Book Review of “Super Fuel”

Thorium sample (99.9 % = 3N), thin sheet under...

Thorium sample (99.9 % = 3N), thin sheet under argon in a glas ampoule, ca. 0.1 g (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guest Post by David Archibald

There is a rich tradition of rational weathermen taking an interest in the potential of thorium-based nuclear power.

Witness this video made by John Coleman:

The irrational have also taken an interest in thorium’s potential. A warmer journalist by the name of Richard Martin has written a book entitled “Super Fuel” published on 8th May, 2012. Like all warmers, his grip on reality is a bit weak. One example of this is on page 55 where he states “the container ship Altona, bound for China and carrying a load of 770,000 tons of uranium concentrate.” The biggest ship on the planet carries some 500,000 tonnes and the world yellowcake market is about 80,000 tonnes per annum. Perhaps he meant 770,000 lbs instead of tons, but nobody else in the editing and publishing chain picked up the mistake either.

A second howler is on page 195 which states “After the Fukushima-Daiichi accident, there was a brief run on supplies of iodine-131. An isotope of iodine produced in specialised reactors, iodine-131 is used to prevent thyroid cancer from radiation exposure.” What he meant was that there was panic buying of potassium iodide which is used to prevent thyroid cancer from iodine-131. For those interested in buying potassium iodide before the next nuclear scare instead of after it, the motherlode is Nasco in Wisconsin who will sell you half kilo of granules for $57.25. That’s enough to treat 360 people.

There is also the warmers’ naïve world view on display. For example, on page 238 he predicts that “Enhanced energy security, and the economic power and diplomatic prestige that come with it, allow India to reach a lasting détente with its perennial foe, Pakistan.” Haste is also evident – on page 132, Alvin Weinberg is referred to as “Weinberger”.

But I wouldn’t be mentioning the book at all if it wasn’t also useful and interesting. A large part of it is taken with recounting the history of two of the main protagonists of the early years of the nuclear age: Alvin Weinberg and Hyman Rickover. Weinberg was the earliest promoter of the molten salter reactor burning thorium. The coup de grace to the thorium programme was delivered by Milton Shaw when he was director of the reactor research and development at the Atomic Energy Commission. The world has been side-tracked on the dead end of uranium-burning light water reactors ever since. While not in the same league of storytelling as “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” by Richard Rhodes, “Super Fuel” gets the reader up to speed on thorium’s history quickly and relatively painlessly.

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June 2012

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u.k.(us)

@ David Archibald
========
You shouldn’t write a post this well and then just stop

crosspatch

But we don’t NEED thorium. There’s enough energy in just spent fuel rods sitting around to power us for a very long time:
http://www.businessinsider.com/waste-annihilating-molten-salt-reactor-2012-6
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=smarter-use-of-nuclear-waste

D Marshall

There’s real potential in developing thorium reactors but, for now, it’s just that – potential.
I know some would have us burn as much coal and oil as possible while waiting for a thorium breakthrough but that’s a potent blend of lunacy and wishful thinking.
Kirk Sorenson works hard at promoting thorium development but we can’t put all our eggs in any one basket.
I imagine India is keen on thorium research given their abundance of monazite but they’ve expended of lot of years and effort and and commercial exploitation is still decades away.
I would recommend Sorensen’s talks, his Energy From Thorium website and FB page over any book by a layman.

davidmhoffer

D Marshall;
I know some would have us burn as much coal and oil as possible while waiting for a thorium breakthrough but that’s a potent blend of lunacy and wishful thinking.>>>>
Oddly I cannot think of a single person who thinks we should burn as much coal and oil “as possible”. Nor do I think that the pragmatic amongst us are intent on sitting on our hands until a thorium breakthrough arrives. The pragmatic amongst us are confident that fossil fuels can be used with minimal environmental impact, and that human ingenuity will eventually deliver cost effective alternatives long before fossil fuels are depleted (provided that government intervention into the direction of science research doesn’t first exhaust our financial resources on dead end technologies like wind mills and solar panels).
Thorium is an option, and an interesting one. Who would have predicted the internet or the flat screen TV or the 200 channel universe or the cell phone network or many other taken for granted technologies just 25 years ago? Thorium is one of many possibilities, many of which nobody has even thought about….yet. See you in 25 years. It will be a different world in ways nobody can predict.

There are two new generation nuclear reactors currently competing to become the next generation of nuclear technology. Bill Gates company is promoting the Traveling Wave Reactor and Dirk Sorrenson is promoting the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). I haven’t taken sides in that matter, but I do plan a second Thorium TV report soon built around Bill Gates involvement.
In any case, it will take at least ten years for either of these technologies to be accepted, built, tested and make operational. In the meantime, hopefully the global warming scare campaign can step aside and let us continue to power our civilization with fossil fuels.
I wrote and posted a blog when I did my first Thorium Special Report a month ago. Here it is:
“THORIUM will power the world”… That is the bumper sticker of the future.
The ugly debate about energy has gone on and on. It is costing us billions of dollars. It is beginning to cripple our nation. I have been looking for a source of abundant, cheap electric power that short cuts the raging, highly destructive debate; a source all sides can support. I think I have found it. It is thorium.
Thorium is nothing new. It was successfully demonstrated in the 1960s. I am not the only one to find it; there are now 100s, maybe even thousands of scientists, promoting it. But it has largely been forgotten and overlooked ever since the military/industrial complex and their political and bureaucratic servants dumped it 50 years ago.
I am asking for all sides in the climate change, global warming, carbon dioxide, carbon footprint debate to consider supporting thorium. It is green; it produces no “greenhouse gasses”, no particulate pollution, leaves little waste and produces no risk of explosion, radiation or pollution in the atmosphere or ocean. It is cheap; an abundant resource found in the desert salts and rocks in virtually every country on Earth. It is relatively cheap and simple to use.
I see every reason why, despite their huge, continuing differences on other issues, that thorium power can be accepted and promoted by all sides. I think Richard Lindzen and Michael Mann, Joe Bast and Peter Glieck, Fred Singer and James Hansen, Lord Monckton and Al Gore, Roger Pielke and Joe Romm should all set aside their debate long enough to help get the move to thorium electric power generation rolling.
I have just finished my first television report on thorium. It is over fives minutes long; a true monster of a long “package” by television news standards. Yet KUSI-TV News Director Steve Cohen gave his full support and approval and cleared it for telecast today, Monday, May 21st. It can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/F9e64AFieCM
After you have watched, please, do a little internet digging of your own. The Thorium Alliance website is a good place to look:
http://thoriumenergyalliance.com/ThoriumSite/portal.html
http://thoriumenergyalliance.com/
http://www.thoriumenergyalliance.com/downloads/ThoriumSummary_Alex_Cannara.pdf
It will take a mountain of enthusiasm from a broad range of well positioned people to move the politicians and bureaucrats to back thorium. It would also be great if a major supplier of generating stations would climb aboard. I fear it is going to take a lot of political donations to move our Congress. And, I don’t think this can move forward without Congress.
If you’re interested enough to learn about thorium power here and now, read on:
—–
Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire? Possibly
By William Pentland, Contributor
For the past several months, a friend of mine has been telling me about the potentially game-changing implications of an obscure (at least to me) metal named Thorium after the Norse god of thunder, Thor.
It seems like he is not the only person who believes thorium, a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, could provide the world with an ultra-safe, ultra-cheap source of nuclear power.
Last week, scores of thorium boosters gathered in the United Kingdom to launch a new advocacy organization, the Weinberg Foundation, which plans to push the promise of thorium nuclear energy into the mainstream political discussion of clean energy and climate change. The message they’re sending is that thorium is the anti-dote to the world’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges.
So what is the big deal about thorium? In 2006, writing in the magazine Cosmos, Tim Dean summarized perhaps the most optimistic scenario for what a Thorium-powered nuclear world would be like:
What if we could build a nuclear reactor that offered no possibility of a meltdown, generated its power inexpensively, created no weapons-grade by-products, and burnt up existing high-level waste as well as old nuclear weapon stockpiles? And what if the waste produced by such a reactor was radioactive for a mere few hundred years rather than tens of thousands? It may sound too good to be true, but such a reactor is indeed possible, and a number of teams around the world are now working to make it a reality. What makes this incredible reactor so different is its fuel source: thorium.
A clutch of companies and countries are aggressively pursuing Dean’s dream of a thorium-powered world.
Lightbridge Corporation, a pioneering nuclear-energy start-up company based in McLean, VA, is developing the Radkowsky Thorium Reactor in collaboration with Russian researchers. In 2009, Areva, the French nuclear engineering conglomerate, recruited Lightbridge for a project assessing the use of thorium fuel in Areva’s next-generation EPR reactor, advanced class of 1,600+ MW nuclear reactors being built in Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamanville, France.
In China, the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and a clutch of Chinese outfits began an effort in mid-2009 to use thorium as fuel in nuclear reactors in Qinshan, China.
Thorium is more abundant than uranium in the Earth’s crust. The world has an estimated 4.4 million tons of total known and estimated Thorium resources, according to the International Atomic Energy Association’s 2007 Red Book.
The most common source of thorium is the rare earth phosphate mineral, monazite. World monazite resources are estimated to be about 12 million tons, two-thirds of which are in India. Idaho also boasts a large vein deposit of thorium and rare earth metals.
(I edited out a technical discussion here)
I have no idea whether thorium is the panacea many people claims it is likely to be, but I believe we’ll be hearing more about it in the years to come.
—–
The entire article including the part I edited out is from Forbes at:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2011/09/11/is-thorium-the-biggest-energy-breakthrough-since-fire-possibly/
There is more to come. Let’s get focused on this concept and try to see it through. It could save our modern, high technology way of life.
John Coleman
jcoleman@kusi.com

jonathan frodsham

I have tried in the past to read warmist books, the last one was Manns howler. I usually have to put them down as soon as I read some BS. But since David has read it I will give it a whorl.
I have spoken to a few greens and they are in favor of thorium-based nuclear power.”The mind boggles with those greens”!
David! You should have said more, I always find your thinking extreamly informative. 🙂

Thorium is an option, yes.
One of its downsides: It produces weapons-grade uranium in a form that allows chemical extraction. More details here.
Try hard not to wander off in your own version of unicorn farts and rainbows.

Since doing my first Special Report on Thorium a month ago, I have been studying the two next generation nuclear reactor proposals that are battling for acceptance. They are the Traveling Wave Reactor proposed by a company founded by Bill Gates and Dirk Sorrenson’s Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). I am working on a follow up report featuring Gates. I am not smart enough to know which of these proposals is better.
But I know that when one of them is finally accepted it will take at least ten years to build and test and install the first units. That means for now we must all work to set aside the CO2 pollutant scare campaign that is strangling our development of new sources of fossil fuels, power plants. refineries and pipelines.
Yes, many greens support the new generation of nuclear power reactors. That is good news to me; perhaps we can all work together to move that forward. I wrote a blog about this when I did my first Thorium report on KUSI. Here is that blog:
“THORIUM will power the world”… That is the bumper sticker of the future.
The ugly debate about energy has gone on and on. It is costing us billions of dollars. It is beginning to cripple our nation. I have been looking for a source of abundant, cheap electric power that short cuts the raging, highly destructive debate; a source all sides can support. I think I have found it. It is thorium.
Thorium is nothing new. It was successfully demonstrated in the 1960s. I am not the only one to find it; there are now 100s, maybe even thousands of scientists, promoting it. But it has largely been forgotten and overlooked ever since the military/industrial complex and their political and bureaucratic servants dumped it 50 years ago.
I am asking for all sides in the climate change, global warming, carbon dioxide, carbon footprint debate to consider supporting thorium. It is green; it produces no “greenhouse gasses”, no particulate pollution, leaves little waste and produces no risk of explosion, radiation or pollution in the atmosphere or ocean. It is cheap; an abundant resource found in the desert salts and rocks in virtually every country on Earth. It is relatively cheap and simple to use.
I see every reason why, despite their huge, continuing differences on other issues, that thorium power can be accepted and promoted by all sides. I think Richard Lindzen and Michael Mann, Joe Bast and Peter Glieck, Fred Singer and James Hansen, Lord Monckton and Al Gore, Roger Pielke and Joe Romm should all set aside their debate long enough to help get the move to thorium electric power generation rolling.
I have just finished my first television report on thorium. It is over fives minutes long; a true monster of a long “package” by television news standards. Yet KUSI-TV News Director Steve Cohen gave his full support and approval and cleared it for telecast today, Monday, May 21st. It can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/F9e64AFieCM
After you have watched, please, do a little internet digging of your own. The Thorium Alliance website is a good place to look:
http://thoriumenergyalliance.com/ThoriumSite/portal.html
http://thoriumenergyalliance.com/
http://www.thoriumenergyalliance.com/downloads/ThoriumSummary_Alex_Cannara.pdf
It will take a mountain of enthusiasm from a broad range of well positioned people to move the politicians and bureaucrats to back thorium. It would also be great if a major supplier of generating stations would climb aboard. I fear it is going to take a lot of political donations to move our Congress. And, I don’t think this can move forward without Congress.
If you’re interested enough to learn about thorium power here and now, read on:
—–
Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire? Possibly
By William Pentland, Contributor
For the past several months, a friend of mine has been telling me about the potentially game-changing implications of an obscure (at least to me) metal named Thorium after the Norse god of thunder, Thor.
It seems like he is not the only person who believes thorium, a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, could provide the world with an ultra-safe, ultra-cheap source of nuclear power.
Last week, scores of thorium boosters gathered in the United Kingdom to launch a new advocacy organization, the Weinberg Foundation, which plans to push the promise of thorium nuclear energy into the mainstream political discussion of clean energy and climate change. The message they’re sending is that thorium is the anti-dote to the world’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges.
So what is the big deal about thorium? In 2006, writing in the magazine Cosmos, Tim Dean summarized perhaps the most optimistic scenario for what a Thorium-powered nuclear world would be like:
What if we could build a nuclear reactor that offered no possibility of a meltdown, generated its power inexpensively, created no weapons-grade by-products, and burnt up existing high-level waste as well as old nuclear weapon stockpiles? And what if the waste produced by such a reactor was radioactive for a mere few hundred years rather than tens of thousands? It may sound too good to be true, but such a reactor is indeed possible, and a number of teams around the world are now working to make it a reality. What makes this incredible reactor so different is its fuel source: thorium.
A clutch of companies and countries are aggressively pursuing Dean’s dream of a thorium-powered world.
Lightbridge Corporation, a pioneering nuclear-energy start-up company based in McLean, VA, is developing the Radkowsky Thorium Reactor in collaboration with Russian researchers. In 2009, Areva, the French nuclear engineering conglomerate, recruited Lightbridge for a project assessing the use of thorium fuel in Areva’s next-generation EPR reactor, advanced class of 1,600+ MW nuclear reactors being built in Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamanville, France.
In China, the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and a clutch of Chinese outfits began an effort in mid-2009 to use thorium as fuel in nuclear reactors in Qinshan, China.
Thorium is more abundant than uranium in the Earth’s crust. The world has an estimated 4.4 million tons of total known and estimated Thorium resources, according to the International Atomic Energy Association’s 2007 Red Book.
The most common source of thorium is the rare earth phosphate mineral, monazite. World monazite resources are estimated to be about 12 million tons, two-thirds of which are in India. Idaho also boasts a large vein deposit of thorium and rare earth metals.
(I edited out a technical discussion here)
I have no idea whether thorium is the panacea many people claims it is likely to be, but I believe we’ll be hearing more about it in the years to come.
—–
The entire article including the part I edited out is from Forbes at:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2011/09/11/is-thorium-the-biggest-energy-breakthrough-since-fire-possibly/
There is more to come. Let’s get focused on this concept and try to see it through. It could save our modern, high technology way of life.
John Coleman
jcoleman@kusi.com

Mac the Knife

u.k.(us) says:
June 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm
“@ David Archibald
========
You shouldn’t write a post this well and then just stop”
Agree! We would like to hear more from you, David!

Mac the Knife

D Marshall says:
June 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm
“There’s real potential in developing thorium reactors but, for now, it’s just that – potential.
I know some would have us burn as much coal and oil as possible while waiting for a thorium breakthrough but that’s a potent blend of lunacy and wishful thinking.”
D Marshall,
OK – I’ll bite. If burning as much coal and oil as possible is feasible (and it is and coal is cheap!), why do you deem this to be a “potent blend of lunacy and wishful thinking”? I’m not ‘moon struck’ or prone to fantasies. Please elucidate, for our mutual edification.
MtK

Jon

The most radical, WWF, Greenpeace, UNEP etc etc are in this for the radical change of the Western society.
They don look for or want solutions to their selfmade problems they want problems ideas that will change the world.

pochas

I’m all for it. But I wanna hear how the molten fluoride salt is not gonna corrode whatever they build those reactors out of. And what’s gonna happen if they are wrong.

u.k.(us) says:
June 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm
At 400 words-odd, it is half as long as it should be. I knew this but thought it best to stop. To go on any further would have meant putting in the stuff that Mr Martin left out and it would also mean imposing my opinions on the reader rather than being just a straight review. As I wrote it late yesterday after a night on the turps in a karaoke bar, we should be thankful for small mercies.

Hoser

Ric Locke says:
June 7, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Produced weapons grade uranium???? Even Wiki knows better than that. You can’t simply divert 233U. The contaminating 232U decays with isotopes producing hard gamma rays. It is not suitable material for bombs. http://www.articlesbase.com/ask-an-expert-articles/thorium-fuel-cycle-2879587.html
crosspatch says:
June 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Indeed. Only 1-3% of the fuel is actually used in these rods. What a waste. A big part of the problem is the solid fuel pellets. These accumulate isotopes (e.g. 135Xe) that absorb neutrons, and the pellets themselves swell and crack. Using solid fuel is a big reason the thorium-based Pebble Bed reactor is not a good idea. A liquid core would not have these problems. A liquid core can have contaminants removed in a continuous process. Some of these can have important medical uses, or other industrial uses.
We have twice as much Th available as U. We should find a way to use up the material in spent rods. It is a waste. Yucca Mountain should never be needed (it was an expensive show that was not necessary anyway – see the ref above). If we use the fuel we have in hand already, we should have enough to last a couple of centuries without digging any more out of the ground.
We should have a goal of 100% energy independence, and using more energy per capita. Energy use is necessary to make ilfe better.

Hoser

Oops. That’s “life” and I’m tired. See you tomorrow same Bat time, same Bat channel.

wayne

John Coleman gave some good links above and here is a two hour, everything you want to know about a LFTR (liquid floride thorium reactor) down to the automatic chemical processing and U-233 denaturing for those who can absorb the science. It seems to have it all in very good, but long, video.

crosspatch says:
June 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm
We will need the plutonium from reprocessed fuel rods to start off the molten salt reactors. The alternative is U235 which would mean making a lot of transuranics from the entrained U238. One of the wise things that Obama did (the only one?) was to not have the fuel rods buried in Yucca Mountain. We need those spent fuel rods on the surface so that some future sensible government can extract the plutonium.

Ric Locke says:
June 7, 2012 at 10:39 pm
While it is theoretically possible to make a bomb from U233, nobody in their right mind would bother to do so. Off the top of my head, the minimum critical mass for a U233 bomb is 60 kg whereas plutonium weapons start at about 6 kg. The U232 in the weapon means that it would have to assembled remotely whereas sub-critical pieces of plutonium can be handled with gloves. The U233 device would also be radiating heat at 1,000 watts from the decay of that U232. Pu239 is the optimum solution for bomb making. You can make 1 gram a day per MW thermal of capacity.

pochas says:
June 7, 2012 at 11:42 pm
Consider, Pochas, that a molten salt reactor would run at about 700 degrees C whereas an aluminimum smelter, for example, runs at about 1,100 degrees C. In the latter, the working fluid is doing a hell of a lot of work. In the molten salt reactor, all the working fluid is aware of is heating and cooling in about a 300 degree C range. Chalk and cheese.

Julian Braggins

India seems to have woken up to Thorium a long time ago and has plants preparing it for use in various types of reactors, bottom of the page here:-
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf53.html

India has had operating thorium reactors for more than 50 years and still doesn’t have a commercial reactor. I must assume substantial technical issues remain.

As someone who worked in the nuclear industry and supports its expansion, I have to say that I think that the thorium proponents are misguided. They are trying to put together in one facility both a power reactor and a fuel reprocessing facility. They do not explain what/how they will deal with the waste that is generated and removed continuously from the molten fuel. Current reactors that use discrete fuel elements have the option to allow them to sit in reasonably safe, secure storage for quite a long while to make ultimate reprocessing relatively simple in a purpose-built facility. If you combine both activities in one place, you increase the complexity enormously, especially as you have to actively contain all of the short-lived fission-products that can be quite nasty to work with.
The last thing the nuclear industry needs is more demonstration reactors that end up costing a fortune and then sitting idle for years waiting for someone to clean them up. This is exactly what the greens want, so that they can use them to point to the basic technology as unproven, uneconomic, and unsafe.

The alternative to LFTR is the TWR, Travelling Wave Reactor, which is being promoted by your friendly Microsoft owner Bill Gates. The TWR uses liquid sodium as a coolant and no more dangerous and reactive a substance could I imagine to use as such. The LFTR is far safer to use and is self regulating so does not need all the complex control addons. The fission products are of low volume and one, an isotope of bismuth, is useful for the fight against cancer in that it can be easily targeted and is an alpha emitter which means that the side effects are near zero.
So the LFTR seems the right route to go and has the added plus that an experimental reactor ran for 5 years without problem in the 60’s before it was shut down for political reasons.
The Indian problem, according to Kirk Sorensen is that their route is to use a dry fuel not liquid which seems to produce a simpler design and easier/safer running.

cedarhill

John Coleman @ June 7, 2012 at 9:46 pm “In any case, it will take at least ten years for either of these technologies to be accepted, built, tested and make operational.”
The UK is likely about that time frame away from correcting it’s wind mill fantasy and shuttering all those hydrocarbon generators. Thorium would be near perfect for the UK – small footprint, safer than Michael Mann, won’t freeze in winter and might make pensioners happy.
Obtw, the folks at Los Alamos (who claim to be nuclear scientists) did a study some years ago
(here: http://bioage.typepad.com/greencarcongress/docs/GreenFreedom.pdf )
to manufacture hydrocarbons as discussed in the NYT here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/19/science/19carb.html
Then, as typical, the greenies went after them and they produced the standard fear article here:
http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/federal-lab-says-it-can-harvest-fuel-from-air/
Los Alamos used “conventional” nuclear for power. The numbers would all trend vastly lower since thorium plants could be built with components made from assembly lines.
One hopes the UK, and others, will dismantle all those ghastly killing wind machines.

Kasuha

I’m a big fan of Thorium energy but the video in the article is so wrong about so many things it’s really, really sad.
– “and that waste can not be used to make bombs”
the statement makes false impression that thorium reactors cannot be used to make military nuclear materials – but they can, because the working material contains weapon-grade uranium
– “no chance of that mushroom cloud armageddon”
That’s not what happened in any of nuclear accidents besides nuclear bomb tests. Pictures of atomic mushrooms besides nuclear plants are and always were propaganda and this is just another propaganda trying to beat the original one.
– “thorium nuclear plants will operate at standard air pressure”
Current nuclear reactors don’t need high pressure to operate. The steam turbines which actually create the electricity need it. It’s irrelevant whether the steam is created by uranium or thorium. In other words, thorium reactors will use high pressure as well unless someone discovers more effective way to convert heat to electricity than steam.
– “thorium nuclear plants don’t use power rods”
That’s the funny one. What’s so safer on molten salt compared to solid rods? To transfer the heat effectively they’ll need to run it through some pipes so here you have your rods again, even in a pre-molten state ready for problems.
– “drain tank”
Current nuclear reactors use one, too – for the case the fuel melts.
– “if an earthquake and a 747 and a tidal wave hit it all at once…”
… then their containment tank would rupture just as it happened in Fukushima, releasing radioactive materials to the sea just like in Fukushima.
– “our fossil fuel usage would be diminishing every year”
It sure wouldn’t be as high but I don’t think thorium reactors would be mounted on cars. Quite probably they wouldn’t be mounted on any moveable vehicles except military just as today. And coal/oil would still be used in chemistry which is just another way of releasing CO2 from them. The whole end is full of sweet dreams but most of them would not happen even if the thorium was chosen over uranium.
Yes I think thorium is our future. But to get there, we need realistic approach, not propaganda.

I hear about Thorium reactors. I heard that there was one the that got turned on every Monday and off on Friday. I read that Thorium reactors are no good for making bombs,I see that Thorium reactors are fail-safe,That Thorium reactors are easly re-fueled. I also know that the E-cat comes out next year. at your local DIY.

Brian H

Speaking of typoz: “molten salter reactor”.
_________
davidmhoffer says:
June 7, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Oddly I cannot think of a single person who thinks we should burn as much coal and oil “as possible”.
Me! A Power has arisen on the planet possibly able to pull the planetary flora back from CO2-famine suicide. Us. As much of the buried sequestered CO2-treasure in crustal rocks and hydrocarbons as possible should be released, as fast “as possible”, for as long “as possible”.
________
Thorium and nuclear “waste” can be burned in CANDU (heavy water) reactors, which have been operational for 5 or 6 decades.
_______
“Liquid fluorine salts” are not corrosive; that’s the whole point of using “salts”. The fluorine-metal bond (in NaF, e.g.) is so strong it is very stable, and hard to break down.

Steve Piet

Ok friends. I work in the fuel cycle business and have many peer-reviewed journal articles. Thorium based fuels (Th/U233) just are not so much different than Uranium based fuels (U/Pu239). U233 has U232 to make it nastier. Pu239 has Pu238 to make it nastier. Waste management: I’ve done the calculation myself and it has been accepted for publication in Nuclear Technology – Th/U233 creates fewer transuranic isotopes is true but doesn’t mean what Th advocates says it does. It also has more Th229 and other isotopes in relevant time periods and turns out to be more radiotoxic than U/Pu239 at key time periods. So the comparison depends on a whole lot of details associated with a given disposal approach. Proliferation – if you use internationally known metrics for comparing options there just isn’t much difference. Safety – a molten salt reactor DOES have safety advantages but one can fuel such a concept with either type of fuel. As a nuclear engineer, I totally support nuclear energy. I also support recycling used fuel. But, Th/U233 isn’t a magic answer to U/Pu239 issues. Molten salt reactors offer much promise but do have significant R&D issues.
Detail point: here’s an example of what you find when you look at the details. The U/Pu239 fuel cycle works by U238 absorbing a neutron, becoming U239, which decays to Np239, which decays to Pu239. Both decays occur quickly. Th/U233 works by Th232 absorbing a neutron, becoming Th233, which decays to Pa233, which decays to U233. Note the similarity. The difference is that neutron-eating Pa233 sticks around longer than neutron-eating Np239. So, to improve neutron balance, the typical plan is to remove Pa233 from the salt, so that it is not eating neutrons uselessly, and let the Pa233 decay to U233 outside the reactor, then re-inject U233 to the salt. But, this gives you fairly pure U233, hence a proliferation concern.

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-06/tennessee-valley-authority-looks-build-six-small-modular-nuclear-reactors
http://energyfromthorium.com/2007/04/30/how-tva-could-go-coal-free/
http://www.ccnr.org/Thorium_Reactors.html
We already had one of these in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, back in the 1960’s, and it worked well. Why we con’t continuing doing this is a mystery to me.

Most operational nuclear reactors are pressurised water reactor- the high pressure water is normally right next to the fuel rods although some like Fukushima were boiling water reactors with normally lowish pressure with big potential to pressurise to high pressure.
The liquid thorium reactor won’t have anything pressurised or pressurisable inside the reactor- a big difference so its at subatmospheric pressure. Sure after a couple of heat exchangers there will be a high pressure fluid like steam but that’s far from the reactor core.

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/348
I find this discussion rather ridiculous, in that, we have done this successfully back in the 1960’s. My father worked at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation for Battelle Pacific Northwest Research Laboratories who were directly involved at Oak Ridge building and operating a Thorium reactor. The problem I see, is we are wasting time jibber jabbering about it and not doing anything. This is a joke. It’s just another distraction from actually doing anything constructive. We could have fully operational Thorium reactors virtually over night if we really wanted to. I am tired of all of the BS talk about this sort of crap while nobody has the balls to actually accomplish anything. Talk is cheap.

Richard M

I think a few thorium reactors would be good just to reprocess the spent fuel rods. However, the article referenced a few days ago on direct carbon conversion fuel cells seems like it would make cheaper energy and the only waste product is CO2 (which is easily captured if desired). This product works on cheap coal or natural gas and with coal it doubles the energy captured.
https://www.llnl.gov/str/June01/Cooper.html
I would think this technology could be made available sooner as well. Just think if we could convert all the coal power stations to this technology rather than shutting them down as Obama is doing.

The lower containment shell in Fukushima has not ruptured that would be far worse disaster- you talking about big amount of solid concrete and steel, some water lines have leaked a great deal of radioactive fission products but very little (nanograms) of solid fuel. No solid fuelled reactor is ever designed to normally have their fuel rods melt (that’s the potential China Syndrome) , the steel/concrete is there for a totally structural purposes and didn’t you see the the mess of the upper structure at Fukushima – fantastic containment- not possible at with liquid low pressure Thorium reactor.

Here are many links on Thorium power in my Nuclear power subforum:
http://globalwarmingskeptics.info/forum-106.html

MikeH

I would like to clarify one statement that Mr. Coleman had in the video. At 3:50, he states that the was a Thorium powered reactor in Ashville, Tn. In reality, it was the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, that was fueled with Uranium, not Thorium. My understanding is that intention was to eventually use Thorium, once the technical difficulties were resolved with Thorium. I believe the Thorium reaction pollutes itself and that the pollutants have to be removed in real time, hence the need for the MSR, aka LFTR. Being that they can remove those pollutants in real time, also means that it can be refueled in real time. No scheduled shutdowns for refueling.
On of the BIG obstacles is GE. They have the refueling infrastructure for our nuclear plants, and they don’t want to have a simplified Thorium reactor upsetting that golden goose. I remember a recent video I saw of an Peter Lyons for his nomination to Assistant Sec of Enegry being questioned by Sen. Al Franken, he was asked (casually) about Thorium (at 3:30) and are they pursuing that technology, basically his response was that they already have a Uranium fuel cycle infrastructure and were not pursuing Thorium. There was no further discussion, Mr. Lyons basically blew it off.
BUT, the pros of Thorium definitely outweigh the cons. The technical hurdles can be overcome. I liked this simplified chart to outline them..
With all that said, all that I would like to add is..
Go Thorium!.

Rob Potter

I am going to slightly off-topic here to ask the commentators (who know a lot about the nuclear industry, from their very insightful comments) to comment in a similar vein on the Deuterium-cooled reactors being promoted in Canada. They call them “Candu” reactors (yuk, but we live in a world of marketing) and my simple analysis suggests they are an advantage in using essentially unrefined Uranium so no enrichment issues. Plus, the coolant is its own moderator so much of the engineering seems simpler.
I know getting a lot of deuterium is expensive, but once you have it, you are set and these reactors have been working in Canada for a pretty long time now. I guess what I am looking for is their downside since all I get here in Canada is the upside.
Thanks for the comments on Thorium – nice to have a good set of knowledgeable people getting into the discussion.

G. Karst

As in the previous thread there seems to be a lot of confusion talking about “power” generating plants. Much of the new concept designs discussed are prototype, demonstration plants. Small reactors of this type have a lot of wiggle room which allow unconventional use of such things as air cooling, gas driven turbine, etc. If a reactor is small and prototypical, one can use jello for cooling and twirly birds for turbines.
But when we talk of large power production, with 1000+ MW(e) per unit outputs, reality of choices are quite limiting. Any exotic process may be used for the thermal production, however the water-steam cycle will remain conventional as well as turbine/generator sets. These are water cooled units.
Some believe to utilize a new heat supply, the conversion of heat to electrical power must undergo similar transformation to exotic processes. Think about the amazing properties, safety and abundant cheapness of water. Now… what are you going to replace it with? At what cost and where are the extremely large supply that is required found. In order to produce 1000 MW(e) nearly 2000 MW(th) is being produced. That is a lot of heat that must be rejected instantaneously when the generator or grid trips. Failure to reject = some meltdown. GK

Spector

Bill Gates seems to be supporting a ‘traveling-wave,’ uranium-plutonium breeder reactor development project, which he justifies on a settled assumption that governments around the world will be forced to restrict all carbon burning by mid century to prevent disastrous climate deterioration from CO2. When asked about thorium on one interview, he seemed to ignore the question and talked about the rationale behind his project.
Climate change considerations have also been cited as justification for thorium reactors, however, from what I have seen about the logarithmic effect of CO2, we should be able to continue burning carbon for a long time at the current rate before having a serious problem.
The basic issue, as I see it, is carbon energy depletion, otherwise known as ‘Peak Oil.’ We will need a new energy source online and ready to go long before the time when petrochemical energy really begins to fail. Based on the time it took steam to replace sail on ships, this conversion may take on the order of 40 years.
Just when this will become critical is a controversial issue. The professional speakers and writers who earn their living on this issue seem to be indicating that this could become a problem in the next few years. They point out that we already have peaked out on “Easy Oil” and from now on, we must depend on petrochemical energy that is becoming ever more difficult to find and extract.
Government and industry experts, (See recent video: Unconventional Oil and Gas: Reshaping Energy Marketshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiS77aLLU40) on the other hand, seem to be saying this problem is many decades away and we are now increasing production as we begin to harvest the more abundant degraded coal, petroleum, and natural gas. The alarming fall-off in new oil discoveries since 1970, they say were due, at least in part, to investment bankers classifying oil exploration as a waste of money, perhaps given the huge discoveries made in the past. As an example, one speaker said we had only one ship looking for offshore oil in 1990 and now there are about 250. However, I doubt that they are now discovering 250 times more offshore petroleum.
If molten salt or liquid fueled reactors are to become the new safe means of exploiting nuclear energy, a whole support infrastructure will need to be developed. That means training a cadre engineers and technicians who are expert in working on and regulating these reactors. The design of structures exposed to a neutron flow presents a special problem in *any* nuclear reactor as progressive neutron capture will degrade any such structure. This is because each atom exposed to a neutron flow eventually captures enough neutrons to become very unstable and quickly transform into a new element.
The main advantage of a liquid fueled reactor is the fuel can continually be recycled and refreshed. This means nearly 100 percent of the fuel is used. Also, operation at ambient pressure eliminates the possibility of explosive decompression. The most dangerous radioactive contaminants are expected to remain trapped in the salt.
Dr. David LeBlanc seems to be very knowledgeable on liquid fueled reactor design and he does not appear to anticipate problems other than the need to qualify various components for safe and reliable use. Here is one of his recent technical presentations.
David LeBlanc – Potential of Thorium Fueled Molten Salt Reactors @ TEAC3
“Uploaded by gordonmcdowell on Nov 27, 2011”
54 likes, 0 dislikes; 3,300 Views;
“Dr. David LeBlanc explores the diversity of Thorium Fueled Molten Salt Reactor design options, and their rational and value.
“Presented at the 3rd Thorium Energy Alliance Conference, in Washington DC.”

DirkH

Just for the record, the Chinese have licensed the German Thorium HTR technology. Germany has stopped its pursuit in 1989 due to cost issues. It works with solid pebbles.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THTR-300

Gail Combs

crosspatch says:
June 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm
But we don’t NEED thorium. There’s enough energy in just spent fuel rods sitting around to power us for a very long time…
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True and thorium can be used to “burn it up” leaving less “spent fuel” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9M__yYbsZ4

cgh

David Archibald: “One of the wise things that Obama did (the only one?) was to not have the fuel rods buried in Yucca Mountain.”
No, David this was not a wise decision. Yucca Mountain was intended to take all of the waste streams from both civilian and military nuclear processes. This includes all of the wastes from places like Savanah River, Rock Flats, Hanford Reservation, as well as spent fuel and contaminated byproducts from fuel enrichment.
Even if you remove spent fuel rods from the mix, Yucca Mountain is still needed for all the other streams. And if you adopt a policy of fuel reprocessing you need a repository for all of the trans uranics and fission fragments, which Yucca Mountain was designed to be.
No, the cancellation of Yucca Mountain was an incredibly stupid act, serving only to provide seeming justification to the anti-nukes that there is no solution to nuclear waste.

Gail Combs

John Coleman says:
June 7, 2012 at 9:46 pm
There are two new generation nuclear reactors currently competing to become the next generation of nuclear technology…..
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Thank you Mr. Coleman. We could have had the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) commercialized by now if the greedy politicians and their buddies were not so intent on ripping off the Tax Payers and crippling the USA. The proof of design reactor ran for four years before it was shut down so it is not Unicorn Rainbows and Pixie Dust like much of green energy.

Bill Taylor

from memory pretty sure the reason thorium was used decades ago is because it is TOO SAFE meaning it could NOT be weaponized and at that time they were looking for a weapon and not concerned about generating electricity.
the technology already exists for SAFE clean electricity production using thorium AND the old “spent” fuel rods.

Gail Combs

Steve Piet says:
June 8, 2012 at 4:37 am
Ok friends. I work in the fuel cycle business….
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Mr. Piet, how about writing WUWT a full article on the subject?

@Steve Piet:
Although the Pa233 is separated from the blanket for decay to U233, it’s not a good idea to let it cool because some U233 can be extracted shortly thereafter. Decay is a logarithmic process. The half-life is about a month but the first U233 could be produced “immediately” the Pa233 is first produced by decay from Th233. Keeping the salt as a molten liquid facilitates extraction. It’d be at about 500°C, so it’s not easy to walk away with a bucket full of it.

mkelly

Brian H says:
June 8, 2012 at 4:30 am
Me!
Me too.

John is correct in his assessment and David left out one critical adjective….ADMIRAL Hyman Rickover over-ruled Throium reactors in the sixties. If you trust Wiki…. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium ….then the first Thorium reactor was Unit 1 at Indian Point in 1962, which was converted to Uranium and shut down in 1974. Thorium has a half life of 14 billion years, meaning low radioactivity and there is four times the amount of Thoruim as Uranium. What “MikeH” said is correct, at a time when the USA still had “industry” the need to have rate payers subsidize the Military-Industrial (GE) use of Uranium over rode the practicle development of nuclear energy.
Carbon Climate Forcing, ‘renewable’ energy and peak oil are the trifecta of government funded science lies. Hydrocarbons are a natural by-product of Earth’s variable fission process and as such, PETROLEUM IS RENEWABLE and it is NOT peaked. Humans are quite possibly consuming Hydrocarbons at higher than the natural production rate, but Hubbert’s peak oil was a Malthus extention and a gross error.

ChE

The greens will be all for thorium until it becomes feasible. And it will likely become feasible whether or not ‘we’ pursue it, because the Indians are pursuing it. ‘We’ don’t have a lock on all technology, and this may turn out to be the thing that brings India into the 21st century.
Once that happens, watch the greens wage jihad against it.

more soylent green!

Yucca Mountain was a very poor choice as a site to store nuclear waste. There are better geological formations available in other states, but were eliminated on political grounds.
The state of Nevada is mostly owned by the federal government, and Yucca Mountain does have the advantage of being in a very isolated area in the middle of the Nevada Test Site which is itself surrounded by government owned land.
I lived in Nevada and never believed the hype about the dangers of storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. But the site has many well known geological problems that make it less than ideal.
Still, we need to do something with the nuclear waste, and burying it an a mountain made of volcanic ash in a site that sits about the water table isn’t a good way to take care of it. We need to reuse, recycle and reprocess our nuclear waste. The volume of high-level waste can be reduced by up to 90% in this manner. What to do with the remainder? Bury it somewhere more geologically suited than Yucca Mountain.