Thorium: the last great opportunity of the industrial age

Guest essay by David Archibald

It is a significant fact that half the protein the world eats has its origin in fossil fuels. We are all aware of the green revolution that, amongst other things, saw dwarf strains of wheat increase yields by a couple of hundred percent. There was another revolution in agriculture sixty years prior to the green revolution. That was the development of the Haber-Bosch process of combining hydrogen and nitrogen to produce nitrogenous fertiliser.

The plants that produce that fertiliser, the source of half of the protein we eat, run on natural gas or coal. One day these fossil fuels will run out. Does that mean that half of our population starves? It does if we don’t have a way of producing nitrogenous fertilisers cheaply using something other than natural gas or coal.

And it won’t be sunbeams or wisps of the wind that will keep people fed. Those things barely pay for themselves, if that. Take the case of the Ivanpah solar facility in California built at a cost of $2.2 billion. Rated at 392 MW, Ivanpah is a near 20-fold scale up from the previous largest solar thermal facility of 20 MW in Spain. Despite all the engineering that went into the design of Ivanpah, it operated at least 40% below design in 2014.

The chief economist of the International Energy Agency, a warmer by the name of Fatih Birol, once said ‘One day we will run out of oil, it is not today or tomorrow, but one day we will run out of oil and we have to leave oil before oil leaves us.” What is true of oil, the liquid fossil fuel, is also true of the solid, coal, and the gaseous form, natural gas. One may quibble about the detail but the overall effect will look something like this:

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Figure 1: Fossil Fuel Production 1800 – 2300

Oil production will be the first to start the long decline to oblivion. We can fix the problem of declining transport fuel availability by a form of alchemy that converts coal into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. And we will be doing that. But it will be another short term fix until the coal runs out. You might think we have a lot of coal. We had a lot of oil too, once – until we burnt it. Converting coal into the transport fuels we need will double the rate of our coal consumption. And our coal endowment will be largely gone in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.

If we combine the data from Figure 1 with world population growth, we get this figure:

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Figure 2: Per Capital World Fossil Fuel Production 1800 – 2300

Per capita fossil fuel production falls off a cliff in 2030. Projections of agricultural land available to be brought into production suggest that the system might cope with growing demand at least up until the late 2030s. Fossil fuel availability though indicates that prices will start accelerating well before then.

There is no alternative – nuclear energy is the only energy source that has any prospect of making good the looming fall in energy supply. Only nuclear power has any hope of being cheap enough to provide the energy to cook up the slew of chemicals and fuels we need to maintain our high standard of living. But it won’t be nuclear power as it is commonly understood. That is power plants burning U235 and using water as the coolant. Civilisation took a wrong turn way back in the 1950s when that technology became dominant in the nuclear power industry.

There are a number of reasons why it was a wrong turn. Firstly, U235 is only one thousandth of the nuclear fuel available to us. The best nuclear fuel, thorium, is eight hundred times more abundant. If you like to believe in a Creator who made the earth as a paradise for us to inhabit, U235 is the nuclear match made for us to light the fire that will sustain civilisation indefinitely. We are still burning that nuclear match though and we should have already moved on from that.

The second big problem with nuclear power plants running on U235 is decay heat. You can’t turn off nuclear power plants instantaneously. They continue to produce heat for a while after the reactions have been shut down. If the cooling water doesn’t circulate for some reason during this period, then there is a good chance you will get a hydrogen explosion. This is what happened at Fukushima which had three reactors blow up due to hydrogen explosions.

The question now being asked about thorium reactors is, if they are so wonderful, why haven’t they been developed yet? The only major company that once expressed an interest in developing molten salt thorium reactors was Teledyne Brown. There are a number of startups in the thorium space but none seem to have traction yet.

Perhaps the reason is that nobody has looked past the development of a commercial thorium reactor, a wonderful thing in itself, to the enormous commercial opportunity that follows from that. Let’s assume that each thorium power plant is 250 MWe, the same size as the conceptual design at Oak Ridge National Laboratory 50 years ago. Assuming no economic growth that required a higher rate of build, just replacing declining fossil fuel production to 2100 would require the building of 14,500 units at 250 MWe. The build rate would get to about 300 a year by mid-century. The rate could be 30% to 40% higher than that if carbon-based transport fuels are going to be created from hydrogen from electrolysis and carbon scavenged from forestry and agricultural waste. Also assuming that each unit lasts for sixty years before it has to be replaced, then the ramp up of replacement units in the second half of the century is just as fast as the initial ramp up as per Figure 3 following:

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Figure 3: Number of 250 MWe nuclear reactors required by year to 2100

Thorium molten salt reactors, without the need for all the backup safety systems that U235 nuclear plants have, should be no more expensive to build than coal-fired plants. This is an overnight capital cost of $3,246/kW as opposed to U235 nuclear at $5,530/kW. At that rate, a 250 MWe plant would cost about $800 million. Building 300 per annum would provide a revenue of $240 billion per annum.

To put that in perspective, in the first quarter of 2015 the commercial division of Boeing sold 184 aircraft for $15.4 billion. That is an average revenue of $84 million per aircraft. The list price of a 737-800 is $93.3 million. Annualised, Boeing has a revenue of $60 billion per annum from its commercial aircraft division. Our prospective thorium reactor builder would become four times larger in the base case.

That will be the reward for saving humanity from a bleak future by developing the thorium molten salt reactor – owning an enormous industrial enterprise.


David Archibald, a visiting fellow at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., is the author of Twilight of Abundance (Regnery, 2014)

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377 thoughts on “Thorium: the last great opportunity of the industrial age

  1. The proportion of grain that is derived from fossil fuels has steadily increased during my life time. It’s not just fertilizers and pesticides, but the gas and diesel consumed in soil preparation and harvesting, as well as bringing the raw materials in and moving the grain into storage or to market.

    • “The proportion of grain that is derived from fossil fuels has steadily increased during my life time.”
      Are you over 100 years old? Farmers today use far less oil products per acre and way way less per bu today than ever.

      • Nope. Going on 65.

        Much of the increase from 35 bu/A Federation wheat to the varieties yielding over 100 bu/A on the same land (in my family since 1865) today is from fossil fuel inputs of all kinds, as well of course as from breeding the new varieties. The same is true throughout my region. No-till requires even more such inputs, despite fewer tractor passes.

        I wonder how you derived your conclusion?

      • Intrigued by your claim, I checked fertilizer consumption data, which USDA reports only from 1960, so the first decade of my lifetime is missing.

        In 1960, the US consumed 7.46 million short tons of NPK fertilizers. Use peaked in 2004 at 23.37 MT, and has fluctuated since then based upon acres planted and the economics of farming. Last reported year was 2011, in which 21.75 MT were consumed. Yield has stayed about the same, depending upon WX and quality of land planted, since the newer miracle strains don’t provide the same umph that the first ones did over the old, taller, smaller headed strains.

        Larger equipment means fewer passes for field work and harvest, but at higher fuel consumption. Didn’t check pesticide consumption.

      • Max,

        Thanks. I have already observed that in my area. Luckily, my family and friends already own their land outright, so are not in a cash crunch. We can get whatever loans we need to operate without fear of foreclosure. I’ve seen this before, back in the 1980s.

        While grain prices remain higher in unadjusted terms than previously, so too are input prices. The first time that soft white wheat for Portland delivery touched $7 per bushel was in that “climatic” year of 1977, when diesel was around 30 cents rather than $3.00 per gallon.

        At least borrowing costs are also low, but can that last forever?

      • Hyperzombie, you obviously do not run a farm. I do. It is true farmers have vastly increased productivity. Round hay bales weighing half ton each, GMO weed killer resistant corn and soy, synthetic fertilizer… And 200 HP tractors. Diesel fuel is a big bill for us. Hundred years ago, a farm was 40 acres and mule power run on hay. Now it is a minumum of several hundred (dairy, orchards) to several thousand (row crops) and diesel power run on oil.

      • Rud,

        So true.

        On my wall hangs a photo from 110 years ago of my great granddad’s ranch (4000 rather than 40 acres) being harvested by a 32-mule team pulling a combine. In the next generation came tractor-pulled combines. In the next appeared self-propelled combines. In the present generation we have tracked rather than wheeled combines, the biggest and best yet.

      • At least borrowing costs are also low, but can that last forever?

        Sturgishooper,

        For your own family’s good, I implore you to open your mind to the idea that there is a world of difference between low and stable interest rates, which is beneficial, and a falling interest rate structure such as we have had since 1980, which is lethal.

        10 Year US Treasury Bond Yields

        http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=%5ETNX+Interactive#{“useLogScale”:true,”range”:”max”}

        People don’t realize that a falling interest rate structure destroys capital on the balance sheet by increasing the liquidation value of debt.

        And don’t think that yields (the flipside of bond prices) can’t be halved and halved again, ad infinitum, each time obliterating capital by doubling the burden of debt.

        FALLING INTEREST RATES ARE NOT A PLUS!

        I know that is counter-intuitive to everything you know, but trust me. At a minimum, read this article:

        Is Our Accounting System Flawed?
        By ignoring the Law of Liabilities, it may be insensitive to capital destruction.

        http://www.professorfekete.com/articles%5CAEFIsOurAccountingSystemFlawed.pdf

        Don’t get caught up on the references to gold; the point here is seeing the balance sheet effects of a falling interest rate environment, even in a Federal Reserve Note world.

        At a minimum, at least read through to the section on the Law of Liabilities.

        Once you comprehend the key point, you will see that we are in the midst of the Greatest Depression, now 35 years old, still going strong, with the worst yet to come.

      • I should add that even your capital, in the form of a farm with no debt, is still subject to the maw of a falling interest rate environment.

      • Shorting bonds is suicidal.

        If you are forecasting the demise of the bond bull, you will be gored.

        BONDS MAY BE DEFYING DIRE FORECASTS
        BUT THEY ARE NOT DEFYING LOGIC
        Parts 1 and 2

        http://www.professorfekete.com/articles/AEFBONDSAndLogicPart1.pdf

        http://www.professorfekete.com/articles/AEFBondsAndLogicPart2.pdf

        * * * * *

        The hallmark of a depression is a bond bull, as it vacuums capital from savers and producers.

        The depression is deepening. Hyperdeflation is looming on the dark horizon.

        Those who are predicting hyperinflation based on the erroneous (and $%#@! imbecilic) Quantity Theory of Money will continue to get their fingers burned up to their armpits.

      • Max,

        Thanks for your concern and advice.

        Few asset classes will flourish in a depression. I am however diversified across asset classes internationally but concentrate resources when I see what looks like an opportunity. So far this approach has stood me in good stead in good times and bad. My stake in our family ranch is a small part of my present net worth.

        However if, as you argue, we’ve actually been in a depression for 35 years, then most of my investing has been during such conditions. So what do I know? But at least I’ll be able to feed myself and my family if the world comes crashing down, even if it means going back to 35 bu/A.

      • “If you are forecasting the demise of the bond bull, you will be gored.”

        Which is worse; to be gored by a bull or bulled by a Gore?

      • Sturgis says:

        Few it seems understand the causes of the Great Depression at all, or rather the source of its deflation

        Max says it’s deflation, although he doesn’t use that term. Deflation destroys capital (so does runaway inflation; Weimar, Zimbabwe, & others). So I agree with both of you.

        The current situation cannot go on indefinitely. Back in the day, I was a real estate broker. I remember FHA owner occupied home % rates of 17%+, and VA rates of 18%. In 1984 I bought a 15-unit apartment building and financed it with an intitial interest rate of 25% (One of the best investments I ever made; as rates dropped, the rise in value accrued entirely to the owner. As usual, tenants did not benefit. It is ever thus.)

        Anyway, the current 4% interest rates on 30-year home loans are amazingly low. Not to say it might not tick even a little lower. But when rates inevitably rise, to say, 6% (still very low historically), that will disqualify a really big fraction of potential home buyers, who barely qualify as it is at 4%. Less demand = lower prices, so house prices will be directly affected. And housing constitutes a big fraction of the economy. The domino effect will follow: more deflation.

        IMHO, house prices have been propped up by very low interest rates. That is by far the most important reason. So long as % rates remain around 4%, the demand for houses will be a strong support for the market. But when % rates rise a few %, it’s Katy bar the door.

        The country cannot print many $Trillions without the chickens eventually coming home to roost. That will happen. The only unknown is when. But it WILL happen.

        Naturally, everyone else and his brother will be blamed for this Administrations profligate and unconscionable money printing. It is a temporary expedient intended to make Obama look good, and kick the can down the road to the next president. GW Bush did it, too. But he was a piker by comparison.

        What are the answers? How can the ordinary joe citizen arrange his affairs to avoid the resulting fallout? Well, pick your poison. If you think inflation, a la Zimbabwe is in the cards, buy leveraged real estate. If you expect deflation, buy gold and don’t be a lender. Do both, if you can afford it; hedge your bets.Because it will be every man for himself in the coming musical chairs dance. Lots of losers, a very few winners — and plenty of misery to go around. And this time it won’t be benign, like the Great Depression. As the Chicago reprobate said, never let a crisis go to waste. The gov’t will use the pretext to accumulate even more power. So much for the Constitution and the free market. They were very good for everyone while they lasted. But the crooks have gamed the system.

        Now it’s every man for himself. Good luck… Comrades.

      • Why is it that people who can see so clearly the foolishness of the CAGW crowd (who believe it is possible to understand and control the climate of an entire planet) are so prone to the exact same type of error on other subjects?

        Here are people discussing the global economy (about which even professional economists cannot find much agreement) as if it is not only understandable and predictable, but as if they themselves actually understand it well enough to make dire predictions. Sound familiar? The global economy is at least as chaotic, complex and beyond the grasp of most human minds as the Earth’s climate. Probably more so.

        The link to the Anti-Federal Reserve eyeroller was the cherry on top.

        I freely admit I may be wrong on this comparison; and there is no malice or ill-will intended. The rhetoric and tone around the two subjects just strike me as eerily analagous.

        Fire at will…

      • “And this time it won’t be benign, like the Great Depression. As the Chicago reprobate said, never let a crisis go to waste. The gov’t will use the pretext to accumulate even more power. So much for the Constitutyion and the free market. They were very good for everyone while they lasted. But the crooks have gamed the system.

        Now it’s every man for himself. Good luck… Comrades.”

        Cripes DB, and I was having such a good morning.

        Tools and skills. You gotta have tools and skills.
        My daddy always said it, and I took it to heart.
        If a person has tools and skills, he can only fall so far.
        Even more true now, when many know so little about so much.
        I know people that can literally not be bothered to figure out how to change a light bulb in their car.

        Growing things, making things, building things…has been my whole life.
        Nurseryman and gentleman farmer, chemist, carpenter and cabinet maker, options trader, mechanic…wheeler-dealer…
        I know I will be OK, but there are many I fear for.

        Back to my beautiful day…if I can stop thinking about what I quoted up top…I basically fear the same.

      • IMO, falling interest rates are not nearly as big a problem as the US dollar no longer being world trade currency.
        From the last data I saw, the US dollar represents roughly 36% of world trade by payments, but actual trade to the US is only 12% of world trade. With world trade in the $19T range, and even giving some margin for the US being a large financial center (Singapore and other similar financial centers also have overlarge representations in payments), we’re still talking roughly $4T cash floating around and subsidizing the US economy. Throw in another $2T of central bank deposits backing this, and the result is a $6T Sword of Damocles.
        Without going into why this switchover might happen – the point is that any rapid or relatively rapid return of these dollars would most likely result in inflation. I say this because we’re already at ridiculously inflated asset prices; at this stage, only wage inflation thus overall inflation can absorb that much cash.
        It would be ironic indeed if the mass financial destruction wrought by the banksters winds up neutralizing a big part of this switchover, albeit with a multi-year gap in between.

    • I come from farming stock and grew up on one.

      It’s not just fertilizers and pesticides, but the gas and diesel consumed…

      We like to say that farming is really just a way to turn oil into food. It’s about hydrocarbon fuels all the way from start to finish.

      We also say, if you want to make a small fortune, start with a big fortune and then buy a farm.

      Bruce

      • “We like to say that farming is really just a way to turn oil into food.”

        Or you could grow hemp and somewhat reverse the process.

  2. A regulatory regime that was designed to make it nigh on impossible to build new types of reactors has managed to kill of innovation. We all now suffer the consequences of greens controlling legislation.

  3. The assumption is then that every 60 years we repeat the process into infinity? At what time exactly do all of the other finite materials required become extinct? Seems to me that this dead horse has already been flogged. My feeling is that still the best way to end it is to watch individuals blasting each other with shotguns to get their hands on the last gallon of high test.

    • The answer is fusion power. Unlimited energy from sea water with no harmful by products.
      Only drawback is, we can’t get it to work

      • And I can’t help noticing that “we can’t get it to work” is also the problem with Thorium Reactors, so far.

        Of course, we can’t get Wind to work economically either and it hasn’t stopped us,
        But it doesn’t bode well.

      • There’s no Tritium in sea water.

        As for getting it to work it works already in the sun. Well the sun works because gravity sucks.

        But gravity is far too weak to work on earth’ you need a sun sized reactor.

        So far, nobody has shown that the Coulomb force which blows, instead of sucks, is capable of applying the necessary forces to confine the thermonuclear fuel in a stable steady state condition; let alone being able to introduce new fuel to the confinement volume, nor removal of the reaction products (garbage) without interrupting the process.

        Setting off hydrogen bombs is not a practical way of producing thermonuclear energy for industrial and social purposes. Nor is laser powered inertial confinement.

        The fusion energy proponents are on a par (roughly) with the SETI crowd.

        The ITER program is about the same, as launching a high speed train onto one end of a bridge under construction, before you have finished a design that you have proven can stand up across the gap you are trying to span.

        Fusion will always remain the energy of the future.

      • Mike don’t be so negative. All we need is an academic/bureaucratic commission to use computer modeling adjusting the data to show that it already works! Easy peasy, I’m sure something like that has already been done.

      • George,

        I don’t see where anyone mentioned tritium. However by mass the isotope deuterium accounts for about 0.0312% of all hydrogen in the oceans.

      • Catweazel,
        ” Smaller is better”, may well be the conceptual breakthrough that was needed to get a fusion energy breakthrough. But until they have an actual experimental result, they have ideas and that is all. Until they can demonstrate a working prototype, they are no closer than anyone else has ever been, and until they have an actual machine that creates more power than it uses and does so cheaply enough to be profitable, I think I put all their claims in the “Oh, that will be nice” file, which is, in turn, part of the “Claims by car salesmen for their brand of car” folder.

        The upshot?
        I will be ecstatic, as it will mark the day that humans control our own destiny in an entirely new way.
        But…
        I would not be holding my breath if I was you.
        If they were on the verge of such a breakthrough, everyone that knows anything on the inside would have their entire net worth, and all the money they could borrow, in the stock, because they (That company) will soon have all the money.
        And I mean ALL THE MONEY.
        Do they?
        I do not think so.
        So ask yourself…why not?

      • catweazle666 May 16, 2015 at 4:31 pm

        george e. smith: “Fusion will always remain the energy of the future.”

        Lockheed Martin appear to believe otherwise.

        Yes, putting their ongoing success with the F-35 behind them, LockMart now looks to develop a new money pit with compact fusion,

      • The MSR is very close to what the dreams of Fusion are. Except it is easy to build, no mimic of the sun’s interior. 200 times more efficient than PWRs. 1/3 to 1/2 as expensive to build due to low pressure and it inherent safety. It load follows and in a small modular MSR format, will allow the highly distrusted grid to flourish.

      • Check out LPPhysics.com . best results in the world, will enable small 5MW installations anywhere at about 5¢/W, output at 0.3¢/kWh. Fuel is boron/hydrogen, local supplies adequate till solar red giant stage. No waste (He4), no radioactivity (b/g 9 hrs after shutdowns for refuel).

      • Well, no one can get “tokamak” designs to work… and probably never will. But there other remarkably clever fusion designs that have made enormous progress on a shoe-string budget. One of my favorites is an aneutronic, dense plasma focus machine developed by LPPFusion in Middlesex, NJ. This design is incredibly efficient because it directly produces electricity, without boilers and turbines. And being aneutronic, there’s virtually no radiation to cope with.

        Here’s the design https://vimeo.com/89969450

        So far the LPPFusion reactor has achieved two of the three Lawson criteria. Upgrades just installed a few weeks and final configuration next Fall are very promising, and very well could produce high levels of net energy. Results have been published in top journals and noted in Science and Nature articles.

        Latest news and Details here
        http://lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com/news-and-archives/

      • “””””…..
        sturgishooper

        May 16, 2015 at 3:24 pm

        George,

        I don’t see where anyone mentioned tritium. …..”””””

        Well evidently you didn’t notice that I mentioned tritium, myself.

        D+T > 4He +p +17.6 MeV You can look up the ignition condition yourself.

        D+D > T +p + 4.04 MeV ditto for its ignition condition.

        So how many laboratories are building D+D reactors; and that would include consideration of what Lockheed Martin is building.

        When someone has a continuously running D+T reactor actually running at a commercial level, then they might want to try their hand at the D+D.

        Now when I was at Uni, we actually had people shooting Deuterons, at heavy ice targets with a 600 KV Cockroft-Walton accelerator. And they did get 14 MeV neutrons out of it, and protons too.

        They were researching the polarization properties of those 14 MeV neutron beams.

        I’ll drink a beer to Lockheed Martin, when they succeed. Not about to discourage anybody from doing it; so more power to them.

        g

      • George,

        Of course I did notice that you mentioned tritium, which I use for my .45 Colt pistol sights, but it appeared to me that you were responding to another commenter’s mention of seawater.

        My point was that those advocating waiting for fusion say we can power the world with seawater, which as you know contains copious amounts of deuterium (heavy water), but not, as you correctly point out, tritium.

        Naturally, I see your point that tritium would come in handy in starting fusion, but that isn’t a problem. If need be, the US could restart its shut down tritium plants. Or build new ones. If fusion is possible, it would be a trivial expense.

        So no worries that it’s not in the seas, was my point.

      • @McCourtney: “And I can’t help noticing that “we can’t get it to work” is also the problem with Thorium Reactors, so far.”

        Not true. There have been a number of thorium reactors, mostly research reactors at Hannford, Washington and I believe Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Thorium was abandoned because it didn’t produce plutonium, something the Pentagon wanted in order to build more nuclear warheads. But that was back in the 50’s and 60’s.

        The question is which flavor of thorium reactor should be built? Molten salt? Cascade? External neutron triggered? Unlike uranium, thorium doesn’t easily self-fission, meaning if you pile a bunch of it together you won’t get a chain reaction. It requires neutron source. That source can take the form of a small amount of U235, which them in turn starts the reaction in Th232 that again in turn creates U233, another neutron source. The source can take the form of an external neutron source like a cyclotron (I believe the British are investigating such a design).

        The molten salt reactor might be the one you’re thinking about (I could be wrong…it wouldn’t be the first time), though I believe there were some such research reactors built in the past, but I believe theu used uranium.

    • David Wells,
      Finite resources? How big is the earth? Our deepest bore holes are not even a scratch on the surface as a proportion. All the oil ever burned is not even a pimple on the mite on the flea on the buffaloes ass of the entire earth.
      And beyond that…have you ever looked up?
      So, where is this place which is “finite”?
      I have never seen it…not on the human scale of things.
      “To Finity And Beyond!”

      • There are millions of tons of petroleum products in the asteriods. I saw an item in the Space Studies Institute newsletter one time, where they got readings from a carbonaceous asteriod, and the chemical composition was very close to that of Pennsylvannia crude oil.

    • I believe the ultimate answer is solar power satellites. But we still need substantially lower cost to orbit (by about a factor of 100) to make them pay for themselves. Thorium will easily get us by until then.

  4. Glad to see another convert to the cause. Kirk Sorenson has been whistling in the wind in his efforts to interest people in this concept, perhaps this article will at least help acquaint more with the possibilities inherent in the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. What is required is an international programme to iron out the final engineering challenges before Alvin Weinberg’s brain child can produce the goods, these are achievable. The money might be found by diverting funds currently allocated to the quest to develop fusion power, the reason here being that whatever the potential of a fusion reactor, it will never be cheap or practical in the short term.

    • Saw a recent interview with him and he had some interesting updates. India, which had been trying to do thorium in normal reactors, has decided to go the molten salt routine. They told him that they wish they’d just done it that way from the start as it is way more practical. China has pushed up the schedule from 30 years to 10-12 years for their first one.

      Like I’ve been saying for a while, “We’ll wait until China makes something that was invented in the USA and then we’ll buy it from them”. Sad but true.

    • this article, like so many others, confuse liquid fuel reactors with thorium. there is nothing wrong with thorium. but, if you look at the reactor proposed by Transtomic that uses nuclear waste for fuel, we have enough nuclear waste in this country provide 100% of our electrical needs for hundreds of years.

      we should not add confusion to the discussion by comparing liquid fuel thorium reactors with light water uranium reactors. the comparison should be light water reactors with liquid fuel reactors. and then a discussion on a different fuel choices.

      • Brian, on point about solid vs liquid fuels. A little know fact is the waste stream of green energy’s use of rare earth elements tosses away enough Thorium yearly that can power the planet using MSRs. Imagine recycling green energy’s waste to power the planet!

      • A constant aggravation of the Thorium RaRa crowd… It is the MSR that is what is promoted, not thorium as fuel. Thorium has been used in water reactor fuel bundles already. India has not given up on getting it to work, they have a CANDU style design in which thorium is already known to work.

        Also the USA has already made MSR reactors that work. It is not a tecnical problem, but a political and economic one.

        Also, we never run out of Uranium fuel, should we choose to use it.
        https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/uranium-from-seawater-advances/

        Do not get me wrong, I am 100% for the MSR. I just do not like hype based on not quite truths…

        Should we wish it. we can run our present fleet of reactors on thorium with technology already in hand and fuel bundles that have already gone to long duration burnup tests.

        Should we wish it, we can economically make electricity from sea water U today.

        Long after oil as fuel is too expensive to pump, nuclear electricity can pump up some of the 80% or so left in the gound in “spent” fields for chemical feed stock.

        Finally, we can turn our garbage into nitrogen fertilizer as is already done today in one commercial operation.

        There is no enery shortage, and there never will be. Period.

      • Brian, you are correct. There is no substantial advantage of Thorium over Uranium other than its abundance, which is significant, and should have been the author’s only point for Thorium. A liquid salt (or molten metal) reactor can be made with either. Decay Heat is still present in both cases, but is not a big problem in a liquid fuel design at atmospheric pressure – and that should have been his argument for the shift from LWR design. Recycling / Breeding fuel is necessary for a Thorium future though (Th232 does not work without breeding U233 as the actual fuel), and depending on how you were taught or indoctrinated that may be a plus or a minus. Some will worry about diversion of fissile material (U233, or U235/Pu239), but good security, actinides, and the level of tech needed is enough to keep all but government level efforts at bay. I’m all for reprocessing and breeding in both U or Th cycles – greatly extends both resources, and reduces the high level waste amounts – and how long that has to be stored.

        By the way, I really like the sturgishooper guy – I hope he becomes a regular commenter.

  5. Thorium certainly seems to be a viable answer to our energy needs. Are there any downsides?

      • The MSR was developed at ORNL in the 1950s to late 1960s and the MSRE ran 20,000 hours and met all its goal. As its next phase using Thorium was about to start the lab’s director was fired due to his focus on civilian nuclear energy safety. The fact that MSRs being 200 times more efficient than PWRs meant there was little useable weapons material to help during the Cold War nuclear arms race.

    • Markl,

      1) The biggest problem is the lack of objective education of the masses, if we were honestly and openly educated about the pros and cons of Thorium and not be railroaded by greens and other self interested NGO’s there would be no questions about it – actually the information is all there if you have the time and make the effort to find it!
      As you could infer by the numbers of respondents here who clearly have made that effort!
      (the same is true of the CAGW debate!!)
      2) Followed closely by the TOTAL LACK OF POLITICAL WILL OR LEADERSHIP to look and plan for the long term benefit of their nations and the world, and not short term political advantage.
      3) I think if you look at it logically it dose not give the UN any advantage (Agenda 21) but would have disadvantages as people and nations would become energy independent!

      AS for downsides:-
      1) Yes there are radioactive wastes however I understand that they have a much shorter half-life than Uranium wastes and a lot of these can be reused in the reactor.
      ** A significant upside is that you can USE AND CONSUME uranium and PLUTONIUM nuclear bombs in Thorium reactors.

      Other things that David Archibald could have made clearer:-
      He said “Thorium molten salt reactors, without the need for all the backup safety systems that U235 nuclear plants have,” the reason they do not need the backup safety is because they CAN NOT MELT DOWN unlike Uranium reactors – Huh – YES THATS RIGHT = CAN NOT MELT DOWN = easily designed FAILSAFE. Yes we have known this for 60 – 70 years ( as said elsewhere in comments). Your wonderful leaders chose Uranium so they could make bombs!!

      As I said above – the information is all there if you have the time and make the effort to find it – enjoy your education then PASS IT ON!!

  6. I have no issues with the promotion of thorium reactors – they seem like an excellent direction. I do have issues with “peak oil”, however, including at least one statement from this post: “We had a lot of oil too, once – until we burnt it.” It strikes me that the known, proven oil reserves today are HIGHER than they have ever been, at least for the world as a whole. Looking at the figures for these known reserves makes it clear to me that we are NOT about to see a sudden drop-off in oil production (based on declining resources) that would seem to be claimed here.

    • Regarding peak oil, I agree with what you say. I feel that the peak oil production won’t be known until years after it has passed. I’ve been reading about peak oil for at least a decade of my life, and it ain’t here yet. I feel that all this peak oil nonsense is another way to force the environs agenda of getting everyone except the select few to live a hard, primitive life.

      • Actually, peak conventional oil was 2008. See essay IEA Facts and Fictions; it is their estimate. The debate is over how much longer unconventional oil (tar sands, shale) can postpone the ultimate total liquid hydrocarbons peak. My own calculations based on gamma distributions rather than Hubbert’s logistics curve say somewhere between 2020 and 2025, best guess 2023. But not a sharp peak, so not distinguishable for sure for a few years after. Ebook Blowing Smoke.

      • FWIW, my contribution to the peak oil nonsense is here:
        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/04/18/peak-oil-re-visited/
        As per the first graph in this article by David Archibald, peak oil is inevitable, as is peak fossil fuel, the hard part is knowing when it will happen – and it may even be difficult to know for some years after it has happened. My sincere hope is that it doesn’t matter.

    • Backdated Reserves.
      The first issue is not “reserves” but when the field was discovered and what the production costs are for what is left. See Jean Laherrere on reported vs backdated reserves.

      Cheap oil is over.
      e.g Oil projects needing high prices to make sense; some 80% of new projects need prices >> $60/bbl to break even.

      Declining EROI
      Third is declining Energy Return On Energy Investment (EROI). Oil EROI had dropped from > 100 to ~12 in the US. Society needs > 10 to sustain western civilization. That leads to the problem of how to overcome the EROI cliff.

    • Your comment hints at a number of geophysical misundertandings. Read Gaia’s Limits– there is a lot of illustrated, laymen’s level petroleum geophysics laid out there. Reserves DO NOT say how rapidly they can be produced. Only how much in total, ever. Peak oil is about how much per year.

      • ristvan,
        I think you misunderstand me. I was not commenting at on the production rate itself, but rather the seemingly falsifiable remark that we had “..burnt it.”. Note the parenthetical clause “(based on declining resources)”.

        In my opinion (based on observing the continued failure of gloom & doom predictions of “the end of oil”) the rate of production in the future will be determined by the value of the oil produced, not that we have “run out” in any meaningful way.

        I think that we SHOULD be encouraging technological development of ALL kinds of energy – and that those forms of energy should all have to compete for their market share. Subsidizing any form of energy production (with public funds) should be limited to a very short period in it’s development cycle – not forever.
        If Thorium reactors (or windmills) can provide energy economically – great — if not, then they should fall by the wayside.

        And before someone asks what I think of high-sulphur coal or other “dirty” energy sources, I think we need to be very careful to include the TOTAL cost of the technology (something the renewable energy industry has NOT been doing) in determining what is economic (or not)

    • Non-OPEC, non-US oil production peaked in 2005. That was a decade ago. These people could have made a lot of money if they produced more oil during the high prices of the last decade. But they didn’t. They didn’t because they couldn’t. That is why the major are investing in LNG projects. There aren’t enough oil projects to soak up their cash flow.

      • “These people could have made a lot of money if they produced more oil during the high prices of the last decade. But they didn’t. They didn’t because they couldn’t.”
        I am pretty sure there was something I read at some point that said if you increase the supply of something, the price will go down.
        I am skeptical of the idea that if everyone had doubled production back then, they would have made twice as much money.
        One or a few small suppliers, yes…because it would not effect total supply very much.

        And the production was held back by political opposition, lag time between price spike and new sources coming on line, and then prices falling.
        The past few years speak very loudly about when prices stay too high for too long…production will increase rapidly.
        Causing prices to fall farther than they really should… Which halts new production… Which causes prices to rise…etc ad infinitum…

      • Anyone speaking of market forces in oil needs to remember 3 things:

        1) OPEC is a cartel formed to counter market forces.
        2) Much of world reserves are owned by state agencies ( like Pemex or the Brazillian Petrobras) who are less interested in markets than politics and sometimes graft.
        3) The small part that is market based is an oligopoly.

        As a sidebar remember that major oil projects take decades to develop and bring on line. You don’t make 20 year plans based on 5 year price swings in a very volatile commodity.

        This is not a free market at all.

      • No doubt many would like to control market forces. Few can and never for long. Market forces, supply and demand, drive markets. You are right about governments constantly sticking their oars in. But it is an oar in a river – there are many wrecked boats – everyone will best serve his own interests if they understand what a powerful river it is. Market forces rule, eventually, rebels always perish in the flood.

    • Mr. Gardner,
      You are correct to say that proven reserves are higher than ever.
      In fact, a review of the history of proven reserves shows that they have never stopped increasing. Proven reserves have always increased faster than usage, and there is one basic pattern…we seem to always be about twenty years from running out.
      Look at the numbers for how much oil is a reservoir is “recoverable”. And they consider that the reservoirs themselves are recharged continuously…slowly, but continuously.
      Reservoirs are places where all the oil in the ground can collect in a way which is concentrated enough to be economical to extract.
      Logically, the amount in reservoirs must be a fraction of what is down there.

  7. They will be built. Obama has made it possible. Coal is dead and being buried by his regulations. These same regulations will prevent the burning of oil and natural gas after the Envirowhaco Lawyers take action. Sun and Wind can not provide the needed power even with storage (batteries, lakes, whatever) That means that soon, as the brownouts and blackouts get worse, we will be buying nuclear power plants from China, just like we now buy everything else.

    • Obama has done nothing in regard to molten salt reactors. The NRC has made it virtually impossible to get one of these designed approved in this country, that’s why all the start-ups are going overseas. Thorcon Energy to S. Korea, Terrestrial Energy to Canada, Bill Gates to China, etc.

      • You missed usurbrain’s point. AFTER the brown & black outs, the regulation will be demanded to be changed as we watch the rest of the world’s nuke program successfully. But by then, they will have developed tech, we won’t and so we will buy from “them” (India, China, whoever succeeds first).

      • Thorcon has been in talks to build and test their design at the Hanford nuclear site in Richland, WA. They’ll probably only be able to do pre-nuclear work there, but that isn’t Obama’s fault. The NRC has been around for decades and has a choke hold on the domestic nuclear industry. They’re the primary reason that nuclear plants cost twice as much in the US vs China. Maybe Obama could help fix the problem, but he didn’t create it.

      • I agree with Drew.
        Look what happens when there is a blackout: Mayhem and rioting, looting…destruction and chaos.
        And this is from one random event.
        Imagine if they are commonplace, or predictable.
        Civilization will be in jeopardy, and that is not an exaggeration, IMO.

        The best thing that could happen is to roll these regulations back with one stroke of the pen after the next election. Just wipe them all out.
        Other regulations are making it nearly impossible for anyone to start a business in this country.
        We are now not even on the list of places that are considered business friendly.
        And many more are going on the books daily.

      • @ g2-05f440992a1230…..
        Anyone with any interaction with the NRC KNOWS that Obama’s choice for the chair of the NRC set back the use of Nuclear by more than 10 years and probably 20. He made mountains out of molehill issues and helped increase the cost of operating a NPP to the point that 4 were shut down because of his actions and 4 to 6 more are seriously considering it. He has added more CO2 to the atmosphere than will be saved by either new “renewable” energy or the closure of the coal plants and their replacement by Nat Gas.

  8. No methane hydrated on your list/chart. You omitted oil shale kerogens too. If we have a free market in energy and thorium can compete, that’s great. I don’t think you can predict the future of hydrocarbon fuel. I know you David, you will keep trying

    • To deliberately rain on your parade, read essays Ice that Burns (methane hydrates) and Much Ado About Nothing (including, but not limited to, kerogen shales). Then get back with counterfacts rather than internet blather. Please. I look forward to your reasoned geophysical replys.

      • ristvan – Look, David Archibald is a very smart guy and he knows a lot. But he is always prophesying. It is not internet blather to say he can’t predict the future of hydrocarbon fuels. Who knew about the extent of recoverable shale oil ten years ago? Seriously, how much do we know about shale oil now?

        You think the future of methane hydrates and kerogens is sealed. You are entitled to your opinions. All I am saying is “I don’t know.”

        You are trying to refute my ignorance?

        David knows a lot of cool things about the sun and about the solar cycle and he is habitually trying to predict the future. He can’t predict the future – he doesn’t have the gift of prophecy. Peak Oil, Crop Failures, Grand Minima.

        Latitude says he is tired of the peak oil garbage. That is not very scientific way to object to it, neither is it pure internet blather. Peak Oil is a good example of a failed calculus. I’m not sure why David clings to it so tenaciously.

  9. The first attempt to demonstrate the thorium fuel cycle at large scale was at Shippingport in the 1950s.

    Thorium itself is not a fissile material. It has to be first transmuted to U-233, which is. It is the U-233 which supplies the nuclear power. The thorium fuel cycle therefore relies on the supply of neutrons from another source to produce the fissile material, which in practice means fission neutrons from U-235 or Pu-239. This is also the reason that the uranium fuel cycle had to be established first.

    Several thorium reactors have been tried in the past but all found to be uncommercial. The problem seems to be the highly corrosive materials used in thorium reactors make building and maintenance costs prohibitive.

    The UK reviewed the prospect a thorium rector in 2012, but decided against it.

    However, India is trying again.

    • A minor correction. The Shippingport plant as built in the late 1950’s was a normal U-235 cycle. The conversion to U-233/Th-232 was done in the mid-1970’s.

      General Atomics HTGR’s were also intended to run the Thorium cycle, but would have required either a stream of U-235 or neutron source generated U-233 to make up for the not quite unity conversion ratio. The CANDU reactors will also run on the Thorium cycle with a very slight breeding ratio.

      Yet another technology is the Integral Fast Reactor, which can make use of the Plutonium in the spent fuel from the LWR fleet. There is enough depleted Uranium laying so that no mining would need to be done for at least a century.

    • There is more than one way to skin the thorium cat. India is not building LFTRs – it is using thorium fuel in conventional breeder reactors.

  10. “There is no alternative – nuclear energy is the only energy source that has any prospect of making good the looming fall in energy supply.”

    I support nuclear energy of all types, but there will certainly be alternatives in the future. We don’t know what they are yet, but one thing I suspect is than in 100 years we’ll be beaming down massive amounts of microwave or laser energy from gigantic solar panels in space. And of course, fusion will be much better than thorium when harnessed.

    Then there’s genetic manipulation to make a bacteria that excrete fertilizer… The possibilities are endless. It’s not ‘thorium or bust’. Thorium is just one of many possibilities.

    • I like your attitude blogagog! There is something to be said for some clearing out the regulatory obstruction of bringing online new and more efficient forms of energy production. The trick there is not to be crisis or mythology driven when creating safe practices regulations. How you do that is one of those questions that Dr Pielke addresses all the time. It’s as difficult as framing financial regulations that can tell the difference between a capitalist entrepreneur and con man or a farmer and a drug lord. Maybe that is harder since there seem to be so many “free enterprise” sort who have a little trouble understanding regulation protecting useful productive investment from piracy. But..hey so long as we got a wish list going… Maybe we in the US could elect a President who would slash through the Gordian knot of the EPA and set it right and toss all the foxes in the hen house out over there at Treasury?

    • we’ll be beaming down massive amounts of microwave or laser energy from gigantic solar panels in space.
      _________________________________________

      I seem to remember from my Azomov and Clarke days, that there were two great proposals for future space engineering:
      a. Space solar panels, beaming ‘free’ energy to the world.
      b. Winged solar sails that would propel spaceships to unheard of speeds.

      What will prevent your solar panel becoming a solar sail?

      R

      • There’s another glitch in your satellite square rigger Ralph.

        At present solar EM energy is too diffuse (1362 Wm^-2; maybe more like 1,000) to be able to collect economically on earth, so presumably your microwave or laser spaceborne system, is going to increase that power density by a big enough factor to make it worth collecting down here on earth.

        Tonopah and Ivanpah KFC factories demonstrate what happens, when you concentrate energy much denser than ordinary sunlight.

        Land area is the one thing that is truly in limited supply here on earth; and that includes the wetted land area.

        To get more transmitted energy, you need either more antenna area, or a higher power density; your choice.

      • Argh! Really, all you need is to re-read “The WInd From The Sun”, wherein it states that the sheer mass of the solar power satellite itself (versus the ‘as flimsy as possible’ solar yachts) would prevent the SPS from being flung away from Earth.

        It is amazing the amount of SF that considers this question. Apart from the Asimov and Clarke references, you should really acquaint yourself with the Allen Steele books, where ‘beamjacks’ are building Solar Power Satellites in orbit. Another author, whose name completely escapes me at the moment, discusses how voltage applied between two ‘levels’ on a satellite (some 30km apart), would be enough to stationkeep without propellant, just via magnetic thrusting against the magnetic field of Earth.

        Since I love the ‘hard’ SF field, I can supply you with current references, should you so desire.

      • Bill Platt,
        Yes, PLEASE!
        I would like the name that escapes you, and many more.

        Thank you!

      • the sheer mass of the solar power satellite itself, versus the ‘as flimsy as possible’ solar yachts would prevent the SPS from being flung away from Earth.
        ______________________________

        I think you missunderstand the whole concept of space engineering.

        When it costs up to $10,000 a kilo to put something into low earth orbit, the idea is to make everything as light as possible. And in terms of space solar panels, as much area for as little weight as possible. In other words, your space solar panel will end up as some kind of a synthetic pv cell array that has the same surface-area-to-mass-ratio as, say ………… a giant solar sail.

        And off it goes, to Jupiter an beyond…….

      • I always thought the “Balloon” solar power satellite was a neat and simple concept. Flexible Solar cells covered a sphere one mile in diameter. The sphere would be folded up for the launch, and then once in orbit, 40 pounds of helium would be used to fully inflate the sphere. Half of the solar cells on the sphere would always be in sunlight, no matter how it moved. Once we conquer the low-cost Earth to low-Earth orbit hurdle, humanity will be off to the races throughout the Solar system. We need to get over that hurdle soon, for a number of very good reasons. I love this website. It is very entertaining and informative, and funny. Keep up the good work, all of you.

      • Flexible Solar cells covered a sphere one mile in diameter. The sphere would be folded up for the launch.
        __________________________

        You forgot to add the 360,000 km tether to the Moon, to stop it getting blown away… ;-)

        R

  11. Somewhere in that next 200 years, a fusion reactor design will come into the mix. Another thing worth mentioning is we are in the midst of a 3rd agricultural revolution, hydroponics, aquaponics, fogponics, aeroponics.

  12. So a problem with U-235 reactors is that they produce decay heat. What? Is Mr. Archibald trying to say that thorium-based reactors don’t produce any decay heat?!!

    The decay heat comes from the decay of the fission products. If you fission an atom — even a uranium-233 atom produced by neutron capture in a thorium atom — you’re going to have fission products. Almost all fission products are highly radioactive, decay rapidly, and produce decay heat.

    You shouldn’t be allowed to comment on the merits of one type of reactor versus another unless you understand this basic point.

    • There are only so many facts you can put in a 1,000 word essay. In all nuclear reactors at stable operation, 7% of the thermal energy at any one time is coming from decay heat. Thorium reactors rinse out the fission products that cause the decay heat. There will always be some in the circulating fuel which in a thorium reactor drain to holding tanks with a non-critical geometry. You just need a big chimney to suck the air past those holding tanks.

  13. To be picky, the objections to conventional nuclear power are absurd – their safety is far better than those older machines at Fukushima, which failed when the backup power supply (diesel engines)was lost.
    Nor can any experience a hydrogen explosion these days – they all have hydrogen absorbers to avoid that situation. Nor do Gen 3 reactors need a constant source of pumped coolant – in the event of an accident they can cool themselves passively for days. And the leading developer of molten salt reactors, Transatomic Power, whose reactor, which is twice the size of the plants mentioned here and can burn either uranium or Thorium, prefers to fuel their machine with nuclear wastes/uranium, for two reasons – it’s less likey to have proliferation issues thanThorium fueled machines, which produce plutonium, and
    nuclear wastes are free and buring them caneliminate a costly storage problem.. It can also be fueled by low grade unranium, extracting 98% of its energy, as opposed to conventional reactors, which can extract but 2-3%.
    Just fueled by nuclear wastes in this country, these reactors can produce all the energy needed for this country for the next 1000 years. The amount of uranium available on land and which can be extracted by filters from sea water, is far beyond any demand that can come to pass. The fuel chosen will not depend upon availabilty – uranium will be around for a very long time. And if the avialability of the fuel chosen
    extends beyond the 60 year lifespan of the reactor, then future availability of the fuel beyond that time is
    totally meaningless and will have no influence on the fuel chosen.

    • just to nitpick, spent fuel is not free. it has to be remove from the casing and then processed to get rid of the oxide. this processing will probably make it more expensive then virgin uranium. transatomic’s nuclear reactor will operate on both.

    • Nor can any experience a hydrogen explosion these days – they all have hydrogen absorbers to avoid that situation.
      ________________________________

      Why all the high technology? All Fukashima needed, was some windows that could be cranked open by hand.

      R

      • Actually the problems at the Fukashima reactor complex were the result of uneducated environmentalists blocking every attempt at upgrading and modernizing the reactors. The hazards of running these reactors was known and countermeasures designed.

      • Claudius knows of what he speaks.
        Fukashima had back up pumps and generators in a place that they should never have been.
        Backup were installed at a location nearby that remained above water and would have prevented any problems.
        But the transfer switches were not moved!
        The transfer switches were still in a floodable location. Still, a waterproof enclosure or room would have protected them…but neither of these was installed.
        It was sheer idiocy.
        I had not heard that it was not done because of activists blocking design changes.

        But, all this was even taken into account in the original plant design…but then then changes were made which moved the whole place much lower, and the original design was used anyway. During construction, these issues were noted, but for some reason it happened as it did anyway.
        It is a webwork of failure.
        Imagine the characters in the book “A Confederacy of Dunces” building and operating a nuclear plant.

      • I read of a proposed design change to the Fukashima reactors that replaced a gravity system that dropped moderator rods into the reactor with a compressed air powered system in the event of an emergency shut down. The knee-jerk no nukes crowd blocked the upgrade. My question is how hard would it be to collect up the names of the individuals and organizations that blocked all these upgrades that would have helped to avoid the disaster at Fukushima and publish them so that the people and groups most responsible could be held up to public spectacle, ridicule and legal action. Once again the people most directly responsible for a global disaster aren’t even known. I’d like to see the people most responsible for this tragedy answer for their actions.

    • Not only was Fukushima an old design. Not only was Fukushima considered a worst case scenario. Not only did Fukushima have some safety design shortcomings identified that were not mitigated. Not only was Fukushima in the midst of a cataclysmic tsunamai that killed 15,000+ people.

      But Fukushima Daiichi had 0 short term fatalities from radiation exposure. What? That’s right, 0. And the worst case model for long term exposure is less 130 fatalities due to cancer, a worst case model that nobody trusts because its too conservative. A cataclysmic tsunami, and 0 short term radiation deaths and the most likely 0 long term too. Screw the anti-nuke radiation fear mongers.

      • Short term is not necessarily the issue. I invite you to go live in Fukushima prefecture and help them look for the missing coriums.

      • The opposition to nuclear power was never founded in science. It was whipped up by the friends of Communism to hinder Western nations in the cold war nuclear arms race.

      • The modelling used to determine expected deaths from low level radiation are as unscientific as they come.
        Low level radiation has been found to be protective, and people exposed to it suffer less risk of cancer in many real life cases that have been carefully studied and documented..
        Research India monazite sand, and cancer rates of those who live nearby.
        Look at Taiwan cobalt-60 radioactive buildings, and the cancer rates of those who lived in the units there.
        Look into radiation hormesis.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2477708/

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

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

      • This is all true Drew. The overriding lesson is that nuclear energy is not very forgiving with shortcuts or jackass experiments such as those experienced so fatally at Chernobyl (which wasn’t even a commercuial reactor anyway). My understanding is that TEPCO which operates Fukushima was warned and advised to relocate the backup power systems but TEPCO didn’t want to make the investment on a plant scheduled to be closed around 2013. Bad choice TEPCO.

        Still and all the deaths and morbidity arising from the natural disaster– direct and indirect — are very, very low. And even at Chernobyl, the remaining residents are in excellent health and well into their old age. Wildlife around the plant thrives, as it does in Fukushima. More people died on Amtrak last week than died at Fukushima — or likely will die from the accident, bad as it was.

    • I don’t think it’s fair to say that “objections to conventional nuclear power are absurd.”

      Conventional nuclear power plants are more cumbersome to build than the molten salt reactor. For instance, PWRs need a huge, concrete containment vessel, unlike a MSR. Further, PWRs need redundant systems to ensure: i) keeping the water pressurized; and ii) keeping the pressurized water flowing over the hot fuel rods. Such redundancies are not needed to such an extent in MSRs.

    • From a 2013 report on using microbes to turn carbohydrates into hydrocarbons:

      Biological Conversion of Sugars to Hydrocarbons Technology Pathway

      Ryan Davis, Mary Biddy, Eric Tan, and Ling Tao
      National Renewable Energy Laboratory

      Susanne Jones
      Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

      Biological Conversion of Sugars to Hydrocarbons

      Developing Pathway Cases to Understand the Cost of Converting Biomass to Hydrocarbon Fuels

      In support of the Bioenergy Technologies Office, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are undertaking studies of biomass conversion technologies to identify barriers and target research toward reducing conversion costs.
      Process designs and preliminary economic estimates for each of these pathway cases were developed using rigorous modeling tools (Aspen Plus and Chemcad). These analyses incorporated the best information available at the time of development, including data from recent pilot- and bench-scale demonstrations, collaborative industrial and academic partners, and published literature and patents. The economic results of these analyses are in the process of further refinement and will be published in FY13 and FY14 design reports. This report summarizes the preliminary technical data used for the models and identified data gaps.
      This technology pathway case investigates the biological conversion of biomass-derived sugars to hydrocarbon biofuels, utilizing data from recent literature references and information consistent with recent pilot-scale demonstrations at NREL. Technical barriers and key research needs have been identified that should be pursued for the pathway to become competitive

      Key Highlights
      • The biological conversion of sugars to hydrocarbons technology pathway has the potential to produce high-value, targeted fuel components with desirable properties. This pathway leverages prior experience in biochemical conversion technologies, specifically the production of sugars from cellulosic biomass.
      • Microorganisms can be genetically engineered to produce targeted fuel components or co-products with high yields and value.
      • The biological production pathway will produce a hydrocarbon intermediate that will generally require mild upgrading at a marginal cost to achieve a final fuel blendstock.
      • Opportunities exist to reduce the conversion costs by focusing on process integration improvements. The sugar production steps (pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis) can be tailored to achieve a hydrolysate quality for maximized microbial conversion and improved process yields.
      • Increasing overall biomass utilization toward value-added co-products will improve economic viability. New pathways for converting underutilized fractions of the biomass, including lignin and acetate, will need to be developed and demonstrated to increase overall product yields.
      • Important research needs for this pathway include maximizing sugar (and/or carbon) utilization and microbe metabolic performance, improving tolerance of the microbes to lignocellulosic-derived sugar stream impurities, and developing

    • I’m really tired of this peak oil garbage……..
      _________________________________

      The UK hit peak oil in 2001. It happens, I’m afraid. That’s life. Finite resources do run out….

      And the UK is simply a microcosm of the world, a scale model to demonstrate what can and will happen on a wider scale. Fossil fuels are a finite resource, that will eventually go past their peak.

      Oh, and do bear in mind that peak oil has nothing to do with reserves, it is counted in units of production. Saudi has huge reserves (so it says), but most of their fields will not increase production whatever you do to them.

      • And you know for sure that “most of their fields will not increase production whatever you do to them”.
        Just what would happen if you paid more for the oil you need?
        Do you think they (the market) would produce more or less?
        There may be a limit, but I haven’t seen one yet, have you?

      • Just what would happen if you paid more for the oil you need?
        Do you think they (the market) would produce more or less?
        ___________________________________

        Less, of course. Did you think it would go up??? If petrol or heating gas doubles in price, I use 30% less or thereabouts. Simple economics, that the Greens cannot fathom.

        This is why peak oil is a reality, because you can hit an economic peak oil as easily as you can hit a geological or technical peak oil. If getting that energy out costs so much that it becomes unafordable, people will simply stop using it, and production will be forced to peak.

        The world only has so much wealth (productive effort). If you start using a huge proportion for one sector of the economy, then people become poor and the economy shrinks and demand fall off a cliff – and you have just hit the economic peak fossil fuel.

        Look what happened when the oil price shot up in 1979-1980, during the oil crisis. Did production increase because of higher prices???

      • @silver ralph
        “Look what happened when the oil price shot up in 1979-1980, during the oil crisis. Did production increase because of higher prices???”
        Actually efficiency of use increased and as the demand trend followed, so did production, as well as price.
        It is simple economics…

      • and then they discovered North Dakota….you people do not realize how large this planet really is….and how few places are actually tapped

      • Silver ralph: “and you have just hit the economic peak fossil fuel.”

        Wrong again.

        You Peak Oilers will never learn, will you?

      • My, what a lovely graph from 2000 showing a 2000 peak and a sharp reduction to 2010. You wouldn’t happen to have a updated 2015 graph, would you? Because I bet I can guess what it would show.

      • yeah yeah yeah yeah. And before that was peak oil and before that and before that and before that. We’ve been there and have done that over and over again.

      • “the UK is simply a microcosm of the world”

        Thanks a lot. Do you know how much it hurts when you laugh so hard milk comes out of your nose?
        Now who is going to clean up this mess? I need a shower…as soon as I stop laughing!

      • My, what a lovely graph from 2000 showing a 2000 peak and a sharp reduction to 2010. You wouldn’t happen to have a updated 2015 graph, would you? Because I bet I can guess what it would show.
        __________________________

        And I bet you would guess wrongly.

        I don’t have a graph, but the Department of Energy (and climate change) tabular figures show that UK oil production has continued to decline over the last five years. The figures are:

        2010 …….. 70m
        2011 …….. 58m
        2012 …….. 49m
        2013 …….. 44.5m
        2014 …….. 44m

        https://itportal.decc.gov.uk/pprs/full_production.htm

        So your point is?? Do you have a point, or are you arguing merely for the sake of it?

        R

      • ralfellis – well I’m impressed. A peak oiler actually found a place where one of there predictions… Didn’t come true, but at least they got the direction of the trend right. And only was off by a little more then half! That’s pretty good for a peak oil prediction.
        Of course, that then begs the question of why we’re looking at oil production in the UK. It’s hardly a power house in the industry. Maybe it’s because the old standard of the US (Hubbards original peak) has stopped following the predictions and started back up again.
        A decade ago I would have spent a few hours digging into this. I would have looked at the production figures. Where and why. How much was being left out because it was ‘unconventional’ or ‘offshore’ or some other excuse. Now I just don’t care. You people have always been wrong. You will always BE wrong. The whole reason I was originally skeptical of CAGW was because it was being pushed by a lot of the same clowns as peak oil, the ozone hole, the population bomb, and a whole mess of other alarmist bull. An avalanche of failed predictions who’s promoters will never admit they were wrong about it, no matter how much time has passed.

      • Thanks a lot. Do you know how much it hurts when you laugh so hard milk comes out of your nose?
        ______________________________

        You are still on ‘mothers milk bar’? That explains a lot.

        R

      • ralfellis – well I’m impressed. A peak oiler actually found a place where one of there predictions… Didn’t come true, but at least they got the direction of the trend right. And only was off by a little more then half! That’s pretty good for a peak oil prediction.
        ________________________________

        Half? I did not make a prediction, I just said that Peak Fossil Fuels can and will happen, and used th UK as a microcosm example of what will happpen to worl production. If Peak FF can happen in the UK, with a relatively stable population, it can sure happen in the rest of the world.

        Ok, so you want to talk Peak Coal? Well the UK had Peak Coal back in the 1920s…

      • But I know you will shout: ‘no, we want to know about gas production’.

        Sorry mate, the UK hit Peak Gas in 2000……

    • what if oil is of abiotic origin, not fossil !!!(the deep hot biosphere : the myth of fossil fuels – by Thomas Gold)

      • Garfy, well of course. The UK hit peak oil in 2001, a contributor says. What if the ‘depleted fields’ refill from below as is rumoured to be happening in S Arabia?

        Huge areas of a huge country, including offshore, are forbidden zones – the US of A.

        Methane clathrates are formed from what exactly? And there is how much down there?

        The US may run out of energy and be dependent on foreign everything, but the ROW won’t.

        The suggestion above that the US will be importing Chinese reactor technology is a non-starter. The US won’t even use the foreign-sourced CANDU reactors from a rather friendly neighbour even though they can clean up the mess created by the fast breeders. They would rather freeze in the dark.

        It is the French who may provide the surprises. They could appease the Greens with a heavy water reactor as part of a long term global clean up plan. Canada gets along with France, in general, and the US doesn’t. China is not interested in saving the US. Why should they? They will build what they need.

        The China Agricultural University is doing advanced studies on biogas and bioconversions of materials. The Chinese are cooperating with South Africa which is building SASOL plants for indirect conversion of coal to liquids. Two at least. There is a strange rumour that a plant is going up in Inner Mongolia that is using direct conversion but I find no details available. China is establishing long term commitments for coal supplies from Mongolia’s tiny population sitting on about a trillion tons of it. Japan eyes the same source but there is no rail link through friendly territory.

        Peak coal is more that half a century away and as it gets expensive they will simply start processing the dumps for carbon to make liquid fuels. The only thing that is happening of consequence is that the US and Western Europe are voluntarily shutting down their energy production systems and raising costs dramatically. Except for France of course. Fifty years ago no one could have predicted such insanity taking hold in the developed countries.

    • I wondered about that too. The first graph above appears to show peak oil in 2010, which clearly didn’t happen — oil production is still going up.

    • I go to the Weinberg site with a lot of hope in my heart but then I read about them preparing for “key Paris 2015 climate conference”. They have brain rot.

  14. In-situ gasification releases incalculable quantities of coal, enough for centuries.

    Drilling date set for North Sea’s vast coal reserves

    Tynemouth to be one of first locations for £1bn scheme to access deep sea deposits which could power Britain for centuries

    A billion-pound plan to reach untapped coal reserves under the North Sea will be under way by the end of the year, as the vast scale of the energy source beneath the North Sea is made clear.

    Scientific data of the true extent of the coal deposits on the sea bed reveals that even a tiny percentage of them would be enough to power Britain for centuries to come, says a local expert.

    Dermot Roddy, chief technical officer of energy company Five Quarter which will be leading the much-anticipated extraction work, said there are trillions of tonnes of deeply-buried coal stretching from the North East coast far out to sea: an amount thousands of times greater than all oil and gas extracted so far.

    And now technology is advanced enough to be able to reach it.

    http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/drilling-date-set-north-seas-6896191

    That’s trillions of tons in the North Sea alone.

    Output from the gasification process consists of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen, the latter two constituting Syngas (synthesis gas), feedstock for the good old Fischer-Tropsch process.

    And then there is the truly vast quantity of methane hydrate available on the ocean bed, Japan for one has already concluded a successful pilot scheme and is working on industrial level extraction.

    So I think it likely that there will be plenty of carbon-based fuel available well past 2300,

    • Tynemouth to be one of first locations for £1bn scheme to access deep sea deposits which could power Britain for centuries.
      ________________________________

      Interesting, but what are the seams like? They said exactly the same about the Selby Superpit, but it closed after just 25 years, because:

      a. The geology was a nightmare for mechanised mining. Might be ok for a man and a pick, but that was not the big idea of the Selby Superpit.
      b. The world price of coal plummeted, and the government refused to subsidise coal.

      The same could easily be true of ‘fantastic reserves’ of coal under the north sea.

      a. If the seams are highly fractured, it may be impossible to drill reliably into the required seam. You could probably do the job, but at quadruple the price expected, or more.
      b. If your wonderful new fuel is coming out at ten times the world price of other fuels, who will buy it? And if you subsidise it, how many hospitals do you close to pay for it all? And if you simply ban all imports and force everyone to use expensive UK fuel, then who will buy our expensive exports? And who in the country could aford to buy our expensive foods and expensive products, let alone aford to heat their homes in winter? So you have just driven the nation into pennuary and a massive economic recession.

      This is the problem with peak fossil fuels – it has nothing to do with on-paper reserves, nothing at all.

      R

      • The advantage – in fact, the whole point – of in-situ gasification is that it utilises the same steerable drilling technology that is used for shale gas and oil extraction, so is nowhere near as restricted by geologically difficult deposits, in the same way as the same new drilling technology has massively increased access to hitherto unusable gas and oil deposits.

        This is the problem with peak fossil fuels – it has nothing to do with on-paper reserves, nothing at all.

        All my life I have been hearing that tale. It was not true in the 1950s and it is no more true now.

        As a matter of interest, the concept of “Peak Oil” has been about for a long time, it was first postulated in the mid to last part of the 19th century, when Scotland was the World’s leading exporter of petroleum products, produced from shale, curiously enough.

        http://www.scottishshale.co.uk/

      • Silver ralph

        You say

        Interesting, but what are the seams like? They said exactly the same about the Selby Superpit, but it closed after just 25 years, because:

        a. The geology was a nightmare for mechanised mining. Might be ok for a man and a pick, but that was not the big idea of the Selby Superpit.
        b. The world price of coal plummeted, and the government refused to subsidise coal.

        Absolute rubbish!
        The Selby complex was efficient, economic and had decades of extractive life left when the Thatcher government closed the entire coal industry – including the Selby complex – for purely political reasons.

        As for subsidies, if the UK coal industry had received the same subsidy as nuclear power at the time then the coal industry could have given away all its coal production for free and given £13 with each tonne of coal taken while still making a profit!

        Not content with that ignorant twaddle, you yet again promote the daft idea of ‘peak oil’ saying

        This is the problem with peak fossil fuels – it has nothing to do with on-paper reserves, nothing at all.

        I yet again explain why ‘peak’ resources of oil or anything else is a nonsensical idea that has been repeatedly demonstrated to be plain wrong.

        ‘Peak oil’ is one example of the fallacy of overpopulation which derives from the disproved Malthusian idea that wrongly assumes humans are constrained like bacteria in a Petri dish: i.e. population expands until available resources are consumed when population collapses. The assumption is wrong because humans do not suffer such constraint: humans find and/or create new and alternative resources when existing resources become scarce.

        The obvious example is food.
        In the 1970s the Club of Rome predicted that human population would have collapsed from starvation by now. But human population has continued to rise and there are fewer starving people now than in the 1970s; n.b. there are less starving people in total and not merely fewer in percentage.

        Now, the most common Malthusian assertion is ‘peak oil’. But humans need energy supply and oil is only one source of energy supply. Adoption of natural gas displaces some requirement for oil, fracking increases available oil supply at acceptable cost; etc..

        In the real world, for all practical purposes there are no “physical” limits to natural resources so every natural resource can be considered to be infinite; i.e. the human ‘Petri dish’ can be considered as being unbounded. This a matter of basic economics which I explain as follows.

        Humans do not run out of anything although they can suffer local and/or temporary shortages of anything. The usage of a resource may “peak” then decline, but the usage does not peak because of exhaustion of the resource (e.g. flint, antler bone and bronze each “peaked” long ago but still exist in large amounts).

        A resource is cheap (in time, money and effort) to obtain when it is in abundant supply. But “low-hanging fruit are picked first”, so the cost of obtaining the resource increases with time. Nobody bothers to seek an alternative to a resource when it is cheap.

        But the cost of obtaining an adequate supply of a resource increases with time and, eventually, it becomes worthwhile to look for
        (a) alternative sources of the resource
        and
        (b) alternatives to the resource.

        And alternatives to the resource often prove to have advantages.

        For example, both (a) and (b) apply in the case of crude oil.

        Many alternative sources have been found. These include opening of new oil fields by use of new technologies (e.g. to obtain oil from beneath sea bed) and synthesising crude oil from other substances (e.g. tar sands, natural gas and coal). Indeed, since 1994 it has been possible to provide synthetic crude oil from coal at competitive cost with natural crude oil and this constrains the maximum true cost of crude.

        Alternatives to oil as a transport fuel are possible. Oil was the transport fuel of military submarines for decades but uranium is now their fuel of choice.

        As Figure 2 inthe above article shows, there is sufficient coal to provide synthetic crude oil for at least the next 300 years. Hay to feed horses was the major transport fuel 300 years ago and ‘peak hay’ was feared in the nineteenth century, but availability of hay is not a significant consideration for transportation today. Nobody can know what – if any – demand for crude oil will exist 300 years in the future.

        Indeed, coal also demonstrates an ‘expanding Petri dish’.
        Spoil heaps from old coal mines contain much coal that could not be usefully extracted from the spoil when the mines were operational. Now, modern technology enables the extraction from the spoil at a cost which is economic now and would have been economic if it had been available when the spoil was dumped.

        These principles not only enable growing human population: they also increase human well-being.

        The ingenuity which increases availability of resources also provides additional usefulness to the resources. For example, abundant energy supply and technologies to use it have freed people from the constraints of ‘renewable’ energy and the need for the power of muscles provided by slaves and animals. Malthusians are blind to the obvious truth that human ingenuity has freed humans from the need for slaves to operate treadmills, the oars of galleys, etc..

        And these benefits also act to prevent overpopulation because population growth declines with affluence.
        There are several reasons for this. Of most importance is that poor people need large families as ‘insurance’ to care for them at times of illness and old age. Affluent people can pay for that ‘insurance’ so do not need the costs of large families.

        The result is that the indigenous populations of rich countries decline. But rich countries need to sustain population growth for economic growth so they need to import – and are importing – people from poor countries. Increased affluence in poor countries can be expected to reduce their population growth with resulting lack of people for import by rich countries.

        Hence, the real foreseeable problem is population decrease; n.b. not population increase.
        All projections and predictions indicate that human population will peak around the middle of this century and decline after that. So, we are confronted by the probability of ‘peak population’ resulting from growth of affluence around the world.

        The Malthusian idea is wrong because it ignores basic economics and applies a wrong model; human population is NOT constrained by resources like the population of bacteria in a Petri dish. There is no existing or probable problem of overpopulation of the world by humans and, therefore, ‘Peak Oil’ is nonsense.

        Richard

      • The advantage – in fact, the whole point – of in-situ gasification is that it utilises the same steerable drilling technology that is used for shale gas and oil extraction, so is nowhere near as restricted by geologically difficult deposits.
        _______________________________

        We know how gasification is done, Catweazle.

        Ok, you are drilling a 1m seam, which is usual for UK coal seams, and the seam jumps up by 1.5m and you find yourself drilling shale (with no gas). Ok, what do you do? I suppose back up and drill higher, if that is possible without huge expense. But then you drill another 100m and the seam drops by 2m. See the problem?

        Now it might be that the North Sea seams are less fractured than the land-based seams, because they are further from the Pennines. Or they may be worse, because the North Sea basin has sunk and stretched considerably. But you have provided no evidence either way. Which is it – easy drilling or a nightmare?

      • Ralph,
        On the one hand you say coal got too cheap, and on the other hand that it is too hard to get out.
        I think you have some sort of mental block, or blinders on.
        Technology will prevent us running out of energy for a very long time. The earth is a very big place, and has been around a very long time.
        How much sedimentary rock is there on the earth? How much organics are in those rocks?
        What if there is abiotic hydrocarbons.

        Why make silly arguments? With all due respect.

      • Ralellis,
        they do not have to back up and start over…the drill rigs can simply steer up. They are directional, not just horizontal. And I doubt there are many places where there is a sharp and sudden one meter jump…this could only be caused by a fault, and such are identifiable.
        They might be wavy, but the drillers are good at what they do. Coal is soft, and the drill rig follows path of least resistance.
        Why so negative?

    • catweazle666
      May 16, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      Canadians have been actually physically mining coal beneath the sea around Cape Breton, Nova Scotia for much more than half a century – this is nothing new. Anyway, you are correct about there being a lot more coal. There is also a lot more fossil liquid and gaseous fuels, too. Enormous resources of methane hydrates (clathrates) on the sea floor (the demon of the Bermuda Triangle) WILL one day be produced.

      Fracking using new ceramic frac sands that resist crushing at depths of 30,000ft (~30,000psi) has also permitted exploitation of colossal reserves of oil in the extension of the prolific East Texas Tertiary formation deep below the Gulf. Several fields (Tahiti, Jack and others) indicated to contain 15B BOE could expand US oil reserves by over 50%. These are conventional reservoirs that formerly were beyond technology’s grasp because of depth and the depth of the water in the Gulf. Here is a news story of the discovery from 2006 but recent developments indicate that production from these and other extensions are well in hand.

      http://www.cob.unt.edu/firel/Kensinge/Fina5170/Selected%20Cases/JackField20060905WSJ.pdf

      Re unconventional oil and gas, presently we are extracting only 8% of the hydrocarbons contained in shales by fracking and already this technology is evolving and will ultimately succeed in recovering double or maybe triple this. There is a saying now that you never have to close a production hole it will continue to produce for a generation or more. They are already re-entering earlier holes and re-fracking with improved techniques and increased application of frac sands and will be “re-producing” the reserves from the same holes. Enhanced production techniques are also in the cards analogous to re-pressuring conventional fields. Interestingly, the hyped rants about frack fluids and pollution has resulted in some promising tests using liquid nitrogen for the frack fluid!!!! When this stuff gets warmed, you will get a lift!

      No siree, make sensible regulations and business will find a way, as it always has, to alleviate your worries about what do we have to do to cope with peak oil or any problem whatsoever. It is only socialist thinking that thinks government has to dabble at it in some way to find solutions.

      • Gary Pearse: “Canadians have been actually physically mining coal beneath the sea”

        In Great Britain too, since 1575, in fact.

        In 1575, Sir George Bruce of Carnock of Culross, Scotland, opened the first coal mine to extract coal from a “moat pit” under the sea on the Firth of Forth. He constructed an artificial loading island into which he sank a 40 ft shaft that connected to another two shafts for drainage and improved ventilation. The technology was far in advance of any coal mining method in the late medieval period and was considered one of the industrial wonders of the age

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

        However, in-situ gasification is capable of reaching seams that for various are totally inaccessible by conventional mining techniques. It partially combusts the coal by injecting oxygen and superheated steam.

    • catweazle666

      Underground gasification of coal is a nonsense as daft as ‘peak oil’. There are no foreseeable ways that the underground gasification can work although trials of it are repeatedly used as a method to obtain funds from gullible governments. This has been demonstrated by many studies in many places since the first large study was conducted by the Soviets in the 1920s and 1930s.

      The problems are severe. To understand the problems it is necessary to understand how coal is gasified.

      Coal gasification is very different from the Victorian production of ‘towns gas’ that heated coal in a sealed container to drive off volatiles and to collect them as ‘gas’ (e.g. for lighting) leaving the carbon as coke which could be burned as fuel.

      Coal is mostly carbon (C) and it can be gasified because it burns by combining with oxygen (O) in a two stage process.

      Stage 1
      2C + O2 → 2CO
      The coal combines with oxygen to form carbon monoxide with consumption of heat and, therefore, heat has to be provided to start a fire.

      Stage 2
      2CO + O2 → 2CO2
      The carbon monoxide from Stage 1 combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide with release of much more heat than Stage 1 consumed and, therefore, an ignited fire can spread.

      Coal gasification consists of providing the coal with sufficient oxygen to convert all the carbon to carbon monoxide (complete Stage 1) and then adding additional oxygen so enough of the carbon monoxide is converted to carbon monoxide (some of Stage 2) to provide the heat needed to conduct all of Stage 1.

      The result is a product gas rich in carbon monoxide (CO) but diluted with some carbon dioxide (CO2) that ideally when burned would release as much heat as would have been obtained by burning the original fuel.

      In practice the product gas would also contain some hydrogen (H) because the coal contains some water that boils and the resulting steam combines with carbon in a water gas shift
      H2O + C → H2 + CO

      And impurities (e.g. oxides of sulphur and nitrogen) would also exist in the product gas because the coal is not pure carbon.

      An industrial gasifier is constructed and operated to control the chemical reactions, and the control is not easy. The oxygen must be supplied to the coal surface for conduct of Stage 1 while the resulting carbon monoxide shields the coal surface, and oxygen must be supplied to the resulting carbon monoxide in correct amount.

      The gasification process stops if there is inadequate oxygen
      and
      the product gas is very diluted with incombustible carbon dioxide if there is too much oxygen.

      The gasification can be adequately conducted in a specially designed gasification reactor vessel. It cannot be properly conducted in a coal seam because the underground gas flows vary as the geometry of the seam changes when gases are formed and removed.

      Excess oxygen is supplied for underground gasification because that overcomes the problem of the process stopping from inadequate oxygen. But the excess oxygen results in great dilution of the product gas with incombustible carbon dioxide so the product gas has low calorific value. Also, the conversion varies as the geometry of the seam varies in unpredictable ways.

      Thus, underground gasification provides a product gas with low and very variable calorific value. There is no commercial or industrial use for a product gas with low and very variable calorific value.

      And the problems are not only that the product gas is useless: the process has risks.

      Removing a coal seam causes subsidence of the ground above the coal seam. Mining engineers put much effort into controlling the subsidence and its effects. There cannot be any such control of subsidence when the gasification is removing the seam as, when and where the gases flow underground. This may not be a problem for undersea extractions but certainly would be near urban areas.

      The subsidence cracks the subsiding ground and, thus, provides the possibility of product gas seeping from the surface of the ground. Carbon monoxide is a cumulative toxin. This,too, may not be a problem for undersea extractions, but it would be a severe potential problem near urban areas.

      All these difficulties – and more – have been repeatedly demonstrated by trial of underground coal gasification during the past hundred years.

      In summation, underground coal gasification has as much likelihood of being adopted as ‘peak oil’ has of becoming a problem; i.e. none.

      Richard

      • Removing a coal seam causes subsidence of the ground above the coal seam. Mining engineers put much effort into controlling the subsidence and its effects. There cannot be any such control of subsidence when the gasification is removing the seam as, when and where the gases flow underground. This may not be a problem for undersea extractions but certainly would be near urban areas.
        _______________________________

        Sort of yes and no, Rich.

        Coal seams are just left to collapse, and they do give subsidence above. But obviously the miners do not mine under towns and cities (which wastes a lot of coal), while all outlying houses in the countryside must be built upon a concrete raft (an old law going back to the early 20th century).

        But yes, if you extract significant amounts of deposits in an uncontrolled drill, it does cause subsidence in unexpected places. The famous one is Northwich in the UK, where uncontrolled salt drilling caused most of the town to collapse. They ended up with all the shops being built on adjustable jacks. They also built two very ingenious floating swing-bridges, which would always adjust to the water level, no matter what the land was doing.

        But you are arguing against yourself Rich. Here is the great hope that will prevent peak fossil fuel, and you say it will not work….

      • Richard Courtney,

        That was an excellent explanation of the process. Than you for that!

        ‘Peak oil’ is meaningless. As the price rises due to the exploitation of the ‘low hanging fruit’, prices rise, more supply is brought online, and the market is supplied. In a true free market, there are few shortages. Higher prices? Yes. But the market always supplies the necessities.

        That is Econ 1A. But the alarmist cult is populated by economic illiterates who actually believe that once ‘peak oil’ is passed, that’s the end of the game, and we will all shiver like their alarming and scary narrativves predict.

        As usual, you are right, and they are wrong.

      • ralfellis

        Clearly, you know as little about modern coal mining as you do about ‘peak oil’.

        Planning of how and where to cut panels to control subsidence is an important modern coal mining activity which is more than not mining under towns. And you demonstrate this by providing a sepia photograph of nineteenth century mining subsidence.

        Importantly, I am NOT ” arguing against {my}self”. Underground gasification is NOT as you claim “the great hope that will prevent peak fossil fuel”.

        There is no possibility of “peak fossil fuel” – none, zilch, nada – as I again explain to you in my post that will probably be here when it is released from modification.

        Richard

      • Richard, that is the strangest description of gasification I have read in a while.

        Coal combustion can start spontaneously without any outside heat or oxygen. Coal seams are burning all over the place, running on water (!) which is needed to make the chemistry work.

        Coal gasification is a very simple and easily controlled process. The major portion of coal gas comes from the water which is split endothermically by the hot coal. The result is that the CO2 is split to 2 x CO absorbing about 24 MJ/kg. The heat comes from burning some of the carbon and hydrogen. Coal can be gasified on a scale the size of a bucket.

        Ulaanbaatar’s ambient air pollution, down more than 50% in three years, has been accomplished by introducing top lit updraft gasifiers burning wet lignite on a scale of 8 kW. The largest can hold 12 kg of fuel.

        The largest local source of lignite, Nalaikh Mine, is being considered as a source of coal bed methane, or underground gasification. If they really want to make gas in quantity they should bring it to the surface because it is not deep. For the deep and undersea deposits, in situ gasification is easy enough to get started. Shutting it off is more of an issue. The same approach – coarse gasification – can be taken with duff coal and high ash waste (“burned” coal from the edges of deposits) to get out something in gaseous form that can be refined and piped at the surface.

        Most people are surprised that CO2 is easily converted to CO and CH4 and H2 by applying water. I have done it at a scale of less than 4 kW. The point of the process is to make a useful gas, not to ‘burn coal’. In part it demonstrates why the concept of ‘dirty coal’ is logically flawed.

      • Crispin in Waterloo

        I described coal gasification and the problems of underground coal gasification.

        As I explained, coal gasification is a controlled conduct of part of the combustion process. Coal gasification is NOT coal combustion.

        But you say

        Coal combustion can start spontaneously without any outside heat or oxygen. Coal seams are burning all over the place, running on water (!) which is needed to make the chemistry work.

        Yes, and if coal combustion were coal gasification then the combustion products from burning coal seams would be used.

        And you say

        Most people are surprised that CO2 is easily converted to CO and CH4 and H2 by applying water. I have done it at a scale of less than 4 kW. The point of the process is to make a useful gas, not to ‘burn coal’. In part it demonstrates why the concept of ‘dirty coal’ is logically flawed.

        Yes, I briefly explained the water gas shift.

        The important points are – as I said –

        The gasification can be adequately conducted in a specially designed gasification reactor vessel. It cannot be properly conducted in a coal seam because the underground gas flows vary as the geometry of the seam changes when gases are formed and removed.

        and

        There are no foreseeable ways that the underground gasification can work although trials of it are repeatedly used as a method to obtain funds from gullible governments. This has been demonstrated by many studies in many places since the first large study was conducted by the Soviets in the 1920s and 1930s.

        Nobody has adopted underground coal gasification because it doesn’t work and nobody has imagined a way to make it work.

        Richard

      • Crispin in Waterloo

        This is a separate answer to you because it addresses a different issue from coal gasification.

        You say

        The largest local source of lignite, Nalaikh Mine, is being considered as a source of coal bed methane, or underground gasification.

        Coal bed methane is nothing to do with underground gasification.

        Methane gas is trapped in coal seam structures. Fracture the coal and the gas escapes. Methane is combustible and it can explode at some concentrations in the air. Miners used to call it ‘fire damp’, and it is the major reason that ventilation must be very good in coal mines.

        Methane is often extracted from coal seams for use, especially in the USA. This is done by drilling down into the seam often with hydraulic fracturing of the seam.

        This is not relevant to coal gasification except that product gas of underground gasification would include any methane trapped in the seam.

        Richard

      • Clearly, you know as little about modern coal mining as you do about ‘peak oil’.
        ___________________________

        Richard, one of us used to be a coal mine surveyor – and it was not you. So what was wrong with my description of long-wall mining, eh? You have a habit of making sweeping ad hominem statements that do not explain anything. So what was wrong with what I said?

        And the Northwich subsidence was caused by drilling and fluid injection and extraction, much the same as coal gassification involves injection and extraction. And the 19th century problem was that the extraction did not always occur where the drilling was located. I suspect that might be a problem with modern gasification too.

        And what Crispin said is correct, deep coal is very easy to set alight and very difficlt to put out (although not sure about the water claim). The entire coal column under Coventry is still alight, as far as I know. But my guess is that getting useful amounts of energy from in situ gassification would be very difficult.

        R

      • Richard, you entirely overlook the essential part played in the gasification process by superheated steam.

        Without reference to this, the rest of your post is entirely irrelevant.

      • Richard

        We are not yet talking at cross purposes though catweasel seems to pick up the same point.

        Candidates for successful in ground gasification will try it on a deposit that is high in hydrogen, water, underground but accessible. Nalaikh is one such place. Anywhere there is a chance of getting something useful out of a crummy deposit would be a candidate.

        Although water shift reaction processes tend to be episodic, I am not convinced it will not be solved. Underground mining is expensive. I have confidence that we are pretty inventive and will come up with a way to gasify all manner of underground carbon and hydrogen rich resources.

        Just to toss out a straw man, gasifying high volatiles coal (like lignite) and working only with the water in it might pay where underground digging for “low quality coal” won’t. Starting at a site where methane is already available in interesting quantities makes sense, not somewhere deep under the sea. Maybe they need to make four foot diameter drills first and send hardware down there. I don’t know. As gasification is so easy I expect it to be successful. Perhaps if the steam is hot enough the resource can be extracted in gaseous form without if being a combustible gas at the time, to be cleaned up on the surface by dehydration. People are clever.

      • catweazle666

        You write

        Richard, you entirely overlook the essential part played in the gasification process by superheated steam.

        Without reference to this, the rest of your post is entirely irrelevant.

        More absolute rubbish from you!
        And, as usual, it is because you failed to read what I wrote.

        I wrote

        In practice the product gas would also contain some hydrogen (H) because the coal contains some water that boils and the resulting steam combines with carbon in a water gas shift
        H2O + C → H2 + CO

        This exothermic reaction is useful because it ‘gains’ energy for the process and alters the combustion efficiency of the product gas. But it is not “essential”.

        Richard

      • catweazle666

        I write to provide a sincere apology.

        I confused you with ‘silver ralph’ aka ‘ralfellis’. It is him – not you – who keeps writing “absolute rubbish”.

        Please accept my abject apology for the insult which was not warranted in your case.

        Sorry.

        Richard

      • Silver ralph

        You say to me

        Richard, one of us used to be a coal mine surveyor – and it was not you. So what was wrong with my description of long-wall mining, eh? You have a habit of making sweeping ad hominem statements that do not explain anything. So what was wrong with what I said?

        You did NOT describe describe long-wall mining.
        You said the Selby complex was shut because of seam faulting. It was not. If such faulting existed then coal mining surveyors would have determined the problem at the planning stage for the mines so the complex would not have been constructed.

        You have a habit of making sweeping ad hominem statements that attempt to conceal you don’t know what you are talking about.

        The rest of your post supports my explanations of why underground coal gasification does not work and nobody has imagined a way to make it work.

        Richard

      • Crispin in Waterloo

        I will address each of your points in turn

        You say

        We are not yet talking at cross purposes though catweasel seems to pick up the same point.

        Perhaps. But I don’t understand your statement.

        You continue

        Candidates for successful in ground gasification will try it on a deposit that is high in hydrogen, water, underground but accessible. Nalaikh is one such place. Anywhere there is a chance of getting something useful out of a crummy deposit would be a candidate.

        “Candidates for successful in ground gasification” are all underground coal seams everywhere.

        You then assert

        Although water shift reaction processes tend to be episodic, I am not convinced it will not be solved. Underground mining is expensive. I have confidence that we are pretty inventive and will come up with a way to gasify all manner of underground carbon and hydrogen rich resources.

        Perhaps someone will overcome the problems of underground coal gasification. A century of research has yet to do that. Please get back to me when somebody does.

        And we don’t need to gasify hydrogen rich resources because they are oil and natural gas which are extracted by drilling.

        You conclude saying

        Just to toss out a straw man, gasifying high volatiles coal (like lignite) and working only with the water in it might pay where underground digging for “low quality coal” won’t. Starting at a site where methane is already available in interesting quantities makes sense, not somewhere deep under the sea. Maybe they need to make four foot diameter drills first and send hardware down there. I don’t know. As gasification is so easy I expect it to be successful. Perhaps if the steam is hot enough the resource can be extracted in gaseous form without if being a combustible gas at the time, to be cleaned up on the surface by dehydration. People are clever.

        From the start, you seem to have been confusing gasification (i.e. the conversion of coal to combustible gas) with gas reforming (i.e. chemically reacting gases to chemically alter them) and with coal bed methane (i.e. a combustible gas trapped in many coal seams).

        I repeat, underground coal gasification does not work and after a century of research nobody has imagined a way to make it work. Please get back to me when somebody comes up with a method to make it work.

        Richard

      • You did NOT describe describe long-wall mining.
        You said the Selby complex was shut because of seam faulting. It was not. If such faulting existed then coal mining surveyors would have determined the problem at the planning stage for the mines so the complex would not have been constructed.
        ________________________________________

        Richard, are you merely a troll? You have never been north of Watford, let alone been down a pit, and you presume to challenge and correct a mine surveyor who was there at the time (although not in Selby).

        Selby WAS closed due to geology. That is a fact.
        The only way it could continue, was if it had (another) huge public subsidy.

        And no, the problems were not detected before opening. Firstly this was a gold-plated government project, like the Brabazon aircraft. It was going to open whatever, because it was a political sop to the miners, to stop them all striking and briging down the governemnt. And secondly the shear zones did not show up on the initial 2-D survey. And the many shear zones meant that the roadways buckled and the seam blocks were too small and irregular for effective long-wall mining. Check out the section on shear zones on this surveyors report.

        http://bookshop.europa.eu/en/three-dimensional-seismic-surveying-to-investigate-the-geological-structure-of-shear-zones-within-the-selby-coalfield-pbCSNA17161/downloads/CS-NA-17-161-EN-C/CSNA17161ENC_001.pdf;pgid=y8dIS7GUWMdSR0EAlMEUUsWb00005xBTVqrj;sid=tPIS-HYXgYES7CccpvCMXxQyFjFuqHHEsiE=?FileName=CSNA17161ENC_001.pdf&SKU=CSNA17161ENC_PDF&CatalogueNumber=CS-NA-17-161-EN-C

        So it was very difficult to push roadways through these weak shear zones, and very difficult to long-wall mine the small irregular seam blocks. You do know what long-wall mining is, Richard?? It is not a reference to an access tunnel, for your information. Try looking it up in the Jack-and-Jill guide to mining, you might find some amazing facts there that you had no idea about.

        To the other posters here, please ignore everything RichardCourtney says. He has never been in a mine, he knows nothing about mining, and as you can see from his postings he always evades answering questions – relying on ad hominem attack instead. If Richardcourtney’s knowledge of gasification techniques is the same as his knowledge of mining, you would be better off researching the ‘technical’ books in Mothercare.

        R

      • Silver ralph

        No, I am not a troll, but you are. For example, you write

        Richard, are you merely a troll? You have never been north of Watford, let alone been down a pit, and you presume to challenge and correct a mine surveyor who was there at the time (although not in Selby).

        Selby WAS closed due to geology. That is a fact.
        The only way it could continue, was if it had (another) huge public subsidy.

        I lived north of Watford for over 30 years and have been down several pits.

        I was elected as the Vice President of the British Association of Colliery Management (BACM) in five successive elections. The mining engineers who comprised most of BACM would not have consistently elected me if I were ignorant of their interests.

        Also, I wrote the chapter on coal in the prestigious Kempes Engineers Year Book.

        The UK coal industry was closed for purely political reasons and that closure included the Selby complex. Your assertions of its closure from geology is plain wrong. And the Selby complex was providing the cheapest available coal to the local power stations without subsidy because Selby coal was transported by merry-go-round trains while imported coal had high transport costs from the docks.

        Your untrue nonsense about the Selby complex is part of your deluded Malthusian notion that we have reached “peak fossil fuels”.

        And your daft trolling includes this

        To the other posters here, please ignore everything RichardCourtney says. He has never been in a mine, he knows nothing about mining, and as you can see from his postings he always evades answering questions – relying on ad hominem attack instead. If Richardcourtney’s knowledge of gasification techniques is the same as his knowledge of mining, you would be better off researching the ‘technical’ books in Mothercare.

        All of that is ad hominem attack which you always use when shown to be wrong.

        I worked on the research and development of British Coal’s Air Blown Gasification Combined cycle (ABGC) project. We perfected each part of the system (including the gasifier) at full scale and used the resulting data to construct a computer model of an assembled power station: the model indicates that ABGC would provide the cheapest coal-fired electricity of any technology. The next stage was to construct a complete demonstration plant at full scale but that was halted because the government completed its closure of the UK coal industry in 1995.

        I have answered every point out to me. And Mothercare does not stock e.g. Kempes Engineers Year Book.

        Richard

      • Richardcourtney.
        I was elected as the Vice President of the British Association of Colliery Management (BACM) in five successive elections. The mining engineers who comprised most of BACM would not have consistently elected me if I were ignorant of their interests.
        _________________________________

        In other words you were a pen-pusher who has never done a day’s work in a mine. And a Scargilite nation-wrecker by the sounds of it, who got exactly what he deserved.

        And you are obtuse to boot. I give you prima face surveying evidence that faulting caused the loss of production at Selby, and all you can say is: ‘no it did not’, ‘no it did not’. Go on, then give us the evidence. You have none, because you are 100% wrong, and your word is not worth a brass farthing.

        As to the closure of Selby being political, yes it was, but not in the way you think. The government put £40 million into Selby in the few years before it closed, and what happened to that, eh? Gone in a trice. So the real reason for the failure of Selby is the political Scargilite numbskulls that ran it as a Communist fiefdom, and did not cut their cloth to match their geologically trimmed pocket.

        In fact, if you want to know why Selby closed, look in the mirror. Here is a claimed president of Colliery Management who does not know that faulting caused the output of Selby. The surveyors knew, the Guardian knows, the Independent knows, and even the local MP knew. But the president of management does not have a clue. Want to know why UK PLC is more than £1 trillion in debt? Well now you all know – out of touch and clueless management.

        Oh, and here is the local MP for Selby, speaking in the Houses of Parliament:
        Quote:
        However, in the face of increasing geological disturbances, some reserves had to be discounted and production began to tail off in the mid-1990s. Whitemoor and North Selby mines merged with their close neighbours Stillingfleet and Riccall to concentrate mining activities in areas with more favourable geology and fewer uncertainties.

        http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/westminster_hall/2002/apr/16/selby-coalfield

        And I suppose you will accuse John Grogan MP of lying too. Yeah, everyone is wrong, except Richard ourtney.

        Ralph

      • Troll posting as Silver ralf, and ralf ellis, and etc.

        Your flagrant attacks on anybody who opposes your ridiculous belief in ‘peak fossil fuel’ are an indication of a mental disorder.

        You know nothing, and you understand less than nothing.

        For the record, I was never a “pen pusher” during my coal industry employment when I was based at the Coal Research Establishment. I was the Senior Materials Scientist. And pen pushers don’t get Inventor’s Awards.

        For some time after the UK coal industry was shut for political reasons I became the Contributing Technical Editor of CoalTrans International but I then used a keyboard not a pen.

        Richard

      • You know nothing, and you understand less than nothing.
        _______________________________

        I gave you cast-iron evidence of serious faulting problems from a geological survey, and evidence from Parliament, and you have not answered even one of the many points they made.

        You said faulting would be discovered prior to the project, and yet the geologist’s report clearly stated that they were not discovered and also explained why they were not discovered, and again you fail to answer these points.

        Really, Richard you are so full of shiite, it is untrue. If you are typical of colliery manmanagement, I am not surprised the entire industry went down the tubes. With you and Scargil in charge, it did not stand a chance. And the sad thing is, you took a hundred thoudand workers down with you. And did you ever apologise for your failings? No, I bet you put up a brick wall and denied everything, just like you do here, and blamed everyone else. You have lived a sad and pointless existence, by the sounds of if.

        R

      • Silver ralph: “You know nothing, and you understand less than nothing.”

        Dear oh dear.

        What a spectacularly sad, entirely ignorant little troll you are.

        ” You have lived a sad and pointless existence, by the sounds of if.”

        Heh!

        Methinks you are THE leading expert on sad and pointless existence.

    • We need to build one of these in a remote location and run it for twenty years. By that time we’ll know if the corrosion can be safely managed.

      • dbstealey

        You suggest

        Better yet, build twenty or thirty. Give it a real test. Fix any unforseen problems. Then… profit!!

        Novelty risk provides good reason to do that but – at the same time – makes it almost impossible to obtain commercial finance for any such demonstration projects.

        I explain as follows.

        A power station requires capital for its construction. Its owners need to to take out a loan for that capital so they obtain large debt.

        The power station needs to operate for a minimum of 30 years. Over the first 15 years of the power station’s operational life the power sold from the power station provides income to its owners who use that income to repay off the capital loan. After that the power station provides real profits to its owners.

        There is a possibility that a power station using a novel technology may hit an unforeseen snag so not operate for 15 years and, therefore, not pay off its capital loan. This is the novelty risk. The loaners of the capital insure against this risk by applying a high interest rate for their loan. And the high interest rate makes the power station’s output expensive so it is not competitive with output from conventional power stations. Hence, novelty risk prevents adoption of the novel technology.

        The only possible solution is for a government to underwrite the novelty risk. This is often done for e.g. new aircraft. Indeed, it is the excuse governments use to subsidise wind and solar power supposedly as power sources. But governments don’t underwrite novelty risk for power stations.

        Richard

      • richardcourtney,

        OK Richard, you made a convincing point. There are some situations where a subsidy may be necessary. So I’ll amend, and say that in almost all cases government should not subsidize commercial activity.

        Important products such as aircraft, fossil fuels, railroads, and other things that turned out to be a great benefit to society began without a government subsidy. And at first, government subsidies were restricted to things that really paid off, like the Indian rail system.

        But now subsidies are completely out of hand, at least in the U.S. There is no legitimate reason why Elon Musk should have his electric cars subsidized. If he builds a good product that the public desires, he will be successful.

        As I’ve posted before:

        1. Government is force


        2. Good ideas do not have to be forced on others


        3. Bad ideas should not be forced on others

        
4. Liberty is necessary for the difference between good ideas and bad ideas to be revealed

      • The only possible solution is for a government to underwrite the novelty risk.
        _________________________

        Richard’s Communist credentials come to the fore once again. “Yes, we can make a profit, if the government pays 90% of our expenses”. Heck, even a five year-old can run a company on that basis.

        And your comparison is not valid, because modern aircraft development is expensive, but not a venture into a technological unknown. Unless, of course, you are talking about R-101, the Brabazon or Concorde, where there was lots of risk. But these were gold-plated government projects, which all failed either technically or economically – like all government projects do.

        R

      • @dbstealey,

        This would be a subsidy, but limited in scope and duration. Government would provide a budget to build and operate one unit of specified capacity, for a definite time, then decommission. No blanket subsidies to build unlimited nuke plants / wind turbines / photovoltaic / battery cars ad infinitum. Current data on operating costs and capital, plant performance, maintenance costs and history, would be made available to industry. Fuel reprocessing would have to be included as required to make for an independent operation. Then, if its uneconomical it dies. Or sooner, if the numbers don’t add up after the preliminary design stage. We can do this.

      • dbstealey

        Thankyou for your considered response. I strongly agree that government subsidies are way, way out of control.

        The underwriting of novelty risk would be an investment to assist future infrastructure. In principle, it is akin to government providing roads: not all new roads are toll roads. And I agree with pochas: underwriting the novelty risk would be a temporary subsidy for a specified demonstration.

        Please note that if the demonstration plant works as intended then the subsidy for underwriting novelty risk need cost nothing : the underwriting is a government assurance that government will meet costs in the event of the novelty providing unanticipated failure of the plant. This is very different to e.g. the payments made to operators of wind-powered subsidy farms.

        Richard

        PS
        The contemptible idiocy from the troll who posts as Silver ralph, and ralfellis, and etc. only warrants ridicule, and I cannot be bothered to respond to his dogging of me this time: I merely feel pity that he is not getting the needed medical treatment for his obvious mental problems.

  15. The average electricity consumption for a home is less than 30kWh/day (2013 data). There are about 6 equivalent hours of usable solar energy in a day, thus a 5kWh solar system will produce enough energy to cover that use. The best residential panels produce 345 watts in 17.37 sq ft, so you only need 260.5 sq ft of panels to meet the needs of a typical house (grid tied). Add some for conversion losses, subtract some for switching from incandescent to LED lighting, more efficient appliances, and more efficient structures, subtract some more as solar panels will continue to get more efficient and subtract another 30+% if you mount them on a tracker.. The cheapest solar panels are about $0.75 per watt. Add some costs for racking, inverters, and installation. And prices are continuing to drop. A couple hundred square feet on your roof to generate all the power you use….

    (People can learn to time-shift their (smart) appliance use from night to day, and if necessary add a battery to cover night time power requirements or the grid can provide that function.)

    • Ok, so let me get this straight:
      So 6 hrs solar/day (at 100% available) will require only 260.5 sf panels on my roof (what about snow load?). What if there’s a fire underneath these roof panels and the first responders have to deal with live electrical circuits?

      But anyway, I have to convert to LED lighting, also buy new appliances, build a new more efficient house and bingo, I’m done!!

      Oh wait, I have to also add battery backup and maybe all this stuff will get so much more efficient in the coming years that it will actually work.

      Are U Friking nutz?

    • The best residential panels produce 345 watts in 17.37 sq ft, so you only need 260.5 sq ft of panels to meet the needs of a typical house (grid tied).
      ___________________________________

      Unicorn engineering, with added fairydust.

      Yeah, but I only want 15kwh in the summer, and 60 kwh in the winter. But in the winter I only get 6 hours of a a vague immitation of daylight hiding behind 20,000 foot of cloud. So my demand is 60kwh and my supply is 5kwh. And so my family ffffreeze. And even if I could generate 60 kwh, with a vast array covering most of the neighbourhood, I will need to store 40kwh of that for the dark bits of the day. And If a car battery contains 1kwh, then I also need 40 batteries in the garage.

      And since I traded my car for a Tesla, and I cannot keep the car warm in the garage anymore, let alone charge it, and so I cannot get to work. And the result is that I have lost my job, and need to sell all the solar panels and the Tesla to pay the mortgage. And lo, I have just become another Green Pauper. (Unless I can get everyone else on the planet to pay for my fairydust follies, like the Greens normally do).

      This is far fetched, you say? Not at all. A physicist colleage ripped out his gas central heating and replaced it with liquid solar panels. Great idea – and he even got a subsidy. But after two winters without heating, his wife left him. So that little deal cost him his family, his house (which has had gas reinstalled, 70% of all his assets, and 25% of all his income for the next 15years. As Greenie blunders go, that one is right up there with the best of them…..

      R

    • Why do you use the moniker “Mark and two Cats” and not “Two Cats and Mark?”

      • The cats tried to get top billing, but then got into a fight over which one got listed first. Then Mark distracted them with treats.

      • I see schitzree has cats.

        My wife Barbara and I do too, four of them. Treats are supposed to control cats. But as we know, cats use treats to control humans.

    • 235U is the more formal notation for the nuclide, with the “235” in superscript. The even more formal notation has “92” proceeding the “U” as well in subscript.

    • U235 follows English conversational use, e.g. “Uranium Two Thirty Five” as when spoken aloud. Proper textual nomenclature is U^235, so if you can’t create a superscript, then “U235” makes sense, both in a general essay and conversations.

      235U I have seen, but I usually see from documents in/translated from other languages. I have always linked it to their conversational style – but that is, of course an uninformed assumption that follows from my experience in the bastard language – English.

  16. “(People can learn to time-shift their (smart) appliance use from night to day, and if necessary add a battery to cover night time power requirements or the grid can provide that function.)”

    What a great idea – who is going to arrange shipment and installation of enough of these units to help folks out in Nepal and Haiti? And how are they going to pay for it all? They don’t need help in 10 or 20 years time, they need it now.

  17. While I’m all for thorium reactors, anytime I hear someone mention either thorium or hemp, I want to scream. You would think these two materials have magic properties, considering the cult following that each has garnered. Thorium reactors have some nice properties, and they have some not-so-nice properties as well.

      • Works at doing what exactly? I agree with Zombie, there is nothing that hemp/cannabis/pot/snake oil can’t do. So what exactly can it do, and what are sources?

      • Hemp is great fiber material for clothing, bags, and so forth.

        Cannabis is a mild to moderate analgesic, a mile sedative/relaxant, and has some possible blood pressure lowering effects that needs more study.

        Pot is the plant-source of cannabis that is generally smoked to get the desired effect.

        Snake oil is no joke, however. Millions of snakes are crushed for their oils every year, and it makes mother Gaia cry, you heartless monster. (in case you were wondering, this one was a joke).

      • ● Hemp produces the best biofuel.
        ● Hemp fibers are extremely strong & durable; used in a variety of applications.
        ● Hemp seeds are a high-protein food source.
        ● Marijuana is a proven medicine with anti-cancer properties.

        The Royal Society, the European Commission and the UK government have all managed, in the last few days, to take the wind out of the sails of the biofuel industry, […]

        What struck me as astonishing about these reports is that they all managed to ignore the one crop which has been successfully used for many years to create bioethanol and biodiesel, is environmentally friendlier to produce than sugar beet, palm oil, corn or any of the crops mentioned in the report and can grow in practically any temperate to hot climate leaving the ground in better condition than when it was planted.

        That plant is hemp.

        http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2008/jan/28/whyishempoffthebiofuelme

        Hemp seeds are notable as a high-protein food source, providing 73% of the Daily Value (DV) in a 100 g serving.[7] Hempseed amino acid profile is comparable to other sources of protein such as meat, milk, eggs and soy.[8] Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score values (PDCAAS), which measure the degree to which a food for humans is a “complete protein”, were 0.49-0.53 for whole hemp seed, 0.46-0.51 for hemp seed meal, and 0.63-0.66 for dehulled hemp seed.[9]

        Hemp seeds also are a rich source of the dietary minerals, magnesium (160% DV), zinc (77% DV) and iron (53% DV), and a good source of dietary fiber (13% DV).[7]

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

        As I say, hemp works.

      • Marijuana has anti-cancer properties.

        This fact has been known since at least the 1970s


        The ominous part is that this isn’t the first time scientists have discovered that THC shrinks tumors. In 1974 researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice — lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia.

        The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research, according to Jack Herer, who reports on the events in his book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” In 1976 President Gerald Ford put an end to all public cannabis research and granted exclusive research rights to major pharmaceutical companies, who set out — unsuccessfully — to develop synthetic forms of THC that would deliver all the medical benefits without the “high.”

        More recent news on the cancer-fighting properties of marijuana:


        The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a research institution run by the federal government, has grudgingly admitted that marijuana is capable of killing certain cancer cells.

        A publication from NIDA, revised as of April 2015, states that “recent animal studies have shown that marijuana can kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others. Evidence from one animal study suggests that extracts from whole-plant marijuana can shrink one of the most serious types of brain tumors. Research in mice showed that these extracts, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation.”

        http://dailycaller.com/2015/04/02/did-the-federal-government-just-admit-that-marijuana-can-shrink-serious-brain-tumors/


        THC, the major active component of marijuana, has anti-cancer properties. This compound is known to act through a specific family of cell receptors called cannabinoid receptors,” says Dr. Peter McCormick, from UEA’s School of Pharmacy.

        http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279571.php

        Many birds love hemp seeds.

        On one plant, very useful fibers, seeds, leaves, and flowering tops.

        .

    • “Here man, take this”
      “Uh, OK.”
      “Oh, hey man, don’t take that.”
      “What? I already took it.”
      “OH WOW MAN…”

    • Marijuana much safer than alcohol for drivers:

      Overall, statistics, when adjusted for factors such as age, race and gender, suggest there’s little difference between driving stoned or sober when it comes to the risk of having a wreck, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims.
      […]
      While there isn’t any statistically significant increase in the risk of a crash associated with marijuana use prior to driving, alcohol use resulting in a blood alcohol level of 0.05 or above will increase the risk of a crash seven-fold, according to the study.

      http://www.techtimes.com/articles/32956/20150216/stoned-drivers-are-safer-than-drunk-drivers-nhtsa-study-suggests.htm

      Previous studies have shown stoned drivers to be overly cautious, with some extra lateral correction, where drunks are infused with a sense of reckless bravado that often has tragic consequences.

      • Steve, I am sure you are correct. But one will still get you locked up, even if you are not driving. OK, not everywhere anymore, but in some places.
        I just think it saps motivation and makes people too happy to sit around and do nothing with their lives.

        On the plus side, the jokes seem to be funnier:
        “The light was yellow, ossifer”.

  18. I have two major problems with Mr. Archibald’s post.

    First, he says ‘we’ over a dozen times. WE will all be dead way before any of his doom occurs. Therefore, WE need to do NOTHING.

    Secondly, I have ragged on the Thorium Dreamers enough on these pages, I’m not going to do it again now. I will simply say that producing uranium from thorium is a grossly expensive way to get uranium. It is not a marketable process. Hundreds of years from now, in a ‘peak uranium’ environment, it could be viable. It will not be in our lifetimes.

    • We respect to the overuse of the word “we”, I am sorry that it has upset your delicate sensibilities but I have an excuse. A month ago I met a federal parliamentarian who volunteered that society needs to make a long term transition from coal to nuclear. I decided to help him by writing a draft speech with plenty of the vision thing. He didn’t use it so the speech got recycled into this article with certain words surviving as an artifact of its provenance.

    • When 5000+ tons of Thorium is tossed away into Rare Earth Proceesing tailing ponds yearly, it is very low cost, add to the fact that MSRs are by design 200 times more efficient than PWRs considering fuel burn and thermal transfer, cost of making U-233 through transmutation is least cost option for nuclear energy. That is why Dr. edward Teller is his last paper before his death focused upon the advanced MSR in 1994.

  19. In the 21st century energy will come from…

    3rd place – Conventional Nuclear
    2nd place – Gas
    1st place – King Coal

  20. Thorium molten salt fission is one nuclear possibility. Prototypes have been built and run for a few years. But there are others. Travelling wave reactors–TerraPower, backed by Bill Gates, being just one fission example. Much more speculative, high Beta Fusion (Lockheed Skunkworks claims). Most speculative, LENR based on the weak rather than strong force as positd by Widom Larsen. The phenomenon is almost certainly real, and ot cold fusion. But whether it can be harnessed commercially is completely unknown.
    In the absence of a climate crisis, we could divert billions from climate science to sorting out properly the best nuclear options, then proceed on them when ripe. One of thr many distortions introduced by CAGW and radical Greens.

    • “Thorium molten salt fission is one nuclear possibility. Prototypes have been built and run for a few years.”

      Got a reference for that assertion? I didn’t think so.

      • Yes I do and therefore you are obviously ignorant of the following fact. Oak Ridge National Laboratories ran a Molten Salt Reactor for 5 years. “The salt was loaded in 1964 and nuclear operation ended in December 1969 and all the objectives of the experiment were achieved during this period”.[1] There are others, but I will leave that as homework for you.

        Let me put it to you bluntly, Gamecock, Thorium reactors have been built, are being built and will be built.[2]

        Which leads me to the following prediction. Thorium reactors will be the main stay of energy for thousands of years into the future[3] and for Uranium[4], whether you like it or not.

        Hay, don’t take my word for it, look it up yourself.

        Regards
        Climate Heretic
        PS You must be a Troll or a Watermelon

        [1] Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment
        [2]Thorium
        [3] How long will our supplies of uranium and thorium last?
        [4] Breeder Reactors: A renewable energy resource

      • Climate Heretic May 17, 2015 at 4:06 am

        Except that the MSRE did not demonstrate full thorium breeding cycle, and only ran at full power, if that’s what 7 MW* is, for less than two years.


        The MSRE was a 7.4 MWth test reactor simulating the neutronic “kernel” of a type of inherently safer epithermal thorium breeder reactor called the liquid fluoride thorium reactor. It primarily used two fuels: first uranium-235 and later uranium-233. The latter 233UF4 was the result of breeding from thorium in other reactors. Since this was an engineering test, the large, expensive breeding blanket of thorium salt was omitted in favor of neutron measurements.

        […]it operated as hot as 650 °C and operated for the equivalent of about 1.5 years of full power operation.

        The result promised to be a simple, reliable reactor. The purpose of the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment was to demonstrate that some key features ofthe proposed molten-salt power reactors could be embodied in a practical reactor that could be operated safely and reliably and be maintained without excessive difficulty. For simplicity, it was to be a fairly small, one-fluid (i.e. non-breeding) reactor operating at 10 MWth or less, with heat rejection to the air via a secondary (fuel-free) salt.

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

        * Reference to 7 MW:

        The Taichung power plant in Taiwan is the largest coal-fired power station, at 5,780 MW.

        The Surgut-2 Power Station in Russia is the world’s largest natural gas power station at 5,600 MW and the 19th largest plant in the world.

        In Japan, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant is the world’s largest nuclear power plant at 8,212 MW. It is also the fifth largest power plant in the world.

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2013/08/26/worlds-39-largest-electric-power-plants/

      • Climate Heretic –

        Yes, Thorium wil power the world for thousands of years – no matter HOW much more industrialization occurs. Once the reactors are online, others will follow.

        The last time thorium came up on WUWT, someone commented that Thorium reserves weren’t infinite. I took the thorium % in the crust and figured out how much the Thorium on Earth would last. It came out to about 14 billion years. Since that is pretty much the time from the Big Bang until now, I thought that that was close enough to infinity for all practical purposes. At 3 generations per century, 30 per millennium, that comes out to about 420 million generations of humans.

        And if we last beyond 14 billion years, we can always use what is on the Moon for a few more billion years.

        Are these numbers real? I just took the numbers that others provide for how much Thorium exists. Maybe we can’t access all of it in the crust. Maybe only 10% of it. That should be pretty conservative. I’d think I’d still go with 1.4 billion years as pretty freaking long.

  21. The Chinese, at a very senior level, are investing heavily in taking the shelved Oak Ridge design as the starting point for a thorium reactor. There are some interesting challenges, though.

    • Lord Chris,

      I am an ex-nuclear engineer. CANDU

      Aside from the corrosion issues inherent with salt and metal tubes, what is the downside the Chinese are witnessing?

    • I’d be more inclined to follow INEL’s Integral Fast Reactor (IFR)design which was demo’ed with the EBR-II. This would be able to make use of the spent LWR fuel (albeit reprocessed) for initial core load. The thorium reactors would either need a serious program to produce 233U from current LWR’s or start with 20% enriched uranium.

      Both the MSR and IFR designs would have the problem of dealing with volatile fissions products that are currently left in the fuel with current LWR designs. The IFR at least would keep the metallic fissions products in the fuel.

      • One good thing that Obama did was to stop Yucca Mountain so the US still has 72,000 tonnes of spent fuel rods sitting around in dry cask storage. From memory, those fuel rods contain 660 tonnes of fuel-grade plutonium. Thorium reactors need 1 kg of fissile startup fuel per MWe of capacity. So those fuel rods are good for the first 2,600 reactors of 250 MWe each. The doubling time on thorium reactors may mean that enough U233 is generated for the complete build out.

      • David,

        My recollection was that the dry casks to be stored in Yucca Mountain were supposed to be retrievable.

        The IFR can breed with the 239Pu/238U cycle as well as the 233U/232Th cycle, whereas the MSR needs to use 233U/232Th due to the relatively high non-fission thermal neutron absorption cross section. The IFR can make use of the decay heat from metallic fission products, being a fast reactor the breeding is affected as much by the neutron poisons present in fission products. In addition, the EBR-II ran for longer and at higher power than the MSR at ORNL. One disadvantage of the IFR is dealing with the material damage from the high fast neutron flux (which would be far worse in a D-T fusion reactor).

      • I dunno about the reactors or the 747s, but they do seem to know how to build towering skyscrapers, which must be seen at least informally as a sign of wealth.

        Chinese city Tianjin near Beijing has under construction 3 towers which will stand 597 m, 530 m, and 488 m respectively, with another proposed at 588 m. Suzhou, Wuhan, and Shenzhen all have 600 m or taller skyscrapers under construction, all rivaling or exceeding the world’s current 2nd tallest building in Shanghai, 632 m.

        16 of the 25 tallest buildings under construction worldwide are in China

        Contrast with 1 WTC at 546 (with spire), or the Willis Tower at 527, also with spires.

        Noted in case anybody was wondering what the Chinese are doing with all that $$$. Meanwhile, they can buy good airplanes from the United States, Russia and several other nations who will happily sell their wares to anybody with $$$.

      • Tom Trevor

        You are implying that the US has not built a thorium powered power generation industry because it is hard to do. Making a product as large and complex as a 777 or 747 cheaply does not make Thorium impossible. The US chose to make fast breeders. That was a policy decision in part to keep the cost of the fuel and plants and waste management high.

        The Chinese or Indians don’t need to build everything. There are two forces working against Thorium power: fanatical resistance from the anti-nuke industry and entrenched investments in expensive alternatives. India and China and Russia and South Africa are not bound by either of those limitations. Why should they be? They are quite capable of making complex things when they want to. Examples are the Russian heavy lifters for space flight, the Rooivalk helicopter, the Silkworm missile and the Mars satellite by India. It would not surprise me if all four were running Indian software.

      • Steve P –

        It’s not just skyscrapers, dude. The Chinese also lead the world in high-speed rail miles, and they haven’t stopped building them. How many miles of high-speed rail does the USA have? ZERO.

        Do not discount how much work and design go into skyscrapers, either.

        While we sit and blow a little bit of hot air, at a non-official level like this blog, the Chinese officials have committed all sorts of resources at thorium reactors. India, too.

        Basically, we in the USA are blowing it out our rectal orifices while others are puttig scientists and engineers on this.

        WHY? Because they see that the principle proved itself 50 years ago, and that it is a matter of engineering it now, and that is what they intended to do more than five years ago.

        NO matter WHAT naysayers here blow out their bums, this is happening, people. WE in the USA are not and WILL not be part of the process – except as customers. Someday in about 10-15-20 years our cities will be buying LFTRs from China or India.

        I learned a lot a couple of years ago reading on how much effort it was eearly in the Industrial Revolution to transport ores and coal. Early on people were building canals in indiustrial Europe and the very young USA. Lots of people went bankrput in the process, and then the canals became obsolete very quickly with the advent of trains. And many people went bankrupt with THOSE, too. And then trains only really lasted maybe 130 years or so before interstates and trucking took over most of industrial transportation – and airlines took over passenger transportation.

        In all of that, the main beneficiaries were the people of the countries with canals and rail systems, and they still are.

        Some of the people working on thorium are going to go belly up, but the people of the countries which have LFTRs will again be the beneficiaries.

        * * *
        Someone paraphrased Kirk Sorenson above, the Indians are now committing themselves to LFTRs instead of trying to run conventional reactors with thorium – and that they are sorry that they had not decided this earlier in their program.

        I always thought that trying to stuff thorium solids into some bastard form of present technology was a really stupid idea. It seems the Indians see the light.

  22. Dang, thought I could post just the BS Meter itself. Sorry! Remove.

    But, the whole exercise deserves the BS Meter.

    Any “forecast” going out over 30 years, even 10 to 20 is PURE BS! And worthless.

    Max

      • Probably true, but it is a solution looking for a problem, in our case. It’s fine for a place that has large thorium reserves but little Uranium (like India) but we have enough uranium to last for centuries.

      • True Db, but my understanding is that the storage of conventional nuclear processing is a huge issue, and my understanding is this solves that, both eliminating over 90 percent of the waste, and leaving a product with a greatly reduced 300 year 1/2 life. As mentioned, freed resources from the green nightmare, and natural economics would likely sort this out fine, with all resources working in a natural harmony.

        Once energy was reliable and abundant, then the energy to produce coal to liquid would also be abundant. We will run out of energy, when we run out of planet.

    • The entire universe, and earth included, is literally awash in energy.
      That, IMO, is the long and the short of it.
      The rest is all details.
      Choose which stream to dip a toe into.

    • Actually, the percentage of extracted energy of light water reactors is about 0.7%, not “about 5%”.

      Thorium extracts 99.3%, with less than 1% waste products – of which a good percentage is radioactive materials that are useful in medical applications. Sorry that it is late right now and that I don’t feel like looking up exactly which ones.

      Also, the reason all of that waste is waste is because we do NOT have the means to make use of the over 99% wasted uranium 235.

  23. According to Mendeleeve, it is hydrocarbons, not fossil fuel.

    Check his table for an example of his thinking.

    Since ~1857, everyone who has predicted a hydrocarbon shortage has
    been wrong. (Check Julian Simon for a list)

    Big oil, oil states, regulators, and greenies have all conspired to try to make us believe that
    hydrocarbons are rarer and more expensive than they actually are, albeit mostly in an
    unspoken way.

    Carter getting rid of our breeder reactors, while the world in general did not, made us much less competitive. Nuclear in whatever form the market decides, is the answer for electricity.

    Portable fuel will be hydrocarbons.

  24. There are a number of particularly Russian scientists who believe that our so called ‘fossil’ fuels are actually abiotic and produced by processes around the earths outer molten core. The stuff near the surface is a result of them breaking out through fissures created in the earths crust.

    The moon Titan demonstrates how these processes can be created.

    My gut feel says that this makes a lot more sense than ‘fossil’ fuel which needs a lot of belief in some shifty theories.

    • Titus, the abiotic theory for liquid hydrocarbon fuels (there are methane hydrate examples for abiotic gas) has been disproved so many times that it turns you into a reverse denier. Please study up. No global warming. No abiotic petroleum. On all the observational evidence for both.

      • Is the methane on Uranus biotic? The other trace hydrocarbons? There are no abiotic hydrocarbons in the solar system? Well, glad that is settled.

      • sturgishooper says:

        Abiotic hydrocarbons abound in the universe. The question is the source of all or most hydrocarbon deposits on earth.

        Repeated for effect. The answer is clear to most thinking readers.

      • dbstealey May 17, 2015 at 1:33 am
        sturgishooper says:
        Abiotic hydrocarbons abound in the universe. The question is the source of all or most hydrocarbon deposits on earth.

        Repeated for effect. The answer is clear to most thinking readers.

        Clear for coal, sure. Less clear for oil. Not at all clear for natural gas. Or am I not thinking?

        /Mr Lynn

      • DB,

        It’s not just methane. Complex hydrocarbon compounds are also abundant, to include chain molecules, like the PAHs, which contain perhaps 20% of all the carbon in the universe. They formed as soon as the first generation of stars made the first carbon billions of years ago.

      • sturgishooper,

        I agree, but there are some interesting questions. Methane seas are found on Titan. Are methane seas found anywhere else in the Solar System?

        If not, why on Titan?

        [BTW, I was just answering L.E. Joiner’s comment: “Clear for coal, sure. Less clear for oil. Not at all clear for natural gas.”]

      • DB,

        I know, but mentioned PAHs because not everyone is aware how common hydrocarbons are in outer space, to include interstellar space.

        I know of methane lakes on no other body in the solar system, but I’m not a geo-astronomer but a humble, down to earth, terrestrial geologist. Among moons, Titan is unusual for its size and atmosphere. It’s also obviously cold enough for liquid methane to form.

      • dbstealey May 17, 2015 at 8:06 am
        Mr. Lynn,

        There are methane seas on Titan. . .

        I know that. What Sturgis said was:

        The question is the source of all or most hydrocarbon deposits on earth.

        “On Earth.” On Earth, as I said, “Clear for coal, sure. Less clear for oil. Not at all clear for natural gas.” My guess is that natural gas and maybe much petroleum are abiotic in origin. Your “thinking” response was cryptic.

        /Mr Lynn

      • L.E. Joiner,

        My apologies if I misread your comment. I thought you were saying @6:17 that it’s not clear that methane is abiotic.

      • As I suggested, Titan is large and has a thick atmosphere but is still very cold. It has a solid surface (rock hard water ice). Like many other bodies, it has a lot of hydrocarbons. The rocky inner planets either have tenuous atmospheres, are too hot or lacking in surface and atmospheric hydrocarbons, the hydrogen in their atmospheres having long ago faded away into space.

        The solid cores of the gas and ice giants are not well known, if at all.

        The other, smaller icy moons generally lack substantial atmospheres.

      • How do you ‘disprove’ the idea that oil and natural gas are abiotic? The Russians, who seem to care about such things, worked out the step by step energy path needed to turn rocks and water into oil under heat and pressure. It is nowhere as deep as the outer core. It is the outer mantle – 100 km down for light oil. 30 for natural gas.

        Then they built the equipment to demonstrate it. That alone proves it is possible and provides the theoretical work needed to explain it.

        Our methane seas are frozen in clathrates on the bottom of the water seas.

      • In fact, PAHs may well have catalyzed the formation of RNA, so biotic hydrocarbons might owe their existence to abiotic hydrocarbons.
        ____________________________________

        Hmm, perhaps all those thick coal seams, containing fossil fern leaves and fossil insects, were also created abiotically. It all makes sense now. When magma gasses cool, they form themselves into fern leaves. Simples.

      • I am not sure it is disproven (abiotic origin) as not proved.
        Some theories of solar system formation are rather detailed as to temperature of certain zones, driving out volatiles, etc.
        But how much of the original volatiles in the proto-disc would have had to remain in the mix for earth to have a very large amount of organics below the crust?
        I think the answer is clearly…not much. One would have to thing, seemingly, that nearly every trace of organic volatiles were driven out of the interior of the earth before the crust solidified.

        Am I wrong, or did much of the proof involve looking at chemical fingerprints of certain molecules in petroleum, and ascribing their origin as being only producible by life processes?

      • Silver ralph
        May 18, 2015 at 4:09 am

        It is a long way from RNA to ferns. I assume you made the leap in jest.

        Elsewhere on this blog I’ve written what I consider the source of Carboniferous and Permian coal deposits to have been, ie the “newly” (Devonian) evolved seed-bearing vegetation which was inadequately decomposed before burial due to lack of the requisite fungi, which hadn’t evolved yet.

  25. When a person states that one day we will run out of oil or gas, they are showing their utter ignorance of the economics of the free market. The world is almost literally awash in hydrocarbons. The issue is NOT one of supply but of the cost of amounts of hydrocarbons in a form suitable for the particular application.

    I don’t want to burn anything to generate the electricity that I need to run my home air conditioner when I can use clean and safe nuclear power. But as with many issues in modern society, government has intruded to regulate towards nuclear power plant design that can also produce the predicates of nuclear weapons and have mandated designs that are inherently unsafe. That is to say, are not walk-away safe. This is the mindset that leads to storing spent fuel pellets on top of the reactor so that the failure of the cooling system in an unforeseen way leads to massive release of core fuel in the atmosphere and ground water.

    I look forward to viable LFTR designs based on Lithium fuel. I also look forward to LENR power as it is being developed. But we have needs for power now and we have to deal with the issue of delivering reliable power now. So, these things take time and awareness.

    The free market is fully capable of making these decisions if the full costs of every aspect are transparent and real. But please don’t fall for this absolute nonsense that we are going to run out of oil and gas. It is simply impossible in the biosphere as large as the one we have.

    • buckwheaton says:

      The free market is fully capable of making these decisions if the full costs of every aspect are transparent and real. But please don’t fall for this absolute nonsense that we are going to run out of oil and gas. It is simply impossible in the biosphere as large as the one we have.

      Correctomundo, Señor Buckster! We will never ‘run out’. The price may rise. Even a lot. But we will never, ever, ‘run out’ of fossil fuels.

      As the cost rises, alternatives will be adopted. In econ, it’s called the principle of ‘substitution’. But the climate alarmist scaremeisters are almost universally economic illiterates, so they do not understand the idea of substituting a less expensive power source for something more expensive.

    • And nothing against David, but the idea at the end of the post that business hasn’t realized the profit potential is naive at best. This is like claiming that because the government wouldn’t fund stem cell research, a cure for cancer was pushed out 20yrs. Pharmas don’t need government funding to research something that may cure cancer. The profit potential for that cure is MORE than worth the research $$. Same with clean energy.
      The unstated motivation that drives politicians is control. You’ll never see a politician announce that something is good, and free. And you’ll never see a politician give UP control over anything in the name of the greater good, even if it’s blatantly obvious.

  26. Fig 1 just looks like one of the peak oil/gas disaster graphs that have been doing the rounds for years ow.

    Is there a citation for the graph please?

  27. the last great opportunity of the industrial age

    Nay lad, the real industrial age is just getting its second breath, having had a sip green tea, girding its loins now onwards, ensuring improvement in the well being of mankind as a whole

  28. What I want to know is when we’ll see peak baloney? Since before I was born we’ve been ‘running out of oil’ and yet for decades that peak just keeps getting higher. And I’m really getting sick of seeing graphs that show us at the top right now, and it’s all down hill from here. Guess what. In 10 years the peak oilers will still be making graphs that show we’re still just reaching the peak. And 25 years from now. And 50. Ect Ect Ect. We’ll run out of reason to drill it before we run out of oil to drill for.

    • I have an oil energy book from 1919. Technical kind. Has “running out” of oil in 50 years… or 1969….

      There is typically always 40 to 50 years of reserves since spending money to search for more is daft then. I’ve seen that duration of reserves in technical estimates from 1919 to now. It is essentially a constant.

    • What I want to know is when we’ll see peak baloney? Since before I was born we’ve been ‘running out of oil’ and yet for decades that peak just keeps getting higher.
      ________________________________

      And the 1st century Romans said the Empire will never end.
      And the 2nd century Romans said the Empire will never end.
      And the 3rd century Romans said the Empire will never end.
      And the 4th century Romans said the Empire will never end.
      And the 5th century Romans said the Empire will never end.
      And the 6th century Romans said….. Well actually they said nothing, because the Empire had already ended – along with the deaths of countless millions of people who depended upon the ‘system’ surviving.

      Do you ever think in the longer term?? Or is next week an entire epoch, in your view?

      R

      • So, the most up to date research has concluded that the trajectory of fossil fuel usage will match the trajectory of the Roman Empire?
        Maybe it will match the trajectory of China instead, or that of the Muslim population on the Earth.
        Hmm?

      • or that of the Muslim population on the Earth?
        _________________________

        Even that may crash soon, once people cotton on to what IsIam really is. Nothing is forever – not even fossil fuels.

        R

  29. David, don’t get caught in linear extrapolation of today as to what we are up against in the future – remember Malthus was worried he wouldn’t even be able to roll over in his grave because of the weight of horsepoop he would be buried under. Talk about peak anything is a collectivist notion. Technology hasn’t failed us in thousands of years, so why would it fail us now. The only thing that could cause this well honed problem solving magic to fail is the regulatory environment – that is the “limits to growth”. That and a fragile, “liberal”, self-immolating education system that could turn out dumbo engineers who scored high in PCness and didn’t take the math option. A healthy regulatory (or unregulated) environment for innovation with the age old motivation by reward doesn’t need tinkering with. Also see my earlier post on resource provenance- there is a lot more fossil fuel resources than you think:

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/05/16/thorium-the-last-great-opportunity-of-the-industrial-age/#comment-1936699

    • I am an oil explorer and I did my honours thesis on a coal mine, so I can think of a lot of fossil fuel resources. The wake up call for me was that I missed the CBM boom here ten year ago because I thought that gas was second prize. Suddenly the north Asians were paying near the oil price in energy content terms for LNG. In June 2004, and yes we know the month, the world flipped from 70 years of inherent oversupply to a permanently tightening market. Re technology saving us, I didn’t write this piece for the education or misinformation of the masses. It was written for an audience of one.

      • David Archibald

        I write to ask for a clarification. You say

        Re technology saving us, I didn’t write this piece for the education or misinformation of the masses. It was written for an audience of one.

        OK. Please say why you posted it on WUWT if it “was written for an audience of one”?

        Richard

      • No. Once they have a regulation for everything they will start regulating the regulations.

  30. “Thorium molten salt reactors, without the need for all the backup safety systems that U235 nuclear plants have, should be no more expensive to build than coal-fired plants. “

    Perhaps a Thorium molten salt reactor will need less expensive backup system, but it will still need plenty of them. The primary coolant will still need to be handled as if it was radioactive.

    If I may, I would like to urge proponents of LFTR and other Thorium based reactor designs to “zoom out” and look at the bigger issues involved. The focus isn’t the reactor, it is the Thorium fuel cycle. LFTR’s promise is a conceptually safe reactor design married to an as yet unproven, untested, continuous reprocessing of a highly radioactive working fluid from the reactor core. Think of the marriage of a metal smelter and an oil refinery in a hermetically sealed environment on the same site as the reactor.

    The muscle of LFTR requires we create LFTR kidneys to remove reactor poisons from the blood of the LFTR core. A conventional reactor can run for a thousand days before changing fuel rods. An LTFR mush have it’s core recycled every ten days.

    This reference from the Appropedia (see “Ease of Reprocessing”) has more detail.

    The “one fluid” reactor was mechanically much simpler. …. By carefully sculpting the moderator rods, and modifying the fuel reprocessing chemistry, thorium and uranium salts could coexist in a simpler, cheaper but efficient “single fluid” reactor.

    However, the reprocessing chemistry was much more complex. No simple, proven methods could separate the the nuclear ashes (fission products) from the fuels.

    It then goes on to say:
    All the salt has to be reprocessed, but only every ten days.

    A sparge of fluorine removes volatile high-valence fluorides as gas, including uranium hexafluoride containing the uranium-233 fuel as well as other isotopes of uranium; neptunium hexafluoride; technetium hexafluoride and selenium hexafluoride containing the long-lived fission products technetium-99 and selenium-79, as well as fluorides of various strongly radioactive short-lived fission products such as iodine-131, molybdenum-99, and tellurium-132. See fluoride volatility for boiling points. The volatile fluorides are condensed from the sparge fluorine, reduced back to less volatile lower-valence fluorides, and returned to the reactor.

    It goes on for several more paragraphs…. but I think you understand how I equate this as a cross between smelting and fractional distillation in an oil refinery in a sealed environment.

    It isn’t the physics that is holding back LFTR. It is the chemistry and metallurgy.

    Even when we solve the technological problem of the reprocessing, who wants a smelter or oil refinery in our back yard. So there is still a NIMBY problem with a safe reactor.

    • A good reason for writing articles like this is that it flushes out current knowledge. Appropedia also say that the volumes to be reprocessed are very small. All very encouraging.

    • The reactor itself looks very safe. The LFTR fuel reprocessing might even be much safer than conventional U-Pu reactors with LTFR having much shorter half-lives of the waste products.

      The Appropedia makes this fallacious argument:

      The amount of waste involved is about 800 kg per gigawatt-year generated …., [Note 1] so the equipment is very small. [Note 2]

      Note 1: 800 kg per gigawatt-year, 2.5 kg per gigawatt-day [ = one 10,000,000 kg coal unit train] is a impressively small amount of radioactive waste. Fantastic! — If True. I strongly suspect, however, it only counts the fission product ash from the core and does not count all the materials that come into contact with the reprocessing equipment and working fluid. An oversold claim.

      Note 2: this does not follow. — maybe only 0.01% is waste, but you are processing 10% of the core per day through fractional distillation of an intensely radioactive fluid, the equipment and safeguards will be sizeable.
      Continuous, remotely controlled, reprocessing of the core, at a rate of 10% of the core per day, of a high-gamma ray, high temperature molten-salt amalgam of Thorium, Uranium, Actinides, and a dozen other fission products is no easy feat.

      Note well that the 2-fluid core (U-233 core, Thorium blanket) is mechanically more complex, but allows for a simpler reprocessing. A 1-fluid core is the mechanically simpler design (and the one most talk about), but requires the more complex reprocessing scheme. So it is important not to confuse the differences.

      • Stephen Rasey – See some of Kirk Sorenson’s videos on what those waste products are. He lists several of them as highly DESIRABLE products, for medical applications. Sorry that I don’t have the info in front of me.

    • My favorite element is molybdenum.
      Mostly because I just like to say it…molybdenum.

    • I tend to agree with you and disagree with the original article. I’ve studied and published on fuel cycles for years. Thorium is simply NOT a game changer versus uranium. The waste from thorium/U233 is little different than the waste from uranium/Pu239 – some ways actually worse and some ways better. U233 is just as nice bomb material as Pu239. Anyone who tells you that thorium lacks nuclear proliferation concerns is on drugs or lying; there are many clear explicit peer-reviewed articles on that & i’ve done the calculations myself & the IAEA “significant quantities” on U233, U235, and Pu239 are all similar. Molten salt reactors (whether thorium/U233 or uranium/Pu239 or a hybrid) are potentially very interesting and have potential safety advantages, but the chemistry and metallurgy issues are nontrivial. And, the proliferation issues for molten salt are not as simple as some claim because current practise involves counting and tracking a limited number of fuel assemblies. I am not claiming that proliferation resistance and monitoring in a molten salt reactor is more difficult than reactors with fuel assemblies, only that its not necessarily straightforward or without issues to be resolved. As a nuclear engineer, i would be thrilled if thorium had magic answers to the challenges of uranium-based nuclear power. Sorry, but thorium is not a game changer. Molten salts might, but they aren’t just around the corner.

  31. P.S. I met Dr. Hubbert of the original “peak oil” analysis in the mid 1970s at a USGS by-invitation-only lithium conference in Denver. I asked the old fellow (as I thought of him then!) what he foresaw happening for the future with this hanging over us. He said, “Oh Heavens” no need to worry, we’ll solve that problem and be fine (I’m only quoting the Oh Heavens verbatim). No Chicken Little this guy.

  32. There is no current alternative to big diesel motors and fossil fuel based fertilisers in farming. The green movement has blinded the general population and our leaders to the realities of human sustenance.
    Our reserves of phosphoric rock are dwindling fast and modern farming systems will collapse without the P in the NPK nutrient formula.
    We are a very stupid generation!

    • The green movement has blinded the general population in so many ways…but I’m not sure they’ve “blinded” any leaders. That would assume that the leaders wanted to see clearly in the first place, and I’ve no faith at all in that particular premise. The political leaders are absolutely thrilled with being able to point at a group and say “…because they said so!”, and further tighten/exercise more controls.

    • Farmer Gez, there is lots of phosphate. There are enormous amounts in a rock known as carbonatite which is abundant in a number of countries including Canada. Some are being produced from at the present time. However there will develop a huge by-product supply from production of Rare Earth Elements (REE) for which demand in any quantity has only developed in the past decade or two, although the phosphate is discarded. These 15 metals (including Yttrium) are the source for powerful magnets for motors, generators large and small (wind turbines, too which are probably a waste of good REE but they are recoverable when WM fall down or are taken down) and for phosphors used in a number of electronic uses (mail sorting, color in TV and computer monitors, etc. etc. etc.) and as catalysts and many more applications). There are also large resources in an abundant rock called anorthosite, now attracting some interest. Where you see the mineral name ‘apatite’ (nice, it’s almost like appetite), this is calcium phosphate – the same stuff in large phosphate deposits you know about.

      http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1995/ofr-95-0831/CHAP6.pdf

      and anorthosites: Here is an anorthosite with apatite covering 20,000sq kilometres:

      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/news-sources/?mid=ccnm.20131008.201310080903043001

      Also, there are huge resources of conventional phosphate up through British Columbia and central Yukon just sitting there.

      And finally, if we go big on Thorium, phosphate is the main by-product. We have all the phosphate we need but you are right that “We are a very stupid generation.” for other reasons.

  33. Since the emergence of The Club of Rome nearly 50 years ago “peak oil” or catchphrase equivalent has been forecast for the near future. After reading Paul Zane Pilzer’s book ‘Unlimited Wealth’ in the mid 90’s, I have rejected this notion.

  34. I do hope that the work to develop a plasma model of the sun bears fruit. I suspect that one day we will have a low temp fusion reactor based on plasma. Thorium may indeed be key but I suspect the mechanism to obtain energy from the atom has yet to be developed. I think a liquid salt reactor is a good first step.

  35. Thorium is relatively safe and is less useful for producing bomb material. But unfortunately, it’s not worthwhile for the private sector to develop the technology.

    Not to worry.China has a big program to develop thorium reactors and will probably soon be building one thorium reactor per month or some such bizarre time.

    Some day the US will be able to buy Chinese thorium reactors. Maybe China will even allow US corporations to build them under licence and with a lot of luck even to use U.S. thorium.

    • In the meantime while we wait for China to become a truly advanced country they don’t really invent anything, they steal it, and they are still using 747s they buy from Boeing, because building a true airliner is still really beyond them.

      • Paper and gun powder to name two that were not stollen. Yes, stollen car making capacity buy re-using old and discarded presses etc from the West. As for airlilners, why re-invent the wheel?

      • Google “China high-speed rail miles”. Then google “USA high-speed rail miles”. NOw hold your breath waiting for when USA mile ONE is actually built. And by high-speed don’t be talking about 75 miles per hour…

    • Liquid fuels are still the best for most transportation and most likely will not change for a long time unless government forces it or a battery 10 times better then what we have now is developed.

      Nuclear energy can be used is cheap enough, which it can be, to make liquid fuels using many different feed stocks. They key here is the energy being used must be cheap as the efficiency of these processes is not that high.

    • Technology for electrifying railroads has been in existence for over 100 years. Urban electric delivery trucks were also common 100 years ago. Electric long distance over the road travel is still not here yet, though fuel cells may be “somewhat” workable.

      LiS batteries appear to have enough energy density to make short range electric air travel possible, though I wouldn’t bet on it becoming economically viable. Long distance air travel will always need some sort of hydrocarbon fuel.

      • Electric cars are here and growing. Tesla (a bit pricey) but it will go up to 500km on a full charge. Also the price includes free charging at an exanding network of Tesla quick charge stations. In North America, hotels are already putting chargers in their garages for guests. As soon as one chain put them in, the others had to follow suit or lose business. The amperage is low but it will charge you over night. Now restaurants are installing low amperage stations. You may only get 20km out of your stop for a sandwich and a bowl of soup, but what the heck. Shopping centres are getting them, too.

        http://www.plugshare.com/

        http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger (these babies charge you in ~20minutes.

    • Nick:
      “How are you going to electrify the transportation sector?”

      Electric trains.

    • That is a good question, Nick. Once thorium LFTRs are online, electricity will be so much cheaper than gasoline that the internal combustion engine will be under serious threat of extinction. YES, there are BIG problems yet with cars and batteries, but the latest development from TESLA Motors bodes well in regards to batteries (if they aren’t blowing it out their bums). Also graphene terminals have shown great potential for super-fast charging of batteries. That’s not a done deal yet, but look for it in the not-so-distant future. Charging stations will be built when economics and market forces requires them – and will become commonplace. MUCH charging will be done at home, I am thinking. I also think that swap-out batteries might be doable, if cars can be designed for quick switch-overs with some modular system.

      So, maybe cars all go electric within 50 years or so. And if cars do, so do trucks. Don’t forget that trains dominated transportation for a long time, and look at where we are now. With driverless cars arriving on the scene even as we speak, we may even see powered roadways 100 years from now – maybe much sooner, but I doubt it.

      It will all be driven by pricing and market forces. Tech is holding up the whole thing right now, but it won’t be for long. This is not solar power and this is not 1970.

      Do not expect today’s technological limitations to exist forever. Human ingenuity isn’t restricted to just “Yankee ingenuity.” There are LOTS of countries now with very smart and motivated inventors and scientists.

      Airliners are going to be a big problem, because you can’t go from electric to jet thrust. Short flights might revert to prop-driven. Long flights may always be with jet fuel (kerosene). But one or both may be replaced by high-speed rail to a large extent.

      I CAN see thorium used in space vehicles. With ion drives a thorium FTR is just what the doctor ordered – a fairly light nuclear reactor to provide an abundance of energy for ionization. The amount of thorium fuel on board would NOT be much, and would give a lot of ROI in terms of energy output.

  36. Both Thorium and Uranium are good nuclear fuels.

    Thorium may be best used in a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor because it can be made small but other reactors maybe just as good as well.

    Uranium and nuclear waste can be burned in Fast Neutron Reactor which will have almost zero waste and that waste is only hazardous for 500 years.

    http://www.nationalcenter.org/NuclearFastReactorsSA1205.pdf

    Nuclear fuel is effectively inexhaustible and should be treated as a renewable energy source.

    http://www.mcgill.ca/files/gec3/NuclearFissionFuelisInexhaustibleIEEE.pdf

    Nuclear energy has already proved itself to the safest and greenest for all energy sources and requires the smallest environmental foot print.

    • As far as my memory serves, Thorium is fertile, and thus not fissile. To become fissile, and useable in a reactor, it needs one neutron.

      This reminds me of the nuclear boms tests in the 1960’s, Bikini atol I think, and the device was called “Mike”. Used isotopes of Lithium, specifically Lithium 6 and 7 (30% – 70% ratio). Expected yield was to be ~5 megatonnes but turned out to be ~15 or more due to a not well understood reaction where Lithium 7 was stripped of a neutron. It vapourised the site it was on and left a massive hole ~200ft deep.

      • Patrick –

        Right, fertile, but easily changed to U-233. The fluidized thorium when passed through a jacket around the core absorbs one neutron and becomes Protactinium-233, which lasts for about 29 days before converting to U-233, which becomes the basic fuel. When all they have to do is pump it around the core, you can’t get much easier than that. Compare that to the massive amounts of processing to make U-235 from U-238.

    • CNC –

      LFTRs can also burn existing waste materials, thus making them a multi-fuel reactor. And the waste is almost nil. The first time through the reactors, because of the saturation of the uranium pellets, only 0.7% of the available energy was able to be extracted. But fed into LFTRs, about 898% of the available energy can be extracted, meaning that more or less 150 times as much energy can be extracted – and, yes, leaving VERY little waste, and that short lived.

      And, yes, nuclear energy IS virtually inexhaustable. Just the thorium, if we can access only 10% of what is in the Earth’s crust, will last about a billion and a half years, by a rough calculation I made the last time this subject came up here. Even if I am off 5-fold, there is still enough to last 300 million years or so. And that doesn’t count the uranium and plutonium waste that can be burned.

  37. The big problem with oil is that, when we have extracted it all, the bearings of the Earth will seize up and the Earth will stop rotating. Then we will be doomed!

  38. First, I find it dubious we will run out of conventional fossil fuel in the age of my grandchildren, coal should provide for at least 200 years. Second, there are other unconventional NG sources – methane clathrate, “burning ice” has the potential to supply us with energy for 3000 years.

    But the real answer is that we don’t have to worry about all this, as conventional fuels slowly become scarcer the price will naturally go up until, eujtrpreneurs naturally come up with alternate solutions, from efficiency gains to solar or thoreum. It might turn out algae is out best bet, but we don’t have to worry about any of this now. Markets will naturally and invisibly create the new sources of energy for us when the time is appropriate.

    • Here in Australia, we have reserves, at current consumption levels, of at least 500 years. But there are those that simply want it left in the ground (All of that compressed solar energy gone to waste, a true biofuel) while we all fall in to the energy poverty trap.

      • Didn’t you folks take a huge step in the OTHER direction recently by booting a bunch of the idiots out of your government?
        Maybe a small step, but a step all the same.

      • Well, yes, but there is still strong opposition to the mining and fossil fuel industries in Australia as it appears many people still believe burning fossil fuels is changing climate in a bad way even though there is no eveidence for that at all outside alarmist institutions like the BoM, CSIRO, ABC and SBS. There are roumors abound Abbott may go to voters early in a federal election possibly this year. I think that is a mistake because there has been a slight swing towards Labor and The Greens.

      • Patrick –

        Hahaha – The “energy poverty trap” – I like that! Can I use it?

        The VERY FIRST IPCC document I read when I first wanted to check out global warming science for myself was a “Preamble” that I haven’t been able to find ever since. In that, they stated as their goal to reduce CO2 emissions in the world to ZERO. I’ve been an enemy of theirs ever since reading that. Such a thing is not possible, not with 7 billion people on the planet (~6.2 billion at that time). At least half a billion lost jobs, the world would starve to death. Just the energy to FEED the world is more than would ever be available from solar and wind. And if we had to burn trees, the world would look – and BE – like Haiti. And trying to fuel the world on solar/wind, burning trees? Not enough energy density, so it is a lose-lose situation. And LIVES would be lost, in vast numbers.

        As long as people repeat the (proven wrong) ideas of Ehrlich and Malthus, we will have to put up with these idiots who think that they are saving the world from humans.

  39. There is surreal.

    The green scams do not work to get below about a 15% reduction in CO2. The main issue is intermediate power sources require storage, to get below 15% reduction in CO2 emissions to produce electrical power to meet the US power needs. That is an engineering fact not a theory. See Germany who have reached the absolute limit of the green scams after spending $750 billion dollars (cost of electricity in Germany is three times that in the US.)

    Storage increases the cost of green scams by a factor of 10 to 20 and reduces efficiency by say 40%. Second non trivial issue is the amount of land required and limited locations for wind and solar. German solar and wind installations produce power at slightly less than 20% of the nameplate maximum rating of the solar and wind installations averaged over a year.

    Also non trivial issue is aviation contributes roughly 10% and agriculture 18% of the CO2/greenhouse gas emissions.

    The planet is about to abruptly cool and CO2 levels will drop as no more than 33% of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 is due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions, but what the heck, if we insist that we must reduce CO2 emission, nuclear power is the only answer. The problem is the only thing the greens hate more than CO2 is nuclear power.

    The greens also hate critical scientific/engineering analysis, so they continue to push green scams which do not work for basic engineering and economic reasons.

    Thorium nuclear reactors are a type of breeder reactor. They can consume U238 (Natural Uranium) or Thorium.

    Current light water reactors, can only consume U238 enriched with U235 (There is a limited amount of U235. U235 is used to create an atomic bomb). Current light water reactors consume roughly 1% of the fissionable energy in Uranium.

    Breeder type reactors are roughly a factor of 100 more efficient than a light water reactor. They consume almost all fissionable material and produce more U235 than they consume.

    There are many, many hundreds of millions of years of fissionable material (Natural uranium or thorium) for breeder reactors.

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

    Breeder reactors could, in principle, extract almost all of the energy contained in uranium or thorium, decreasing fuel requirements by a factor of 100 compared to widely-used once-through light water reactors, which extract less than 1% of the energy in the uranium mined from the earth.[8] The high fuel efficiency of breeder reactors could greatly reduce concerns about fuel supply or energy used in mining. Adherents claim that with seawater uranium extraction, there would be enough fuel for breeder reactors to satisfy our energy needs for 5 billion years at 1983’s total energy consumption rate, thus making nuclear energy effectively a renewable energy.[9][10]

    • 1. Not all thorium reactors need be breeder reactors.
      2. Were thorium to be only used in conventional light water reactors, it would still be a superior fuel. That’s because spent fuel would be much easier to recycle, as there will be hardly any plutonium in it, and the U-233 present is an excellent fuel source.
      3. No breeder reactor produces U-235. They all use it up. Thorium breeders produce U-233 which is the best possible fuel for a reactor using moderated neutrons. Uranium breeders produce Pu-239 (plutonium-239) which is inferior with moderated neutrons but very good with fast neutrons.
      4. Current light water reactors consume just over ½% of the fissionable energy in natural uranium.
      5. Breeder reactors are nearly 200 times more efficient than a light water burner reactors in fuel use.

  40. Angela Merkel, the Phd physicist (!), had flattened Germany’s actually working thorium reactor because she will do anything to hold on to her chair – I could never ‘forgive’ her that…

  41. Poor analysis of peak oil and worse analysis of nuclear power.

    I applaud the message, but getting the data right would have made it a better article.

  42. Of course the other thing oil supplies is plastic and similar products. When oil eventually runs out we lose a whole plethora of other products.

    • No. Look up synthesis gas. Eastman Chemical still uses coal. Dow is mostly nat gas IIRC. One can use any carbon based feed stock and at least one company uses trash. Wood works well too, and we can grow up to 50 wet tons per acre.

      Rayon is made from cellulose, as is your viscous sponge (named for the gooy celulose solution used to make it.) There are dozens of bioplastics. Oh, and bacteria can be used to make chemical feedstocks too. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acetone%E2%80%93butanol%E2%80%93ethanol_fermentation
      used during W.W.I so well understood…

  43. William Astley, lots of assertions, and I appreciate the direction, but if you have some links, that would be great! Thanks
    DA

  44. A point I have made before is that the cost of testing most of these advanced technologies (thorium, ITER, Polywell, LENR, etc) is a tiny fraction of the current expenditure on wind and solar. It works out at something like 13 days’ worth of global renewables expenditure to build a fullscale fusion reactor. A thorium reactor, considerably less. In which case, what are we waiting for?

    We only need one of these technologies to work, and we’ve both solved the energy problem and kept the climate alarmists happy.

    • So if I give you 13 days worth of global renewables expenditure, when can you deliver my working full scale fusion reactor.

      I notice you didn’t say a working reactor; just a full scale one.

      Can you give us a link to a proven design of a working full scale fusion reactor. One that will run continuously; not a bomb one.

  45. Seems a lot of others have already commented on the nonsense of “Peak Oil”, but I too would like to put in my $0.02.

    Just 8 short years ago when Obama and Biden were running for office and gasoline was 4
    $4.00+/ gallon the popular mantra from the left was that we couldn’t drill our way out of the oil shortage; there wasn’t enough available; we HAD to switch immediately to alternatives, etc. This of course perfectly coincided with Al Gore and the scare mongering about CO2 and destroying the planet. Fast forward to 2014, and the USA became the number one oil producer in the world, so much so that the Saudi’s lowered their prices to break the back of the US oil industry. Looks like they were wrong then and as many others have stated they will ALWAYS be wrong since it is merely a question of economics that limits extraction and utilization of resources like oil and gas.

    Another commonly misunderstood reality of oil extraction is the amount removed is merely a small fraction of the total amount available within the formation. In most instances even after utilizing enhanced recovery techniques, the most successful efforts result in less than 30% of the oil on the formation being extracted. Simple math means upwards of 70% of the oil is still in field we already know exist, it is merely a matter of time, technology and desire before methods are developed to extract more of the remaining oil.

    Considering we have known fields with enough recoverable oil using todays technology to supply the world with oil for the next 50 years, then it seems to me that Peak Oil is more than my grandchildren’s generation away.

    Matthew Epp

  46. A couple of points:

    1) I suspect a thorium system would cost significantly more than a conventional fossil fuel powered generator due to its containment needs (we would not want any leaks would we) and the need for continuous fuel reprocessing which is currently work in progress.

    2) The main benefit of this article are the graphs illustrating the need for a massive industrial push to get replacements of any kind, built, when oil etc reaches very high prices. Effectively one new large generator per day for the foreseeable future is some big push!

    3) Some commenters note that many mention 200 years of coal left. Should they add “if coal is used at its current rate”? Because if oil and LNG rise greatly in price, coal use will accelerate dramatically.

    4) When fossil fuels reach very high prices then windmills and air compressor, storage type systems will become economically viable!!!!

  47. Thorium was my choice before LENR was shown to work at kW levels. LENR is much cheaper, safer and totally free of pollution problems.
    A commercial 1 MW plant has been in operation about half a year with the results of the trial to be posted at the end of 2015.
    See the plant under construction last year. http://andrea-rossi.com/1mw-plant/

    LFTR progress.
    China “employing a team of 430 scientists and engineers, a number planned to rise to 750 by 2015.” Expect first commercial pant 2025. ref Economist.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ambroseevans-pritchard/100026863/china-going-for-broke-on-thorium-nuclear-power-and-good-luck-to-them/

    India also plans to have a LFTR runing in about 10 years.

    I believe the the full cycle is still illegal in the US because of a law designed to reduce risk of proliferation.

    • At this point, the claims by Rossi and his partners of a working 1 MW plant, appear to emanate from within the realms of illusion.
      Any hopes for a less than opaque revelation at year’s end from that crew are nothing but blind faith- key word- blind.

      • Oh, is that the Rossi thing? Rossi and his pigs-will-fly reactor…

        And who ever said a 1Mw reactor is commercial? That will only light 10,000 100-watt light bulbs. Or run 500 blow dryers. That is NOT commercial.

  48. “we have to leave oil before oil leaves us.”
    Quite idiotic and misanthropic slogan, like “we have to leave life before life leaves us”.
    In reality, we all strive to enjoy oil and life before they leave us, the hypocritical malthusians included.

  49. The solution to all the problems of alarmism, lack of energy innovation, bad economic policy, inflation, deflation, housing market meddling, stifling regulation, Green pseudo environmental statism, and on and on is:

    STOP VOTING LEFT! STOP VOTING FOR DEMOCRATS, LIBERALS, SOCIALISTS, PROGRESSIVES or whatever other euphemisms they come up with to hide their anti human and anti freedom ideology. Do it while you still have a vote because in many countries they do not!

    Spread the word!

  50. Fusion certainly was demonstrated in the 1950s with the hydrogen bomb and they have achieved plasma temperatures of ~2 billion C for fractions of a second. Perhaps we are thinking too small in trying to encapsulate this plasma. Maybe a hydrogen bomb at a depth of 10km underground would melt a large glass-walled “container” of molten rock that we could draw heat from for a few hundred years for electricity. It should be relatively easy to get the environmental permits!! Okay, then we can work back from there.

    • Yeah, and for 60 years now they’ve been trying to figure out how to contain a fusion reaction (not to mention sustaining the reaction) – WE ARE STILL WAITING.

      Like solar, fusion is never going to be viable.

  51. Good numbers IRT the decline in use of fertilizers and pesticides: http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/issue-5/the-return-of-nature

    “Despite predictions of runaway ecological destruction, beginning in the 1970s, Americans began to consume less and tread more lightly on the planet. Over the past several decades, through technological innovation, Americans now grow more food on less acres, eat more sources of meat that are less land-intrusive, and used water more efficiently so that water use is lower than in 1970. The result: lands that were once used for farms and logging operations are now returning as forests and grasslands, along with wildlife, such as the return of humpback whales off the shores of New York City. As Jesse Ausubel elucidates in a new essay for Breakthrough Journal, as humans depend less on nature for the well-being, the more nature they have returned.”

    • Chris –

      Wow, that article is terrific.

      As an engineer I can appreciate the numbers that Jesse Ausubel puts up. So many people have their eyes glaze over at the first chart, but those who can’t catch the drift are missing out on how much the numbers can tell us. And without the numbers, all of the main stream media pap is leading people astray. Because of very REAL reasons, nature is expanding – because humans are not needing to exploit forests and prairies as much.

      The world is NOT getting killed by humans.

      Instead, humans for altruistic and practical and selfish (profit-making) reasons are making the world MORE nature-friendly than we were 50 years ago. What was true in the past is not true in the present. And the trends all say that it will not be true in the future either.

      Nature is winning because we are. Not in spite of us, but BECAUSE of us.

      As Matt Ridley says, the world is GREENING. These numbers agree.

  52. I have a sneaking feeling that even if someone created a working, practical, room-temperature fusion reactor that runs on sea water the architects of green dissent would find a way to try to shoot it down and declare that there is still a crisis.

  53. When we truly figure out an economical power source, I’ll bet it won’t be Thorium.
    Then again, civilization probably won’t last that long.

  54. China announced last year that their first test Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) will go online this year, and their deadline for a commercially viable MSR design for large-scale rollout has been slashed from 2044 to 2023.

    If China is successful in meeting these new objectives, a second tidal wave of industrial production will flood China’s shores to take advantage of near-free and unlimited electrical power ($0.03/kWh), which will gut the remaining industrial sectors of Western economies, following the first tidal wave in the 90’s and 2000’s.

    Moreover, the waste heat after gas-turbine power generation will be used to synthesize cheap jet fuel, diesel, fertilizers, plastics and other hydrocarbons… In addition, rare radioactive isotopes removed during molten salt reprocessing will also be a revenue stream for China’s MSRs…

    China’s MSRs located near oceans will use their waste heat to desalinate sea water to address their fresh-water supply shortage problem. .

    Meanwhile, leftist Western government hacks are wasting $trillions on extremely inefficient and expensive wind and solar power plants that produce paltry amounts of energy @ $0.30/kWh, to address the “CAGW crisis” that doesn’t even exist…

    Western politicians are also wasting $billions addressing the Middle East meltdown to secure their ME oil interests, when oil may well be on its way to becoming much less important.

    The upside is that with this loss of oil revenue, Islamic terrorists will lose their funding to wage war on the infidels…

    We live in interesting times.

    • I like your list of waste heat uses. Kirk Sorenson talks about running desalination plants with the waste heat.

      Imagine desalination plants along the Saudi coastline, pumping water into their deserts boggles my mind. Imagine all the water they can manage, flowing in irrigation canals, turning the desert into agricultural oases. (Imagine green fools picketing, telling the Saudis that they are ruining the habitat of some desert rats or lizards…)

      I actually have to ask: When Arabs are farmers, will it change their culture? Or will the sheiks simply hire in gazillions of Filipinos?

      And not just Saudi Arabia. Think of all of western Australia with enough water to make their desert bloom. Or Namibia. Or even the Sahara with desalination plants all along the Mediterranean.

  55. One constant with these charts, is that they always have us running out of fossil fuels in just a few years.
    And have for the last 100.

    As we run low on fossil fuels, the price of them goes up.
    This causes three things to happen.
    1) We get more efficient in how we use fossil fuels.
    2) We explore for and develop more fossil fuels.
    3) We invent alternatives to fossil fuels.

    In other words, we don’t need grand plans to get us off fossil fuels and we certainly don’t need to start spending billions of other people’s dollars to make such plans.

  56. Thanks for a more realistic and safer energy future for man kind. The Greens are presently not able to do this due to blinders, fantasies, ignorance and ideologies.

  57. http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/160131-thorium-nuclear-reactor-trial-begins-could-provide-cleaner-safer-almost-waste-free-energy

    Thorium MOX (10% Pu blend) being tested in present reactors. BTW we have loads of Pu to burn up from weapons destruction… often used in U-MOX. (Mixed OXide fuel rods)

    http://media.cns-snc.ca/uploads/CNS-UOIT_March_2013_EFT_Bromley.pdf

    Thorium bundles used elsewhere including India.

    China and CANDU test of thoriun bundles preparatory to running an all Thorium CANDU
    http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/2012/12/28/alternative-fuels-such-as-thorium-in-existing-reactors-china-can-do/

    Using Thorium or PWR “spent” fuel in a CANDU
    http://www.ccnr.org/advanced_fuel_cycles.html

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

    A report on India from India stating the whole fuel cycle has been done through reprocessing

    http://www.barc.gov.in/reactor/tfc.html

    (Th-Pu)MOX fuel pins of BWR, PHWR and AHWR design in research reactors CIRUS and Dhruva.

    Post-Irradiation Examinations have been carried out on the irradiated PHWR thoria fuel bundles and (Th-Pu) MOX fuel pins.

    Thermo-physical and thermodynamic properties have been evaluated for the thoria based fuels.

    Thoria fuel rods irradiated in CIRUS have been reprocessed at Uranium Thorium Separation Facility (UTSF) BARC. The recovered 233U has been fabricated as fuel for KAMINI reactor.

    Thoria blanket assemblies irradiated in FBTR have been reprocessed at IGCAR. The recovered 233U has been used for experimental irradiation of PFBR type fuel assembly in FBTR.

    and much more is out there.

    We are already using thorium, just not very much. India has not stopped their push into the Thorium fuel cycle, only slowed the breeder step under USA pressure,and the Canadians are ready with the CANDU.

    Yes, a MSR would be nice, but we are alredy using thorium and can use a lot more without any new reactors.

  58. I will not see any ractor being deployed in Australia because of the ignorance towards nuclear energy. If we are serious about emissions then nuclear is the way forward, no question.

  59. We don’t have a commercial thorium reactor because without a market for 100+ thorium reactors the initial costs and fuel supply chain costs are prohibitively expensive.

    Coal availability and costs along with natural gas availability and costs in the US the market have made the new/replacement base-load market in the US extremely limited for the time being.

    India and China both have higher coal and natural gas costs as well as a need for massive amounts of new base-load. New base-load technologies…be they nuclear or other will most likely be rolled out in China and India prior to being rolled out in Europe or the US.

    • Huh? Please explain how the thorium fuel supply chain is porhibitively expensive. That is a nice allegation, but what do you have tom support it?

      Thorium can be used in MSRs/LFTRs after a one-step ore separation process. That is it.

      At that point in uranium processing, the yellowcake still has to be centrifuged many times, in a cascading process to increase the concentration of U-235 (which is less than 1% of the uranium in ore), at great expense.

      Thorium doesn’t need centrifuging, so right there get rid of the need for a Hanford-like facility.

      Add to all of that that thorium reserves in the USA already will last us for several decades. Add to that that thorium is normally found with rare earth elements, making its mining doubly cost-effective. Thorium so far has been a waste product of such mining – which means that, essentially, the thorium is free.

      In addition, LFTRs are not required at all to be 100% thorium. They can also burn uranium and plutonium – meaning that LFTRs can – and will – be used to reduce the present stockpiles of nuclear waste – BECAUSE they can also include uranium and plutonium.

      Wherever you are getting your information, your sources are wrong, dude.

      As to the USA market for thorium reactors, be aware that the USA is not driving the interest in thorium reactors and is a non-entity in the equation. And nce the Chinese and Indians have proven, working thorium reactors, producing electricity for $0.03/kWh, it will undercut the price of energy, making it coal and oil that will be the losers.

      NOBODY CARES about what the USA is or is not doing in all of this. They aren’t asking for American permission. They would laugh in your face if you even suggested such a thing. The USA will only be a part of it when cities in the USA begin buying Chinese/Indian LFTRs. And those municipalities will do that because of the economic advantages of LFTRs.

  60. I like the Thorium molten salt reactor, but I’d wait to make predictions on the costs until more engineering is done. Seriously, this blogpost seems as pie in the sky as discussion of renewables. I’m curious about the RadPro issues of a liquid-fuel reactor, for one, as well as the engineering challenges of the fluoride salt mixture.

    Gas-cooled reactors are another potential reactor technology which would be likely to improve efficiency and safety. There’s the potential for small reactors driving closed cycle gas turbines.

    There’s also the fast breeder option, at least for nations that are not under nuclear proliferation concerns. There’s lots of U238 around, and some of the reactor designs could reprocess the waste on site. (the IFR)

    The problem with all of these designs is that the NRC is VERY risk-averse. They understand the risks from PWRs and BWRs. I’d honestly be surprised if they let a CANDU get built here. You will need t o have political pressure to get the NRC to consider new designs in a reasonable amount of time.

    • omegapaladin –

      If the USA was part of this, your concerns would be ones being addressed in the engineering rooms and sales departments of the companies involved, ad infinitum. But the USA is NOT involved – BY CHOICE. We had this technology for 40+ years and did nothing with it. Th ball is now in someone else’s court, and I very much assure you that the Chinese government and its 430 engineers and scientists are already past the stage of asking about the costs. And they obviously have been satisfied with the costs, because, by damned, they are going full speed ahead.

      As Samurai said above, the Chinese are not only happy with what they’ve been finding out, but evidently they have been having great success with the engineering, because they have moved their startup target up from 2044 to 2023. From the beginning of their activity on this in 2010, that is a reduction from 33 years to 13 – a reduction of about 60% time-wise.

      As a design engineer who worked on projects for nearly 40 years, such scheduling reductions do not happen if things are not all falling into place – and phenomenally so.

      And why shouldn’t they be falling into place? In the 1950s and 1960s we had not only SOME laboratory doing R&D on the principles, but the number two research l;ab in the USA, with top people – working on a design by the very man who designed the very successful light water reactor nuclear plants. And THIS was his baby – the one that was going to light the world. And they did a Proof of Principle. The two remaining scientists who worked on the MSR experiment who are still alive have told Kirk Sorenson that there was very little left to prove out at the time when the project was shut down by Richard Nixon for political reasons. The corrosion problems that some rag on about here were all but solved. The rest? The rest was DONE.

      So there isn’t really much for the CHinese to do except size up the design. That is partly science but mostly just engineering – determining the sizes of pipes, tanks, wall thicknesses, materials, – stuff engineers do every day in their careers.

      This is what people don’t understand: Some people who have never done a design thing in their lives just don’t get it that once you have built a successful prototype it is not a science project anymore!

      At that point it is simply doing the drawings, checking on stresses, laying out the arrangements of components, finding vendors who can supply the parts, etc. It’s just ENGINEERING.

      And that is – IMHO at this time – what the Chinese found out: That the principles DO work as Weinberg laid them out, and now they can proceed without fearing that some bug is going to jump up and set them back many months.

      This is a done deal, and some people can’t wrap their heads around that. No, the Chinese nor the Indians are not going to ask for the commenters here on WUWT for their permission to go ahead, no more than they are going to ask people here what alloy of steel pipe are they going to use. Nor are they going to ask the US government to kindly let them go ahead. The USA got out of the LFTR business when they let the Chinese come to Oak Ridge and let them have full access to the documents there.

      What a monumentally STUPID government, to do that. This will go down as THE biggest screw-up in technological and political history. The future of the WORLD depended on this, and WE screwed it up. Giving it away was only part of the screw up. The other is that we should have done something about it HERE, LONG ago. We should have had LFTRs running here 25 years ago. If we had, we wouldn’t have any coal plants still standing. And the Chinese and Indians everyone in the future would be buying LFTRs from the USA, not the other way around.

  61. I hate these ‘either or’ choices. Nuclear or starve.
    How about natural? Science has discovered how plants roots set nitrogen. Its truly amazing. They bombard the site with both positive and negative ions. At the same time. Is why science took so long to figure it out.

  62. Meanwhile, the Russians have succeeded in developing a highly reliable liquid sodium cooled fast breeder reactor, the BN800, successor to the well established BN600:

    http://atomicinsights.com/russia-continues-sustained-fast-breeder-reactor-effort/

    Apparently they have succeeded where several other national programs failed, in getting liquid metal coolant to work reliably. They have also used liquid lead as a coolant.

    This fourth generation fast breeder has potential to make a significant contribution to clean electricity generation for centuries to come, if political obstacles were to be overcome.

    • Considering that Chernobyl and F-shima were maintly a consequence of volatile coolant and inflammable fuel cladding, the idea of cooling with liquid sodium is horrific. I suspect the real reason the Dounreay fast breeder was shut down was the realisation that had a heat exchanger failed and molten sodium come into contact with water, they could have had an explostion which might have contaminated half of Scotland.

      Liquid lead sounds more sensible.

      • Ian –

        Oh, man, do I agree. Granted that liquid sodium’s capacity to cool is huge, but the level of disaster when someone f***s up royally will make Fukushima look like a firecracker. All it will take is water to come into contact with the sodium, and then maybe even Hiroshima will look small. But the AMOUNT of radioactive materials that might be released when the sodium goes BOOM will make entire regions of Russia uninhabitable for centuries.

        NOT my first choice. Hell, liquid dynamite might be preferable to liquid sodium. Either way, with ONE screw up, write off areas way bigger than Scotland.

        And wouldn’t the greens have a field day with THAT one? They would probably convince governments everywhere to go back to burning wood – and singing “Kumbaya”.

    • Ian
      I worked at Dounreay for 6 months (on an MSc project working with their whole-body human alpha contamination monitor – a room shielded with old lead and steel to measure Pu and Am in workers’ lungs). About once every week there was a piercing sound heard across the whole site, the emergency venting of steam from the reactor. It was usually the same reason, liquid sodium leakage from the pipes at the location of welds.

      It appears that the Soviets/Russians have simply done the obvious thing, found a way to make steel sodium containment without welds. The BN600 reactor at Obninsk has provided electricity to the grid stably for half a century, it is quoted as one of the most stable of ALL Russia’s nuclear reactors, conventional as well as fast-breeder. So the validity of saying that this “doesn’t work” ended before many of us were born. It does.

      But I agree that liquid Pb does make sense also.

      • Liquid Pb is a horrible idea. You have to consider what happens to the activated coolant. Liquid sodium is better. Look at decay chains.

  63. I like your web site. I am definitely a skeptic BUT; next time you want to talk about nuclear issues consult someone who has a background in nuclear energy. Lots of errors. Thorium reactors have similar decay heat issues to U235 plants. They still need backup systems. Liquid salt systems have less but can also be done with U235. These are but a few of your misconceptions. My favorite plant ever was a U235 plant that was cooled by liquid sodium. In my opinion it was the safest design. Water cooled reactors aren’t synonymous with U235. The reason they went with water cooled is the Navy is heavily invested in nuclear power and molten salts are a rather poor idea in the ocean. Anyway, generally like your articles. This one is painfully wrong. Many gross conceptional errors concerning nuclear power.

    • Shane

      Your post starts with

      I like your web site.

      and ends with

      Anyway, generally like your articles. This one is painfully wrong. Many gross conceptional errors concerning nuclear power.

      Hmmm. I shall file your post under ‘Concern troll’ and I will ignore it.

      Richard

      • That’s cool. I was a senior nuclear power plant operator and then head chemist. I am pro nuclear power. Also don’t buy into the global warming frenzy. Just pointing out a some faults in your description of Thorium reactors.

      • Shane

        I made no “description of Thorium reactors”. In fact I made no mention of them.

        Your reply to me is a red herring and a straw man wrapped up with an appeal to authority based on your anonymous claim to expertise. That is 4 logical fallacies in your post that consists of only 4 sentences.

        In summation, your reply to my observation of your concern trolling is to demonstrate that you are a simple troll.

        Richard

      • “Thorium molten salt reactors, without the need for all the backup safety systems that U235 nuclear plants have,”

        Would be more accurate if you said “molten salt reactors, without the need for all the backup safety systems that pressurized water reactors have,” Thorium fuel and Uranium fuel have the same decay heat issues, the molten salt V.S. pressurized water reactor is the important issue. We have had several molten metal reactors, they just use U235 as fuel.

        “The second big problem with nuclear power plants running on U235 is decay heat.”
        Now I don’t know that you were implying that Thorium doesn’t have the same issue but it appears so. Again, totally down with using Thorium, but this issue is also true with Thorium.

        I worked at the reactors that tested Thorium fuels, they’re fine. Any fuel source is a good one. You could use the plutonium out of old nuclear warheads instead of spiking them with highly radioactive material and burying them. It’s all good. One cool thing about Thorium is it can absorb a neutron followed by a beta decay to U233. You can collect the U233 and use it as fuel. This was all taken into account in the EBR II fuel cycle facility. It however was shutdown by the Clinton administration under Hazel O’leary and Bill Richardson.

        Also there are several papers on scale, you would be better off cost wise to build a 750 MW plant(250 MW electrical) because of the savings of cost. This is actually a topic of debate among the nuclear operators. Rule of thumb is electrical is 1/3 of thermal power.

        As far as the wrong turn in the fifties, Rickover was probably the most influential person in the development of the power plants. That is why we went with pressurized water reactors. Check out the EBR II reactor, it could be made with Thorium as well and is my personal favorite. Of course I was an operator there so I have a perference.

        Also, check out the facebook page for navy nukes. Many of these people are current or former operators and this subject is hammered at least monthly. Go there and find some folks to chat with. They all love nuclear power and they will give you good feedback. I’m going to link your article there. They can be harsh but they mean well.

      • Shane

        Your trolling has gone beyond being merely objectionable.

        I said none of the things you quote me as having said.
        In fact, I did not mention Thorium reactors. APOLOGISE!

        Richard

      • Richard, quoting directly out of your article “Thorium molten salt reactors, without the need for all the backup safety systems that U235 nuclear plants have,” Really, you said that.

        “The second big problem with nuclear power plants running on U235 is decay heat.” You also have this in your article as well.

        How did you not say this? It is clearly in print.

  64. Shane

    I have NOT written an article on Thorium reactors in my life.

    ALL YOUR SUPPOSED QUOTES OF ME ARE LIES.

    Cite – preferably link to – where you claim I said these things.
    Then, apologise for your despicable trolling and clear off.

    Richard

    • Sorry, was commenting on the article by David Archibald. Don’t know why you replied at all. Not apologizing, but maybe that is why you seemed so clueless. Not sure why you commented on what I wrote. The quotes were from Archibald’s article. Why would you troll about comments you couldn’t even understand?

Comments are closed.