Westhaver says:
    October 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm
    Hydrogen is not a product of fission but of the reaction from the zirconium fuel rods with steam. Zirconium is necessary because it is neutron-transparent. In LWRs, there is a very narrow operating window between the operating temperature of 300 C and the oxidation temperature of perhaps 500 C. The problem is decay heat. Areva’s solution was to make their EPR model a giant heat sink with hydrogen scrubbers on the walls. They know it is going to melt down, they are just trying to limit the size of the explosion.

  67. Kasuha – LFTR does not use pressurized water as reactor coolant, instead it uses molten salt (FLiBe), which stays atmospheric pressure at LFTR operating temperature (600-900 degrees proposed). The het from the salt is extracted into closed cycle Brayton turbine which uses a gas (like CO2) as the working fluid.

    There is no water anywhere.

  68. David Archibald says:

    Don K says:
    October 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm
    While theoretically possible to build a bomb using U233, the U232 in it makes it very difficult in practice. Nobody would bother when it is much easier to make ones from plutonium. Amongst other things, a 6 kg slug of U233 will give off 1,000 watts of heat. You don’t want that in your bomb.

  69. TFNJ says:

    Fagan (not Fagin) uses SI units in his books, with the more familiar (to older readers) equivalents in brackets. I haven’t noticed his arrow head errors, but he seems to be unaware that the US ton (2000 lbs?) is not the same as the UK ton (2240 lbs). So he needlessly converts metric tonnes (1000 kg) when in reality both the uK ton and the metric tonnes are almost exectly equal.
    Without more evidence I wouldn’t be so dismissive of Fagan: he’s only guilty of some pretty minor errors..

  70. sHx says:

    David Archibald says:
    October 3, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Pamela Gray says:
    October 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm
    Discussion of science can be distressing, can’t it Ms Gray. Avert your eyes then. It gets worse. In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, I was accused of using biblical language:
    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/fact-is-abbott-must-be-watchful-of-joness-distorted-views-20121002-26xaj.html#ixzz28BA4ZmGM

    Good thing I clicked the link instead of averting my eyes. Here is what the SMH says:

    “In another recent interview he [the radio shock jock Alan Jones] repeated as ”fact” his contention the world has not been warming, and then interviewed David Archibald of the Institute of World Politics (he is also listed as an ”expert” by the climate-sceptic US think tank the Heartland Institute and a director of the Australian sceptic group the Lavoisier Group).

    Jones quoted approvingly Archibald’s biblical sounding prose in which he maintains the carbon tax proves we are ruled by ”evil men and evil women” and fulminates that ”whoever of you breathed a word in favour of the carbon tax will bear the guilt of those broken lives and broken marriages to your graves, your sin was not a love of nature but a loathing of your fellow man”.

    ”Do some people in Canberra actually hate us?” Jones inquired. ”They do,” Archibald replied, calling on voters to ”unleash their righteous anger” upon those who begat the tax.”

    That sounds like biblical language to me. I can’t imagine anyone discussing science with that kind of language.

  71. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    David Archibald says:
    October 2, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    LFTRs will operate at up to 700 C, not 1,100 C as in an aluminium smelter.

    David, my experience has been with hydroxide at 400 C and chloride systems at a variety of temperature (aqueous and molten). Molten NaOH and KOH are quite benign in theory but I’ve seen what can go wrong when the materials people don’t know what they are doing. Even simple aqueous chloride processes have a litany of failures that would fill whole books. Here you have radioactivity stressing the materials as well as the extreme halide corrosivity. This is not trivial and I think represents a serious risk of process development failure. Unfortunately also the risk is in the later stages of the development cycle, which are the most expensive to pilot.

    If, as mentioned above, designs like CANDU can already use thorium I would recommend going in that direction first. Get the runs on the board.

    I am a fan of thorium and I do work with it and uranium extractively from time to time. I would hate to see a promising option get Fukushima’ed for materials and corrosion reasons.

  72. DirkH says:

    “King Hubbert, of peak oil fame, realised that Mankind’s fossil fuel use would only be a blip in time and that the future, of necessity, will be nuclear-powered. This is Figure 30 from his 1956 paper “Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels”:”

    M. King Hubbert was one the two founders of Technocracy in the 20ies. What did they suggest to solve energy needs? Why, the panacea of the day, hydropower for everything.

    Fast forward to the 50ies. What does M. King Hubbert suggest to fix all problems? Why, the panacea of the day, nuclear power.

    If Hubbert would be politically active today, he would suggest the panacea of the day. Wind turbines and solar panels.

    He was just a cookie-cutter Malthusian activist.

  73. el gordo says:

    Bruce of Newcastle said…

    ‘The Maunder was cold, but not that cold. Other than that I fully agree with David’s temperature expectation.’

    I also agree (no matter what Archy said to Jones) the situation confronting us is potentially serious, but I imagine few here see it the same way.

  74. stas peterson says:

    It has taken almost 20 years to simply redesign the existing BWRs and PWRs to passive operation, which they now are. It has taken that long to obtain the licences to construct same from the NRC. Despite the innumberable boobs, Green wackos, tort litigious fools, NIMBYs and dedicated Luddites and assorted other demagogues, political morons, and goofballs were doing their very best to impede and obstruct.

    Since nothing but experimental molten salt reactors have been contructed, how long do you think it will be to design from scratch, and license a very corosive Molten Salt reactor? Thirty years? Forty years? Who will undertake to spend prodigious sums for half a century before their is any possible payback?. Certainly no one except a government.

    I don’t see any governments willing to buck the obvious pwerful lobby of these fools; nevermind to spend money like water for half a century. Even if they did 50 years from now, the same demagogues will still try to “monkey wrench” any projects.

    Hell, the goofballs and wackos are objecting to the USA spending a piddly sum like $2 Billion diollars over two decades to provide a truly infinite energy supply like Fusion, on the last Fusion experiment, the ITER. They killed it once before, delaying Fusion by a decade and a half, so they would have more money for their pet windmills and solar projects. . Meanwhile they combine to spend $257 billion to install 3% of the worlds generation capacity when the other 97% cost only 302 billion. .

    Fusion reactors by the way, can be much better as convertors of fission radioactive fuel with out any consequences, thenLFRs as they can simply place them in their shielding and neutralize them by Actinide Burning them into safer isotopes.

    By the time the LFSR can be built Fusion alternatives will be available.

  75. Rhys Jaggar says:

    Maybe top stuff. 20 years from 2012.

    I’d test it for 20 years as 2% of UK demand before basing a total energy strategy on it though.

  76. DirkH says:

    Just for the people spreading some FUD about David Archibald’s rethoric, here’s your opportunity to hear him talk. Couldn’t find the particular interview mentioned. At an anti carbon tax rally in 2011.

  77. K.Periasamy says:

    I fully agree with Mr. Stas Peterson, excepting that, we are not yet confident of fusion energy to take over in the next few decades. The main impediment being the right material which can have super conductivity at or near room temperature.

    Till then we need to rely on Fission based Nuclear energy.

    Under Fission, Thorium cycle with LFTR concept offers certain advantages which we shall utilize.

    Well, the regulatory aspects are purely non-technical and they really do not add any value. Definitely they need to be bulldozed for the betterment of the world population at large. It is unfortunate that in the name of bringing in independence in the Regulatory framework, more and more Non-Nuclear people are brought in the Regulatory Boards. It is happening across the globe. It is going to make the matter still worse. Many technical people would not have forgotten the Three Mile Island communication fiasco caused by some NRC Members.

    Regarding Fusion research, yes, it is unfortunate that USA is not doing its best, unlike in other frontier technologies.

  78. ferdberple says:

    Candu expands cooperation with China

    “Candu nuclear technology has the potential to make a major contribution to reducing China’s dependence on imported nuclear fuel resources by utilizing abundant domestic thorium resources,” according to Jerry Hopwood, AECL’s vice president of product development. He added, “This signing marks the initiation of an important step to demonstrate the use of thorium fuel in commercial Candu reactors.”

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ENF-Thorium_use_in_Candu_units_to_be_assessed-1507095.html

  79. Robert of Ottawa says:

    The map of Thorium abundance is misleading. All elemets would display the same pattern, more or less..

  80. “That sounds like biblical language to me. I can’t imagine anyone discussing science with that kind of language.”

    Well, obviously you just did. So what is the problem with that kind of terminology ?

  81. Don K says:

    David Archibald says:
    October 3, 2012 at 12:12 am

    Don K says:
    October 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm
    While theoretically possible to build a bomb using U233, the U232 in it makes it very difficult in practice. Nobody would bother when it is much easier to make ones from plutonium.

    ——————————-

    I agree that it’s unlikely that any country that had the technology to isolate U235 would build a bomb with U233, I suspect that if Niceragua or Albania or any of 120 or so other smaller countries really wanted to build a nuclear weapon and had Thorium reactors, they might decide that the engineering problems of a U233 weapon were less of a challenge than that of separating U235 from U238. It’s shouldn’t be high on anyone’s list of concerns I think, but I submit that the common assumption that Thorium technology CAN’T lead to weapons is probably wrong.

  82. E.M.Smith says:

    Folks are using “Thorium Reactor” as a synonym for “molten salt” reactor. It isn’t. You can make traditional reactor designs using Thorium just fine. The company named Lightbridge makes fuel bundles with thorium that can be used in traditional reactors (in licensing tests for Russian reactors last I looked).

    http://ltbridge.com/technologyservices/fueltechnology/thoriumbasedseedandblanketfuel

    India has used thorium in various reactor types as proof of concept. As it needs a high neutron source to get it started breeding, and them being short of Uranium, they started with building Uranium reactors to breed enough Pu to form the seed of Th breeders. It’s more a ‘time to make the starter fuel’ issue than a “can’t do thorium easy” issue.

    The USA made a thorium reactor as one of our very first. Pebble bed with U driving Th breeding to U233.

    BOTH the USA and India have made nuclear bombs from U233 and /or ‘non weapons grade Pu’ (ours was part of the “Teapot” tests IIRC. MEC?) There is NOTHING to prevent using Th to breed U233 to make bombs and at minimum the US has done it. (Who knows how many more). U233 is about the same as Pu in terms of being really good “boom stuff”. (Yes, you need to avoid leaving it too long in the cooker and getting too many hot isotopes…)

    IMHO, it was the realization of just how easy it is to go from Th to U233 to a bomb that caused the USA to spend so much time stressing how Th ought not be a fuel…. At the same time they heavily dissed the CANDU (which does great on Th) so I suspect that a heavy water reactor does that conversion ‘nicely’ (but that is speculation on my part).

    http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Tests/Teapot.html

    LASL weapon designers however decided to conduct a weapon design experiment with this shot, and unbeknownst to the test effect personnel substituted the untried U-233 core.

    This was a 22 kt yield core, less than the 31 kt from the Pu core planned, but still plenty…

    Indian tests:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium-233
    ” In 1998, as part of its Pokhran-II tests, India detonated an experimental U-233 device of low-yield (0.2 kt) called Shakti V.”

    http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/India/IndiaShakti.html

    Shakti III
    Time: 15:47:07 11 May 1998 (IST);
    10:17:07 UCT (Indian Government), 10:13:42 UCT (USGS)
    Location: Pokhran, Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India
    27.0716 deg N, 71.7612 deg E
    Test Height and Type: Underground
    Yield: 0.3 kt
    This device was an experimental fission device using “non-weapon grade” (reportedly reactor-grade) plutonium. It was probably a test of fusion boosted device without the boost gas to prove the ability to use lower grade plutonium from India’s large power reactor plutonium stockpile.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium

    Commercial nuclear power station

    India’s Kakrapar-1 reactor is the world’s first reactor which uses thorium rather than depleted uranium to achieve power flattening across the reactor core.[35] India, which has about 25% of the world’s thorium reserves, is developing a 300 MW prototype of a thorium-based Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). The prototype is expected to be fully operational by 2013, after which five more reactors will be constructed.[36][37] The reactor is a fast-breeder reactor and uses a plutonium core rather than an accelerator to produce neutrons. As accelerator-based systems can operate at sub-criticality they could be developed too, but that would require more research.[38] India currently envisages meeting 30% of its electricity demand through thorium-based reactors by 2050.[39]
    Existing thorium energy projects

    The German THTR-300 was the first commercial power station powered almost entirely with Thorium. India’s 300 MWe AHWR (pressurized heavy water reactor) reactor began construction in 2011. The design envisages a start up with reactor grade plutonium which will breed U-233 from Th-232. After that the input will only be thorium for the rest of the reactor’s design life.[40]

    The primary fuel of the HT3R Project near Odessa, Texas, USA will be ceramic-coated thorium beads. The earliest date the reactor will become operational is in 2015.[41]

    Best results occur with molten salt reactors (MSRs), such as ORNL’s liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR), which have built-in negative-feedback reaction rates due to salt expansion and thus reactor throttling via load. This is a great safety advantage, since no emergency cooling system is needed, which is both expensive and adds thermal inefficiency. In fact, an MSR was chosen as the base design for the 1960s DoD nuclear aircraft largely because of its great safety advantages, even under aircraft maneuvering. In the basic design, an MSR generates heat at higher temperatures, continuously, and without refuelling shutdowns, so it can provide hot air to a more efficient (Brayton Cycle) turbine. An MSR run this way is about 30% better in thermal efficiency than common thermal plants, whether combustive or traditional solid-fuelled nuclear.[29]

    In 2009, United States Congressman Joe Sestak unsuccessfully attempted to secure funding for research and development of a destroyer-sized reactor using thorium-based liquid fuel.[42][43]

    CANDU reactors of Atomic Energy Canada Limited are capable of using thorium as a fuel source.[44][45]

    At the 2011 annual conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences it was announced that “China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology.”[46][47]

    Projects combining uranium and thorium

    Fort St. Vrain Generating Station, a demo HTGR in Colorado, USA, operating from 1977 until 1992, employed enriched uranium fuel that also contained thorium. This resulted in high fuel efficiency because the thorium was converted to uranium and then burnt.

    It’s just not hard at all to use Thorium in all sorts of reactor designs. The Molten Salt option is just one of many. It may be great, or it may take 100 years to develop and license, but Thorium can be used in our other reactors anyway, if desired.

  83. LazyTeenager says:

    Bruce of Newcastle says
    Second, the problem with LTFR’s is the engineering. As a guy who has direct experience with molten salt systems and many other halide systems they are a source of much engineering angst and failed processes.
    ————
    Thanks for that practical experience. I have made the same point previously just based on theory.

  84. Gamecock says:

    feet2thefire says:
    October 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    “The money needs to be allotted to make this happen. Here in the USA. The Chinese are willing to take the ball and run with it. THAT ALONE should be a huge clue that we’d better get off our butts and get going. Yes, we could jump in later, because it would still behoove us to do so, even then, because of all our stored Thorium – but if all the patents go to the Chinese, we would be sucking hind teat for a VERY long time. But we would get cheap energy, either way. It’s just that we would be at the mercy of the Chinese if we don’t get in the ballgame NOW. All it takes is money and will. And stop being stupid and stop listening to people yammering and just take a flyer on getting it to work. It IS only an engineering problem.”

    Steve Garcia

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

    Patents are valid for 17 years. The U.S. has proven energy reserves for 100s of years. Your urgency is political, not “an engineering problem.”

    “The Chinese are willing to take the ball and run with it. THAT ALONE should be a huge clue that we’d better get off our butts and get going.”

    Mr. Obama used this to justify spending on Solyndra, et al.

  85. E.M.Smith says:

    @Bruce of Newcastle:

    CANDU can easily use Th. In fact, there are many potential fuel mixes and cycles:

    http://www.ccnr.org/advanced_fuel_cycles.html

    7. THORIUM FUEL CYCLES IN CANDU

    Thorium is an alternate fuel to uranium, but since it has no fissile isotopes, it is necessary to provide fissile material (uranium or plutonium). The U-233 produced by irradiation of Th-232 has the highest eta value (ratio of neutrons produced to neutrons absorbed) for thermal neutron fission of any of the fissile nuclides. It is thus a very good fuel in the soft CANDU spectrum. Moreover, the equilibrium concentration of U-233 in spent thorium fuel (about 1.5 percent U-233) is about five times that of fissile plutonium in spent natural uranium fuel, and so it should be a cheaper source of recycle fuel than plutonium (aithough this will be offset by higher fuel fabrication costs with recycled U-233, compared to recycled plutonium). The flexibility in fuel management provided by on-power fuelling is another CANDU advantage in burning thorium.

    The fissile material can be provided in several ways, and these options define the various thorium fuel cycies (Milgram (21)). In most variants of the conventional once-through thorium cycle, ThO2 and SEU are burned in separate channels, and the U-233 that is produced from neutron capture in Th-232 is burned in-situ. The conventional once-through thorium cycles require high thorium burnups, 40-100 MWd/kg Th (compared to 7 MWd/kg U for natural uranium fuel). Re-insertion of the spent ThO2 fuel after a cooling period can further utilize the energy from the decay of Pa-233 to U-233 while in storage. A major challenge in the once-through thorium cycles is to devise appropriate fuel management strategies.

    Other thorium fuel cycles employ reprocessing to optimize the energy potential from U-233, and these are of longer-term strategic interest. These reprocessing cycles mix ThO2 with either enriched uranium, or plutonium. U-235 can be provided as either high enriched uranium (around 92 percent U-235, as a vehicle for burning weapons-material U-235), or as medium enriched uranium (less than 20 percent U-235, for non-proliferation considerations). If plutonium were used to initiate the cycle, it would be obtained from reprocessing conventional PWR or CANDU spent fuel, or from dismantled weapons.

    If further improvements are made to the CANDU neutron economy (such as removal of adjuster rods, and use of enriched zirconium for structural materials), the self-sufficient thorium cycle is feasible. This requires no fissile makeup once the equilibrium concentration of U-233 (1.5 percent) has been achieved.

    Thorium has an additional potential benefit of lower radiotoxicity of the spent fuel than for uranium.

    So everything from burning up HE bomb materials to ‘self sufficient’ once started up. And lots of points in between. As the CANDU has online refueling, you can gradually introduce Thorium into some channels and as the U233 builds up, move on to the next channels.

    More technical coverage here: http://www.nuclearfaq.ca/brat_fuel.htm

    In 2009 they planned to do it in CANDU in China:

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ENF-Thorium_use_in_Candu_units_to_be_assessed-1507095.html

    Thorium use in Candu units to be assessed

    15 July 2009

    Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) is to cooperate with three Chinese organisations to assess the use of thorium fuel in Candu pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs).

    [ PICTURE OF REACTOR FACILITY]
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/CANDU_at_Qinshan.jpg

    Qinshan Phase III
    Qinshan Phase III – soon to be fuelled by thorium? (Image: AECL)

    The company has signed an agreement with the Third Qinshan Nuclear Power Co (TQNPC), the Nuclear Power Institute of China and China North Nuclear Fuel Corp to jointly develop and demonstrate the use of thorium fuel and to study the commercial and technical feasibility of its full-scale use in Candu units.

    Canadian Consul General Nadir Patel witnessed the signing ceremony between representatives of all the organisations. The ceremony was held at the conclusion of a two-day technical seminar on Enhanced Candu 6 and thorium fuel.

    Nice picture of CANDU omnivorous fuel cycles with Th in the lower left quadrant:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CANDU_fuel_cycles.jpg

    So basically anywhere there is an existing CANDU reactor, you can start burning some Thorium now, and a whole lot more over time if desired. (pending all the mandated approvals and committees and …)

    Similarly, the Lightbridge style fuel bundles can go into our existing light water reactors (Russian was being certified first due to them being faster than US in approvals process; but US reactors or European just as easy).

    Not quite “drop in replacement” as the core needs more care in where neutrons are produced, absorbed, and U233 breeding happens, but not exotic either. Somewhat more fiddling with the fuel bundles in terms of which go where when, but not too bad.

    There’s somewhere around 3 x to 5 x more Th than U and it’s easily found concentrated in Monzanite sands and as a ‘contaminant’ in Rare Earth minerals. There’s a large beach of the sand on the Florida Georgia border and mountains of it in India. Australia has a fair pile too.

    http://www.ga.gov.au/energy/uranium-thorium/thorium-resources.html

    Thorium Production and Exports

    There is no production of thorium in Australia, but it is present in monazite currently being mined with other minerals in heavy mineral beach sand deposits.

    Historically, Australia has exported large quantities of monazite from mineral sands mined in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland for the extraction of both thorium and rare earths resulting in the export of 265 kilotonne of monazite between 1952 and 1995.

    However, since production ceased in 1995 it is believed no significant quantities of thorium, or materials containing thorium, have been exported or imported by Australia.

    In current mineral sand operations, the monazite is returned to mine site and dispersed as stipulated in mining conditions.

    Thorium Resources and World Ranking

    The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development/Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has compiled estimates of thorium resources on a country-by-country basis although the OECD/NEA report notes that the estimates are subjective as a result of the variability in the quality of the data, a lot of which is old and incomplete. Table 1 has been derived by Geoscience Australia from information presented in the OECD/NEA analysis. The total identified resources refer to Reasonably Assured Resources (RAR) plus inferred resources of thorium recoverable at less that US$80 a kilogram.

    Table 1. Estimated thorium resources by country Country Total Identified Thorium Resources
    (Reasonably Assured + Inferred Resources)*
    (’000 t Th) <USD 80/kg Th

    Australia 485
    United States of America 400
    Turkey Not Available
    India 319
    Brazil 302

    Venezuela 300
    Norway 132
    Egypt 100
    Russian Federation 75
    Greenland 54
    Canada 44
    South Africa 18
    Others 33
    TOTAL 2262

    Note that those are in thousands of TONS of Thorium. It is likely more than that as folks are not exactly looking for the stuff. Mostly thinking it a contaminant in other ores…

    A couple of million tons of Thorium is a lot of fuel…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium

    has a couple of interesting points. I thought I remembered Shippingport, but it looks like it was only one of the cores:

    ] The third Shippingport core, initiated in 1977, bred thorium.[21] Even earlier examples of reactors using fuel with thorium exist, including the first core at the Indian Point Energy Center in 1962

    Also that couple of million tons is based on a low price. At higher prices, more is available:

    The preceding reserve figures refer to the amount of thorium in high-concentration deposits inventoried so far and estimated to be extractable at current market prices; there is millions of times more total in Earth’s 3 * 1019 ton crust, around 120 trillion tons of thorium, and lesser but vast quantities of thorium exist at intermediate concentrations.[75][76][77] Proved reserves are “a poor indicator of the total future supply of a mineral resource.”[77]

    The Lemhi Pass, along the Idaho-Montana border
    , has one of the world’s largest known high quality thorium deposits. Thorium Energy, Inc. has the mineral rights to approximately 1360 acres (5.5 sq km) of it and states that they have proven thorium oxide reserves of 600 thousand tons and probable reserves of an additional 1.8 million tons within their claim.[78]

    In event of a thorium fuel cycle, Conway granite with 56 (±6) parts per million thorium could provide a major low-grade resource; a 307 sq mile (795 sq km) “main mass” in New Hampshire is estimated to contain over three million metric tons per 100 feet (30 m) of depth (i.e. 1 kg thorium in eight cubic metres of rock), of which two-thirds is “readily leachable”
    .[79] Even common granite rock with 13 PPM thorium concentration (just twice the crustal average, along with 4 ppm uranium) contains potential nuclear energy equivalent to 50 times the entire rock’s mass in coal,[80] although there is no incentive to resort to such very low-grade deposits as long as much higher-grade deposits remain available and cheaper to extract.[81] Thorium has been produced in excess of demand from the refining of rare earth elements

    So basically we run out of Thorium when we run out of granite… or sea water… but we’ve got a few thousands of years worth of really cheap and easy stuff to use up first…

    White it is fine to lust after the MSFBR nothing stands in the way of just fueling up the existing reactor fleet with Thorium (other than dirt cheap Uranium…and licensing approval)

  86. harrywr2 says:

    MattN says:
    October 2, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I do not understand why the US is not ALL OVER thorium reactors by now

    Fuel cycle infrastructure will have to be built as well. It’s not just the cost of the actual reactor…it’s the cost of everything that goes with it. If you build 100 of them then those costs are reasonable,

  87. The first LFTR was built and run at Oak Ridge. It ran without any problems for, I think, 10 years but may be 6 years but it did run for a good time. The concept was cancelled due to the refusal of GE to use the technology because there was no money in it. Current PWR’s need to be refueled at regular intervals. GE et al provide the reactors at cost but charge an extreme price for the refuels. Keeps the bottom line healthy.
    There is more thorium around than any other nuclear fuel. Uranium is a scarce commodity with rising prices. No such problem with thorium. LFTR’s are also much safer than PWR’s since they run at atmospheric pressure. PWR’s run at very high pressures to keep the water liquid at the temperatures they run at. Hence that big containment vessel needed in case there is a failure within the system.
    There is a lot of info on the web, just search LFTR.
    AS an aside- the rare earth problem in the US, ie buying these metals from China, is because the rare earths minerals contain thorium which is mildly radioactive. The EPA prohibit their extraction because of the thorium. If there was a use for thorium in the US then the rare earths would also be available. The US currently has more rare earths than China so the use of LFTRs would cut imports from China of rare earth minerals.

  88. MikeH says:

    I ran across this link about a year ago. I don’t know when it was updated last. But I like seeing a side by side comparison, it makes organizing the info a bit better…

    http://debatepedia.idebate.org/en/index.php/Debate:_Thorium_based_nuclear_energy

    Using the above link initially brings up a window at the web site asking if you want to use the new debatepedia, select No. I didn’t find the Thorium link on the ‘new and improved’ site.

  89. rgbatduke says:

    I’m happy enough with the idea of liquid thorium reactors (and have been for some time, although I’m not certain that the technical obstacles have all been surmounted to the point where the system is ready for prime time). Their primary advantage is that they are almost impossible to melt down — if a runaway reaction starts the system simply melts a plug, draining away the liquid salts, and everything slows/stops (if I recall correctly). Also, they are more difficult to use as the basis of nuclear proliferation — U-235 and plutonium are bomb material, the former absurdly so (you can make yourself a dirty and somewhat inefficient but still creditable “nuclear bomb” with two subcritical pieces of U-235 if you simply hammer them together as hard as you can with your arms).

    I disagree with other things in the top article, however. The very first figure — what is the left hand scale, degrees Farenheit? On what basis should we believe the projections on the left? Bear in mind that a common skeptic complaint, well founded, is that theoretical models used to project global temperatures suck. The F-C model is not only a theoretical model, it is a one-dimensional model (devoid of any known/computable physical basis, basically curve fitting and extrapolation). In a nutshell it says “we’re about to start a Maunder Minimum, therefore global temperatures will return to LIA temperatures last seen in the LIA”. It assumes direct coupling between solar state only and global climate.

    Sure, maybe. But the rational basis for the argument is weak, to say the least. The initial state of the planet is hardly the same as it was in the late 16th century. Global climate is a highly non-Markovian process and generally evolves slowly under the influence of drivers we do not fully understand, playing “catch up” to some elusive dynamical equilibrium state on top of a chaotic turbulent tighly coupled set of enthalpy reservoirs with different time constants. The problem is hard, yet you present a simple graph and blithely assert it to be true. As a true skeptic, I doubt it. It would be interesting if it turns out to be true, but at the moment it is at best a hypothetical model prediction, and one with somewhat flimsy physical basis, no better than that of the IPCC and in certain ways, probably worse.

    I’d go on — solar power installed on individual dwellings currently pays of its own cost in roughly 13 to 15 years, falling, in most of the US, less than that in certain parts with high insolation and local power costs (costs that are often driven by the costs of delivery, not production). What does it cost for solar power connected to an individual dwelling that kicks surplus back into the grid, paid off in 13 years but in production for 20+? Would that be “it makes a profit”? It would. Presuming that the cost of solar cells continues to drop to less than $1/watt installed full retail (as it is projected to do) by the early/middle of the next decade, amortization times will drop to 7-8 years for individuals, 4-5 years for corporate power producers, and there will be a massive rush to build solar plants while solar power will become standard roofing for all new construction — wrapped right into your original mortgage, your house will be cost neutral for electricity over decadal time scales (at which point it will be even cheaper and more efficient to upgrade and repair or store the surplus for your own use instead of relying on the grid). Engineering in 20 years will obviously be a lot better than it is today, especially with money to be made driving it.

    Thorium for better or worse is same old same old. Huge generating plants, expensive distribution grid, relatively scarce and mined and toxic/radioactive fuel. And in the meantime, one of these decades they will very likely succeed in making fusion work and it will be the end of the game, as nothing will compete with fusion and we have millions of years worth of deuterium to burn in the oceans, let alone minable deuterium in abundance in the solar system if it comes to that.

    These latter points are the ones that ultimately make even the worst case CAGW scenarios moot. We are in the last two decades of human existence where burning mined organic material will make the slightest bit of economic sense (although I expect we’ll continue to burn natural gas to cook, heat homes and water, and will continue to burn gasoline and diesel to run cars at least until we come up with batteries that can store the equivalent of 35kWh per “gallon” of storage volume. Anthropogenic CO_2 production will peak in the next decade or thereabouts, and thereafter decline. Liquid thorium plants will certainly contribute to this (as will more Uranium plants, if we ever get off of the stick and start building them) but they are at most a stopgap measure that is IMO destined to be obsoleted almost before they really get going.

    rgb

  90. Tony Mach says:

    I’m a huge fan of Thorium – particularly LFTR, which offers the option of using effective gas turbines. Start building reactors today, I say!

    One thing: Compared to all other costs, the costs of Thorium and fuel processing are (for the amounts needed) essentially zero. Unlike conventional nuclear power, which needs highly processed fuel, you need to invest once in the LFTR reactor, and then it only needs some maintenance over the reactor’s lifetime (whatever that will turn out to be). So the marginal cost per kWh effectively becomes zero (or very close to zero).

    Hurray!

    Now, we already had some industries were marginal costs dropped to zero: Music, Movies and Print.

    Oh.

    Combine that we the perspective that until Thorium is rolled out on a wide scale, energy prices will continue go up, for various reasons, but mainly because the world’s energy demand is rising fast, and more costly energy sources have to be tapped to satisfy the increased demand.

    What could happen is rising energy prices, and then start to plummet once Thorium gains traction.

    Now, I don’t know how it will play out, but I would not be the slightest bit surprised if we end up living in “interesting times” as the Chinese say.

  91. wayne says:

    But rgb, will solar panels ever produce enough energy in their lifetime to both manufacture themselves, all inclusive, *and* supply years of energy to consumers? Will they ever become energy neutral? Maybe so if they become both printable and durable.

    Also, I don’t put much hope in fusion. Instead of making plants smaller and smaller, those installations would be huge best I can tell.

    See where I am coming from? Liquid salt reactors produce enough temperature to manufacture enough energy to clone themselves, start to finish, fuse carbon into hydrocarbons, produce fertilizer, various chemicals, desalination using the waste heat, etc, etc let alone electrical generation. Don’t think even fusion holds all of those characteristics at a small enough scale to be feasible and inexpensive and distributed.

    Of course, I am taking a thousand year view.

  92. SAMURAI says:

    Thorium IS the energy of the future: It’s safe, abundant, reliable, zero CO2 emissions (nice selling point for political, not scientific reasons), it’s cheap, E=MC2 beats F=MV2 by a factor of many millions, 99% of fissionable material turned to pure energy and remaining Uranium 238 is in great demand, it’s been proven to work, takes up very little land area, doesn’t lead to nuclear proliferation, would reduce dependence on Middle East oil (which is about to implode), many by-products of reactor are in high demand for medical and commercial purposes, construction costs are relatively low and soon recouped from energy and by-product production, doesn’t need a containment system because it runs unpressurized, safety mechanism is passive and fail-safe, the processing of some Thorium ore yields much needed Rare Earth Metals, Thorium is as abundant as Pb, a golf-ball sized chunk of Thorium is sufficient to provide ALL your energy for your entire life, it can actually use existing nuclear waste as a neutron source and convert it to pure energy thereby resolving our existing nuclear waste problem, etc., etc., You get the picture…

    A number of concerns listed in comments here are simply urban myths. The salts in LFTRs are very corrosive and existing high quality Nickel steel is sufficient to contain 800C liquid Fluoride/Thorium salts.

    LFTR technology WILL be the world’s next energy source. All it takes is the will of a few politicians to establish an approval process for development/deployment/standards and the first reactor could be up and running in 10 years; perhaps sooner WITH PRIVATE CAPITAL, not public funds.

    There are many corporations and individuals willing to invest a few billion dollars to create a multi-trillion dollar industry.

    The only thing preventing this from happening is the political will to ALLOW this technology to be developed.

    And so it goes….until it doesn’t…..

  93. Gunga Din says:

    Whatmenaresayingaboutwomen Jay says:
    October 3, 2012 at 4:32 am
    “That sounds like biblical language to me. I can’t imagine anyone discussing science with that kind of language.”

    Well, obviously you just did. So what is the problem with that kind of terminology ?

    ==========================================================================
    “Coal trains of Death” is much more sciency sounding.

  94. John from CA says:

    From what I’ve read, the principal advantages are less waste, improved safety, 300-400 year half-life of the generated waste, ability to switch them On and Off at will, and availability of the fuel.

    Do LFTRs extend the reactor’s commissioned life span? The problem with reactors, we would need to build them forever because they are decommissioned ever 40-50 years and we’re about to decommission a substantial number of our reactors by 2025.

    The Life Span of U.S. Reactors
    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/nuclear-power/

  95. John from CA says:

    Related to new “Generation IV” reactor designs:

    Perhaps the farthest-out design comes from a spinoff of Intellectual Ventures, a company headed by former Microsoft (MSFT) chief scientist Nathan Myhrvold and funded in part by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. TerraPower, as the spinoff is known, used massive computing power to design a reactor that could run for decades on an isotope of uranium that is today considered waste. The concept, first proposed in the 1950s, is to set up a slow-moving wave in which neutrons transmute inert, nonfissile fuel such as uranium-238 into fissile isotopes such as plutonium-239 that can split and throw off energy. TerraPower says its spent fuel would not be useful for making weapons. The company, chaired by Gates, has been seeking a production partner and a host country. So far, no takers.

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_14/b4222070137297.htm#p3

    unrelated but very cleaver:
    Nasdaq recently posted an interesting Navy approach for supplying jet fuel to ships at sea.

    US Navy Develops a Technique to Produce Jet Fuel from Sea Water
    Read more: http://community.nasdaq.com/News/2012-09/us-navy-develops-a-technique-to-produce-jet-fuel-from-sea-water.aspx?storyid=177559#ixzz27mOqXYay

  96. Doug Proctor says:

    David,

    The temp history of Hanover is a proxy of the global temperatures, I agree, but the quantum is quite different. Cut and pasting Hanover onto the State of Hampshire is reasonable, and the Canadian-American wheatland border area, which is what you have addressed in the past, is also reasonable, but more subdued. The Contiguous US vs Hanover, and then the Northern Hemisphere vs Hanover and then the Global All Measurements vs Hanover shows that when when Hanover goes down 2.0C, the globe goes down much less.

    I did the analysis crudely, and got something like 2C at Hanover means 0.4C in the world (I forget, and my analysis is at home, where I am not). So significant, yes, and a disaster for the IPCC narrative, yes, but not a return to an ice-age that some might interpret a 2C drop to create (as it would if this were global).

    Perhaps you could post a series of Hanover vs Everywhere else. The Skeptics and Warmists alike are concerned about CAGW in the world, not particularly in Hanover, though I gather it is a nice, stable place with an excellent history of keeping meteorological records.

    As for the warmists, skeptical authority leads to credibility leads to trust: if you can make the local vs global connection, it will become a speaking point for the doubters.

  97. Michael J. Dunn says:

    Some useful points for reference:
    (1) The CANDU reactor was designed in order to use natural uranium. Canada could not afford the expensive enrichment technology developed by the United States. Graphite reactors can also use natural uranium. (And if you think uranium is rare, consult the nearest granite countertop. See the black specs? Pitchblende.)
    (2) The fissile transmute of thorium is U-233, which does not undergo spontaneous fission and therefore does not produce neutrons for a startup process. Th-232 has a very low spontaneous fission rate. This is why thorium reactors need a bootstrap process to start up.
    (3) Containment has nothing to do with pressurized coolant. The Chernobyl reactor used graphite moderator and had no containment. How well did that work out? There was a similar accident at a CO2-cooled graphite reactor in Windscale, UK, many years ago. Containment is an entirely prudent safety precaution against uncontrolled release of radioisotopes.
    (4) Only a fraction of a percent of the fissionable mass is converted to energy. Be thankful for that.
    (5) Don’t hold your breath awaiting fusion power. The fusion reaction produces 14 MeV neutrons, which cannot be harnessed for power and transmute the structural materials of the reactor. Although no waste products are produced from the actual reaction, massive quantities of structural waste will have to be removed from such reactors on a regular basis. (This “first wall” problem was well understood in the 1970s, when I learned it from my graduate lab director.) Moreover, we seem to be no closer to meeting the containment conditions for self-sustaining reactions. The reality is that “fusion power” is the rubric under which the government conducts research into the physics of thermonuclear reactions. That knowledge is used elsewhere.

    Thorium is a perfectly acceptable nuclear fuel, and my attitude about nuclear fuel is “burn, baby, burn.” But it is a transuranic element and produces the same fission products as uranium and plutonium, which are the direct consequence of the fission reactions. Creation of transuranic isotopes is a by-process, and most of the transuranics are fissionable. The “problems” of conventional uranium reactors can be dealt with by sensible policies (like fuel reprocessing) and existing alternative reactor designs, instead of whole new technologies. The point is: whatever arguments have been used to stymie current nuclear power can and will be employed against thorium molten-salt reactors. Do not imagine that the enviro-nazis will accept any technology that promises the production of copious, inexpensive power.

  98. manicbeancounter says:

    Global Warming is not harming us all. The UNIPCC AR5 will confirm this. For instance, wheat yields will increase in Northern Europe, and large areas of the Arctic Tundra will become forest.

    http://manicbeancounter.com/2011/10/03/climate-change-impacts-in-ar5-%E2%80%93-it-is-better-than-we-thought/

  99. Martin A says:

    On his slide titled “Power Generation Resource Inputs” (t=12:41) he says

    Wind
    460 MT steel per MW (average)

    I’m not a wind powe advocate, but that has to be wrong, surely?

  100. David A. Evans says:

    rgbatduke says:
    October 3, 2012 at 7:02 am

    I agree in entirety with your first few paragraphs, thereafter we disagree. I think we can agree that Thorium is now a problem of technology, much of which is already solved. it’s now down to best available technology and that is an engineering problem.

    Thorium for better or worse is same old same old. Huge generating plants, expensive distribution grid.

    One of the arguments against LFTR that I’ve seen is that although it has been demonstrated at a small scale, can it be scaled up? I’m all for relatively small scale distribution grids with some interconnection but safeguards in place to trip the interconnect on fault conditions.

    Relatively scarce and mined and toxic/radioactive fuel.

    Relatively scarce? Who’s kidding who here?

    I am minded of when I.C.I., (Imperial Chemical Industries,) used to just burn off the waste, ie what we see as fuel, petrol, (gasoline,) and diesel.

    Is Thorium mined, toxic and radioactive? yes. It’s also currently waste product to be disposed of.

    And in the meantime, one of these decades they will very likely succeed in making fusion work and it will be the end of the game, as nothing will compete with fusion and we have millions of years worth of deuterium to burn in the oceans, let alone minable deuterium in abundance in the solar system if it comes to that.

    ,

    Still twenty five years in the future, same as in the 50’s. Not saying it won’t happen, it’s just always been the future. Perhaps some conspiracy theorist can come up with a reason for that; maybe Paul Ehrlich is behind it. ;-)

    You didn’t mention all the Uranium & Thorium in the sea I note.

    DaveE.

  101. David A. Evans says:

    Did I mess up the blockquotes or is there a limit on them before you get spam-blocked?

  102. David A. Evans says:

    Martin A says:
    October 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Considering that a 2.5Mw nacelle alone is about 100 Tonne…

    DaveE.

  103. Ian Random says:

    A good article on the challenges for a LFTR. I find the MSR types really interesting, far more than the renewable garbage. From my skimming, it appears traditional reactors in the III and IV generation might have some of the same benefits.

    http://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/ca/part-8-msr-lftr/

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

  104. KitemanSA says:

    In case no one else caught it…
    Doug Huffman says:
    October 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm
    @Tom, not that I know. MSR’s have been built. The most recent, the Japanese Monju has suffered a series of accidents and produced an hour of power at a cost of 10 -T- Trillion Yen.
    ……..
    Wow dude, get your facts strait! Monju was a liquid SODIUM fast breeder. Seems every time folks try the fast breeder for U238 – Pu239, some trouble wrecks things. But don’t confuse this with a LFTR which is a thermal spectrum breeder. Totally different.

  105. Steven Mosher says:

    David Archibald says:
    October 2, 2012 at 11:56 pm (Edit)
    Willis Eschenbach says:
    October 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm
    I went to my spreadsheet and it has data from 1835. On the spreadsheet is a link to the data source, which is the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) at Oak Ridge National Laboratories. CDIAC is the nuclear industry’s contribution to the campaign against coal. They needn’t bother because coal will become too valuable for power generation soon enough. I try the link again and the data starts from 1895. So it seems that the forces of darkness have decided that pre-1895 temperature data is powerful juju that the public should no longer have access to. So this is an appeal for long term, uncorrupted US temperature data.

    ##########################

    The data for New Hampshire includes records before 1850. It’s in berkeley earth data.

    http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/regions/new-hampshire

  106. K.Periasamy says:

    It is yet another proof that many are “illiterates” on nuclear energy. Just by reading something in the popular media they keep quoting that, what happened in TMI, what happened in Windscale, what happened in Shellafield, etc.

    If you ask them what exactly happened and many people were affected, they will blink !

    For example, if you ask what exactly is the problem in Monju, this gentleman will not know.

    So, the common people shall understand the fact that we shall leave such decisions to the experts.

  107. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Steven Mosher says:
    October 4, 2012 at 9:29 am

    The data for New Hampshire includes records before 1850. It’s in berkeley earth data.

    http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/regions/new-hampshire

    Thanks, Steven, appreciated.

    w.

  108. rgbatduke says:

    But rgb, will solar panels ever produce enough energy in their lifetime to both manufacture themselves, all inclusive, *and* supply years of energy to consumers? Will they ever become energy neutral? Maybe so if they become both printable and durable.

    Also, I don’t put much hope in fusion. Instead of making plants smaller and smaller, those installations would be huge best I can tell.

    See where I am coming from? Liquid salt reactors produce enough temperature to manufacture enough energy to clone themselves, start to finish, fuse carbon into hydrocarbons, produce fertilizer, various chemicals, desalination using the waste heat, etc, etc let alone electrical generation. Don’t think even fusion holds all of those characteristics at a small enough scale to be feasible and inexpensive and distributed.

    Of course, I am taking a thousand year view.

    Of course they will. The cost of energy is built into their price. If one can buy a cell at full retail now (as one can) and turn a profit on it (as one can) during its lifetime you have by definition paid for the cost of the raw materials and all manufacture costs (including the energy required) plus a profit for not one but several middlemen. They already produce more energy in their lifetime, all inclusive, and supply years of energy to consumers. That’s obviously implicit in the assertion that one can buy a panel and amortize its cost over roughly 2/3 of its lifetime. I’d like the margins to be better, amortize its cost over 1/3 of its lifetime, but it already easily matches the investment cost-benefit of the three successive high-efficiency heating/air conditioning systems I’ve had to buy over the last four years as the original equipment for the house wore out. In fact, if I hadn’t just (sigh) spent some $20,000 over four years on those replacement systems I’d serious consider putting 5 kW on my roof right now. However, I’m old enough (57) that I wouldn’t recover the investment (made now) until I was 70, and who knows if I’ll be alive and in this house at this point. It’s also still a bit dubious that I’d be able to recover the remaining investment in higher sale price of the house — my house is probably already over improved for the neighborhood, with high end energy efficient windows and heater/AC units and a full walk up finished attic. Nice to live in, but housing is depressed and not necessarily a perfect investment.

    Inside the decade, though, as prices fall, I rather expect to bite the bullet at a long-term profit. It’s simple arithmetic.

    Fusion, of course, is a speculative technology at best. The latest report on /. was that at least one group thinks they have the SHORT run pathway to 1000x energy gain in special magnetic pinches — if they are right that isn’t a thousand year solution is is an “infinity” solution. Humans will have evolved to not be human by the time fusion fuel and energy is depleted in our solar system. Or we’ll have gone extinct, of course. Either way fusion equals the dawning of a new age, literally, the fusion age, where energy is never again a limiting resource for humanity and where whatever the reality of the CO_2 situation is, it won’t matter, as by MID century there simply won’t be any more burning stuff to make electricity, anywhere on the planet, ever again.

    Thorium isn’t bad or crazy, but it isn’t as good as fusion if fusion at a megawatt (plus fuel) in per gigawatt out works out. Also, the cost of the fuel itself will be far smaller, as it is easier to extract deuterium from sea water than thorium from ore. Finally, it is a lot safer, and produces a lot less radioactive/toxic waste, and the nuclear proliferation risk from fusion plants is zero.

    Of course, the 1000x gain may not work out. Or it may continue to be “ten years from now” like it has been for 30 years or more. Speculative, no doubt, but so is thorium to some (but a lesser) extent. In the meantime, solar is FWIW pretty much a sure thing — a marginal technology already but poised to become enormously profitable with the nearly inevitable progression of work already in progress that is very, very likely to maintain the downward progression in cost per watt that we’ve seen for the last twenty or thirty years. If storage technology “hits” on any of its many high-return (high risk) projects that are underway in the meantime, even fusion will have long term competition from PV solar. Or (if you like longer shots) if any breakthrough in transmission occurs — room temperature current tolerant superconductors made out of engineered nanomaterials or whatever.

    The point is that coal is dandy, natural gas dandier, but they’re still basically transitional technologies and fuel sources for large scale energy production whether or not they have major negative environmental consequences. Personally, climate skeptic or not, it wouldn’t be that surprising to me if at least coal does (it’s hard to see any negative impact from burning methane unless CO_2 is catastrophically bad, and I doubt that it is). But there may be other negative aspects of mining methane. Time will tell. Building solar cells isn’t zero impact either. Nor is building nuclear plants of any sort. One of many things that annoys me about the environmental impact assessments is that they don’t really do a fair comparison of the “costs” and “benefits” of the alternative technologies. The free market doesn’t either — it’s too easy to foist hidden costs off on future generations or the commons (see Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” if you haven’t read it yet).

    In the end, energy production and consumption is a Commons issue, one that requires regulation and a fair assessment of real costs and benefits. Sadly, the sociopolitical Universe of the human species so far has proven absolutely incapable of the rational solution of this sort of problem, so we just muddle along in a state of both ignorance and an appalling distance away from any sort of economic/environmental optimum. The free market does pretty well, as long as it is prevented from abusing the commons, but what are lobbyists for if not to extract commons exceptions that grant the recipient great wealth at everybody else’s expense (with little passed on benefit to compensate). But I digress.

    rgb

  109. rgbatduke says:

    I agree in entirety with your first few paragraphs, thereafter we disagree. I think we can agree that Thorium is now a problem of technology, much of which is already solved. it’s now down to best available technology and that is an engineering problem.

    And the beauty of it all is, it is perfectly reasonable for us to disagree on things like this. Personally, I have thought for years that we should be pushing LFTR technology hard, and am aware of the sad story of how it got derailed in the first place in order to support the US military’s need for plutonium as a byproduct of power generation. And sure, perhaps it will work on a small scale, although that would require a major sea change in the way the entire electrical grid currently works. But given time and investment, who knows? I’m still not even fully convinced as to whether or not PV solar will be a bottom up (rooftops everywhere owned by private citizens selling back into the grid) or top down (massive solar owned by corporations) transformation for exactly that reason.

    Corporations have the advantage of economy of scale, and can actually make money on solar now at rates that justify the investment (unsubsidized) in at least some venues. For private individuals the return is positive but not terribly attractive because they are at the wrong end of a retail chain and have to support lots of middlefolk. But corporation eventually will have the fixed cost of maintaining the distribution grid and providing bridge power to consider, which will limit the profitability no matter how cheap the cells themselves get, where private homes have total costs that still scale down strongly with the price of cells.

    Storage is obvious a key here — invent a $1000 (perhaps zinc oxide) battery that can hold 200 kWh in a volume of half a cubic meter, or less and solar is a no-brainer almost everywhere, and power will decentralize so fast it will be downright scary not to the small corporate generator level but to the household level. Buy a house that has zero electrical costs, forever, beyond routine maintenance and replacement? Free AC, free heat, free refrigeration, free lights. Who wouldn’t? And electrical cars would be enabled at the same time — that’s finally getting close to the energy density of gasoline, which is its primary attractive feature. Put a few of these batteries in a house and a surplus of panels on the roof and you won’t run out of electricity even over a week of poor conditions and low production.

    If I were king of the forest, I’d push money not into climate research (who cares!) but into energy research, specifically batteries, competing solar PV and other technologies, fusion, LFTR, efficient transmission schemes, even long shot borderline crank ideas. Some of these things are just a matter of good engineering and building pilots to work out the bugs, others require some serious work in physics to get to work, but they all have the characteristic of a relatively low cost (but too much to expect it to be done by private individuals at high risk) and an enormous payoff if they hit. Precisely the kind of thing the government CAN enable but the private sector usually does not on its own.

    rgb

  110. stas peterson says:

    There are those who have grown weary, and think that Fusion is far away. But in reality it is NOT. ITERbuilding in France, is both the last Fusion physics experiment; and it is at the same time, the first protoype of a commercia lFusion reactor.

    ITER will produce between 500 and 700 megwatts, thermal, of Fusion energy, ten times what it took to initiate the reaction, and will run for the better part of an hour each time it ignites a fusion plasma. That is far, far longer than the few portions of a second that instabilities take to form. ITER will show that the long list of plasma instabilities are now catalogued, understood, and now conquered, and ameliorated.

    The large amount of energy produced for that length of time provides substantial amount of engineering data to makeclear we understand and know all the engineering problems constructing a commercial Fusion reactor. It’s succesor will be able to add power much more reliably to the grid than any windmill or solar array.

    ITER will provide more power than any windmill or solar array. in existence by a factor or 50 for ITER and probably thousands of times for its succesor, and the succesor as planned will be the first to add Fusion generated power to the grid.

    The only reason ITER is not harnessed to provide grid power is because we chose not to do so. Since after all, we want the flexibility to experiment, and we can save a few millions in not buying the generators and ancillary equipment. But we could do so, and it is more continuous than any windmill in existence!

    We could start designing and building its succesor the first commercial Fusion plant within a mere five years. We could build five or six succesor Fusion plants for what has been wasted by the US alone by the present Administration, for quixotic windmills and solar arrays and failed crony capital Green companies.like Solyndra, First Green etc. .

  111. K.Periasamy says:

    People like us know Fusion is very much possible to commercialize soon. But what is the present status of the material for the electromagnetic Coil ? At what temperature it is having superconductivity ? This being the key for building the the successful commercial Fusion reactor, it will be nice if you can throw some light on this matter.

  112. David Archibald says:

    Steven Mosher says:
    October 4, 2012 at 9:29 am
    Yes, thanks for the reference to the BEST project. That graph shows the Dalton Minimum very well.
    Now, in terms of getting data from that site, it wasn’t immediately apparent to me how to do that, if it is at all possible. If it is possible, posting instructions here would be very much appreciated.

  113. _Jim says:

    As I was alluding to earlier with my reference to Nickel and hydrogen (but, I got no ‘bites’ either way), LENR has _not_ gone away and we are only now beginning to see (IMO) properly instrumented test apparatus (rather than the throwback test setups lashed together the last few years even using crude instrumentation dredged from the back-of-the-school-lab that had remained there since the 1950’s) using state-of the-art software (LabView) and data acquisition (NiDAQ) hardware such as shown in this demonstration of “Anomalous Heat Effect” at NIWEEK this year (2012) in Austin Texas:

    Progress _is_ continuing with Rossi and Leonardo Co. and his device as well (e.g. the 1 MW commercial heat plant), but, more on that at a later date. In the meantime, anybody with some extra time-to-burn can delve into the materials and the very informative video of the conference as it was ongoing in Zurich this year (2012) on Sept. 8th and 9th where Andrea Rossi himself also took and answered a multitude of questions from the attendees:

    http://pesn.com/2012/09/09/9602178_Rossi_Reports_Third-Party_Test_Results_from_Hot_Cat/#September_9_QnA

    .

  114. _Jim says:

    To be complete, an NI presentation that shows NI commitment to experimenters investigating what has become known as “Anomalous Heat Effects” among researchers of this phenomenon involving ‘quantum reactions’ (ostensibly LENR AKA ‘cold fusion’):

    .

  115. Spector says:

    Of course, the real issue is not thorium per se, but liquid verses solid fueled nuclear reactors. The solid fuel cores must be replaced after only a small amount of the fuel has been consumed due to the accumulation of nuclear waste. These cores also contain dangerous long-lived transuranic waste products that energetically decay by fission. Solid fueled reactors are normally cooled by potentially explosive, super-heated water at high pressure.

    The liquid fueled reactor design allows almost all the fuel to be consumed because the fluid is not damaged by fission products, which can be selectively removed from the liquid salt. Most of the fission fragments decay to safe levels in a few hundred years by electron emission. The high-temperature liquid salt runs at ambient pressure and is non-explosive. These reactors can be configured as complex thorium to uranium breeder reactors or simple uranium burners.

    According to Dr. David LeBlanc in his presentation at the TEAC4 Future of Energy Conference, there appears to be gathering serious interest in Canada for developing liquid fueled uranium burner reactors, similar to the Molten Salt test unit built at Oak Ridge–to help recover petroleum from the tar-sands. This application could serve as a proving ground for the technology. He said that these burner reactors would be so efficient that if uranium prices rose to $500 per Kg, the impact would only be about 0.2 cents per kw-hr.

    David LeBlanc – Molten Salt Reactor Designs,
    Options & Outlook @ TEAC4
    “Published on Jul 20, 2012 by gordonmcdowell”

    32 likes, 0 dislikes; 1480 views; 19:46 min
    “Canadian David LeBlanc describes the benefits of liquid fuel Molten Salt Reactors over solid fuel reactors, emphasizing reactor design over any relative advantages of thorium or uranium.

    “Come for the thorium, stay for the reactor!”

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