Thorium - an energy solution ?

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Thorium - an energy solution ?

 

 Following AEP's recent article, I'd like some (preferably informed) discussion on the potential of Thorium to radically improve the energy situation.

 Having seen the glacial progress towards fusion, it's easy to be pessimistic about the time needed to debug and scale up the technology, it may well

be that it's not in anyones self-interest to try it for the first time..or on a sufficient scale, and debug.. so a statist (boo! hiss!) collective effort might be required...

 But just looking at the sheer *potential* .. it seems a perfect direction to explore... and it perfectly matches Obama's key theme -  "Hope".

 

 Since one of my key beliefs is that TPTB are not necessarily stupid or evil..(YMMV)  I also wonder whether it has been explored covertly by the US Mil..

 by definition, it would be classed as national security sensitive...

 

 if not, then it's a true "road not taken", that should be.. ASAP.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/7970619/Obama-could-kill-fossil-fuels-overnight-with-a-nuclear-dash-for-thorium.html

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgKfS74hVvQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Re: Thorium - an energy solution ?

HERE's what someone I trust thinks of this...

Thorium is not a fissile material, so it can't be used as a nuclear fuel. First it has to be put in a conventional U-235 or Pu-239 reactor and irradiated, during which time a tiny fraction of the Thorium-232 is converted to U-233 and whole lot of other crap that you don't want, so the U-233 has to be refined out of the crud (all highly radioactive). The unchanged Thorium-232 can be extracted and reused, (techniques are "still under development"), but there are 5 other Thorium isotopes that don't occur in nature but could be created in the irradiation process, so you would need to do isotope purification as well. U-233 is fissile, but doesn't occur in nature, so all the fuel will have to be made this way.

Then you can run the U-233 reactor with Th-232 around it to be irradiated. The intention is that this will breed more U-233, and it probably will breed some, but again it also produces a lot of other crap and so the refining has to be done every cycle. Given that all the U-233 has to be created in existing reactors, and then all the U-233 reactors have to be built it will take decades to get off the ground.

The first such reactor was built in the US (Oak Ridge) in 1960 and discontinued in 1976. I should add that to a certain extent, the U-233 fission reaction can occur alongside conventional U-235 reactions, so putting Thorium-232 in conventional fuel could add to the heat produced. It is misleading to call these "Thorium fuelled" as it is the U-233 that acts as the fuel. And finally, isn't it funny how when it suits their argument, the limitations on the abundance of Uranium is taken for granted, and the abundance of Thorium is assumed to be limitless.

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Re: Thorium - an energy solution ?

 

 Thorium is not a fissile material, so it can't be used as a nuclear fuel.

 That's like saying crushed malt is not digestible by yeast, so it can't be used for alcohol production...

 non-sequitur.

 malt becomes fermentable when the amylase's are heated to 66 degrees C.

  Th becomes fissile U233 when it absorbs a neutron. and produces multiple neutrons when it fissions.. cycle closed.

 Given that all the U-233 has to be created in existing reactors,

 Umm.. surely once seeded, via Pu / U233 or spallation neutrons + accelerator,

 the liquid salt reactor will self breed it's own u233.. ?

 

 

 

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Re: Thorium - an energy solution ?

I can't comment on the viability of Thorium as a fuel source- if the world's foremost experts are in disagreement , then the question (for us) should be, Should it be pursued? Not Will it work?

I was raised and educated to be strongly anti- nuclear and I still believe it's a nasty, expensive, and dangerous way to get energy- however:

  • I would not cut off my nose to spite my face. The stakes are so high, nuclear energy needs to be considered right up there with other energy sources.
  • If these guys are correct, this looks like a vast improvement over the way we do it now, on several levels.

I would support a vigorous research program, but then again I would have happily traded a bunch of vigorous R&D programs for two illegal wars and a bailout for a bunch of people who should have been lined up against a wall and shot...

Even if there was the political will, I don't know if there's time.

[Edit] But thanks, Plato, it's an arrow for our quivers.

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Re: Thorium - an energy solution ?

 

 zap: Absolutley.. explore everything !!

 

 That's what DARPA has been doing for ages.. and thanks to that research.. you can see this message..

 

 I don't know if there's time either.. but if there isn't time.. it's even more urgent that we try... so...... all roads lead to:

TRY EVERYTHING.. and QUICK. (especially the promising routes.)

 

 

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Re: Thorium - an energy solution ?

.

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Re: Thorium - an energy solution ?

dupe post. *blush*

CM.com explore "delete" function to spare blushes.. ?

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Re: Thorium - an energy solution ?

After spending a number of years following the idea of MSR, LFTR, and Thorium I've come to believe that opponents to the system either have current industry interests and down play a system that would be a threat to their current business or are afraid of new and different technologies. I believe Mr. Barton summed it up nicely:

"The manufacture of LFTR would destroy the current business model of LWR manufacturers, who make their money selling fuel rather than reactors. Efficient use of nuclear fuel in LFTRs would mean that the manufacturers would have to make their money selling reactors, and the current manufactures don't know how to do that." - Charles Barton Source

It works, it's proven, it's simple and it's much more clean then current nuclear technology. Toyota, Toshiba and Hitachi, working with IThEMS seem to be ahead of the game.

It has been interesting to watch the coverage of Thorium increase in more mainstream information flows as of late.

 

Here are a few resources, if you are interested in learning more.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Basics
----------------------------------------------------------------------- 

A Brief History of the Liquid-Fluoride Reactor - April 22nd, 2006
http://energyfromthorium.com/2006/04/22/a-brief-history-of-the-liquid-fl...

Summary of MSR Pros / Cons
http://wapedia.mobi/en/Molten_salt_reactor 

What is Thorium?
http://www.thoriumenergyalliance.com/ 

'Nuclear Reactor Revolution' translated provisionaly in English
http://www.ithems.jp/e_books.html

International Thorium Energy Organisation, IThEO
http://www.itheo.org/
 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Articles by Date
----------------------------------------------------------------------- 

August 30, 2010 :: Development of Tiny Thorium Reactors Could Wean the World Off Oil In Just Five Years
http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2010-08/thorium-reactors-could-wean-world-oil-just-five-years

August 29,  2010 :: Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/7970619/Obama-could-kill-fossil-fuels-overnight-with-a-nuclear-dash-for-thorium.html

July/August 2010 ::  American Scientist - Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors
http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/2010/4/liquid-fluoride-thorium-reactors

July 30, 2010 ::  DEBATE OF THE WEEK: IS THORIUM A VIABLE OPTION FOR THE FUTURE?
http://www.nucleartownhall.com/blog/debate-of-the-week-is-thorium-a-viable-option-for-the-future/

June 12, 2010 ::  The LFTR in the American Scientist
http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2010/06/lftr-in-american-scientist.html 

May 2010 :: Too Good to Leave on the Shelf
http://memagazine.asme.org/Articles/2010/May/Too_Good_Leave_Shelf.cfm

March 23, 2010 :: Energy Cheaper than from Coal
http://energyfromthorium.com/2010/03/23/energy-cheaper-than-from-coal/

March 16, 2010 :: Thorium, a Readily Available and Slightly Radioactive Mineral, Could Provide the World with Safer, Clean Energy
"Thorium-based reactors could be more efficient and create less waste than today’s uranium-based generating plants."
http://machinedesign.com/article/thorium-a-readily-available-and-slightly-radioactive-mineral-could-provide-the-world-with-sa

December 21, 2009 :: Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/ff_new_nukes/ 

December 17, 2009 :: A LFTR deployment plan for Australia
http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/12/17/lftr-in-australia/

March 20, 2010 :: Scaling the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor: The Big Lots Reactor and the Aim High Reactor
http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2009/03/scaling-liquid-fluoride-thorium-reactor.html

April 26, 2008 :: Nice summary comment on the oil drum and industry resistance
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3877#comment-335174

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Re: Thorium - an energy solution ?

China has announced it will be launching a Thorium MSR project. I have a feeling they will jump ahead on this tech before the US nuclear regulatory commission ever approves thorium MSR or LFTR designs. Sad...the US had this going in the 50-60's.

http://energyfromthorium.com/2011/01/30/china-initiates-tmsr/

Here is a great info graphic on Thorium and LFTR.

http://www.wellhome.com/blog/2010/12/thorium-the-next-generation-of-nuclear-power/

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denninger gets thorium

 

 

 First truly 2.5E aware post I've seen from Karl. He's usually more focussed on economics, law and tech...

 http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=181373

 

 Can we solve America's long-term energy problems with thorium and similar?  Yep.  We can do it today, with technology we know how to exploit, as soon as we BBQ the environmentalists.  I'll donate a case of BBQ sauce for that festival, as it would usher in a generation of competitiveness for America that would make our nation the envy of the world.  But that will not scale for the world as a whole at 10x, and it certainly won't scale if we have 7 or 10 billion humans on the planet in 2050 instead of 5.  Not a prayer in Hell.

 

 Here I disagree.. plentiful energy solves many issues.. desalination for one..  I would hesistate to put an upper bound on the medium term maximum population, or a long term sustainable population for that matter... but the finite number isn't the problem.. it's the endless GROWTH that is ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE insoluble..... Malthus and Bartlett have that part right....

 Where is the Jeff Rubin of demographics.. ?

 

 

 To bastardise Kunstler, we need to make new arrangements...  tricky..  both politically, ethically.. yadda yadda..

 A "new deal" for humanity..

 

 Failing that.. a Hari Seldon..

 

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

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   AEP - another Thorium

 

 AEP - another Thorium article.

 "This passed unnoticed –except by a small of band of thorium enthusiasts – but it may mark the passage of strategic leadership in energy policy from an inert and status-quo West to a rising technological power willing to break the mould.

If China’s dash for thorium power succeeds, it will vastly alter the global energy landscape and may avert a calamitous conflict over resources as Asia’s industrial revolutions clash head-on with the West’s entrenched consumption."

 

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8393984/Safe-nuclear-does-exist-and-China-is-leading-the-way-with-thorium.html

  and interview with James Engdahl on Jim Puplava's,  FSN.

 http://www.financialsense.com/financial-sense-newshour/big-picture/2011/03/19/03/b-mitchell-j-engdahl-m-katusa/nuclear-energy-part-2-tragedy-hope-reality

 

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Thorium - Another Puplava interview - Kirk Sorensen

Another interesting thorium interview with Puplava.  Haven't had time to research all claims made, but sure seems to have potential.

http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/james-j-puplava/kirk-sorensen...

 

 

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Thorium Energy Amplifier

 

 Some hopeful signs.

 Spotted this mainstream press article while on holiday...

 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-2001548/Electron-Model-Many-Applications-Technology-save-world.html

 More technical info and news at:

 http://www.thorea.org/

  Towards an Alternative Nuclear Future - ThorEA Organisation Report (pdf)

 http://www.thorea.org/publications/ThoreaReportFinal.pdf

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more energy myths.

Myth VI – there’s plenty of fissile material in the world

Posted on April 2, 2011 by daryan12

Unfortunately, the truth is that the world has relatively limited stockpiles of Uranium ore. Figures from the WNA (World Nuclear Energy Agency) suggest 80 years of reserves (5.4 Mt) with current consumption rates (68,000 Tons/yr) and extraction techniques if a cost of $80-130kg is tolerated. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf75.html

Obviously by trying to double the production rate of nuclear energy we’ll run down this supply in half the time. Trying to completely replace all fossil fuel resources, assuming no overall increase in energy demand, would involve exhausting our reserves in around 2.8 years!

The report linked above does point to speculation (by the IEA and NEA) that it might be possible to double these resources, giving us 160 years supply at current consumption rates (5.6 years supply for our current energy needs), if an aggressive campaign of exploration was mounted. They also speculate on the possibility of various unconventional reserves (22 Mt). I would note that such talk is nothing new. Indeed the NEA previously stated (back in the 1980’s) that a price rise to $130 kg would in itself unlock up to 10.6 – 22 Mt of reserves. This obviously hasn’t materialised, so one has to be sceptical as to whether these claims are valid.

And of course we are ignoring a whole host of real world issues here. Extracting any mineral resource at a rate greater than 2% of held conventional reserves in a single year would be extremely challenging, Uranium in particular. With any form of unconventional resource an extraction rate of closer to 0.1-0.4 %/yr is more likely….meaning we could at best increase the global output of nuclear energy by 1.5 fold its current level (assuming we want to sustain that output for a reasonable time period, else we’ll end up in a “Peak Uranium” scenario very quickly). For the record nuclear power supplies between 2.5- 5.8% of global energy output (depending on how you do you’re maths, see IEA 2010 stat’s here) so this would still have nuclear playing a very modest role in global energy output, for a fairly high cost.

Extracting Uranium from seawater, as is often trotted out, is not a realistic prospect as it will likely be too expensive to ever prove economically viable and likely consume more energy than we get back from using the Uranium (as anyone familiar with the concept of EROEI’s would know). http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/2/4/980/pdf

Nuclear advocates aso like to mention the option of Thorium, forgetting to mention it has no naturally occurring fissile isotopes, i.e we can only rely on Thorium so long as we have supplies of U-235 available, or we tinker around with various fast reactor systems (failed white elephant projects that never really worked, see myth VIII). Thorium could help….a bit! but not nearly as much as is often suggested.

Other ridiculous suggestions such as MOX or the plutonium economy are a waste of time, as far as anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the concept of “economics” or “safety” would know (see myth X & XI). Also as Fukushima demonstrates, it raises the stakes in the event of any nuclear accident, greatly increasing the level of fallout as well as lowering the margins of safety (see myth I).

If we factor in Thorium (noting that Thorium’s use as a nuclear fuel is currently in no way economically or even technically proven) and we drastically increase our output of uranium we could at best probably double current nuclear energy production globally….to between 5-12% of current global energy consumption…of course we will still need to get the other 95-88% of the energy from somewhere else….and of course we’d be assuming that the build rate on new nuclear reactors could even keep up with this, and chances are it would struggle to maintain our existing fleet (see myth VII). So not so much a nuclear renaissance, more of a primary school arts project, as to be realistic maintaining approximately our current level of nuclear output (or maybe a modest increase in line with rising energy demand) is probably the best that can be hoped for, at least if we want to guarantee no future fuel supply problems.

About daryan12

Engineer, expertise: Energy, Sustainablity, Computer Aided Engineering, Renewables technology

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The Myth Of The Energy Breakthrough




The Myth Of The Energy Breakthrough

Renewed belief in the concept of Energy Breakthrough seems resurgent these days, as a versatile scientist now helms the Department of Energy, and famous people such as Bill Gates invoke the need (and thus our quest) for energy miracles. The notion of a technological breakthrough was also, unsurprisingly, at play this weekend when I attended the MIT Energy Conference. And of course, in February, the world was treated to the roll out of Bloom Energy’s Bloom Box.

The problem with energy breakthroughs is that they actually require a Built Environment breakthrough. Energy transition, or the notion of disruptive energy technologies, are affairs that occur at the interface between an energy-source, energy-tools, and the built environment. I suppose coal was a kind of breakthrough for early 18th century (and wood-based) England but the barrier to coal adoption was that alot of England’s built environment was running on wood. You see, new energy sources or new energy technologies don’t distribute easily, or quickly, through the built environment.

It’s common among those who sell the idea of energy breakthrough to invoke electronic or digital adoption narratives. Breakthroughs in medicine, in electronic networks, and in other intellectual achievement distribute more easily upon existing systems. This is why I continue to believe that many (not all) in Cleantech Venture dont’ really understand the scale of our energy problem. Or, having understood the scale of our energy problem, many apply adoption pathways learned from other systems–that simply don’t translate to energy, and the built environment.

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 DTM. Thorium reactors

 DTM.

 Thorium reactors can be placed where coal generating power stations are now.. the infrastructure is already built. The transmission lines.. roads etc.

even the ash .. is handy as a convenient supply once the pure stockpiles are used up.. say.. in 1000 years..

 

 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/sep/09/thorium-weinberg-foundation?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

 

 As an added bonus the deaths from particulate emissions should reduce by a few orders of magnitude.. not to mention the deaths in coal mining.

 

 
"Two roads diverged in an actinic wood, and I .... chose the one less travelled by.."

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Ambition...

 A good video featuring Kirk Sorenson on nuclear in general, Thorium/LFTR in particular, but also touching on population, rare earths ... so perhaps worth a watch if those topics interest you.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vbx_gFT0v7k

 I've come to the conclusion that we're still psychologically scarred by the cold war strategy of M.A.D.. and the attempt to maximise the fear element...  I certainly remember feeling it myself during the Fukushima accident.

 Of all the options for energy in the future, Thorium appears to be the only realistic option with the required energy density and longevity...

  The wealthy among us *may* be able to acheive a minimal degree of energy independence with solar and wind, but for the mass of humanity no chance... and even that independence may be short lived once replacement parts are unavailable due to a totally disrupted downsized economy..

 So.. it's either going gently into that good night..  or aiming higher.

  " over ? ...    over !?

  was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbour ? " (tm)

 

   If it's my bad luck to belong to a species with no ambition or foresight... meh !

  

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The energy trap

I suggest you read this...  http://www.peakprosperity.com/comment/121511#comment-121511

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energy-capital scarcity.

 http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/10/the-energy-trap/

 (good blog btw..)

  Yup. So, you need energy infrastructure with low startup costs (in energy/material terms) to escape the decline trap..  which makes slow producing, high upfront embedded energy options like wind hopeless at the scale required.

 AFAIK the LFTR does ok on that metric.. in terms of no pressure vessel, and simpler containment requirements.

 By either retrofitting, or building alongside current coal fired stations, you save an awful lot of work in building new infrastructure. Almost a drop-in replacement, with an actual reduction in nuclear contamination for the local environment..

 

 

 

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