Nuclear Breakthrough Needed

Guest essay by David Archibald

The good and the great are uneasy about the state of the world. They know that our current standard of civilisation has been made possible by cheap fossil fuels that will run out one day. And then what? Their experiments with solar panels, with mirrors, with windmills have been disappointing. And it is dawning upon people that 70 percent of the protein we eat has its origins in fossil fuels.

Our current dominant nuclear technology of burning U235 in light water reactors is inherently unsafe and produces a lot of waste while doing so. And it uses only 0.2 percent of the nuclear fuel available to us.

The situation is summed up in this blog comment:

So biofuels will power the mining of phosphorus and the manufacturing of nitrogen via the Haber Bosch process to fertilize crops to make biofuels to mine phosphorus etc etc and as well create surplus power for our appliances and food requirements. Sounds like a perpetual motion machine to me. If you think solar power can replace oil (power our industrial civilization) and have enough surplus power remaining to mine the elements needed for the manufacture of solar panels, make solar panels, and maintain solar panels then I think you’re living in a dream world. Magical thinking at its finest.

In other words, solar panels are cheap only because the diesel and coal used in their making are very cheap. So the Breakthrough Institute has announced the formation of Breakthrough Energy Ventures to fund the development of new technologies that will provide reliable and affordable power. The funding available is $1 billion, provided by private individuals. In part, global warming is a religion that elites believe in and try to impose on the rest of us. So the first order of business for their new venture is to genuflect to their god with the prime requirement that the new technologies they will invest in “have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least half a gigaton.”

They have their screening processes for evaluating projects put to them but I can save them a lot of trouble. There is only one technology that can save civilisation – the thorium molten salt reactor, written up on WUWT here, here and here. If that technology produces power at $0.03 per kWh then liquid hydrocarbon fuel could be produced at about US$120/bbl equivalent. The molecule most likely to be used as an energy carrier is dimethyl ether (DME) which has an energy content and handling characteristics similar to those of propane. Civilisation could continue at a high level indefinitely.

Thorium has been wilfully neglected. How that came about is shown in the following graphic:


Fission of uranium was first demonstrated in Berlin in 1938. The following day, physicists at Oxoford University were brainstorming on how to make a fission-based bomb. That kind of development pace continued for three decades. Early work on how to run a thorium molten salt reactor was conducted at Oak Ridge in the mid-1960s. Then that work was terminated in favor of plutonium breeder reactor research which in turn was killed off. And nothing much has happened since, until a Chinese engineer read an article in the July, 2010 issue of American Scientist and the Chinese research effort into thorium molten salt reactors was initiated.

There are literally hundreds of different nuclear reactor designs and a range of fuels can be used. There is also a basic division on how to approach fission with consequences for inherent safety, handling and processing of fission products, and operating and decomissioning costs. That basic choice is either having the fuel circulate or having the coolant circulate, illustrated in the following graphic:


The first commercial reactor for power generation was commissioned in in 1958 in Shippingport, Pennsylvannia. It used a uranium-burning, lighwater reactor from a cancelled aircraft carrier. All subsequent commercial power reactors have the coolant circulating.

Over the last decade, governments around the world have spent tens of billions of dollars on all sorts of schemes to make energy from anything other than fossil fuels. They have tried everything except the only thing that will work. When the new administration comes into power, they will stop the waste of billions per annum on green nonsense. It would be wise to put aside a little bit of what is going to be saved and apply it to the only thing that will work.

David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution To The F-35 Nightmare.

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Anne Ominous
January 7, 2017 4:21 pm

I’ve been saying this for years.

Phil B
Reply to  Anne Ominous
January 7, 2017 4:36 pm

I live in Australia where we’ve already dug up enough thorium to power the entire world for free for the next 200 years.
But try convincing anyone to even listen to how much better it is. In the 70s the greens and coal miners joined in an alliance to kill all nuclear power here, to the point that the only degrees even available in nuclear science in Australian universities are medical in nature.

Reply to  Phil B
January 8, 2017 4:15 am

Which means it’s still there in the tailings? If so, it’s a minor/(miner?) cost to scoop it into ore carriers for processing of would it be cheaper to just build the processing facilities close to the mines?

Bob Burban
Reply to  Phil B
January 8, 2017 8:22 am

“Which means it’s still there in the tailings?”
Beach sand, in the form of monazite.

Bryan A
Reply to  Phil B
January 8, 2017 2:34 pm

Probably be less expensive to build the mineral processing refineries closer to where the end product is being utilized. Far less concern by envirofa$cists over transporting potentially damaging materials as, until it is refined, it is Dirt.

Reply to  Anne Ominous
January 7, 2017 6:05 pm

I’ve been saying it as well. There’s very little discussion among either fossil fuel proponents or environmentalists regarding the technology, whether or not its feasible, whether or not it is safer than light reactor nuclear fission, with a quick death to any follow-up dialogue. For greenies I’d think that this would be far better of a technology, a plug-and-play always-on version, than windmills and solar panels, that truly has the ability to power the world we have today and the needs for the future.

Reply to  AZ1971
January 7, 2017 7:25 pm

You miss the point that the greenies DO NOT WANT people to have cheap, reliable energy. They think people having a good, happy life means that they are using too much energy and MUST be damaging the world and environment. They are perfectly happy saddling the world with intermittent, expensive energy
The greenies miss the fact that, when people have wealth and time, they clean up their mistakes and work to not commit more. The environment benefits richly from developed nations. Instead, greenies want to de-industrialize the Western world and reduce our standard of living to an agrarian society living a subsistence life—no machines (we have hoes, rakes and shovels), no livestock (we are all vegetarian by mandate), and no guns (we cannot hunt or defend ourselves); the evils of Agenda 21.

Reply to  AZ1971
January 7, 2017 7:39 pm

That’s because you assume there propaganda goal has anything at all to do with their real one. Such as the “Green” party fighting to reduce that which actually makes things “Greener”..

Reply to  AZ1971
January 7, 2017 7:42 pm

2017 and still no Edit button on word press. Perhaps if I invoke my right to be forgotten…. ;p

Reply to  AZ1971
January 8, 2017 2:39 am

There is one other elephant in the room. The term “fossil fuel” suggests oil and gas especially has only one use, to be burnt as fuel. But remember,
Polymers(plastics, man made fibres, etc)
cheap medicines
I,m sure there’s more
Tell any eco-loon that to be trully green they need to give up their mobile phone because it’s made mostly of oil based plastic…………….

Reply to  AZ1971
January 8, 2017 6:20 pm

Don’t forget, the greens, when it comes to energy production, do not want something that actually works. For them, the idea of unlimited cheap energy is something they want to avoid at all costs. Their objective is global de-industrialization and massive population reduction – a completely evil construct.

Reply to  Anne Ominous
January 8, 2017 8:06 am

Here are a number of links I saved on Thorium at my forum,worth viewing:
Video presentations are there too.

Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 8, 2017 9:02 am

Your link is a bit dated showing just Defkalion. The prime contenders for LENR are Rossi (with his QuarkX, BLP with their SunCell and Brilouin,

Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 8, 2017 11:14 am

Really, I just looked at a few links that works fine.
Here is one you manage to miss,from Journal of Energy Security:
Thorium as a Secure Nuclear Fuel Alternative

January 7, 2017 4:22 pm

I might be over simplifying things here, but the massive hurdle for nuclear (where I live) is the government and regulations. There is a massive time and cost component just to get an approval.

Reply to  Francisco
January 8, 2017 9:09 am

I’d agree – the manufacture of ‘portable’ nuclear generating plants will be the saviour of many societies (assuming it is allowed to happen) as centralised power generation/distribution has many disadvantages.
But given the propensity of Governments to ‘encourage’ campaign groups to manufacture ‘acceptable limits’ for pollution, exposure, particulates etc etc, we MUST take a pragmatic approach rather than an idealised one.

January 7, 2017 4:22 pm

Nonsense, Mr. Archibald.
There was no thorium molten salt reactor at Oak Ridge.
Thorium was of interest in the 50s and 60s, when it was thought uranium was rare and expensive. We then learned that it isn’t. Thorium presents no opportunity; it has no advantage.
Additionally, conventional fuels will last Man generations before any significant worldwide shortage arises. In other words, we have no problem to solve, nor is it appropriate for us to even try.
Leave the future to the future.

Rob Bradley
Reply to  Gamecock
January 7, 2017 4:33 pm

Technically you are correct Gamecock, the MSRE at Oak ridge was powered by U235 and U233. The U233 was obtained by breeding of thorium in other reactors.

Reply to  Gamecock
January 7, 2017 4:42 pm

If you leave the future to the future, you have no future, because the future is created by people NOW who are thinking of the future.

Reply to  Ronald P Ginzler
January 8, 2017 2:11 pm


John in Oz
Reply to  Gamecock
January 7, 2017 4:50 pm

Who is right? (30 seconds of research)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) was an experimental molten salt reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researching this technology through the 1960s; constructed by 1964, it went critical in 1965 and was operated until 1969.[1]
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.

Rob Bradley
Reply to  John in Oz
January 7, 2017 5:00 pm

John, you need more than 30 seconds of “research”…..from the Wikipedia article you copy and pasted from, you neglected the following:

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.

So this reactor did not “use” thorium

Reply to  John in Oz
January 7, 2017 5:39 pm

“So this reactor did not “use” thorium”
Actually, that’s how thorium reactors work, by using the Th232 to breed U233 as required.

Rob Bradley
Reply to  John in Oz
January 7, 2017 5:51 pm

catweazle666, the ORNL MSRE did not use thorium.

Reply to  Rob Bradley
January 7, 2017 6:07 pm

The Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) was an experimental molten salt reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researching this technology through the 1960s; constructed by 1964, it went critical in 1965 and was operated until 1969.
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.

Rob Bradley
Reply to  John in Oz
January 7, 2017 6:20 pm

catweazle666, thank you.
Note: ” the large, expensive breeding blanket of thorium salt was omitted ”


Note: “It primarily used two fuels: first uranium-235 and later uranium-233”

See?….it didn’t breed thorium, nor use it as fuel.
Thank you for proving: the ORNL MSRE did not use thorium.

Reply to  John in Oz
January 7, 2017 7:19 pm

You simply don’t get U233 any other way than by breeding thorium. There is no U233 in nature. U 233 is part of the “thorium” cycle. Whether the breeder part of the cycle is done in the same facility or in another facility is a moot point.

Reply to  John in Oz
January 8, 2017 5:16 pm

Doesn’t the word simulating in the sentence tell you something, John, catweazle and david?

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.

As Rob is trying to point out, the Oak Ridge MSR demonstrated that the reactor could run on U233 as well as U235 but the U233 was bred from thorium in other reactors. Thorium itself was never used in the fueling of the Oak Ridge MSR so the use of thorium as the fuel in an MSR reactor has never been done.
Annie’s link list some reactors where thorium was mixed with uranium as the fuel but most are/were small experimental reactors and the commercial reactors have not been successful.

Reply to  Gamecock
January 7, 2017 6:14 pm

I have no personal Knowledge of Oak Ridge But WIKI has this to say

Anne Ominous
Reply to  Gamecock
January 7, 2017 7:35 pm

Not molten salt. But from 1962-1990 there have been 6 thorium reactors in the United States.

Reply to  Gamecock
January 7, 2017 7:59 pm

Uranium 235 is “Rare”… Only 0.2 percent of Uranium is U 235, the rest is U 238….So you don’t want to waste it. But you can use an initial large quantity of U 235, to create U 233 from a Thorium reaction and then move on to using U 233 and Thorium to maintain salt reactors forever….. Once breeder stock of U 233 are plentiful, we need never even mine Uranium at all, just Thorium.

Reply to  J.H.
January 8, 2017 6:30 am

J.H. Actually 0.3% of natural uranium is U-235 today, not 0.2%. Two billion years ago the U-235 component of natural uranium was more than 3%, which allowed the natural fission reactor at Oklo, Gabon to operate, moderated by light water, over thousands of years. Fission reactors have been around for millions of years, but that’s the only natural one we so far know about.

Reply to  J.H.
January 8, 2017 6:44 am

It’a awful when you have to correct yourself, but natural uranium contains 0.72% U-235, and not the 0.3% i stated in error. I’m too long out of the field. But the natural reactor at Oklo, Gabon, did exist.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  J.H.
January 8, 2017 8:08 am

Here is a paper from IL State U – Normal, on the Oklo reactor.

John ONeill
Reply to  J.H.
January 10, 2017 12:12 am

0.72 percent is U 235, not 0.2 %

Reply to  Gamecock
January 8, 2017 2:57 am

Right, most likely the fossil fuel era will end because better technology has been developed, not because of shortage.

January 7, 2017 4:25 pm

I know how to do fusion, but am waiting until CO2 gets at least to 600 ppm before revealing the engineering breakthrough. For the good of the plants and planet. And the children, of course.

Rob Bradley
January 7, 2017 4:27 pm

Archibald writes: ” It used a uranium-burning, lighwater reactor from a cancelled aircraft carrier”

Archibald neglects to comment on the subsequent cores used at Shippingport. The third core blanket used Thorium.

Reply to  Rob Bradley
January 7, 2017 4:38 pm

Many things are not mentioned in an article of 751 words.

Rob Bradley
Reply to  archibaldperth
January 7, 2017 4:45 pm

Considering the fact that you apparently are “selling” MSR/Thorium, it would have been a good thing to research the history of thorium before you rushed to get the 751 words published.

Tim Groves
Reply to  archibaldperth
January 9, 2017 12:08 am

How do you know David was in a rush, Rob?

Kaiser Derden
Reply to  Rob Bradley
January 7, 2017 9:58 pm

so you are a no on thorium … fine … contribute something beside nitpicking nonsense or go away … 🙂

January 7, 2017 4:31 pm

The Chinese and/or the Israelis will do it.

Alan Ranger
Reply to  marywilbur
January 7, 2017 4:44 pm

The Chinese appear to be the only ones not discarding the thorium dug up in their rare earth mining operations. They are storing it in barrels. I wonder why?

Reply to  marywilbur
January 7, 2017 5:40 pm

In fact, the Indians are building them right now.

January 7, 2017 4:36 pm

Firstly solar, wind, agri-biofuels are not solutions to replace petroleum, natural gas and coal. There is no serious scientific debate on that issue. Beyond hydro-carbon fuels the only answer is nuclear. Fission today followed by fusion once we fully understand the science and advanced materials necessary to commercialize it. In the interim fission is the one and only bridge. Thorium is a futile element not a fissile element. It must be used in a fuel cycle with Uranium. It has a similar actinide decay chain as Uranium 235. (See: ,) Thorium has some advantage over Uranium in that it is more plentiful on Earth. However Thorium has a very serious downside. It produces heavy gamma radiation emitting decay products which are damaging to reactors and their instrumentation and has serious disposal problems because of the gamma producers and their long half lives. “Thorium” is not the holly grail of nuclear energy. It has its aplication but it is not the “energy solution.”

Reply to  Tomer D. Tamarkin
January 7, 2017 7:06 pm

You are thinking about U233 which, because of the radiation thing, will be difficult to make a bomb out of. Gamma rays are easily stopped.

Reply to  archibaldperth
January 7, 2017 7:33 pm

It is actually U232 that has the gamma problem. It is an isotope that is created in the breeding process of the thorium cycle. There is not much U232 created in the cycle but there is enough of it that making bombs highly impractical. The gamma rays would kill bomb handlers and would let everyone know where the bomb is. Isotopic separation of U 232 from U233 is extremely expensive and difficult to do so it is much safer and cheaper to use U235 and U238/Pu239 to make bombs.
U232 is easily fissioned in the reactor and its gamma radiation is shielded. Its gamma radiation is very short lived and easily handled in a reactor.

Malcolm Carter
Reply to  Tomer D. Tamarkin
January 8, 2017 1:27 pm

I’m pretty sure you mean that thorium is a fertile element, not futile. The gamma emissions of the U-233 produced from thorium by neutron bombardment may actually be useful as a way to control attempts to weaponize the U-233 by giving off a strong and identifiable signature and making processing dangerous to all but the suicidal. The main damage to reactor structures is not caused by gamma but by the neutron flux that can embrittle metals and make many materials radioactive..

January 7, 2017 4:39 pm

The key is the Molten Salt Reactor, it’s low pressure design negates a $Billion + pressure dome, 150 atmosphere plumbing, triple redundant water cooling & power backup will cost 1/3 of LWRs. Uranium will be fissioned first or Plutonium, next will be the Thorium breeding second loop. The high thermal design will allow coal to liquid fuels conversion and lower cost desalination.

Alan Ranger
Reply to  visionar2013
January 7, 2017 4:51 pm

In addition to its low pressure is the “frozen plug” of salt which seals the fuel into the core. In case of uncontrollable overheat, the plug will melt and drain all of the fuel out of the reactor and into an isolated holding tank, where it will harmlessly sit.comment image

January 7, 2017 4:39 pm

Typo above in my comment. Thorium is a fertile element not futile element

Reply to  lenbilen
January 7, 2017 7:45 pm

No one is supposed to know about the Australian thorium developments.
Best it be kept quiet so the idiot greens and their fellow travellers don’t try to kill it.

Reply to  Felflames
January 8, 2017 10:26 am

There are no corners in a round room. Let the idiots in one country try to corner the Th supply…. “see ya in a few millenia”

Reply to  lenbilen
January 8, 2017 9:12 am

Given the circumstances surrounding the Manhattan project and the way society seems to be headed I think you may just get your wish……

January 7, 2017 4:49 pm

Regarding the comment posted above (Gamecock) indicating we have no hydro-carbon fossil fuel problem made by I would suggest a review of the report written by Dr. Robert L. Hirsch titled “Peaking Of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management” which I have posted on our website at: We do indeed have a problem and we will feel the economic over this coming calendar decade

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Tomer D. Tamarkin
January 7, 2017 10:16 pm

… calendar decade ” ?
Meaning 2017 to 2027? or the final 3 years of the decade 2010-2020?

Reply to  Tomer D. Tamarkin
January 8, 2017 6:35 pm

Peak oil? Really?

Reply to  Tomer D. Tamarkin
January 9, 2017 9:38 am

They have been predicting the imminent peak of fossil fuel production for over 50 years now.
We easily have enough oil in the ground to last 100 years.

Reply to  Tomer D. Tamarkin
January 9, 2017 3:50 pm

Ah, “February 2005” eh, Tomer D. Tamarkin?
So before the advent of the shale gas boom resulting in a couple of orders of magnitude or better increase in petrochemical reserves, right?
Do try to keep up!

January 7, 2017 4:49 pm

An example of “cognitive disonance” or “doublethink” or whatever…
Part 1)
* Nuclear fuel in a reactor generates a lot of heat
* The heat boils water
* The resulting high-pressure steam spins a a turbine
* The turbine drives a generator that produces electricity
Part 2)
* Spent nuclear fuel (“nuclear waste”) still generates quite a bit of heat
* The nuclear waste has to be cooled, requiring an input of energy!?!?! Why?
At Fukushima, the earthquake knocked out the electrical grid, and the tsunami knocked out the backup diesel generators. With no power for cooling, the water surrounding the waste boiled off, and the waste then heated up to the point where it caught fire, which is where things went really bad.
“Waste heat recovery” is not exactly a new concept Yes it may cost a bit more than mining fresh Uranium/whatever, but remember that the waste has to be contained anyways, somehow, somewhere. So the cost of waste heat recovery would not be a 100% additional expense.

Alan Ranger
Reply to  Walter Dnes
January 7, 2017 4:59 pm

“Fukushima was “a profoundly man-made disaster” which was “the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties,” a report by the parliamentary commission tasked with investigating the disaster said. ”

Leo Smith
Reply to  Alan Ranger
January 8, 2017 1:32 am

So says Russia Today.
It was natural disaster compounded by regulator green issues that made it worse than it should have been, but it was never that bad technically anyway.
The real tragedy was that people called a minor industrial accident with no loss of life a ‘ disaster’.
Ignoring the 20,000 death toll from the tsunami, a lot of which might had been prevented with better sea walls etc.

richard verney
Reply to  Alan Ranger
January 8, 2017 2:48 am

It is sometimes hard for people to see things in their proper perspective, particularly when there is an agenda to be pursued.
Look at how Germany over-reacted to this.
Insane, or what?

Alan Ranger
Reply to  Alan Ranger
January 8, 2017 4:03 am

@Leo Smith January 8, 2017 at 1:32 am
“So says Russia Today.”
From the official report carried out in accordance with the Act Regarding the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission:
“Our report catalogues a multitude of errors and willful negligence that left the Fukushima plant unprepared for the events of March 11. And it examines serious deficiencies in the response to the accident by TEPCO, regulators and the government.
For all the extensive detail it provides, what this report cannot fully convey – especially to a global audience – is the mindset that supported the negligence behind this disaster.
What must be admitted – very painfully – is that this was a disaster “Made in Japan.” Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.”
I’d say Russia Today pretty well nailed it. 🙂

Gentle Tramp
Reply to  Alan Ranger
January 8, 2017 4:52 am

@ Richard Verney
It’s true that the Germans have a sad tendency of insane exaggeration of all things they are doing. For instance, about 80 years ago it was a cult of mad racism, today there are similar exaggerated cults of a totalitarian eco-religion and cultural self-hate and self-destruction…
But this tendency of insane exaggeration alone was not able to make those cults happen. There were additional reasons which made them possible: The Great Depression of the early 1930s enabled Hitler to seize power, and the constant “German Angst” brain washing of the German public by heavily left-leaning MSM during the last 40 years enabled the ruling cults of modern Germany. So we see, it is quite crucial who controls the MSM and consequently the thinking of the people.
Luckily, the free and uncontrolled information by Internet sources begins to change this. Therefore skeptical sites as WUWT are very important and we must fight with all our capability to prevent any censorship of the Internet!

Reply to  Alan Ranger
January 8, 2017 4:54 am

The groundwork for the Fukushima disaster was laid when the plant only existed on paper. The common point of the future catastrophe was both a reactor design and an approach to handling spent fuel that required continuous active cooling.

Reply to  Alan Ranger
January 9, 2017 5:05 pm

Leo, there were deaths linked to Fukushima, just none from radiation related causes. The “emergency response” and evacuation lead to several avoidable deaths among the elderly.

Reply to  Alan Ranger
January 10, 2017 7:21 pm

Reluctance to question authority, devotion to ‘sticking with the program’, groupism and insularity sound like a description of the nuclear power industry as I experienced it while working in the industry over a period of two decades years. The leading force in this dysfunction was the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Reply to  Walter Dnes
January 7, 2017 5:42 pm

That is completely inaccurate. The waste did not heat “up to the point where it caught fire.” That simply did not happen. That is what NRC Chairman Jaczko told Congress that he thought was happening, but it did not happen. See:, and

Reply to  Barbara
January 7, 2017 5:43 pm

My response was to Walter Dnes. I should have quoted his post.

Charlie Zimmerman
Reply to  Walter Dnes
January 8, 2017 6:27 am

Part 1 – a LFTR reactor is designed to run at high heat. You don’t cool it using water. There is no water involved either to cool it or pull heat from it. You dont use steam to spin a turbine, you use a high efficiency heat exchanger running a fluoride based high temperature loop. There is no high pressure in a LFTR reactor. And, there is no hydrogen production.
Part 2 – a LFTR reactor doesn’t have spent fuel in the traditional sense. You dont need to take rods out early before the fuel is fully burnt or before the cladding cracks because there is no cladding or rods. The resulting ‘waste’ has orders of magnitude less long lived transuranics so the waste is much easier to deal with and has a tiny relative half life. There are fewer transuranics because thorium is ‘farther away’ from plutonium than U238.
Anyway, LFTR is really ‘walk away safe’. You have to abandon everything you think you know about nuclear when you think about the LFTR.

Reply to  Walter Dnes
January 10, 2017 1:47 am

Firstly, the spent fuel pool No 4 at Fukushima never dried out, so the handwringers who were predicting that it would kill everyone in the northern hemisphere were disappointed.
Secondly, even if it had dried out, there was not enough heat coming from radioactive decay to set the spent fuel rods on fire. The rods were all over a year old, mostly several years. Uranium oxide, which forms ninety percent of spent fuel, can’t burn – it’s an oxide, you might as well try to burn water.
The zirconium alloy cladding can, in theory, burn – in powder form. As a bulk metal, not so much – you can heat it to 2000 C with a blowtorch and it won’t burn, just crumples a little. In the presence of water, at over about 800 C, it can react to form free hydrogen, but at atmospheric pressure, as in the spent fuel pools, it’s very hard to see how you could achieve these temperatures before all the water vapourised and disappeared.

NW sage
January 7, 2017 4:54 pm

It is going to take a LOT of research and prototype work – as well as commercial scale test reactors – to even begin to persuade and sell the idea. Nuclear in general has been the victim or a very effective negative PR effort and it will take a LOT of work to overcome that stigma. The thorium cycle is very different but most folks won’t be capable of discerning the differences.
Even though it will take a lot of money and effort it is still worth doing!

Alan Ranger
Reply to  NW sage
January 7, 2017 5:07 pm

Indeed. The typical greens response to anything with the n-word are the echoes of past, with shrill cries (lies) of two-headed calf birth defects, man-eating trout and a general green night-vision-type glow to everything within ten miles. The truth is that if US nuclear plant radiation standards were applied across the country, every coal-fired power plant would have to be shut down for hazardous radiation levels!
Much of the current negative press for thorium is generated by the current (non-thorium) nuclear industry, which stands to lose an awful lot if thorium reactors take off. Thorium was IMHO the “Betamax” of early reactor research. It was pipped by uranium for one simple reason – you can’t make plutonium (bombs) with thorium.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Alan Ranger
January 8, 2017 1:45 am

There is no ‘conventional versus thorium’ industry. there is a nuclear industry and it will build whatever it knows how to that is cost effective to whatever regulations it has to meet.
If someone comes up with a cheap licensable design that meets regulations that’s what will get built.
Right now PWR and ABWR are what is well known and works. Britain has arguably superior AGRs, but was never able to sell them due to the cost of them. CANDU reactors are also pretty widely established.
Any of these designs are safe enough and cheaper than developing a whole new reactor class, and arguing for re next 20 years about whether it is in fact ‘safe’
Thorium (LFTR) is in dangerof being the next ‘renewable energy’ A sexy new technology that is sold as ‘superior’ but needs massive (taxpayer) investment to prove in reality it is more expensive and not as good.
We don’t need new technology, we need new regulatory frameworks.
And just build the damned things, even if its 70 technology.

Alan Ranger
Reply to  Alan Ranger
January 8, 2017 4:17 am

@Leo Smith January 8, 2017 at 1:45 am
“There is no ‘conventional versus thorium’ industry.”
Yes, there is no thorium industry, because it was shut down because of its inability to produce plutonium for weapons. What I said. Or just keep using oil and coal, even if it’s 50s technology.

Reply to  Alan Ranger
January 9, 2017 4:04 am

Ranger: But you can make uranium-233 bombs with thorium.
@Leo Smith: A molten salt reactor is more thermodynamically efficient than a PWR, BWR, or CANDU because it operates at higher temperatures. That alone is reason to prefer it LWR and HWRs. Molten salt reactors are also orders of magnitude safer because no scenario exists which might lead to widespread radioactive contamination as seen at Chernobyl and Fukushima. Of course, you already know all that. IMO the nuclear industry builds PWR, BWR, or CANDU reactors with their once or twice through fuel cycle because they’ve been ordered to. ‘Cradle to grave’ is the anti-proliferation strategy. In the USA, it is seemingly directed by spooks at the DoE. Of course, ‘Cradle to grave’ is not actually an anti-proliferation strategy because all the used fuel could be used to make plutonium A-bombs. [ see my references below, and testimony to the US House of Representatives ]. A agree with you on regulation. Overregulation is holds nuclear power back. It can’t be fixed without politicians who believe in the necessity of cheap, plentiful energy.

Anne Ominous
Reply to  NW sage
January 7, 2017 7:49 pm

They’re already being built. Elsewhere.
The newer designs are inherently safer and SHOULD NOT need a great deal of selling. But in today’s world they might, anyway.

Charles May
January 7, 2017 5:06 pm

I have been looking for updates on this but have not seen any in a while. This does have promise but perhaps that is all. The compact fusion reactor

Reply to  Charles May
January 7, 2017 7:49 pm

That isn’t the same lockheed-martin that can’t get the new F35 fighter to work ,is it?

Reply to  Felflames
January 7, 2017 10:37 pm

The F-35 is the most capable aircraft flying today and will continue to be so for at least three decades more; there are no plans on the drawing board anywhere in the world for any aircraft that can match let alone exceed the capabilities of the F-35.
Yes, it is the most expensive aircraft development effort in history and will remain so until it’s replacement is designed. The replacement aircraft will then become the most expensive aircraft development effort in history. It’s the nature of the beast; air dominance costs money to build but saves lives in the long run.
No, the F-35 is not perfect; nothing made by mankind is now or ever will be perfect. Deploy 16 F-35s on an LHA along with a few Aegis equipped destroyers/cruisers and you’ll have surface combat group with as much combat power as a full CVN group at one third the cost and three times the flexibility. Yes, the plane costs more, but the ships cost less.

DC Cowboy
Reply to  Felflames
January 8, 2017 3:12 am

The F-35s issues reside in the software, not the airframe. The software is the most complex development ever attempted for an aircraft, I’m not surprised they are having issues with integration and development.

j martin
Reply to  Felflames
January 8, 2017 3:28 am

@MSO. I think the Russians would question your assessment. The Sukhoi 4th gen fighter is highly capable and got a 9 to 1 kill ratio against the US air force in combat games. The 5th gen Sukhoi has started flight tests and will be in service soon. Russian missile technology has caught up with US. The US could once have guaranteed air superiority, I suspect those days are over.
But back on subject, no one has mentioned that Norway is building a Thorium reactor in the middle of a mountain.

Reply to  Felflames
January 8, 2017 9:31 am

Its airframe is also a big problem. It’s way too heavy for starters.

Reply to  Felflames
January 8, 2017 9:51 am

The advantage of the F-35 is not that clear cut. It is more stealthy, but not as fast, not as maneuverable, is heavier, doesn’t have the range, is far more expensive and only has one engine compared to the SU-35 that has two.
So the advantage of the F-35 is more in the radar/electronics than the actual aircraft. I suspect advances in detection will reduce the advantage of stealth too. The cost and delays are real killers. But for the amount of money already invested the F-45 would probably be cancelled. A pilotless drone would have been a better solution.

Reply to  Felflames
January 9, 2017 9:11 am

The cost savings in platforms are not that great. Amphibious ships need to be rebuilt to strengthen them to operate F-35 v. Harriet, and will have to be bigger in future to accommodate the fuel needs and space required.
I’m reminded of Jefferson’s supposedly cheap (manned by naval militia) coastal defense gunboats, which cost more per gun than did ships of the line.

Reply to  Felflames
January 9, 2017 12:40 pm

My Harrier was autocorrected to Harriet.
IMO there is still a need for manned close air support (CAS) aircraft, but a stealthy, super-expensive jump jet taking over that mission from A-10 is absurd. What use is low radar cross section in the air to mud role, when the enemy being attacked can detect you with a Mark I eyeball and your exhaust as an IR signature as large as all outdoors?
Even before all its developmental and test problems, the solution was obvious: build more F-22s for the Air Force and an upgraded Harrier III (larger airframe, more powerful Pegasus engine and updated avionics) for the Marines. The USN could either navalize F-22 or further upgrade its Hornets, or both. A turboprop, such as Tucano, for the lower-threat, counter-insurgency (COIN) mission should also have been on the table.
There is also a larger role in the mix for drones and precision artillery fires.
The software developed for F-35 could be installed on other aircraft.

Reply to  Felflames
January 9, 2017 5:23 pm

MSO, “…The F-35 is the most capable aircraft flying today and will continue to be so for at least three decades more…” Some research indicates that late generation Sukhois and the F-22 are both far more capable. The F-22 however was not an exportable platform and will not be for some time, and far too many “critics” argued it was “too much” plane for the foreseeable future – apparently Russian stealth capacity extended to the “experts'” crystal balls. As it is, you now have a less-stealthy, less-agile, less up-close capable weapons platform that effectively is the modern equivalent of an early F-4. The YF-23 was potentially more capable than the F-35 is now. If the opponent adheres to expected doctrine, the F-35 is a capable craft, but if they do not, and “new doctrine” in combat is a perennial issue that allows bureaucrats to kill their own with impunity while not hampering an opponent in any way.

Reply to  Charles May
January 7, 2017 9:11 pm

LPPFusion in New Jersey is far ahead of Lockheed and has publish results in peer reviewed journals. The LPPFusion test reactor is entering the final stage of development, having achieved two of three of the so-called Lawson Criteria (temperature, density and confinement time).

Reply to  sarastro92
January 8, 2017 6:43 am

And for Gaia’s sake DON’T mention that firm in NJ working on a ‘power cell’ that is scheduled to engage in some friendly-customer trials this year!

Reply to  Charles May
January 8, 2017 11:57 am

CM, if have also been trying to follow the high beta Lockheed fusion, without success. Inhave a speculation. Lockheed wanted Navy support, didn’t get it, went public, and then got Navy support in return for which the program went dark. I expect it will be half a decade before we hear anything. If it doesn’t work out, we may never hear more. If it does, there will be big noises.

Jim C
Reply to  Charles May
January 9, 2017 10:30 am

Fusion is only ten years away from commercial usefulness… and always will be.
I remember reading articles about it back in the ’70s. It’s always been “10 years away” from fruition.
Just another boondoggle.

Charles May
January 7, 2017 5:23 pm

It might have been appropriate to include the LWBR that was installed at Shippingport in the timeline. I know because I supplied the Safety Injection System pumps for this project.
Shippingport operations with the Light Water Breeder Reactor core. (LWBR Development Program)

Reply to  Greg
January 7, 2017 7:47 pm

Some good info on that link Greg.. And the story concerning a working thorium reactor shows a lack of transparency and even corruption on this link from that resource as well over a long period.. The links are most constructive as they are based in Norway and are they are not happy with developments at the plant that powers a paper mill. Also, there has been some heavy Beta contamination in the Oslo Fjord area from that reactor from time to time and there are issues with Waste storage as well..

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Greg
January 8, 2017 2:05 am

Greg, only bad arguments about thorium on this propaganda site (look at the side bar)

Reply to  Rainer Bensch
January 8, 2017 12:12 pm

Hi Reiner, Should bad “thorium” arguments be banned because of climate change posts though?
Another point not being discussed here is that the military industrial complex will burn tax payers money to save uranium based reactors making Thorium a non issue ..
“…But critics note that while France struggles to sell nuclear reactors abroad, Denmark’s Vestas (VWS.CO) and Germany’s Siemens (SIEGn.DE) are winning export deals for wind turbines.
Former environment minister Corinne Lepage blames an old boy’s network of graduates from France’s elite engineering schools for defending nuclear at any cost.
She opposes EDF extending the life of its oldest reactors, saying it should instead start decommissioning them. EDF could build this into a business in dismantling reactors while gradually switching to renewable energy, she told Reuters.
“We need a massive reconversion plan for EDF staff. These are engineers. If they can handle nuclear reactors, they can also handle wind turbines and solar panels,” she said…..”
Whatever the source of information, one can not hide fro the facts.. Big industry will always destroy innovation ..

Reply to  Rainer Bensch
January 8, 2017 12:25 pm

I should point out, to counter your propaganda statement, that this blog has at least 30 percent viewership from pro nuke sources and we have a good working arrangement with all technology related journalists, if somewhat jocular at times..
We have covered a range of alt technologies and just to show you a sample here is one that backs up my posit on alt tech (including Thorium) being sidelined in some interesting ways.. Even tech that is more far advanced than Thorium research ;

January 7, 2017 6:06 pm

David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution To The F-35 Nightmare.

My gut reaction is that the F-35 fiasco feels remarkably similar to the CAGW fiasco.

Reply to  commieBob
January 8, 2017 5:56 pm

“David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution To The F-35 Nightmare.”
Here is an excellent article about the F-35, comparing it to other aircraft of its kind:

January 7, 2017 6:17 pm

What of that small-scale nuclear plant designed by some 19-year-old teenager who was looking at making them for residential distributed power generation? Anyone remember or know what I’m talking about? I think that used some similar type of MSR design.

Reply to  AZ1971
January 7, 2017 6:20 pm

You mean Sheldon?

Reply to  AZ1971
January 7, 2017 10:16 pm

This boy is Taylor Wilson, I know him personally, he is some smart kid! Under the supervision of Prof. Phaneuf, Taylor built a Farnsworth fusion reactor. I have seen it running in the sub basement of the Physics Department at UNR.

January 7, 2017 6:22 pm

I’m astounded that anyone could “research” new nuclear technologies and not mention molten salt
nuclear reactors sans any need for Thorium. The MIT nuclear physicists who have collaborated on one molten salt reactor design at Transatomic Power, which is at the stage where they are verifying the corrosion resistance of the metal they plan in using to make a molten salt reactor last (which was one of the reasons early versions of molten salt reactors were eventually discarded as impractical -the other main reason was the lack of a compact moderator other than carbon – its size prevented the reactor from having a large enough amount of fissionable material to be practical
using low level radioactive fuel). Their reactor design CAN be configured to burn Thorium, but they consider Thorium a bad choice : one reason is that it produces plutonium, a no-no; the other is that there is a much better fuel : nuclear wastes – not only does this country have enough nuclear wastes to provide all the power we need for 1000 years, but this would also essentially eliminate the difficulty and cost of storing the stuff – it would have relatively low level radioactivity, which would reduce to background levels in a hundred and fifty years. It also costs practically nothing, although a molten salt reactor extracts so much energy out of normal uranium fuel that its cost is essentially nothing as well. Even if extracted from sea water, uranium fuel costs would be inconsequential, versus the 3/4 cents per kWhr that uranium fuel costs a typical conventional reactor these days.
Those reactors without access to nuclear wastes would burn low level uranium like we now use – its cost would be insignificant, whether terrestrially mined or extracted from sea water. The world will never run out of uranium. There is no need for Thorium .
There are at least three other molten salt designs from Moltex Energy, Terrestrial Energy and the Chinese govt crash program.
As mentioned, Transatomic Power’s design could conceivably (unlikely) discover that their non-corrosive reactor vessel alloy would not be corrosive resistent enough, which presumably would kill their design. But the Moltex Energy design takes a different tack and uses sacrificial metal cladding that would last 5 or 6 years and then simply discarded as the cladding rotates fuel thru the reactor. Their design also uses many components already used by nuclear reactors and thus has a ready made line of component supply. It could be ready to go more quickly than the others. It is also the cheapest.
No one can pose any objection to a molten salt reactor-inherently safe, cheapest power of any technology, can be constructed rapidly in factories at a cost roughly a third of current nuclear reactors (Molex Energy claims less than $2 per watt), can load follow or be used as a baseload reactor, can be sized from roughly 300 MW and up, requires very little human supervision.
Physically incapable of a meltdown or a radioactive water leak under any significant pressure.
No radioactive material is under any significant pressure – a breach would not eject any material
to any extent.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  arthur4563
January 8, 2017 2:25 am

they consider Thorium a bad choice : one reason is that it produces plutonium, a no-no
the probability of plutonium production is much higher in the U than in the Th cycle, see Figure 2 in

In a reactor core, fission events produce a controlled storm of neutrons that can be absorbed by other elements present. Fertile isotopes are those that can become fissile (capable of fission) after successive neutron captures. Fertile Th-232 captures a neutron to become Th-233, then undergoes beta decay—emission of an electron with the transformation of a neutron into a proton. With the increase in proton number, Th-233 transmutes into Pa-233, then beta decay of Pa-233 forms fissile U-233. Most U-233 in a reactor will absorb a neutronand undergo fission; some will absorb an additional neutron before fission occurs, forming U-234 and so on up the ladder. Comparing the transmutation routes to plutonium in thoriumand uranium-based reactors, many more absorption and decay events are required to reach Pu-239 when starting from Th-232, thus leaving far less plutonium to be managed, and possibly diverted, in the thorium fuel and waste cycles.

Reply to  arthur4563
January 8, 2017 7:47 am

Yes. Everyone here should read the Transatomic Power white paper about molten salt reactors, the fuel cycle choices, and the engineeringnproblems to be solved and possible solutions before spouting off. It is a verynpromisingngeneral technology that needs a lot of engineering development.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 2:40 pm
Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 6:21 pm

Yup, although not the most direct google find. Well done.

stas peterson BSME MBA MSMa
Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 10:44 pm

We have no energy emergency now, even if we once thought we might. Fossil fuel supplies sufficient for current uses now exists for hundreds of years. But it won’t be wasted by simply burning it for basic energy needs, beginning in mid century. The CO2 problem never did exist; but Humanity won’t be increasing atmospheric CO2 although we might want to do so. Advanced North America is already bioi-sequestering CO2 now as a CO2 Sink.
I don’t have direct knowledge of MSTR experience, but I worked in the industry, and I understand that there were problems controlling the Fissile density hence criticality of fissile thorium in the molten salt. Random Eddy currents could and did increase the Thorium concentration hence fission rates in unpredictable ways.
What I do know is that the NRC took almost 40 years to authorize and license the merely improved and safer and you might say the “completed” design of the100 odd commercial LWR designs that are running today, producing electricity, in primitive form but pretty safely.
Problem 1. Can you imagine trying to prove that criticality and reaction rates are guaranteed to be controlled in such circumstances to NRC engineers?. I wouldn’t want to even try to guarantee perpetual laminar flow,thus controlled fission criticality Problem 2. . Containment vessels will be needed to contain the still large cache of radioactive material. Maybe not as complex as for a LWR, but I’ll bet when all said and done, not appreciably different and similar cost. . Problem 3. The operating temperature of a MSTR is much higher. Requiring the use of exotic materials in the cycle, elevating cost, and these materials don’t have 60 year performance records for creep and fatigue. More elevated cost and mundane research, and elevated costs. These high operating temperatures will complicate safety measures too, high pressure or not. Don’t forget GE BWRs are not intrinsically high pressure LWR designs.
How long do you think it will take to get an NRC license for a brand new,green sheet, fissile reactor design?
In summary I’ll bet an annual Engineer’s paycheck that a non-existent Fusion reactor but with no large cache of radioactive materials, needing containment, inherently safe, with minimal radioactivity, will be licensed and operating SOONER than a likewise non-existent detailed design for a LMTR, licensed, and operating in advanced societies like the USA by mid century.

January 7, 2017 6:28 pm

The irony in the last couple of posts is tremendous. First we have the Salon post hailing the end of the climate crisis on the tremendous cost reductions in wind and solar making oil, coal, and gas + their infrastructure uneconomic. Then they include some color bar charts showing that between now and 2100 we’ll transition, with great economic savings, to using less than half as much energy for 9-10 billion people living in a first world life style powered by TADA! 45% Nuclear, 22% biomass, 15% Natural gas, solar maxed out at 9% and piddling amounts of wind, oil, hydro, and virtually no coal.
Magical thinking beyond belief. Mr. Archibald seems to think we can develop alternate reactor technologies including a thorium reactor fairly quickly. I kind of doubt this, since according to a friend who works repairing and refueling reactors, about 40 years to discover all the problems with high pressure water cooled reactors. You can’t really engineer something until you know what parameters you have to work within.

Reply to  philohippous
January 7, 2017 7:12 pm

The cost of commercialising a thorium molten salt reactor has been estimated at about $1.0 billion. Things can happen fast if people, and the project sponsors, are motivated. They got so far in the 40s, 50s and 60s with such primitive material science and control systems.

Reply to  archibaldperth
January 7, 2017 7:30 pm

They got so far back then because we used to have a lot of god-forsaken wastelands where they could run exciting experiments, and not worry about accidents. Now, those god-forsaken wastelands have been transformed to fragile, sensitive ecosystems, and no one can do any more experiments.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  archibaldperth
January 8, 2017 2:56 pm

rxc, we don’t need any “god-forsaken wastelands” to test this. It is already fail-safe once the metallurgical and engineering obstacles are eliminated.

Reply to  philohippous
January 7, 2017 7:44 pm

Comparing a thorium molten salt reactor to a uranium light water reactor is comparing apples and oranges. Molten salt reactors are far more simple. They can be built on an assembly line like aircraft and they are far less complex than a Boeing. Most of all the engineering challenges were solved in the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment. In the first aircraft reactor experiment in 1954, two million watts of heat were put out by a reactor half the size of a refrigerator.

Steve T
Reply to  davidgmillsatty
January 9, 2017 4:49 am

January 7, 2017 at 7:44 pm
Comparing a thorium molten salt reactor to a uranium light water reactor is comparing apples and oranges.

Perhaps comparing apples to hand grenades may be more apt? 🙂

Reply to  philohippous
January 7, 2017 7:54 pm

Your friend and his co workers are the reason new projects can be up and running quickly.
They have already shown from past experience where many problems can exist.
New systems will take into account the lessons learned, and not have to start from scratch.

January 7, 2017 6:40 pm

I feel a weakness in the LFTR design is the idea that the fuel salt should circulate outisde the core – highly radioactive fuel flowing outside the core seems like a non-starter for many non-technical people. Also, I don’t think it’s likely necessary. I’ll try to explain my thinking here (I wanted to post it on Sorensen’s blog some years ago but it’s an intimidating place).
There are 2 reasons for circulating the fuel salt and the blanket salt
1. Processing to remove fission by-products that could act as neutron sinks or produce unwanted radiation.
2. Heat transfer to a medium that can carry the heat to a turbine.
Take the fuel salt first.
1. Removal of fission by-products.
I see maybe 4 things could happen with fission by-products while the fuel is in the core
a) by-product forms a gas and bubbles out. no need for fuel to be circulated outside core.
b) by-product forms a liquid significantly less dense than the salt and separates out on top where it can be skimmed off. no need for fuel to be circulated outside the core.
c) by-product precipitates out as a solid and can drained from the bottom of the core periodically. no need for fuel to be circulated, but maybe some fuel is drained with the precipitates.
d) by-product forms an emulsion and is suspended in the molten fuel salt. this would need the fuel to be processed outside the core, but i’m not convinced many of the by-products will emulsify.
2. Heat transfer
Why is it necessary to to circulate anywhere? Can’t the heat be transferred to the blanket salt which is far less radioactive?
Now consider the blanket salt.
1. By-products
The important by-products are protactinium, which we want to remove so it has a chance to decay into uranium, and tritium from lithium-6 fission which will bubble out as a gas. Separation of protactinium might not need to be very efficient, if the pool of blanket salt greatly exceeds the amount of salt in the reactor at any given time. If the pool were 25 times as big as the reactor capacity and the processing is efficient enough that only a few days worth of protactinium is circulating, the protactinium might only be spending an hour per day in the reactor, and the absorption of an extra neutron would be a fairly rare event.
2. Heat transfer. Having the blanket salt circulate outside the reactor core shouldn’t be much of a concern to anyone. The added radioactivity of a few days’ worth of protactinium and U-233 would be trivial. But think about what having a large pool of blanket salt could enable:
Build a hot reservoir and a cold reservoir, each with about 6 hours capacity. Once the excess heat has been extracted from blanket salt in the hot reservoir, the salt would move to the cold reservoir until it was needed in the reactor. Run the reactor overnight only filling up the hot reservoir sending minimal salt to the heat exchanger for electricity generation. Once the hot reservoir is full send enough salt to the heat exchanger to offset new fuel circulating in. Then during peak electricity demand, send extra salt from the hot reservoir to generate extra electricity. By the end of peak demand the hot reservoir would be depleted and the cold reservoir would be full.
This all depends on being able to transfer heat from the fuel salt to the blanket salt in the core, of course.
My thoughts started from the idea of the reactor as a tube of fuel salt embedded in a tube of blanket salt.
To get even more speculative than the above…
If the heat conductivity of hastelloy-n is insufficient, perhaps the barrier between the fuel salt and the blanket salt could have fins.
If we have fins, maybe the fins could have sheets of graphite inside.
If the graphite is then radially oriented, it seems like we could spacially control the neutron speed gradient to provide high-speed neutrons where we wanted to consume americium and plutonium from recycled light water reactor fuel, while providing low-speed neutrons in the blanket to maximise thorium conversion.

Reply to  duncanmackenzie
January 7, 2017 8:24 pm

Very interesting and thoughtful…. It’s beyond my school grade, but I get the gist of it….. From my understanding of LFTR reactors, is that the salts and radiation is highly corrosive on the piping, so the less pipework, the better.

Charlie Zimmerman
Reply to  duncanmackenzie
January 8, 2017 6:32 am

The heat transfer is done in an independent loop which does not have fission products in it. Regarding processing out fission products, it is not strictly necessary. Although it would be awesome and infinitely easier than current reprocessing of solid rods.

January 7, 2017 7:27 pm

The first real thorium breeder reactor was Shippingport. Its last core demonstrated that light water reactor cores could breed more fuel than they burned, using thorium. It was a very small breeding ratio, but it was demonstrated. The work was done by Naval Reactors.
The original core designs for Shippingport and for Indian Point 1 envisioned the use of thorium blankets surrounding a driver core that would use uranium. The thorium blankets would be reprocessed to produce U233 for future use in the driver core. All of these ideas came about because there was a lot of concern about how much uranium was available. The AEC, at that time, had better uses for uranium (bombs and naval reactors), and people were worried that commercial reactors would not be able to procure the uranium that they needed to operate. Reprocessing was considered essential to the commercial fuel cycle, at that point.
However, since then, the price of uranium has essentially tanked, because there is a LOT of uranium around, and it is not very expensive to mine. When you consider that the cost of the raw uranium is less than 5% of the cost of the electricity produced, and that it is possible to mine it from seawater (an inexhaustible supply) at a price that is not outrageous, there is no rush to develop thorium. There is a large established, mature infrastructure to handle uranium at low enrichment, and the price is low. All of that infrastructure (materials handling, transportation, regulation) would have to be reworked for thorium.
Back when there was some worry about storing spent fuel, before dry cask storage was common, there was a big push to develop high-burnup fuel, to cut down on the number/volume of spent fuel rods accumulating in spent fuel pools. I was told by several utilities (when I worked for the NRC), that they would prefer to change the fuel more often, because it gave them more flexibility for core design and they could reduce the enrichments so enrichment costs would be lower and overall fuel costs would be lower.
In any case, we have been “mining” nuclear weapons for excess uranium for about 20 years. The spent fuel that is sitting in the casks contains an ENORMOUS amount of untapped energy. So much that the Yucca Mountain repository that will take the spent fuel is not planned to be sealed until 200 years after it is full. Until then, if we decide to re-start nuclear power, they can just roll the railriad cars back out of the mountain and reprocess the fuel. Probably somewhere nearby the repository. Thorium reactors require the same sort of reprocessing technology as reprocessing uranium fuel (slightly different chemistry, but not that different). However, reprocessing is still considered to be evil by the greens. Until they get over it, no one is going to build any uranium OR thorium reprocessing facilities.
Finally, no one who has commented so far seems to have ever worked with radioactive materials. The proposed LFTR will have to be built, maintained, and repaired remotely. There is a LOT of relatively mundane technology that needs to be developed to build something practical, and there is no long-term experience with the materials of construction in an operating reactor. This is the greatest uncertainty, because you can only get that experience from operating a real plant. Some people say that the materials issues are resolved, but I say that they don’t have any good long term data, and I used to have to deal with this for the existing fuel designs at the NRC. When you get to higher radiation exposures, materials behave in unexpected ways, and the only way to find out how they fail is to test them to failure. No one wants to do that with large components that have to be remotely handled.
Nuclear power needs a careful, sustained period of growth, Crash programs cause accidents. The experience base in construction, manufacturing, operation, and design has rotted away. It needs to be rebuilt, slowly and steadily. They will probably have to call a bunch of people out of retirement.

Reply to  rxc
January 7, 2017 8:01 pm

Thorium is not only four times as plentiful as U238 and four hundred times as plentiful as U235, since its half life is about three times as long as U238 it is not nearly as disbursed like U238 much less U235. Other reasons than half life also make it far more concentrated. It is vastly easier to mine and far easier than getting U out of the ocean. No contest. Not even close. Thorium is essentially free when you mine for rare earths.

Leo Smith
Reply to  davidgmillsatty
January 8, 2017 1:51 am

The cost of thorium is irrelevant. 4 times cheaper than uranium is still peanuts.
What counts is the lifetime cost of the reactor. Oh, no one has built one and run it for 40 years, like they have BWRs…

Leo Smith
January 7, 2017 7:40 pm

Our current dominant nuclear technology of burning U235 in light water reactors is inherently unsafe and produces a lot of waste while doing so.
Complete and utter rubbish. Its not inherently unsafe and produces minuscule amounts of waste.
The only problem nuclear power has is not technical. but political .
The regulatory burden makes it impossible to build economically.
We need nuclear power far far more than we need some new initiative funded by taxpayers to develop a technology that is only marginally better than what we already have.
This is the green blob technique. Invent a problem and demand funds to implement a solution that is expensive unnecessary and either no real advance or a heck of a lot worse.
in 1910 there was no need to frack oil.
in 2010 there was no need to breed nuclear fuel.
What we need are lots of reactors of any type (except the Chernobyl type) to save civilisation from energy starvation.
And a whole new attitude towards nuclear power fostered by the political and media class.

Reply to  Leo Smith
January 7, 2017 8:15 pm

U 235 is as rare as platinum and that is what we burn in enriched form in Uranium reactors, along with some U238. We are running out of U235. U 238, (a hundred times as common as U235) which is fertile not fissile, is one neutron from being an actinide or a transuranaic and a long lived nuclear waste (250,000 years). It turns out that we could not successfully breed U238 into fissile Plutonium U239. So there really is a shortage of fissile uranium and when most enriched U 235 has lots of U 238 with it, lot s of long term nuclear waste (called actinides or transuranics with an isotope of 239 or more) is created. When you start with Th232, it has to pick up 7 neutrons without splitting before it reaches an actinide or transuranic. The odds of Thorium creating an isotope of 239 or more are miniscule. The present Uranium reactors, can not fission these transuranics and they accumularte them. A thorium reactor it can fission transuranics. In fact their first likely use will be as nuclear waste burners. Nuclear waste is a great source of breeder neutrons.
You really don’t understand this at all.

Reply to  davidgmillsatty
January 7, 2017 8:22 pm

Correction: should have said Fissile Plutonium 239; not Plutonium U239.

Reply to  davidgmillsatty
January 7, 2017 9:36 pm

Actually, both uranium fuel and bombs start with natural uranium (primarily U-238), which is then “enriched,” which actually means they’re separating the U-238 from the U234/U-235 that is in the natural uranium. Generally speaking, the abundance of U-235 in natural uranium is on the order of 0.7% by mass. Stripping the heavier U-238 from the U-234/U-235, increases the fraction of U-235 by mass, and this is what counts when it comes to useful fuel. Much higher enrichment is required for weapons. So, we are not “running out of” U-235; it’s still right there in the natural U, next to the U-238.

Leo Smith
Reply to  davidgmillsatty
January 8, 2017 2:00 am

You really don’t understand this at all, do you?
There is skads of uranium out there, all with a small percentage of U235. It only meeds slight enrichment…Up the breeder ratios and you have plutonium. All of these are reactor fuel. there is nothing much different abut thorium, except that it breeds to a much nastier intermediary – U233 – than U238 does.
You don’t need an LFTR to use thorium either. Stuff it in with U235 or Pu239 to start and you have a reasonable MOX fuel that will run in (modified) conventional reactors. Or conventional fast breeders.
Thorium just about doubles the amount of fertile nuclear material available, BUT since we already have decades of U238 and Pu239 lying around, we really don’t need it yet,and U238 is cheap as chips, and existing reactor designs run it.
Britain looked at running breeders and plutonium MOX fuel, but in the end didn’t because it was cheaper to refine raw uranium than breed and reprocess fuel. That wont always be the case, but it is right now.

Alan Ranger
Reply to  davidgmillsatty
January 8, 2017 8:50 pm

@Leo Smith January 8, 2017 at 2:00 am
” there is nothing much different abut thorium, except that it breeds to a much nastier intermediary – U233 – than U238 does”
Totally misleading. Any unburned thorium and U-233 from a LFTR will become new fuel for the next generation of reactor. None need ever leave containment, let alone enter into the waste stream. To describe U-233 as a “nasty” is (charitably) nothing short of deceptive propaganda.

January 7, 2017 7:41 pm

You said “Our current dominant nuclear technology of burning U235 in light water reactors is inherently unsafe…”
Aw come on! Airplanes and cars are also inherently unsafe and kill hugely more that light water nuclear power has or ever could. Yet we still fly and drive.
A few additional points.
1) Thorium can also be burned in light water reactors and has been. The Light Water Breeder Reactor was successfully run in the Shippingport plant you mention in the 1970’s. The core was fueled with U233, to simulate a mature thorium breeder technology, and outfitted with thorium 232 blankets for breeding. The device was run for a few years and produced about 1.3% more fuel than it consumed – enough for a near endless thorium fuel cycle using existing light water technology. But to do that, the fuel would have to be chemically reprocessed. We have tried fuel reprocessing before, without success – to much radioactive contamination of the equipment, buildings and surrounding environment. At the time, that was one of the reasons for for shelving LWBR technology. And that issue leads us to the second problem.
2) Molten salt fuel reactor concepts require that fuel continuously or periodically be withdrawn from the reactor, cleaned of nuclear poisons, and refreshed with new fuel. The salt will be so intensely radioactive that nobody could possibly approach it or the machinery involved. It will have to be processed remotely and perhaps by robots. We failed with reprocessing of current reactor fuel systems, now magnify it many many times over and envision what it will take to process live, fertile molten salt fuel. And the same concern would apply to the maintenance of the reactor system. When things break, and they will, fixing them will be extraordinarily expensive if even possible.
I favor researching the idea, but I am not sanguine about the possibility,

Reply to  DHR
January 7, 2017 8:31 pm

You ought to read Thorcon’s business plan which they have supposedly convinced the Indonesians to try. They make a unit capable of holding about four Oak Ridge clones. They run one clone until it needs reprocessing. Then they shut it off. It takes about ten years for the molten salt to be safe to handle for reprocessing. They just leave it in the ground for that time then take it out and reprocess it.

Reply to  davidgmillsatty
January 8, 2017 4:25 am

Fission products have a mixture of short-term, medium and long-term half-lives. About 67% : 12%: 21% (short : medium : long). After 10 years nearly all the short-term fission products have decayed away, the background radioactivity is considerably less and the used fuel easier to handle. Only 33% of the fission products will still be radioactive, with long half-lives so far less radioactivity.

Reply to  DHR
January 8, 2017 8:07 am

“The device was run for a few years and produced about 1.3% more fuel than it consumed – enough for a near endless thorium fuel cycle using existing light water technology. But to do that, the fuel would have to be chemically reprocessed.”
It produced no fuel. It produced some U-233 from thorium targets, yes, in an amount similar to that of uranium consumed by the reactor. The thorium targets did undergo separations, and fuel was produced. The point, and it is a critical point, is that in situ reaction of the produced U-233 DID NOT HAPPEN.
It was not “fuel” until extensive post-processing.
BTW, that fuel was never used for anything.
The same result occurred at Savannah River 20 years before. They were able to produce U-233 in thorium targets. Which had to go through external separations processing. Their conclusion was that not enough was made fast enough to be worthwhile.
Hundreds of years from now, it may become worthwhile.
The limitation is not technical, it is financial. There is simply no reason to fool with thorium.
The molten salt reactor offers the theoretical advantage that a U-233 molecule floating in the slurry- in theory – cannot behave any differently regardless of its source. I.e., the problem with the SRP and Shippingport experiments was that the created atoms were embedded in other atoms of non-reactive material (the remaining unconverted thorium) and did not react.
MSR technology may have potential. Thorium is just a distraction. A shiny object of no interest.
Additionally, SRP found some U-232 was produced in the thorium targets (8 grams for 660 kilos of U-233 produced). Ultra-nasty gamma emitting U-232. Savannah River had the separations facilities to handle such nasties. The question I have is, “How much U-232 will be produced in an MSR?” Will their experience be that same as at SRP? Will vastly more be produced in the MSR environment? IF IT IS, introducing thorium into your reactor could POISON the whole damn thing. It will take brave souls to introduce thorium into their multi-billion dollar reactor. Perhaps less will be produced, and it will be a non-issue. I’m comfortable letting India/China find out.

January 7, 2017 7:45 pm

And the Shippingport reactor was absolutely not from a “cancelled aircraft carrier.” It was designed and operated from the gitgo as a commercial electric power generator and resembles aircraft carrier reactors only in that both are light water reactors. They are very different machines.

January 7, 2017 7:50 pm

“…the prime requirement that the new technologies they will invest in “have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least half a gigaton.”
(They probably mean gigatonne, and probably per year.)
Annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions are somewhere around 36 Gt (of which about 55% is immediately removed by “greening” the biosphere and by the oceans). So a 1/2 Gt reduction is a 1.4% emission reduction.
For comparison, 1 ppmv CO2 (molecular wt 44.01) has mass = 8.053 Gt, of which 12/44-ths or 2.196 Gt is carbon. (400 ppmv CO2 has mass 400 × 8.053 Gt/ppmv = 3221 Gt.)
So if CO2 emissions were reduced by 1/2 Gt/year, atmospheric CO2 levels would increase by only about 1.94 ppmv, instead of 2.00 ppmv, in 2016.

Reply to  daveburton
January 7, 2017 8:03 pm

Oops… in 2017.

Smart Rock
January 7, 2017 7:57 pm

The first commercial reactor for power generation was commissioned in in 1958 in Shippingport, Pennsylvannia

Well, no. The first commercial nuclear power plant opened in 1956 at Calder Hall, Windscale, UK. I remember the publicity that surrounded it at the time.
The Soviets had a 5 MW nuke generating electricity into the grid in 1954.
(this from a 2-minute excursion to Wikipedia. People should check their facts before posting breathless articles)
From my limited experience, I have the impression that uranium became the preferred fuel because it was already being produced, refined and enriched for weapons making. It’s also very easy to extract from ores (readily dissolves in dilute sulphuric acid) and the fact that UF6 is a gas makes enrichment relatively easy. There is so much inertia in the incredibly heavily regulated nuclear industry that thorium never really made it through the door, even though it has obvious potential.

Reply to  Smart Rock
January 8, 2017 4:13 am

so much inertia in the incredibly heavily regulated nuclear industry

January 7, 2017 8:08 pm

If you don’t electricate the transportation sector and the residential and commercial NG, nuclear power is at best a partial resolution to the non-problem of CAGW

Reply to  Nicholas Schroeder
January 7, 2017 8:22 pm

Since about 55% of anthropogenic emissions of the precious air fertilizer are taken up by “greening” the biosphere and oceans every year, if emissions were reduced by more than 45% then CO2 levels would be falling, rather than rising.

January 7, 2017 8:14 pm

Personally, I think the small modular reactors could prove very useful and economical. Many designs are still based on light water reactor technology, but with a small footprint, and low maintenance, re-fueling out at 30 years or so, I think they would be ideal for doing things like powering a series of desalination plants on the California coast, or providing power to small remote communities, or to large, self-contained urban entities like medical academic centers, or manufacturing complexes. Ignorance and politics almost killed nuclear in this country, but it can still make a come back.

Jerry Henson
Reply to  Barbara
January 8, 2017 6:59 am

Barbara@ 8:14 In times gone by, I also thought small modular reactors were
a good answer. The terrorism threat makes that impractical. They would all
require security which would price them out of the market, both financially
and socially. Dirty bombs potential.

Crispin in Waterloo
January 7, 2017 8:43 pm

“In other words, solar panels are cheap only because the diesel and coal used in their making are very cheap.”
I’ve been saying that for a while, right folks? Mostly solar PV panels are coal powered batteries. You get the power back when you point them towards the sun.
I think, Author, you could put in a word for CANDU reactors which are also far safer in Fukushima situations and don’t need the concentrate. I am told they can burn thorium but that may mean they can burn U233. Maybe they are co-firing, so to speak.
I too hold out great hope for thorium based solutions. I doubt laser fusion is going to be affordable without several breakthroughs. It looks insanely dangerous. Rather something insanely safe and simple.

Donald Kasper
January 7, 2017 9:09 pm

My father related to me several times the panic attack we were out of known oil reserves. The date? 1935. These panic attacks come along periodically. Untapped shale oil. Untapped methane cathrates. Untapped deep ocean basins. Untapped Arctic. That is what is in the way of running out. So far, noting coming out of the Monterey shale of CA, but if it is, its vast size of reserves would be one-third the length of the state.

Reply to  Donald Kasper
January 8, 2017 7:53 am

DK, you need to read several of the energy essays in Blowing Smoke. Reserve Reservations discusses the Monterey. Ice that Burns covers methane clathrates. The situation is far more nuanced–and clearly less favorable–than your breezy hand wave.

January 7, 2017 9:15 pm

Might want to have a look at Lockheed Martin’s fusion power project. Then there’s a little company called Energy Matter Conversion Corporation that have built small prototype Polywell fusion reactors. They’re looking for $30 million for a next step prototype, $250 million for a break even model, begging for investors.
….and just when you didn’t think something as humble as a gasoline engine could become substantively more efficient, there’s Liquid Piston.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  Chris
January 7, 2017 10:24 pm

I used to be into building race machines and have turned pistons into liquid.
Don’t think that’s what they have in mind.

Reply to  Alan Robertson
January 9, 2017 5:35 pm

“I used to be into building race machines and have turned pistons into liquid.”</i.
Yep, know the feeling!

January 7, 2017 9:37 pm

higley7 commented :January 7, 2017 at 7:25 pm
“You miss the point that the greenies DO NOT WANT people to have cheap, reliable energy. They think people having a good, happy life means that they are using too much energy and MUST be damaging the world and environment. They are perfectly happy saddling the world with intermittent, expensive energy.”
+1 It’s not an engineering problem. It’s a social problem. Thorium/nuclear will solve a potential future energy problem but today and for generations to come fossil fuels will safely provide.

Leo Smith
Reply to  markl
January 8, 2017 2:27 am

Thorium/nuclear will solve a potential future energy problem but today and for generations to come fossil fuels will safely provide.
Agreed, but ‘decades’ may be no more than two decades…in some parts of the world.
And that’s about how long it takes to build a nuke these days
Take the UK, now apparently floating off into the mid Atlantic. It needs power. Coal is too expensive and has to be imported. Bad for balance of payments. Gas is running out though fracking may help, but uranium is as cheap a fuel as you can get and there’s tonnes of plutonium stashed away that represents a problem, or could be fuel instead for decades.
The technology to be virtually fuel independent exists. It just needs to be deployed, and the reasons it isn’t being are 90% political.
Japan has similar problem. So do countries like Finland.
Thorium is a distraction. By all means stick a pilot plant together somewhere in the world for LFTR, as we in the UK did for a fast breeder for many years, but we never bet the farm on it, and it was good that we didn’t, because although it worked, the fuel it made cost more than digging up and refining uranium.
Which is cheaper today than back then….
Read what wiki has to say about breeder reactors. Yes, we thought they were cool way back then..
“In Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, breeder reactor development programs have been abandoned.[56][57] The rationale for pursuing breeder reactors—sometimes explicit and sometimes implicit—was based on the following key assumptions:
– It was expected that uranium would be scarce and high-grade deposits would quickly become depleted if fission power were deployed on a large scale; the reality, however, is that since the end of the cold war, uranium has been much cheaper and more abundant than early designers expected.
– It was expected that breeder reactors would quickly become economically competitive with the light-water reactors that dominate nuclear power today, but the reality is that capital costs are at least 25% more than water cooled reactors.
– It was thought that breeder reactors could be as safe and reliable as light-water reactors, but safety issues are cited as a concern with fast reactors that use a sodium coolant, where a leak could lead to a sodium fire.
– It was expected that the proliferation risks posed by breeders and their “closed” fuel cycle, in which plutonium would be recycled, could be managed. But since plutonium breeding reactors produce plutonium from U238, and thorium reactors produce fissile U233 from thorium, all breeding cycles could theoretically pose proliferation risks. U232, which is always present in U233 produced in breeder reactors, however is a strong alpha emitter, and as such would make weapon handling extremely hazardous, and the weapon easy to detect.”
Technology merely dictates where on the cost/benefit curve you end up, in broad terms.
Loads of Tempests Mustangs, P38s and so on were able to win the air war against ME262 jet fighters, because there were plenty of them, the technology was well understood, and they were good enough…
Can I sell you a Betamax recorder sir?

John F. Hultquist
January 7, 2017 10:27 pm

This problem could use some attention:
USA data for 2015 deaths: 33,091 opioid deaths in the year.
Compare this one year total to the number of deaths from Nuclear power?

Reply to  stuartlarge
January 8, 2017 11:07 am

Life’s too short to find anthing useful on that site.

January 7, 2017 11:49 pm

The graph missed the meltdown at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in 1959. I was about 6 months from being born while Mom was living about 10 miles downwind at the time of the meltdown. I keep waiting for my mutant powers to kick in.
So far, I can only time travel a bit. Just forward in time, about 6-8 hours or so. A bit longer if I’ve been to a party the night before…

January 8, 2017 1:35 am

I believe the “KISS” principle favors the light water reactors. Complex plants processing hazardous materials would be a nightmare.

Leo Smith
Reply to  pochas94
January 8, 2017 2:10 am

I believe the “KISS” principle favours the light water reactors. Complex plants processing hazardous materials would be a nightmare.
Whoa there, Silver! You are in danger or replacing religious fervour with sound engineering common sense.
Of course what we need is the best compromise between cost, availability and safety that can deliver reliable baseload power.
IN engineering & statistical terms that’s PWR or BWR, right now.
CHEAP and GOOD ENOUGH. Can burn thorium/Pu239 fuel if you want, as well.
IN the magic thinking of the non technical, those can’t be any good because they are ‘established technology’.
That’s what has happened to the brains if those who have been exposed to too much marketing of ‘hi tech’ consumer products.
Can I interest you in a car with square wheels, it’s the latest technology? Way cool…

Reply to  pochas94
January 8, 2017 2:14 am

Nuclear materials are not hazardous for robots. The processing required is not so ‘complex’. If you only want to use existing BWR/PWR reactors you have to face up to keeping spent nuclear fuel, SNF, safe for hundreds of thousands of years into the future. This is because SNF is weapons proliferation risk. A crude thermonuclear device can be made from the plutonium in used PWR fuel.

Reply to  mark4asp
January 8, 2017 2:25 am

Too much Pu240 in spent nuclear fuel to make a workable device, way too much.

Leo Smith
Reply to  mark4asp
January 8, 2017 2:29 am

If you only want to use existing BWR/PWR reactors you have to face up to keeping spent nuclear fuel, SNF, safe for hundreds of thousands of years into the future. This is because SNF is weapons proliferation risk.
so wrong its not worth even beginning…

Reply to  mark4asp
January 8, 2017 3:32 am

The presence of non-plutonium-239 isotopes complicates production of nuclear weapons from the plutonium mixture, but the challenges are surmountable.

Quoted from ref 1. What counts is the testimony non-proliferation experts are willing to give congress and the senate. If they say it can be done, SNF becomes a 200,000 year liability.
1. Testimony to Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives Hearing on “Advancing Technology for Nuclear Fuel Recycling: What Should Our Research, Development, and Demonstration Strategy Be?”, June 17, 2009, Dr. Charles D. Ferguson Philip, D. Reed. An Assessment of the Proliferation Risks of Spent Fuel Reprocessing and Alternative Nuclear Waste Management Strategies (pdf)
2. Richard L. Garwin, “Reactor-Grade Plutonium can be used to Make Powerful and Reliable Nuclear Weapons,” Paper for the Council on Foreign Relations, August 26, 1998, available at: J. Carson Mark, “Explosive Properties of Reactor-Grade Plutonium,” Science and Global Security, 4, 111-128, 1993.
3. Nonproliferation and Arms Control Assessment of Weapons-Usable Fissile Material and Excess Plutonium Disposition Alternatives, DOE/NN-0007 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy, January 1997), pp. 38-39.

January 8, 2017 2:07 am

Dimethyl ether (DME) is no where near as safe as propane. Anyone who worked in an organic chemistry lab will tell you so. Quite a lot of organic chemistry lab explosions were down to old ether. The problem is that simple ethers are easily oxidised. The resultant peroxide is very unstable and, in effect, becomes an unstable detonator, with ether/air the bomb. If organic chemists have such problems handling it how well do you think Jill Public will do?

Reply to  mark4asp
January 8, 2017 11:08 am

Mark, I don’t know what DME is doing in this discussion, but I have been working in a DME plant and I don’t see any problem with DME as propellant i.s.o. propane. It only oxidises if there is oxygen available wiich is not the case in aerosol cans. It can not be stored in open cans (like the old diethyl ether) as it is a gas at room temperature and it has the advantage of water solubility up to 10%, so it is evenly distributed in most liquids to give an even spray. In such a mixture, it only burns while spraying as long as an open flame is present and goes out when the flame is removed, while propane keeps burning…

Reply to  mark4asp
January 8, 2017 11:27 am

Sorry, overlooked that paragraph in the story above. DME as energy carrier? Indeed has about the same gas/fluid characteristics as propane, but I doubt that it has the same energy content, due to its high oxygen content. Anyway, I would like to see the whole electrical – DME or other hydrocarbons conversion – mechanical conversion chain before I believe in that route.
The conversion from electricity via batteries to mechanical (electromotor) is around 80%. The conversion from electricity via hydrogen (electrolyses: ~80%) to mechanical via fuel cells (~50%) is around 40%.
The conversion from electricity to DME or other hydrocarbons would be (much) more energy consuming than for hydrogen.
The only advantage I see is that storing and distribution of DME is largely the same as for propane and existing infrastructure is easily adapted, while storing huge quantities of hydrogen at enormous pressure is a nightmare…

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
January 8, 2017 8:08 pm


January 8, 2017 2:53 am

Nuclear technology indeed is the only candidate to sustain our society. The future cannot be predicted. I expect a lot from nuclear research being neglected for decades. The ultimate power source is anti-matter. But end of the 21 th century I expect compact fusion reactors. Transmutation may become a source of energy as well. I strongly believe in human ingenuity.
Progress Always amounts to less dependency on land and nature. Compact reactors installed near the user saves land and eliminate costly grids. Cheap abundent energy allows for a clean environment, waste recycling, fast undergound transportation systems, multilevel agriculture again saving nature.

Reply to  David Dirkse
January 8, 2017 4:19 am

Nuclear technology indeed is the only candidate to sustain our society.
Back to the past to solve tomorrow’s energy needs; I salute you and others for not exploring in more depth the inner workings of the atom and the repeated, continued production of ‘anomalous’ heat in numerous experiments in labs across the world (YOU want a list? I can provide one for you on receipt of a request.).
THIS is why science advances one obit at a time, and more importantly, as old technologies die and are finally buried (example? Our modern communications infrastructure does not depend on thermionic emission devices anymore! (6×4’s, 5Y3’s, 6AU6’s, 6AL4’s, 6AK5’s …IOW, tubes!)).

Patrick MJD
January 8, 2017 3:00 am

What breakthrough? ALL energy we can extract from this rock has already been stored in this rock. Dig it up and use it. Coal. Australia has ~500 of known reserves of coal at current consumption rates. Let’s use it!

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Patrick MJD
January 8, 2017 3:02 am

~500 years…

January 8, 2017 3:07 am

There is only one technology that can save civilization – the thorium molten salt reactor

Exaggeration for effect? Fast reactors are viable alternatives to power all humanity’s electricity needs. The waste cycle of a fast reactor will not be as clean. A fast reactor also needs far more fissile material to operate (at least 4 times as much, per reactor, per MW). So fast reactors are not ideal. In the near term, fast reactors may be more practical. With basic reprocessing, they can use much of the 300,000 + tonnes of spent nuclear fuel the nuclear industry has made as a fuel input. 3 main kinds of fast reactor are likely possible: molten salt reactors, and liquid metal cooled reactors. The liquid metal may be sodium or lead.
I’m all in favour of thorium reactors; but not if it means waiting 30 years for the perfect reactor to turn up. Gordon McDowell’s youtube video: thorium remix 2011 is a good introduction to the thorium molten salt reactor (despite not being made by an engineer). Yet viewers may get the impression the finished technology is further along than it is.

G. Karst
Reply to  mark4asp
January 8, 2017 9:20 am

I too am nervous about moving into fast fission reactors. The funny thing is that Canada’s CANDU reactors were originally designed to fission thorium NOT U235. Why Canada hasn’t taken advantage of this today is puzzling. It is a slow fission design and one which has proven it’s safety. It does not require enrichment NOR fast fission to operate… yet is ignored. Go figure. GK

January 8, 2017 3:23 am

True. We should focus our R&D efford on MSR running on thorium. In Greenland we have so much thorium we can power the world for at least the next centuries.
“Our current dominant nuclear technology of burning U235 in light water reactors is inherently unsafe and produces a lot of waste while doing so.”
This is not really true. The current reactors, while not as cheap as natural gas in the US is very safe and fairly cheap, like coal. The regulations has skyrocketed and made the price higher than it needs to be. Also the regulations is based on the LNT model, while evidence is pointing to that it is not correct, making the regulations unnecessary hard and thus increasing costs unnecessarily.
It produces waste which is 95% unburnt hence it can be used as fuel in a breeder reactor or a MSR reactor down the road.
Hence we should expand building LWRs as it satisfies both the need for more and cheap energy – and the green blob’s obsession with co2.
We don’t need intermittent energy such as wind or solar, but reliable cheap baseload, and if the lack of co2 emissions makes nuclear viable, I am all for it.

Reply to  halken
January 8, 2017 4:22 am

halken: “True. We should focus our R&D efford on MSR running on thorium.
Yup. Never mind advances made in other areas since. Let’s look back to ‘tech’ pioneered in the 1950’s and ‘pour’ govt money into that …
(Have we NOT learned a thing since?)

January 8, 2017 3:53 am

A rational building code for nuclear plants would cause a renaissance for the industry. Then, retire all the regulators.

January 8, 2017 4:43 am

Whatever we do, it must be “walk-away safe” That is to say the design must not have any failure modes that require active energy inputs. The design of many power reactors in use today produce spent fuel that must be actively cooled. These fuel rods are kept in a pool of water that requires years of management and continuous circulation of cooling water.
This design illustrates the hubris of the big government regulatory state. It presumes that competent people and sufficient energy will continuously be available at the point of need. Any failure results in a Fukushima-like catastrophe. The inability to sustain the cooling of the spent fuel pool was exactly one of the components of that ongoing nightmare.
Now, we could go into the long regulatory history of nuclear power as well and how the regulators only approve designs they are comfortable with and the design history began with Naval submarine reactors. The problem with nuclear power is not the the radioactive nature of the power source, it is the decision-making and regulatory environment in which nuclear power plants are designed in the first place. A related component is that different designs imply different security issues. The more security that is needed, the higher the security “burden” during operation. The higher that burden, the more economic incentives weigh towards larger centralized power plants, meaning larger reactors and more of them inside one security perimeter, thus subject to a common cause of massive failure. It did not have to be this way. And there is NO reason to ever make this mistake again.

Bill Illis
January 8, 2017 4:59 am

This is the nucleon binding energy chart. This is the energy curve that powers the stars and powers the supernovas.
Smaller-sized stars like the Sun stay on the bottom part of the fusion spectrum while the largest stars, greater than 8 solar masses, get all the way up to and past the Fe Iron fusion stage (and it takes huge temperatures and pressures to get to this fusion stage.)
But after Fe Iron fusion, the reaction takes “more” energy than it gives back. Once a critical mass of Fe Iron fusion is occurring in a massive star, 70% of the star explodes outwards in a supernova and 30% explodes inwards (or gravity collapses the matter inwards is a more accurate description).
The 30% that explodes inwards becomes a neutron star, a quark star or a black hole. These stars have been compressed so much by the implosion/gravity compression that the gravity at their surface is half the speed of light and even higher. As in, when a star with 16 solar masses explodes inwards in a supernova, the neutron star/quark star at its centre probably has gravity greater than the speed of light near its surface, ie an event horizon at some distance from the surface and now it is a black hole.
The 70% that explodes outwards occurs with such force, that even more elements are created through fusion on the way outward and the galaxy gets seeded with even heavier elements like uranium and others as well as whatever Fe Iron and Nickel is left over in the star at the time of the supernova. Earth is probably made up of a half dozen of these long-ago supernovas.
But this is the curve that powers the universe. Gravity is the force used to collapse mass until the fusion curve takes over but there are trillions upon trillions of objects in the universe that use this curve.
Somewhere along the fusion part, there is an Isotope of an element that fuses easier or produces enough energy that what we need to put in in terms of energy is less than what comes out. Some have said that the Nickel Isotopes are more apt to produce fusion reactions. We need to be experimenting with those (even the cold fusion guys have used this rationale).
Somewhere in there is the best option. One that will be inherently safer and even completely harmless. Maybe it is not at either ends of the fusion (H to He) and fission curves (U235) but somewhere else in the middle with one of the isotopes of all those elements and isotopes there.

Reply to  Bill Illis
January 8, 2017 6:28 am

But this is the curve that powers the universe. ” et al.
… according to *present* thinking. ALWAYS remember that.

Doug Huffman
January 8, 2017 5:22 am

From The Nuclear News, “Thor-bores,” LOL. There is scant mention of Th at Rod Adams’, my co-worker’s, blog.
Let’s recover our nuclear-economy before we change horses mid-stream. We know our old nag is reliable if tired and ugly. Thor-bores’ promises are glib, shallow and brittle.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
January 8, 2017 5:54 am

I agree. If we create a situation where nuclear plants can be built and make money, they will be. And if they become a part of the power infrastructure there will be money and motivation for R and D on more efficient and cheaper models. Universities might start turning out nuclear engineers and building small scale experimental reactors that can power the school as a side effect of the research.

Reply to  peter
January 8, 2017 6:23 am

“and make money”
Impose the same “restrictions” e.g. security requirements and decommissioning accrual accounts and the charging of fuel costs STRAIGHT through to the customer (i.e. level the playing field cost-wise) and SEE who “makes money.”
Are you aware that a functioning nuclear plant (Vermont Yankee) was closed within the last couple of years as a result of the way electric pricing works in the ‘merchant’ power market in its (VY’s) area?

Robert Monical
January 8, 2017 5:57 am
Doug Huffman
Reply to  Robert Monical
January 8, 2017 8:02 am

Why the intermediate heat exchanger He/H2O? A turbine works fine with hot gas and He has no radioactive isotopes.
The supply of Helium is finite and the end is in sight.

Lonnie E. Schubert
January 8, 2017 6:45 am

Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
Nuclear fission will power us for centuries. Nuclear fusion will power us for as long as we continue, but we won’t commercialize fusion for decades. Let’s get good a fission. We do need to look into molten salts and thorium. (Research is behind. Probably need about 15 years to catch up. Fusion probably still needs several decades, unless there is a genius-breakthrough.)
“Over the last decade, governments around the world have spent tens of billions of dollars on all sorts of schemes to make energy from anything other than fossil fuels. They have tried everything except the only thing that will work.” David Archibald

January 8, 2017 6:52 am

I didn’t see any mention of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) in comments. This was a viable design by the early 1990s at Argonne West, but was cancelled by Bill Clinton with assists from then-Senator John Kerry and NRDC. (See the PBS interview with Charles Till at I believe the GE / Hitachi PRSIM reactor is based on the same ideas. But the problem is not technology, it’s politics.
I’m not sure if Clinton, Kerry and NRDC were fronting for oil and coal interests, but I doubt it. I think the objective on their part – they being “liberal” scare-mongers, Chicken Littles, and Luddites – was and is, as some have stated, to prevent us from having plentiful, inexpensive energy. They thrive on misery and crisis, which they propose to fix by the application of more government control and less personal freedom. I wish the average person were sufficiently educated to see beyond the propaganda and scare tactics that prevent us from having the future we otherwise would be enjoying, or maybe just sufficiently wise to detect evil motives in those who would reshape the world either for their own personal benefit or as a result of their complete and utter incompetence.

January 8, 2017 7:01 am

Brilliant Light Power

Reply to  Hum
January 8, 2017 8:02 am

Mills has been running this scam, formerly known as Blacklight Power, for 25 years. His fancy math GUT-CQM is a joke; it is not Lorenz invariant. Thenwave equationmformhydrogen can be solved exactly. It predicts the experimentally determined energy level spectra precisely. There is no hydrino below ground state. His paper claiming experimental detection via XPS ignores that fact that the lightest element XPS can detect is lithium. It cannot detect hydrogen. And, by my count this is about the fifth device reincarnation of catalyzed hydrino energy. None of the previous ones worked. The ‘experiments’ claimingntheyndid were all easily proven jokes. Wrote it up to 2012 in The Arts of Truth.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 8:32 am

Do not take ristvan’s word as the final conclusion on this. Mills is forcing NO ONE to finance his activities, yet, you would think reading ristvan that Mills is peddling snake oil out the back of a covered wagon to an unsuspecting pubic.
Mills is very open about the progress being made, and has published many papers and shows the results of many tests on his website.
See – didn’t I JUST write that “this ‘crackpot tech’ is not to be discussed in proper social circles?”

Curious George
Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 1:02 pm

Glad to hear that Mills is not looking for money. I am looking forward to seeing his results. His evaluation of himself is very positive indeed.

Reply to  Hum
January 8, 2017 8:02 am

No beuno. The stalwarts in old, ‘establishment physics’ has labeled this ‘crackpot tech’ and not to be discussed in proper social circles ….

Reply to  Hum
January 12, 2017 9:48 am

Love Tom Cruise move LIVE. DIE. REPEAT. where he and the DI instructor exchange cities of origin: his is CRANBERRY NJ where Mill incorporated Black Light.
Actually it is the distillation of Pons/Fleischmann COLD FUSION which from the comments above still has the same contagion as HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED.

Jerry Henson
January 8, 2017 7:26 am
Jerry Henson
Reply to  Jerry Henson
January 8, 2017 7:27 am


January 8, 2017 7:57 am

I read the opening post, the title of which I copied below, with interest a day ago.
..Nuclear Breakthrough Needed
..Guest Blogger / 15 hours ago January 7, 2017
..Guest essay by David Archibald

And then I read this off the wire, a dispatch from a few days ago:
<i<JANUARY 05, 2017
Researchers at … are reporting that they have successfully replicated “over unity” amounts of thermal energy (heat) for …'s most advanced [hydrogen-based] reactor test systems based on controlled low energy nuclear reactions (“LENR”). Researchers at … conducted a series of third-party tests of … ’s … LENR reactor test systems from March to December 2016. Dr. …, principal investigator and Manager of the Low Energy Nuclear Reactions Program, was assigned to …'s testing of ..’s LENR systems and conducted all of the third-party validation work.
AND it makes me wonder, WHY the big ‘disconnect’ (not ONE mention of anything close to this class of future product or subject) on this board when concerned about future sources of energy?
(Note: I removed specific info for a reason: to ‘protect the innocent’ you might say at least for the first round of responses.)

Reply to  _Jim
January 8, 2017 9:46 am

LENR has been known to be real for several years, shown experimentally in two basic ways. Weak force per Widom-Larsen theory. That Brillouin’s HHT is now over unity is not surprising. The issue is that it needs to be at least 5-7x over unity to be commercially viable. With the earlier low temp system they were only able to show ~2.5x. Wrote the whole cold fusion confusion (Rossi E-Cat fr@ud) and LENR science plus Brillouin up in 2012 The Arts of Truth. Whether the ‘new’ LENR physics can be usefully harnessed remains a very open question. Just like Lockheed skunkworks strong force high beta fusion claims.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 10:06 am

Intimation that a fr a ud is being perpetrated on SOMEBODY.
PLEASE, name the harmed party, if you can, ristvan. JUST one. These accusations have grown old.
I am thinking you may be:
a) WELL beyond your prime in mental agility in reading and understanding a proper experiment which Rossi has had performed (pending review of data) and Mills has demonstrated recently, or
b) You may be beholden to some industry or group who would stand to lose money or marketshare SHOULD these devices pan out and prove practical.
I would encourage anyone else to DO their own due diligence BUT be forewarned there are those like ristvan who are decidedly AGAINST this new technology SOLELY on the ‘maths’ and equations set down on paper, experiments and third-party tests and demonstrations of their concepts be damned!
CLEARLY ristvan chooses abstract theory over demonstrated lab results and field trials.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 12:10 pm

With respect to Rossi E-cat, Darden and the other investors in Industrial Heat who lost $11 million. There are currently three lawsuits in process.
With respect to Mills hydrino, at least the non-exclusive licensees who bought 8MW worth of ‘CIHT’ elctricity generating licenses in his 2008 incarnation.
You need to research more before commenting. Both scams covered (along with 4 others) in a single chapter of The Arts of Truth. Complete with references and footnotes. Carefully and thoroughly documented so there can be no possible legal repercussions from the exposed fraudsters.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 1:46 pm

And Jim, there are NO confirmed successful experimental results from either Rossi or Mills. Please cite one. Rossi’s spent fuel provided the wrong copper isoptope ratios. His cable in setups can be spoofed two separate ways depending on two or three phase, none were ever checked. The Rowan result from Mills ‘metal’ is a classic chemical Raney nickel reaction. None of Mill’s devices have ever been shown to produce sustained energy as claimed. Please study up on this stuff before repeating nonsense.

Reply to  ristvan
January 11, 2017 8:30 am

So the word “fr‍aud” is censored? Hmmm.

January 8, 2017 8:02 am

I note that some here say we can burn used nuclear fuel in MSRs but extracting unwanted byproducts would be a problem.
The problem starts well before then. To get ‘used’ uranium fuel you have to reprocess it.
You would be ill advised to attempt to use an old fuel rod (uranium pellets encased in alloy). We have had a history of fuel rods splitting, bulging etc. It is a known problem area.
So we reprocess the fuel rods – see here for a description of THORP, the UK reprocessing plant at sellafield.
It will be closing down once current contracts expire.
Reprocessing nuclear fuels is difficult and messy, removing products that ‘poison’ the chain reaction is difficult.
I suspect it will be a very long time to get a complete workable and effective Thorium fuel cycle in place.
Unless of course we have a Manhattan style project.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
January 8, 2017 8:22 am

My, but aren’t we ‘flying close to the sun’ today?

Reply to  steverichards1984
January 8, 2017 9:27 am

Copenhagen Atomics doesn’t think it is a problem. In fact a wasterburner is part of their business plan.

Reply to  steverichards1984
January 8, 2017 10:07 am

US researchers fundamentally solved used fuel reprocessing over 2 decades ago with the pyroprocessing / electro-processing technology of the Integral Fast Reactor. The IFR did not need pure fuel with all ‘unwanted byproducts‘ removed.
Video: Roger Blomquist of ANL (Argonne National Lab) on IFR (Integral Fast Reactor)

Reply to  steverichards1984
January 8, 2017 10:35 am

The Integral Fast Reactor had a working fuel cycle. It was an integrated / closed cycle, meaning nothing went in or out for the life of the plant. I don’t know the details of the metallic fuel rod it used, other than its thermal coefficient of expansion made thermal runaway impossible. It may also have simplified the prevention of poisoning, as it didn’t require the separation of various components (i.e. it didn’t make plutonium available).

Reply to  Pops
January 8, 2017 10:36 am

…what mark4asp said…

January 8, 2017 8:06 am is commercializing the molten salt reactor technology demonstrated at the ORNL with essentially no modifications.
Terrestrial Energy is designing a slightly modified version of the same with a novel passive heat removal system.
Both are targeting uranium fuel today, with a transition to thorium breeder designs if/when uranium gets expensive.
The first is being demonstrated in Indonesia. The second is targeting Canada as their first market. If they can get the DOE to pay for their NRC application, they might try to build one in the US. Best case scenario, we’ll have one here in 20 years. The first unit in Indonesia is expected to be in service in about 5 years.

January 8, 2017 8:14 am

Everything you say is correct, except ” dominant nuclear technology of burning U235 in light water reactors is inherently unsafe” which is nonsense.
Nuclear power is safer than any other large-scale form of energy generation, despite Chernobyl and Fukushima. It has killed fewer people per terawatt generated than hydro (Google the Chinese dam disaster in the 1970’s, the casualties of which if you include the aftermath of the immediate flooding approached Hiroshima, not Fukushima).

Reply to  diogenesnj
January 8, 2017 9:39 am

In terms of human deaths you would be correct. But both Chernobyl and Fukushima made large areas of land uninhabitable by government fiat. And both have been very expensive clean-ups. So why take that risk when with a molten salt reactor would never allow anywhere near the amount of radiation to escape that an LWR can since all the radioactive elements will be bound up in salt?
But the great advantage is efficiency. A molten salt reactor can burn up nearly all of the thorium and uranium and a typical light water reactor burns up about 1%. And the LWR runs on U235 which is as rare as platinum. Thorium is 400 times more plentiful than U235.

Reply to  diogenesnj
January 8, 2017 9:51 am

dominant nuclear technology of burning U235 in light water reactors is inherently unsafe” which is nonsense

It is not the safest possible. Apart from availability, I can’t see any advantage the LWR has over molten salt or liquid metal cooled reactors. A LWR still threatens the possibility of widespread radioactive contamination which scares everyone. Molten salt and liquid metal cooled reactors eliminate that threat.

Reply to  mark4asp
January 9, 2017 4:14 pm

Oh yes, I’m very fond conceptually of liquid metal cooled reactors, particularly the Pb-Bi cooling pioneered by the Russian navy and used in the Alfa class subs. It makes my self-declared environmentalist friends faint dead away by combining two of their favorite boogeymen: radiation and heavy metals. 🙂
The metallurgy wasn’t there in the beginning to inhibit corrosion due to O2 content in the lead, but the concept is being revived by (among others) Gen4 Energy.

January 8, 2017 9:50 am

Bill Gates’ project:
There’s also a standing wave variant, in which the fuel is moved around under robotic control.

Reply to  Chimp
January 8, 2017 1:48 pm

One of several 4th gen fission ideas. He tried to get the chinese to support a pilot. They opted MSR instead.

January 8, 2017 10:01 am

What about heavy water reactors like CANDU? They are already approved and can burn thorium in place of uranium.
Thorium Fuel Cycles
There has long been an attraction for fuel cycles using thorium as a thermal breeder of fissile material (U-233). Thorium is three times as abundant as uranium in the earth’s crust, and U-233 is valuable as a fissile material due to its high value of fission neutrons produced per thermal neutron absorbed (eta).
Existing CANDU reactors can operate on thorium fuel cycles, with comparable fuel-cycle costs to the natural-uranium cycle and with improved uranium utilization. While ultimate efficiency is achieved with a self-sufficient cycle that relies only on bred U-233, economical once-through thorium (OTT) cycles can greatly extend uranium resources.
Several options have been identified for the use of OTT in CANDU reactors (Milgram, 1984), and on-power refuelling is the key to successful exploitation of this material. Two general approaches have emerged: the “mixed-core” approach, and the “mixed-fuel-bundle” approach (Boczar, 1998).
In the “mixed-core” approach, a number of “driver” channels provide the flux requirements for a fewer number of “breeding” channels filled with thorium-oxide fuel. This is the conventional CANDU-OTT strategy, and has the potential to be competitive, in terms of resource utilization and economics, with both natural-uranium and SEU fuel cycles (Milgram, 1982; Dastur, 1995). Complex fuel management is required to handle the different characteristics and residence times of the two fuel types.
In the “mixed-fuel-bundle” approach, thorium oxide is contained in the central elements of a fuel bundle, and SEU is contained in the outer elements. Although uranium utilization and thorium irradiation are not as good as in the “mixed-core” approach, uranium utilization is improved over the natural-uranium cycle (but not SEU), with comparable costs. Fuel management is much simpler than in the “mixed-core” approach, and refuelling rates are about a third of that required with natural uranium (Chan, 1998).
An extension of the CANDU-OTT cycle is the “direct self-recycle” of the thorium elements bearing U-233, into new “mixed-bundles” containing fresh SEU elements. This is an excellent example of a proliferation-resistant fuel-recycle option (Boczar, 1999).
In the long term, the CANDU reactor is synergistic with fast-breeder reactors (FBRs), where a few expensive FBRs could supply the fissile requirement of cheaper, high-conversion-ratio CANDU reactors, operating on the thorium cycle.
Thorium fuel cycles have additional benefits beyond uranium resource extension. Both the thermal conductivity and melting point of thorium oxide are higher than that of uranium oxide (by 50% and 340ºC, respectively). Thorium oxide is chemically very stable, does not oxidize, and creates fewer minor actinides than uranium. Even with the existence of economical uranium fuel cycles, thorium can be used to simultaneously extend resources and create a “mine” of safeguarded U-233 for future exploitation.

January 8, 2017 10:05 am

The worlds first commercial nuclear power plant was at Calder Hall, in Cumbria in the uk, and opened in 1954.

January 8, 2017 10:09 am

While molten salt has theoretically higher efficiency for steam generation than heavy water CANDU reactors, one should not ignore simplicity and proven track record. CANDU reactors are relatively simple and can also burn spent fuel from existing light water reactors as well as thorium.
Canada and China team up on AFCR
23 September 2016
An agreement in principle to form a new joint venture to develop, market and construct the Advanced Fuel Candu Reactor (AFCR) has been signed by Canada’s SNC-Lavalin, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Shanghai Electric. The reactor reuses used fuel from light water reactors.

Reply to  ferdberple
January 8, 2017 10:50 am

Yeah, but the only builds, if any, will be in China. Didn’t think our current governments would give the go ahead for a new plant. Minor miracle they gave the go ahead for refurbishment in Ontario.
Guess even our liberal Government was smart enough to see that taking thirty percent of our generation capacity off line when they have already shut down all coal plants was not viable. Wind and Solar certainly are not going to make up the shortfall.

Curious George
Reply to  ferdberple
January 8, 2017 1:09 pm

Proven track record? When and where?

JJM Gommers
Reply to  ferdberple
January 8, 2017 1:18 pm

New technology has become available in producing heavy water at lower costs than the Girdler process..

G. Karst
Reply to  ferdberple
January 8, 2017 1:25 pm

Excellent pitch! The world continues to ignore the benefits of a heavy water moderated system. Basically, it burns ANY fissile rock without enrichment. The magic being one extra neutron in the deuterium atom. GK

January 8, 2017 11:33 am

If the government had really believed in high risk AGW it would have started building nuclear plants twenty years ago.. Wind and solar will never be competitive as most need standby equipment for when there is no sun or wind, that is not counted in the cost..
Although LFTRs sound attractive enough that they should be explored, there are problems as many have pointed out above. All new nuclear power stations seem too expensive due to government regulations and all require the gov. to pick up the insurance. Being able to burn the accumulated rad waste is a large advantage. Breeder reactors are still banned in the US I believe.
They are not the only potentially fail safe solution. China will be bringing on line two commercial advanced pebble bed reactors late in 2017.
I like the thought of more smaller power plants rather than a few big ones.
It is a pity that DOE is so committed to Tokamaks that there is no money left over for more promising solutions. ITER is now projected at $25 billion and will never be an economic solution.- in the 2070s(!)
Why not at least look at other designs like the Polywell that only needs $35 million to build a demonstrator? There are several others.
I remain optimistic about LENR. Earlier this week SRI published a news report saying they had independently verified the Brilouin’s reactor worked.
If that works, Rossi;s QuarkX probably does as well. He promises a demo, possibly with water calorimetry, in February. BLP’s SunCell is supposed to have a prototype mid 2017.
Having many small reactors, keeping the government out of it and eliminating the cost of power distribution is the on;y route to much cheaper energy.
As almost the lone proponent of LENR on this site I feel it is rather like the AGW “consensus” where biased people simply will not look at the evidence.

Reply to  Adrian Ashfield
January 8, 2017 12:30 pm

LENR is real physics; whether it can be commercialized is an open question. Rossi’s new QuarkX is just a small E-Cat. The whole Rossi E-Cat thing is an easily proven fr@ud. Rossi claimed catalytic cold fusion of hydrogen plus nickel into copper. Mill’s new Brilliant Light SunCell is his latest Hydrino machine. It is the latest reincarnation of what used to be called Blacklight Power. It is also a fr@ud; hydrinos do not and cannot exist. Both explained at length in The Arts of Truth. Other partial explanations elsewhere in subcomments to this thread.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 12:38 pm

And ristvan cannot name even a singe ‘harmed party’ by any degree of fr a ud and after HOW many years?
So, who may be the fr a ud here, ristvan? Ante up or …

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 1:50 pm

My, I listed specific financial Rossi and Mills victims by name upthread. Do keep up.

Curious George
Reply to  Adrian Ashfield
January 8, 2017 1:31 pm

I am keeping my fingers crossed. I have a great trust in Pons’s and Fleischmann’s integrity. Attempts to reproduce their results mostly failed; the effect may only occur under a very narrow set of conditions. I don’t find SRI’s verification very convincing; they only found “up to several watts” of additional heat. That could be coming from unanticipated chemical reactions or calibration errors. Let’s be cautiously optimistic.

Reply to  Curious George
January 8, 2017 2:53 pm

CG, I researched this and explained it in AoT. While head ot MOT strategy, myself and the CTO sent our best quantum physicist, Jim ‘phonon’ Jaske to France to their post Utah lab funded by Toyota. Jim reported back that there was a real new physics phenomenon, but it wasn’t reproducible and could not be literal cold fusion. 2012 book discussion explained why, based on experiments from Navy’s SPRWAR. There are two approachs to a repeatable LENR solution: NASA MEMS plasmons, and Brillouin’s surface phonons concentrated by the AC skin effect as first postulated by Nobel Physics winner Julian Schwinger. LENR will eventually make a rich historynof science example. Which is why it is in the same ‘recognition’ chapter as Wagoner’s continental drift theory.

G. Karst
Reply to  Adrian Ashfield
January 10, 2017 8:15 am

Adrian – I think you will find many here who are open minded about LENR. However, this site is reluctant to discuss it openly for fear of losing what credibility is left after opposing consensus climate science.
I agree, that the fear of loss of face, should NOT prevent discussion of LENR advances and development. More discussion is needed on a possible theory explaining the phenomena is required. Dismissal out of hand is ignorant and not the scientific method. IMHO GK

Gunga Din
January 8, 2017 11:53 am

If I’m not mistaken, France has had most of it’s power from nuclear reactors for decades.
Anybody hear a French Three Mile Island or Chernobyl?
Sounds like thorium reactors would make such events even less likely here than they’ve been in France with the “old stuff”.
What’s the hold up?
Not enough elites can siphon funds off an economically viable energy source?
A genuinely energy independent America (or UK or Australia or Japan or…) doesn’t fit in a global-control agenda?

January 8, 2017 12:04 pm

The best bets right now would be on LENR (aka cold fusion).
In the past year we seen a number of new replications of this technology, and Stanford Research Institute after 9 months of independent testing of Berkeley based Brillouin LENR devices has confirmed they work and produce energy!
We talking about table top working nuclear devices WORKING NOW!!!
Press announcement here:
Given that Airbus started filing patents last year on LENR, that we see several replications of LENR occurring in China, Russia and Japan, and now the above from SRI in the USA, then LENR likely has a better change then LFTR or Lockheed’s compact fusion reactor.
LENR is ALREADY shown to produce excess energy, and the above verification of LENR reactors working and producing heat is just another feather in the hat in terms of verification the excess heat that Pons and Fleeshman saw 30 years ago.
So above shows ALREADY working devices – so bets are that LENR the best choice for a future energy and that’s where investments should be going.
Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Reply to  albertkallal
January 8, 2017 12:09 pm

I take it you didn’t read my post just two above yours.

Reply to  Adrian Ashfield
January 8, 2017 12:33 pm

You were both “beat to the draw” as we are like to say in Tejas …
Doug Huffman had even posted a link.

Reply to  albertkallal
January 8, 2017 12:17 pm

LENR is real, but it is not cold fusion. Fusion involves the strong force, and very high temperatures are required to overcome the Coulomb barrier. This presents the confinement problem. Cold fusion is literally impossible. LENR involves the weak force per Widom-Larsen theory. No Coulomb barrier to overcome. Its real physics, now with good experimental evidence as well as explanations for why Pons Fleischman was so hard to replicate. Whether it can be commercialized remains open to question.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 12:52 pm

ristvan: “Fusion involves the strong force, and very high temperatures are required
Demonstration of an old-school perspective; since you know no other, correction, cannot possibly conceive of any other method or means by which this is accomplished.
You are the very definition, sir, of staid thinking.
I do not purport to know by what or which means this is accomplished, but, take note that I also do not make definitive statements of this nature either.

Curious George
Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 1:35 pm

_Jim, I thought you wanted to discuss a fusion, not your hurt feelings.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 1:50 pm

You have no proof that the E-Cat is a fraud. You are just parroting the consensus that says cold fusion doesn’t work. There is plenty of proof that it does work. It has been replicated. Rossi took IH to court, not the other way around. Do you really think a fraudster would do that?
The QuarkX , from what little is known, is quite different from the E-Cat. The idea that the reaction converted Ni to Cu is long dead and was probably a deliberately misleading clue to start with. You should really do some homework before spouting misleading libelous statements.
I don’t know if hydrinos exist but Mills GUP explains a number of problems in quantum physics so you are foolish to dismiss that without having read it yourself..

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 2:02 pm

Jim, you do know Coulomb’s law? Like charges repel, opposite charges attract. All nuclei are protons (most also have neutrons, hydrogen being the exception. They are positively charged. Hence the Coulomb barrier. Overcome only when temperature (vibrational energy ) exceeds about 100 million K depending on confinement system. The Sun’s is simple gravity. Thatnis definitiv and can safely be stated, even calculated.
Rossi’s spent fuel sample contained the wrong copper isotopes for hydrogen nickel fusion hot or cold. Falsified statement. Mill’s claim to have detected mathematically impossible hydrinos using XPS is also palpably false; XPS cannot detect hydrogen or helium.
Try addressing the message rsther than the messenger. FYI, I hold 13 issued US patents, several based on a fundamental revision (with multiple experimental proofs) to an energy storage conventional physics wisdom almost 70 years old, that was just wrong. Not senile yet. You need to be more skeptical of extroadinary energy claims without extraordinary proof. Or, by all means invest in Rossi and Mills. They thrive on people like you.

Richard Baguley
Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 2:23 pm

Ristvan: “hydrogen being the exception.”
Hydrogen with a neutron is commonly called deuterium, also known as “heavy hydrogen.”

Richard Baguley
Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 2:34 pm

Oh, did I forget to mention tritium ?

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 3:06 pm

AA, actually, I published three separate specific reasons why it is”in 2012 The Arts of Truth. And, Mill’s GUT-CQM is math nonsense; one of its many defects is that it is not Lorentz invariant. That by itself is fatal to Mills hydrino BS.
Read my long referenced dissections of these plus several other equally hairbrained surficially plausible energy schemes. Do not assume I am espousing any consensus position. I am a hardbitten skeptic who checks everything personally, with enough math, science, and legal chops to feel confident in what gets published. Especially when my book calls out people by name as scamsters.
You might enjoy the book. Takes on class room size, standardized testing, EPA MPG, and hundreds of other artful nontruths (even the book title is an example of its theme). Final long extensively referenced example chapter is climate change. Was critiqued by Lindzen (I went to MIT for a full day in person) 6 months prior to publication.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 3:23 pm

RB, should have said ordinary hydrogen. Blog comment slight imprecision while watching Dolphins lose to Pirates. I am well aware of deuterium ‘heavy water’ and tritium. Is part of the LENR cascade to ‘quatrium’ (joke reference to the great old novel The Mouse that Roared) that results in 3He plus net LENR energy. Explained the Widom-Larsen physics in the ebook without using any math, for laymen.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 7:22 pm

“actually, I published three separate specific reasons why it is”in 2012 The Arts of Truth. And, Mill’s GUT-CQM is math nonsense; one of its many defects is that it is not Lorentz invariant. That by itself is fatal to Mills hydrino BS.”
AA/ You give no link. How do you explain that Mills gives a far more accurate estimate of many fundamental values than QM and can forecast the arrangement of complicated molecules?
QM has a number of problems that are glossed over. It fails to provide any clue to visualize matter and is probably why there has been so little progress in physics for thirty years.
“Read my long referenced dissections of these plus several other equally hairbrained surficially plausible energy schemes. Do not assume I am espousing any consensus position. I am a hardbitten skeptic who checks everything personally, with enough math, science, and legal chops to feel confident in what gets published.”
AA. Still no link.
“Especially when my book calls out people by name as scamsters.”
AA. I know there are a lot of scams. There are also scientific discoveries that are ignored because scientists didn’t learn about them at school. Everybody knew Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were wacko for claiming ulcers were caused by Helicobacter pylori, Right?
Fusion in LENR does take place but not by the same route as with hot fusion. It has been replicated.
In Rossi’s case the energy comes from transmutation rather than fusion.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 8:18 pm

AA, repeating my book references is boring. Maybe buy it?. You want more, concerning Lorenz invariance specific to Mills try Rathke, N. J. Physics. 7:127 (2005). He, likely unlike you, is actually a degreed astrophysicist. A book footnote.

Reply to  ristvan
January 8, 2017 9:00 pm

So, as a physicist, I was curious, and tried to visit the “” site, but apparently that now takes you to the commercial site:, which actually says that the hydrino (as Rud described) is a “smaller” hydrogen atom, owing to a lower energy state of its electron (in conflict with quantum mechanics as currently formulated), but further says that their hypothetical hydrino is dark matter…really?
According to CERN, “Unlike normal matter, dark matter does not interact with the electromagnetic force. This means it does not absorb, reflect or emit light [my translation: i.e., ENERGY], making it extremely hard to spot. In fact, researchers have been able to infer the existence of dark matter only from the gravitational effect it seems to have on visible matter.”
The whole hydrino proposition sounds more than a bit quack-ish in my opinion, as not only does it not fit in the current paradigm (which is fine, because advances in sciences are, in part, about breaking down entrenched – but flawed – paradigms), but does not seem to answer the questions that motivated the hypothesis of dark matter. I.e., it seems to simply take advantage of the fact that we have not as yet identified dark matter, but by associating their hypothetical hydrogen state with the mysterious, but reasonably respected (still hypothetical) dark matter, they add legitimacy (at least in the non-technical public’s eyes) to their hydrino, while completely ignoring the whole reason dark matter was originally hypothesized.

Reply to  ristvan
January 9, 2017 6:06 am

“repeating my book references is boring. Maybe buy it?.”
On the other hand, you could try answering my question

Reply to  ristvan
January 9, 2017 10:50 am

>>LENR cold fusion.
Right, and that’s why I used LENR (aka: cold fusion).
Everyone here uses the term greenhouse gas, but we all know that the greenhouse effect is 100% different then how a greenhouse gas works! A greenhouse does not increase heat due to some CO2 or gas trapping heat, but the fact that the enclosed box prevents convection. In other words, if you open windows and allow air flow in a greenhouse then temperatures will equalize with the outside. So the term “greenhouse gas” is a false term since that’s not how a greenhouse works! (A greenhouse works on preventing convection!) Yet we use the term every day to describe greenhouse gases like CO2. So it is the wrong term, but side used.
And I thus much used LENR as the better term then cold fusion. However there’s still “wide spread” knowledge of the term cold fusion being applied to LENR – so it was in this context I used the term. And I figured others would jump in thus allowing me to keep my post shorter and save me time (so much for that idea as I am now having to point out the above!).
I also avoided Rossi in my comments since he is tanged in lawsuits right now. If Rossi has working devices, then he will simple dig himself out of his own hole – so whatever happens will be Ross’s great doing or un-doings.
I do think low pressure reactors (molten salt) are something that we need and should peruse. Canada built about 7 “pot belly” low pressure reactors in the 1970’s. Some were going to be used to heat northern hospitals. Energy Canada was working on a Sterling engine to be pared with such reactors. Most of these pot Belly reactors (which are self-regulating) are being de-commissioned. Even the boiling of the water slows down the reaction – they are super simple, and very smart in designs to self regulate. The nuclear reactor in the basement of the Pharmacy building at U of Alberta still runs today – and it been running since 1978 – about 40 years!
That is 40+ years of near ZERO maintains – I believe it rated for up to 20kw of energy. These types of reactors are so simple – and very easy to build!
I would much say that if LENR don’t pan out, then pot belly and low pressure molten salt reactors are CLEARY the way forward, since such reactors can be sized for heating a house or a large hi-rise buildings.
So low pressure reactors are safe, run for decades without maintains required.
I think LENR has more potential to change the world since such devices can be made VERY small and light – and don’t require nuclear material like LFTR, but even non thorium pot belly nuclear reactors make sense if LENR somehow does not win this energy race – the fact that Canada had several low pressure reactors running for 30+ years with near zero maintains shows how benign and wonderful nuclear energy can be.
Right now, the bets go to the dark horse is LENR. Why ANY article can ignore LENR as a future energy source tends to point out that such articles are without merit.

January 8, 2017 12:13 pm

Russia has pilot liquid-sodium reactors on the grid & producing for some time — latest is a much larger version:
Liquid sodium reactors have most of the same capabilities/advantages of molten salt.

Reply to  beng135
January 8, 2017 12:40 pm

Yes they have – for a diagram of it see:
They seem to have cracked liquid metal cooled fast breeder reactor design and operation where no one else has. Keep an eye on Beloyarsk BN-800 to see how reliable it turns out (grid connection at full power in November 2016). They are now selling it to the Chinese – the world’s first case of commercial sale of a liquid metal cooled fast breeder reactor. (Its a pool type.)

January 8, 2017 1:23 pm

“governments around the world have spent tens of billions of dollars on all sorts of schemes to make energy from anything other than fossil fuels. They have tried everything except the only thing that will work.”
If they used a solution that works, they wouldn’t have a justification to distribute billions of dollars of other people’s money to their friends and supporters. That’s Modern Government 101.

Bill Illis
Reply to  Jose Camoes Silva (@josecamoessilva)
January 9, 2017 4:46 am

Like the ITER fusion project which now won’t start up until 2025 and needs another $5.6 billion on top of the last cost estimate of $20.0 billion.
Original start-up was 2020 with a total cost estimate of $5.6 billion.

Reply to  Bill Illis
January 9, 2017 8:36 am

Proving that TOKAMKS are uneconomical for power generation.

January 8, 2017 1:55 pm


January 8, 2017 3:10 pm

“or we could just off 6 billion people”
-Paul Ehrlich