DEBATE OF THE WEEK: IS THORIUM A VIABLE OPTION FOR THE FUTURE?

You don’t have to be involved in nuclear very long before you start hearing about thorium. It’s the other naturally occurring radioactive element that exists in large supplies and can produce nuclear fission.

The story is that Eugene Wigner, Alvin Weinberg and other pioneers of the Manhattan Project era believed thorium offered a much better way to tapping nuclear energy.  We went the uranium route instead because uranium was the more practical option for the immediate task of building a bomb.

Nevertheless, thorium is three-to-four times as abundant as uranium.  It doesn’t require isotope separation – a huge cost saving.  When bombarded by neutrons, thorium doesn’t fission but converts to uranium-233 — which does.  With U-233, the production of transuranics is orders of magnitude lower.  This obviates any proliferation issues. (U-233 can be used to make a conventional weapon but is consumed all along within the reactor.). Depending on the reactor, the spent fuel can be much easier to handle.  India has large supplies and is developing a thorium-based nuclear cycle.

While it might be a potentially appealing package for the U.S. — and was actually pursued to some extent in the 1990s — there are significant hurdles.  The U.S. is obviously fully committed to the uranium fuel-cycle — as is the balance of the world — for the Renaissance.  We are heavily invested in the status quo, both to meet U.S. demands and to compete internationally.

Can or should a thorium fuel cycle play a side-by-side role in Renaisssance Rev 1.0?  Is there a plausible business case for the massive investment necessary?  Or do public acceptance and first-of-a-kind licensing issues make it impractical?  Are there other more appealing Generation IV options?  In short, what’s the best way to proceed — if any — with the Thorium option?

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  • http://energyfromthorium.com/ Kirk Sorensen

    Yes, we should use thorium, but it is important that you use the right machine to do it.

    The “magic” of thorium is between it and U-238 (the two abundant nuclear isotopes) it’s the only one that can be consumed in a thermal spectrum reactor. That’s because its fissile product (U-233) produces more than two neutrons per thermal neutron absorption. Here’s the picture of how it works:

    http://energyfromthorium.com/images/thoriumCycleNielsen.gif

    Uranium-238 only can be completely consumed in a fast spectrum reactor. And fast reactors require 5-10 times more fissile material to produce the same amount of power, because the cross-sections are so much smaller in the fast spectrum. Here’s another picture:

    http://energyfromthorium.com/images/fissionXSgraphic.gif

    So you have only one choice if you want a thermal-spectrum breeder: thorium.

    That said, you have to account for thorium’s (and U-233′s) “idiosyncrasies”. It takes about a month for Pa-233 (the intermediate product in thorium’s conversion to U-233) to decay. If it absorbs a neutron during that time you lose it as fuel. So you either need to remove Pa-233 or you need to have a low core power density. In solid fuel, the second option is the only one available to you. That’s how the Shippingport reactor successfully bred on thorium in its last core, but running a reactor at low power density isn’t very economic.

    With fluid fuel, you have a lot of new options. That’s what Wigner advocated, but he didn’t know what fluid fuel to use. He thought it might be one based on water, and that’s what Weinberg started investigating at ORNL in the early 1950s. But there was no chemical form of thorium that was soluble in water in the conditions needed in the reactor. The better answer came out of left field from the folks who were working on the Aircraft Reactor project at ORNL in the early 1950s. They showed that a nuclear reactor based on liquid fluoride salts was feasible and had a lot of performance and safety advantages.

    Weinberg was clever enough to realize that because there was a soluble form of thorium in fluoride salts (thorium tetrafluoride) that he had the basis for a potentially winning combination: fluoride salts and thorium. He worked for the remainder of his time at the ORNL to try to bring that dream to fruition, but the AEC was against him. They thought that his “molten-salt breeder reactor” threatened the agency’s position behind the plutonium-breeding sodium fast breeder. So they fired Weinberg and canned the molten-salt thorium research.

    But we ought to reconsider that today, because safety and waste concerns are a lot more important now than they were in 1970, and fluoride reactors running on thorium excel in both categories.

  • http://energyfromthorium.com/ Kirk Sorensen

    Yes, we should use thorium, but it is important that you use the right machine to do it.

    The “magic” of thorium is between it and U-238 (the two abundant nuclear isotopes) it’s the only one that can be consumed in a thermal spectrum reactor. That’s because its fissile product (U-233) produces more than two neutrons per thermal neutron absorption. Here’s the picture of how it works:

    http://energyfromthorium.com/images/thoriumCycleNielsen.gif

    Uranium-238 only can be completely consumed in a fast spectrum reactor. And fast reactors require 5-10 times more fissile material to produce the same amount of power, because the cross-sections are so much smaller in the fast spectrum. Here’s another picture:

    http://energyfromthorium.com/images/fissionXSgraphic.gif

    So you have only one choice if you want a thermal-spectrum breeder: thorium.

    That said, you have to account for thorium’s (and U-233′s) “idiosyncrasies”. It takes about a month for Pa-233 (the intermediate product in thorium’s conversion to U-233) to decay. If it absorbs a neutron during that time you lose it as fuel. So you either need to remove Pa-233 or you need to have a low core power density. In solid fuel, the second option is the only one available to you. That’s how the Shippingport reactor successfully bred on thorium in its last core, but running a reactor at low power density isn’t very economic.

    With fluid fuel, you have a lot of new options. That’s what Wigner advocated, but he didn’t know what fluid fuel to use. He thought it might be one based on water, and that’s what Weinberg started investigating at ORNL in the early 1950s. But there was no chemical form of thorium that was soluble in water in the conditions needed in the reactor. The better answer came out of left field from the folks who were working on the Aircraft Reactor project at ORNL in the early 1950s. They showed that a nuclear reactor based on liquid fluoride salts was feasible and had a lot of performance and safety advantages.

    Weinberg was clever enough to realize that because there was a soluble form of thorium in fluoride salts (thorium tetrafluoride) that he had the basis for a potentially winning combination: fluoride salts and thorium. He worked for the remainder of his time at the ORNL to try to bring that dream to fruition, but the AEC was against him. They thought that his “molten-salt breeder reactor” threatened the agency’s position behind the plutonium-breeding sodium fast breeder. So they fired Weinberg and canned the molten-salt thorium research.

    But we ought to reconsider that today, because safety and waste concerns are a lot more important now than they were in 1970, and fluoride reactors running on thorium excel in both categories.

  • http://energyfromthorium.com/ Kirk Sorensen

    Yes, we should use thorium, but it is important that you use the right machine to do it.

    The “magic” of thorium is between it and U-238 (the two abundant nuclear isotopes) it’s the only one that can be consumed in a thermal spectrum reactor. That’s because its fissile product (U-233) produces more than two neutrons per thermal neutron absorption. Here’s the picture of how it works:

    http://energyfromthorium.com/images/thoriumCycleNielsen.gif

    Uranium-238 only can be completely consumed in a fast spectrum reactor. And fast reactors require 5-10 times more fissile material to produce the same amount of power, because the cross-sections are so much smaller in the fast spectrum. Here’s another picture:

    http://energyfromthorium.com/images/fissionXSgraphic.gif

    So you have only one choice if you want a thermal-spectrum breeder: thorium.

    That said, you have to account for thorium’s (and U-233′s) “idiosyncrasies”. It takes about a month for Pa-233 (the intermediate product in thorium’s conversion to U-233) to decay. If it absorbs a neutron during that time you lose it as fuel. So you either need to remove Pa-233 or you need to have a low core power density. In solid fuel, the second option is the only one available to you. That’s how the Shippingport reactor successfully bred on thorium in its last core, but running a reactor at low power density isn’t very economic.

    With fluid fuel, you have a lot of new options. That’s what Wigner advocated, but he didn’t know what fluid fuel to use. He thought it might be one based on water, and that’s what Weinberg started investigating at ORNL in the early 1950s. But there was no chemical form of thorium that was soluble in water in the conditions needed in the reactor. The better answer came out of left field from the folks who were working on the Aircraft Reactor project at ORNL in the early 1950s. They showed that a nuclear reactor based on liquid fluoride salts was feasible and had a lot of performance and safety advantages.

    Weinberg was clever enough to realize that because there was a soluble form of thorium in fluoride salts (thorium tetrafluoride) that he had the basis for a potentially winning combination: fluoride salts and thorium. He worked for the remainder of his time at the ORNL to try to bring that dream to fruition, but the AEC was against him. They thought that his “molten-salt breeder reactor” threatened the agency’s position behind the plutonium-breeding sodium fast breeder. So they fired Weinberg and canned the molten-salt thorium research.

    But we ought to reconsider that today, because safety and waste concerns are a lot more important now than they were in 1970, and fluoride reactors running on thorium excel in both categories.

  • Joffan

    The answer to the headline question is clearly YES, but the follow-up question is much less easily answered – how far in the future? At present the uranium infrastructure can cope with the expected requirements for nuclear power, both for current reactors, new build Gen III+ and most of the Gen IV alternatives.

    I don’t really buy into arguments about improvements in proliferation resistance, because I don’t agree either that existing reactors are a proliferation threat or that thorium is immune from similar arguments – particularly since some designs envisage separation of protoactinium-233 for decay into U-233.

    However I hope that thorium reactors, with their efficient use of an abundant resource, do take off, and India might indeed be the route by which this becomes a reality. And the molten salt reactor option may well be its best route into commercial use, with all its complementary advantages.

  • Joffan

    The answer to the headline question is clearly YES, but the follow-up question is much less easily answered – how far in the future? At present the uranium infrastructure can cope with the expected requirements for nuclear power, both for current reactors, new build Gen III+ and most of the Gen IV alternatives.

    I don’t really buy into arguments about improvements in proliferation resistance, because I don’t agree either that existing reactors are a proliferation threat or that thorium is immune from similar arguments – particularly since some designs envisage separation of protoactinium-233 for decay into U-233.

    However I hope that thorium reactors, with their efficient use of an abundant resource, do take off, and India might indeed be the route by which this becomes a reality. And the molten salt reactor option may well be its best route into commercial use, with all its complementary advantages.

  • Joffan

    The answer to the headline question is clearly YES, but the follow-up question is much less easily answered – how far in the future? At present the uranium infrastructure can cope with the expected requirements for nuclear power, both for current reactors, new build Gen III+ and most of the Gen IV alternatives.

    I don’t really buy into arguments about improvements in proliferation resistance, because I don’t agree either that existing reactors are a proliferation threat or that thorium is immune from similar arguments – particularly since some designs envisage separation of protoactinium-233 for decay into U-233.

    However I hope that thorium reactors, with their efficient use of an abundant resource, do take off, and India might indeed be the route by which this becomes a reality. And the molten salt reactor option may well be its best route into commercial use, with all its complementary advantages.

  • Ian

    Considering that the Thorium Fuel Cycle, when used in a Molten Salt reactor, has all of the benefits of Uranium-based reactors with none of the drawbacks, Shouldn’t the question be WHY THE F&!K didn’t we use the TARP funds to build 3,000+ Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors instead? This technology could be used to solve multiple problems: Cheap, Dense, SAFE, Reliable power generation, Carbon Emissions lowered dramatically, no more billions of dollars spent in countries that harbor & fund people that fly airplanes into our buildings, thousands if not millions of new jobs created here in the USA. As to the costs of “Public Acceptance” and “first-of-a-kind” licensing issues, the american public didn’t revolt when their Taxes were given to Wall Street, and BP wasn’t tarred, Feathered, & run out of town when they murdered the Gulf of Mexico. I think those “issues” really aren’t that hard to overcome. just hire Carl Rove as your P.R. manager.

  • Ian

    Considering that the Thorium Fuel Cycle, when used in a Molten Salt reactor, has all of the benefits of Uranium-based reactors with none of the drawbacks, Shouldn’t the question be WHY THE F&!K didn’t we use the TARP funds to build 3,000+ Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors instead? This technology could be used to solve multiple problems: Cheap, Dense, SAFE, Reliable power generation, Carbon Emissions lowered dramatically, no more billions of dollars spent in countries that harbor & fund people that fly airplanes into our buildings, thousands if not millions of new jobs created here in the USA. As to the costs of “Public Acceptance” and “first-of-a-kind” licensing issues, the american public didn’t revolt when their Taxes were given to Wall Street, and BP wasn’t tarred, Feathered, & run out of town when they murdered the Gulf of Mexico. I think those “issues” really aren’t that hard to overcome. just hire Carl Rove as your P.R. manager.

  • Ian

    Considering that the Thorium Fuel Cycle, when used in a Molten Salt reactor, has all of the benefits of Uranium-based reactors with none of the drawbacks, Shouldn’t the question be WHY THE F&!K didn’t we use the TARP funds to build 3,000+ Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors instead? This technology could be used to solve multiple problems: Cheap, Dense, SAFE, Reliable power generation, Carbon Emissions lowered dramatically, no more billions of dollars spent in countries that harbor & fund people that fly airplanes into our buildings, thousands if not millions of new jobs created here in the USA. As to the costs of “Public Acceptance” and “first-of-a-kind” licensing issues, the american public didn’t revolt when their Taxes were given to Wall Street, and BP wasn’t tarred, Feathered, & run out of town when they murdered the Gulf of Mexico. I think those “issues” really aren’t that hard to overcome. just hire Carl Rove as your P.R. manager.

  • Bryan

    “WHY THE F&!K didn’t we use the TARP funds to build 3,000+ Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors instead?”

    While the LFTR is, in my opinion, the lowest research-cost-to-commerciality reactor type of the Gen IV variety, it is not as yet commercially ready. There are a number of small but important design considerations that have yet to be properly prototyped, even if they are deemed more than technically feasible.

    I agree that LFTR is the next step in nuclear power, but we have to actually build a prototype power reactor first (MSRE was a research reactor, and while it demonstrated most of the principles in use in LFTR designs, it’s not the implementation of a LFTR).

    Second, there are a LOT of things we could have used the TARP funds for. Propping the banking system up while we prep to dismantle it is what was chosen. I try to think of it ask akin to fixing a bridge: you don’t let it collapse under you; you shore it up first, then rebuild it piece by piece. That, and the relatively strong consensus among economic analysts that basically say, “yeah it’s bad now, but it’d have been a lot worse”, keeps me from getting too angry about the prima facie wasteful expenditures we’ve been engaging in.

    Random, incomprehensible fees from my bank, however, tend to make me feel like I should start sending them invoices* – but hey, that’s life.

    * Tied to bricks, delivered ballistically.

  • Bryan

    “WHY THE F&!K didn’t we use the TARP funds to build 3,000+ Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors instead?”

    While the LFTR is, in my opinion, the lowest research-cost-to-commerciality reactor type of the Gen IV variety, it is not as yet commercially ready. There are a number of small but important design considerations that have yet to be properly prototyped, even if they are deemed more than technically feasible.

    I agree that LFTR is the next step in nuclear power, but we have to actually build a prototype power reactor first (MSRE was a research reactor, and while it demonstrated most of the principles in use in LFTR designs, it’s not the implementation of a LFTR).

    Second, there are a LOT of things we could have used the TARP funds for. Propping the banking system up while we prep to dismantle it is what was chosen. I try to think of it ask akin to fixing a bridge: you don’t let it collapse under you; you shore it up first, then rebuild it piece by piece. That, and the relatively strong consensus among economic analysts that basically say, “yeah it’s bad now, but it’d have been a lot worse”, keeps me from getting too angry about the prima facie wasteful expenditures we’ve been engaging in.

    Random, incomprehensible fees from my bank, however, tend to make me feel like I should start sending them invoices* – but hey, that’s life.

    * Tied to bricks, delivered ballistically.

  • Bryan

    “WHY THE F&!K didn’t we use the TARP funds to build 3,000+ Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors instead?”

    While the LFTR is, in my opinion, the lowest research-cost-to-commerciality reactor type of the Gen IV variety, it is not as yet commercially ready. There are a number of small but important design considerations that have yet to be properly prototyped, even if they are deemed more than technically feasible.

    I agree that LFTR is the next step in nuclear power, but we have to actually build a prototype power reactor first (MSRE was a research reactor, and while it demonstrated most of the principles in use in LFTR designs, it’s not the implementation of a LFTR).

    Second, there are a LOT of things we could have used the TARP funds for. Propping the banking system up while we prep to dismantle it is what was chosen. I try to think of it ask akin to fixing a bridge: you don’t let it collapse under you; you shore it up first, then rebuild it piece by piece. That, and the relatively strong consensus among economic analysts that basically say, “yeah it’s bad now, but it’d have been a lot worse”, keeps me from getting too angry about the prima facie wasteful expenditures we’ve been engaging in.

    Random, incomprehensible fees from my bank, however, tend to make me feel like I should start sending them invoices* – but hey, that’s life.

    * Tied to bricks, delivered ballistically.

  • http://energyfromthorium.com/ Kirk Sorensen

    The use of thorium does not eliminate the possibility of proliferation. Any fissile material, under extreme circumstances, could potentially be misused. But the problems involved with trying to utilize U233 for a weapon are far, far greater than using plutonium or highly-enriched uranium. No nation has ever fabricated an operational nuclear weapon from U-233, and I doubt any country ever would, because if weapons were your intent, there are two alternatives that are much, much easier.

    Ironically, that’s probably exactly the reason thorium has received so little attention from the AEC/DOE since the discovery that it could sustain fission in a thermal spectrum in 1942.

  • http://energyfromthorium.com/ Kirk Sorensen

    The use of thorium does not eliminate the possibility of proliferation. Any fissile material, under extreme circumstances, could potentially be misused. But the problems involved with trying to utilize U233 for a weapon are far, far greater than using plutonium or highly-enriched uranium. No nation has ever fabricated an operational nuclear weapon from U-233, and I doubt any country ever would, because if weapons were your intent, there are two alternatives that are much, much easier.

    Ironically, that’s probably exactly the reason thorium has received so little attention from the AEC/DOE since the discovery that it could sustain fission in a thermal spectrum in 1942.

  • http://energyfromthorium.com/ Kirk Sorensen

    The use of thorium does not eliminate the possibility of proliferation. Any fissile material, under extreme circumstances, could potentially be misused. But the problems involved with trying to utilize U233 for a weapon are far, far greater than using plutonium or highly-enriched uranium. No nation has ever fabricated an operational nuclear weapon from U-233, and I doubt any country ever would, because if weapons were your intent, there are two alternatives that are much, much easier.

    Ironically, that’s probably exactly the reason thorium has received so little attention from the AEC/DOE since the discovery that it could sustain fission in a thermal spectrum in 1942.

  • http://thorium.mine.nu Bryan

    Fluid fueled molten salt reactors that run on thorium are the definitive energy solution for powering global industry over the next thousand years. This kind of technology would make nearly all other forms of electricity generation obsolete and greatly improve the environment while creating tens of thousands of new jobs. However, there is currently no strong lobby to accelerate this technology.

    In my opinion, all the politicians promises to deal with environmental pollution using totally insignificant “green” renewable energy are rhetoric. They refuse to promote far superior fluid fueled molten salt reactors because they don’t satisfy their lobbyists or the public’s insistence on renewable energy. Change will have to come from powerful businesses or through grassroots efforts.

  • http://thorium.mine.nu Bryan

    Fluid fueled molten salt reactors that run on thorium are the definitive energy solution for powering global industry over the next thousand years. This kind of technology would make nearly all other forms of electricity generation obsolete and greatly improve the environment while creating tens of thousands of new jobs. However, there is currently no strong lobby to accelerate this technology.

    In my opinion, all the politicians promises to deal with environmental pollution using totally insignificant “green” renewable energy are rhetoric. They refuse to promote far superior fluid fueled molten salt reactors because they don’t satisfy their lobbyists or the public’s insistence on renewable energy. Change will have to come from powerful businesses or through grassroots efforts.

  • http://thorium.mine.nu Bryan

    Fluid fueled molten salt reactors that run on thorium are the definitive energy solution for powering global industry over the next thousand years. This kind of technology would make nearly all other forms of electricity generation obsolete and greatly improve the environment while creating tens of thousands of new jobs. However, there is currently no strong lobby to accelerate this technology.

    In my opinion, all the politicians promises to deal with environmental pollution using totally insignificant “green” renewable energy are rhetoric. They refuse to promote far superior fluid fueled molten salt reactors because they don’t satisfy their lobbyists or the public’s insistence on renewable energy. Change will have to come from powerful businesses or through grassroots efforts.

  • Jeffrey Hersh

    LFTR holds a great deal of promise for the addressing of the main arguments against nuclear power: waste and safety. Due the the ability to “burn” almost all of the fissile material your waste stream is reduced to fission by-products vs. trans-uranic elements. This reduces the storage time from 10,000+ yrs to about 300. Further the waste products actually have industrial and medical uses. Another nice secondary effect of the the LFTR design is that you produce rare earth elements that are critical to modern electronics. Currently these elements come from China and Africa.

    As for the safety issue, LFTR’s advantages is that the safety is in the physics of the liquid metal separation process not in engineering a system such as control rods. Further there is additional safety advantages because the reactor does not need to be pressurized.

    One other thing to consider, because LFTR reactors will run very hot they are ideal to supply heat for cheap desalinization of water. Given that fresh water is becoming more and more of a commodity in a resource and energy hungry world, this application should not be understated in my opinion.

  • Jeffrey Hersh

    LFTR holds a great deal of promise for the addressing of the main arguments against nuclear power: waste and safety. Due the the ability to “burn” almost all of the fissile material your waste stream is reduced to fission by-products vs. trans-uranic elements. This reduces the storage time from 10,000+ yrs to about 300. Further the waste products actually have industrial and medical uses. Another nice secondary effect of the the LFTR design is that you produce rare earth elements that are critical to modern electronics. Currently these elements come from China and Africa.

    As for the safety issue, LFTR’s advantages is that the safety is in the physics of the liquid metal separation process not in engineering a system such as control rods. Further there is additional safety advantages because the reactor does not need to be pressurized.

    One other thing to consider, because LFTR reactors will run very hot they are ideal to supply heat for cheap desalinization of water. Given that fresh water is becoming more and more of a commodity in a resource and energy hungry world, this application should not be understated in my opinion.

  • Jeffrey Hersh

    LFTR holds a great deal of promise for the addressing of the main arguments against nuclear power: waste and safety. Due the the ability to “burn” almost all of the fissile material your waste stream is reduced to fission by-products vs. trans-uranic elements. This reduces the storage time from 10,000+ yrs to about 300. Further the waste products actually have industrial and medical uses. Another nice secondary effect of the the LFTR design is that you produce rare earth elements that are critical to modern electronics. Currently these elements come from China and Africa.

    As for the safety issue, LFTR’s advantages is that the safety is in the physics of the liquid metal separation process not in engineering a system such as control rods. Further there is additional safety advantages because the reactor does not need to be pressurized.

    One other thing to consider, because LFTR reactors will run very hot they are ideal to supply heat for cheap desalinization of water. Given that fresh water is becoming more and more of a commodity in a resource and energy hungry world, this application should not be understated in my opinion.

  • seth

    The uranium fueled LFTR variance the DMSR based on work of Nuclear physicist David Le Blanc, is really just two big tanks one inside the other.

    Seems like a commercial prototype could be physically welded together in a few months, a year or so of experiments with off the shelf Brayton cycle generators, another year to tool up , and four years from now units could be pouring out of factories.

    I think that’s what Sorensen here is up to over at Teledyne Brown. Can you get all us nukers on the inside of that IPO Kirk?

  • seth

    The uranium fueled LFTR variance the DMSR based on work of Nuclear physicist David Le Blanc, is really just two big tanks one inside the other.

    Seems like a commercial prototype could be physically welded together in a few months, a year or so of experiments with off the shelf Brayton cycle generators, another year to tool up , and four years from now units could be pouring out of factories.

    I think that’s what Sorensen here is up to over at Teledyne Brown. Can you get all us nukers on the inside of that IPO Kirk?

  • seth

    The uranium fueled LFTR variance the DMSR based on work of Nuclear physicist David Le Blanc, is really just two big tanks one inside the other.

    Seems like a commercial prototype could be physically welded together in a few months, a year or so of experiments with off the shelf Brayton cycle generators, another year to tool up , and four years from now units could be pouring out of factories.

    I think that’s what Sorensen here is up to over at Teledyne Brown. Can you get all us nukers on the inside of that IPO Kirk?

  • http://energyfromthorium.com/ Kirk Sorensen

    Teledyne Brown Engineering is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Teledyne Technologies, which is publicly traded and has been for many decades. Feel free to buy some stock if you want to–the ticker symbol is TDY. I do.

  • http://energyfromthorium.com/ Kirk Sorensen

    Teledyne Brown Engineering is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Teledyne Technologies, which is publicly traded and has been for many decades. Feel free to buy some stock if you want to–the ticker symbol is TDY. I do.

  • http://energyfromthorium.com/ Kirk Sorensen

    Teledyne Brown Engineering is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Teledyne Technologies, which is publicly traded and has been for many decades. Feel free to buy some stock if you want to–the ticker symbol is TDY. I do.

  • Alex

    Assuming the thorium reactors discussed here are LFTRs, not only are there savings in cost with regards to the lack of an atomic-weight-based enrichment process, but also a host of other benefits exist in the thorium process:
    - smaller geographic footprint (cheaper to build)
    - atmospheric pressure reaction (safer!)
    - substantially less waste
    - waste decays in order of magnitude less time
    - fuel reprocessing enormously efficient
    - self-regulation based on free salt bath expansion

    With the cheap abundance of power we could reap from thorium reactors, there’s little reason to continue pursuing existing designs; the only reason to do so is the same reason that coal and oil plants still exist: there’s a lot of money that’s already been sunk into the infrastructure. It’s not a compelling reason, though.

    I would love to see LFTR become a reality in my lifetime, and I would love for it to happen in the US before, or alongside, India.

  • Alex

    Assuming the thorium reactors discussed here are LFTRs, not only are there savings in cost with regards to the lack of an atomic-weight-based enrichment process, but also a host of other benefits exist in the thorium process:
    - smaller geographic footprint (cheaper to build)
    - atmospheric pressure reaction (safer!)
    - substantially less waste
    - waste decays in order of magnitude less time
    - fuel reprocessing enormously efficient
    - self-regulation based on free salt bath expansion

    With the cheap abundance of power we could reap from thorium reactors, there’s little reason to continue pursuing existing designs; the only reason to do so is the same reason that coal and oil plants still exist: there’s a lot of money that’s already been sunk into the infrastructure. It’s not a compelling reason, though.

    I would love to see LFTR become a reality in my lifetime, and I would love for it to happen in the US before, or alongside, India.

  • Alex

    Assuming the thorium reactors discussed here are LFTRs, not only are there savings in cost with regards to the lack of an atomic-weight-based enrichment process, but also a host of other benefits exist in the thorium process:
    - smaller geographic footprint (cheaper to build)
    - atmospheric pressure reaction (safer!)
    - substantially less waste
    - waste decays in order of magnitude less time
    - fuel reprocessing enormously efficient
    - self-regulation based on free salt bath expansion

    With the cheap abundance of power we could reap from thorium reactors, there’s little reason to continue pursuing existing designs; the only reason to do so is the same reason that coal and oil plants still exist: there’s a lot of money that’s already been sunk into the infrastructure. It’s not a compelling reason, though.

    I would love to see LFTR become a reality in my lifetime, and I would love for it to happen in the US before, or alongside, India.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Thermal breeders work better with Th-232 than they do with U-238. 10 thermal cycle breeders can be started with the same amount of fissionable material that it takes to start one fast breeder. Thorium breeding cycle ps a slam dunk if you want to start a lot of breeders quickly. We need to in the worst possible way.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Thermal breeders work better with Th-232 than they do with U-238. 10 thermal cycle breeders can be started with the same amount of fissionable material that it takes to start one fast breeder. Thorium breeding cycle ps a slam dunk if you want to start a lot of breeders quickly. We need to in the worst possible way.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Thermal breeders work better with Th-232 than they do with U-238. 10 thermal cycle breeders can be started with the same amount of fissionable material that it takes to start one fast breeder. Thorium breeding cycle ps a slam dunk if you want to start a lot of breeders quickly. We need to in the worst possible way.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    A Program of Positive Change should include changing the nuclear fuel cycle to Thorium –
    We cannot continue to improve the condition of people throughout the word without use of nuclear power. None of the renewable energy solutions can be scaled quickly enough to meet current and future energy needs. Alternative Energy solutions are boutique energy experiments for the wealthy developed world that are just too expensive for the requirements of the developing world. Safer, proliferation resistant, nuclear power without the long term high level waste storage problems is needed to power a growing world economy and to allow all nations to provide for and feed their growing populations in peace. These goals are available by changing the nuclear fuel cycle to a Uranium-233/Thorium fuel cycle.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    A Program of Positive Change should include changing the nuclear fuel cycle to Thorium -
    We cannot continue to improve the condition of people throughout the word without use of nuclear power. None of the renewable energy solutions can be scaled quickly enough to meet current and future energy needs. Alternative Energy solutions are boutique energy experiments for the wealthy developed world that are just too expensive for the requirements of the developing world. Safer, proliferation resistant, nuclear power without the long term high level waste storage problems is needed to power a growing world economy and to allow all nations to provide for and feed their growing populations in peace. These goals are available by changing the nuclear fuel cycle to a Uranium-233/Thorium fuel cycle.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    A Program of Positive Change should include changing the nuclear fuel cycle to Thorium -
    We cannot continue to improve the condition of people throughout the word without use of nuclear power. None of the renewable energy solutions can be scaled quickly enough to meet current and future energy needs. Alternative Energy solutions are boutique energy experiments for the wealthy developed world that are just too expensive for the requirements of the developing world. Safer, proliferation resistant, nuclear power without the long term high level waste storage problems is needed to power a growing world economy and to allow all nations to provide for and feed their growing populations in peace. These goals are available by changing the nuclear fuel cycle to a Uranium-233/Thorium fuel cycle.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    The Confessions of a Proponent of a Minority View – The Thorium Fuel Cycle

    Power and Money (and perhaps on rare occasionally cuteness) rule the world. Even if there were tremendous advantages to the Thorium Fuel Cycle (and there are many), many decades ago the United States and the world chose to go the other direction and develop and commercialize the Plutonium fuel cycle. Developing new nuclear technology for a nuclear renaissance is a expensive business and in the end may be driven by factors relating little to engineering merits and have more to do with profits, regulatory hurdles, funding obstacles including reassuring bank managers and investors that investments risks are acceptable, and opportunities to establish monopolistic market dominance and choke off meaningful market competition. There are many large wealthy and powerful international firms and even nation states that currently have heavy investments in Plutonium Fuel Cycle technology and conventional Light Water Reactor technology. They own the rights to NRC certified reactor designs and stand to profit handsomely if the Plutonium Fuel Cycle technology they possess remains dominant. There are only a few individuals (with allot less money) that would risk their fortunes and careers pursuing Thorium Fuel Cycle technology. The contest is not always won by the rich and the powerful, but it is usually prudent to bet on that side if you wish to remain solvent. Thorium fuel cycle is better technology for power generation but the Plutonium fuel cycle technology also works well and there are power rich guys that stand to benefit from maintaining the Plutonium Cycle only monopoly and there are fewer regulatory and business obstacles to its use.
    When you are a proponent of a minority view it is customary that you to provide a little higher standard of proof to support your claims.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    The Confessions of a Proponent of a Minority View – The Thorium Fuel Cycle

    Power and Money (and perhaps on rare occasionally cuteness) rule the world. Even if there were tremendous advantages to the Thorium Fuel Cycle (and there are many), many decades ago the United States and the world chose to go the other direction and develop and commercialize the Plutonium fuel cycle. Developing new nuclear technology for a nuclear renaissance is a expensive business and in the end may be driven by factors relating little to engineering merits and have more to do with profits, regulatory hurdles, funding obstacles including reassuring bank managers and investors that investments risks are acceptable, and opportunities to establish monopolistic market dominance and choke off meaningful market competition. There are many large wealthy and powerful international firms and even nation states that currently have heavy investments in Plutonium Fuel Cycle technology and conventional Light Water Reactor technology. They own the rights to NRC certified reactor designs and stand to profit handsomely if the Plutonium Fuel Cycle technology they possess remains dominant. There are only a few individuals (with allot less money) that would risk their fortunes and careers pursuing Thorium Fuel Cycle technology. The contest is not always won by the rich and the powerful, but it is usually prudent to bet on that side if you wish to remain solvent. Thorium fuel cycle is better technology for power generation but the Plutonium fuel cycle technology also works well and there are power rich guys that stand to benefit from maintaining the Plutonium Cycle only monopoly and there are fewer regulatory and business obstacles to its use.
    When you are a proponent of a minority view it is customary that you to provide a little higher standard of proof to support your claims.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    The Confessions of a Proponent of a Minority View – The Thorium Fuel Cycle

    Power and Money (and perhaps on rare occasionally cuteness) rule the world. Even if there were tremendous advantages to the Thorium Fuel Cycle (and there are many), many decades ago the United States and the world chose to go the other direction and develop and commercialize the Plutonium fuel cycle. Developing new nuclear technology for a nuclear renaissance is a expensive business and in the end may be driven by factors relating little to engineering merits and have more to do with profits, regulatory hurdles, funding obstacles including reassuring bank managers and investors that investments risks are acceptable, and opportunities to establish monopolistic market dominance and choke off meaningful market competition. There are many large wealthy and powerful international firms and even nation states that currently have heavy investments in Plutonium Fuel Cycle technology and conventional Light Water Reactor technology. They own the rights to NRC certified reactor designs and stand to profit handsomely if the Plutonium Fuel Cycle technology they possess remains dominant. There are only a few individuals (with allot less money) that would risk their fortunes and careers pursuing Thorium Fuel Cycle technology. The contest is not always won by the rich and the powerful, but it is usually prudent to bet on that side if you wish to remain solvent. Thorium fuel cycle is better technology for power generation but the Plutonium fuel cycle technology also works well and there are power rich guys that stand to benefit from maintaining the Plutonium Cycle only monopoly and there are fewer regulatory and business obstacles to its use.
    When you are a proponent of a minority view it is customary that you to provide a little higher standard of proof to support your claims.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    I have tried but so far I have not been able to convince DOE and NRC that Thorium is cute.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    I have tried but so far I have not been able to convince DOE and NRC that Thorium is cute.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    I have tried but so far I have not been able to convince DOE and NRC that Thorium is cute.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Everyone will get a better idea once the first commercial MSR and the first IFR prototypes are up an running. My suspicion is that the MSR gets there first and at a significant lower costs.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Everyone will get a better idea once the first commercial MSR and the first IFR prototypes are up an running. My suspicion is that the MSR gets there first and at a significant lower costs.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Everyone will get a better idea once the first commercial MSR and the first IFR prototypes are up an running. My suspicion is that the MSR gets there first and at a significant lower costs.

  • charlesH

    What about LFTR cost compared to current LWRs and sodium FBRs?

    Consider the heat exchanger size comparison shown in this article.

    http://memagazine.asme.org/Articles/2010/May/Too_Good_Leave_Shelf.cfm

    MSBR (e.g LFTR) ~150m3
    PWR ~500m3
    PRISM SODIUM FAST REACTOR ~1300m3

    LFTR capital cost advantages vs LWR:
    a) heat exchanger size ( 1/3 )
    b) reactor size (similar to heat exchanger comparison)
    c) ambient pressure (vs 2000+psi, affect reactor vessel, heat ex, containment building, etc)
    d) process control (unclear, LFTR needs chemical processing but simpler criticality/load following control)
    e) higher operating temp thus higher thermal efficiency (LFTR >45% vs LWR ~33%)
    f) a, b and e size advantage leads more easily to factory production efficiencies for a given power rating.

    Bottom line LFTR cost projections. < 50% current LWR, competitive with coal.

  • charlesH

    What about LFTR cost compared to current LWRs and sodium FBRs?

    Consider the heat exchanger size comparison shown in this article.

    http://memagazine.asme.org/Articles/2010/May/Too_Good_Leave_Shelf.cfm

    MSBR (e.g LFTR) ~150m3
    PWR ~500m3
    PRISM SODIUM FAST REACTOR ~1300m3

    LFTR capital cost advantages vs LWR:
    a) heat exchanger size ( 1/3 )
    b) reactor size (similar to heat exchanger comparison)
    c) ambient pressure (vs 2000+psi, affect reactor vessel, heat ex, containment building, etc)
    d) process control (unclear, LFTR needs chemical processing but simpler criticality/load following control)
    e) higher operating temp thus higher thermal efficiency (LFTR >45% vs LWR ~33%)
    f) a, b and e size advantage leads more easily to factory production efficiencies for a given power rating.

    Bottom line LFTR cost projections. < 50% current LWR, competitive with coal.

  • charlesH

    What about LFTR cost compared to current LWRs and sodium FBRs?

    Consider the heat exchanger size comparison shown in this article.

    http://memagazine.asme.org/Articles/2010/May/Too_Good_Leave_Shelf.cfm

    MSBR (e.g LFTR) ~150m3
    PWR ~500m3
    PRISM SODIUM FAST REACTOR ~1300m3

    LFTR capital cost advantages vs LWR:
    a) heat exchanger size ( 1/3 )
    b) reactor size (similar to heat exchanger comparison)
    c) ambient pressure (vs 2000+psi, affect reactor vessel, heat ex, containment building, etc)
    d) process control (unclear, LFTR needs chemical processing but simpler criticality/load following control)
    e) higher operating temp thus higher thermal efficiency (LFTR >45% vs LWR ~33%)
    f) a, b and e size advantage leads more easily to factory production efficiencies for a given power rating.

    Bottom line LFTR cost projections. < 50% current LWR, competitive with coal.

  • David

    The ability to load follow is a key advantage that could pursuade relunctant investors. Replacing expensive natural gas load followers with stable cost lftrs is the market to aim at.

  • David

    The ability to load follow is a key advantage that could pursuade relunctant investors. Replacing expensive natural gas load followers with stable cost lftrs is the market to aim at.

  • David

    The ability to load follow is a key advantage that could pursuade relunctant investors. Replacing expensive natural gas load followers with stable cost lftrs is the market to aim at.

  • DocForesight

    Not being a nuke engineer, but relying on what I’ve learned from several blogs the past 18 months, I agree with those who post substantive reasons for it’s re-development and deployment.

    This article adds the numbers behind the next 40 year build-up to maintain and add nuclears’ role:
    http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles%202005/Nuclear2050.pdf

    And Ian, many people share your concern regarding BP and deep-water drilling, but here’s some perspective to keep in mind:
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/38294088/What_Does_184_Million_Gallons_of_Oil_Look_Like?slide=9

    Liquid petroleum-based fuels are the most energy-dense, easily transported and useful fuels yet discovered. There is no viable alternative, yet. We are no more in danger of running out of petroleum than we are of uranium. Can we dispense with the Malthusian doom-and-gloom?

    Nukes of all sizes and fuels, where economically feasible, for electricity, desal and industrial uses. Petroleum and NatGas for transportation, fertilizer and other chemical uses. Simple.

  • DocForesight

    Not being a nuke engineer, but relying on what I’ve learned from several blogs the past 18 months, I agree with those who post substantive reasons for it’s re-development and deployment.

    This article adds the numbers behind the next 40 year build-up to maintain and add nuclears’ role:
    http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles%202005/Nuclear2050.pdf

    And Ian, many people share your concern regarding BP and deep-water drilling, but here’s some perspective to keep in mind:
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/38294088/What_Does_184_Million_Gallons_of_Oil_Look_Like?slide=9

    Liquid petroleum-based fuels are the most energy-dense, easily transported and useful fuels yet discovered. There is no viable alternative, yet. We are no more in danger of running out of petroleum than we are of uranium. Can we dispense with the Malthusian doom-and-gloom?

    Nukes of all sizes and fuels, where economically feasible, for electricity, desal and industrial uses. Petroleum and NatGas for transportation, fertilizer and other chemical uses. Simple.

  • DocForesight

    Not being a nuke engineer, but relying on what I’ve learned from several blogs the past 18 months, I agree with those who post substantive reasons for it’s re-development and deployment.

    This article adds the numbers behind the next 40 year build-up to maintain and add nuclears’ role:
    http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles%202005/Nuclear2050.pdf

    And Ian, many people share your concern regarding BP and deep-water drilling, but here’s some perspective to keep in mind:
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/38294088/What_Does_184_Million_Gallons_of_Oil_Look_Like?slide=9

    Liquid petroleum-based fuels are the most energy-dense, easily transported and useful fuels yet discovered. There is no viable alternative, yet. We are no more in danger of running out of petroleum than we are of uranium. Can we dispense with the Malthusian doom-and-gloom?

    Nukes of all sizes and fuels, where economically feasible, for electricity, desal and industrial uses. Petroleum and NatGas for transportation, fertilizer and other chemical uses. Simple.

  • http://rethinkingnuclearpower.googlepages.com/aimhigh Robert Hargraves

    LFTR can deliver energy cheaper than coal.

    Kyoto failed. Copenhgen failed. The Senate declined cap and trade. If not even the US will accept the economic pain of carbon taxes, you can see how impossible it is to expect developing nations to.

    The only feasible way to stop all nations from burning coal and gas is to provide an energy source that is cheaper than coal. The design objective if $2/watt capital cost, delivering electricity at $0.03/kWh.

    In addition to checking global warming, this strategy ends 24,000 deaths/year in the US from coal plant emissions — and over a million worldwide. Inexpensive energy can also improve the standard of living in developing countries, allowing them to rise to a modest prosperity level with lifestyles that include fewer births, checking world population growth. Mass producing LFTRs can be a $50 billion export business for the US.

    LFTR is inexpensive, safe, waste-consuming, and feasible, with inexhaustible thorium fuel.

    LFTR prototypes can be running by 2005, with mass production starting in 2010.

  • http://rethinkingnuclearpower.googlepages.com/aimhigh Robert Hargraves

    LFTR can deliver energy cheaper than coal.

    Kyoto failed. Copenhgen failed. The Senate declined cap and trade. If not even the US will accept the economic pain of carbon taxes, you can see how impossible it is to expect developing nations to.

    The only feasible way to stop all nations from burning coal and gas is to provide an energy source that is cheaper than coal. The design objective if $2/watt capital cost, delivering electricity at $0.03/kWh.

    In addition to checking global warming, this strategy ends 24,000 deaths/year in the US from coal plant emissions — and over a million worldwide. Inexpensive energy can also improve the standard of living in developing countries, allowing them to rise to a modest prosperity level with lifestyles that include fewer births, checking world population growth. Mass producing LFTRs can be a $50 billion export business for the US.

    LFTR is inexpensive, safe, waste-consuming, and feasible, with inexhaustible thorium fuel.

    LFTR prototypes can be running by 2005, with mass production starting in 2010.

  • http://rethinkingnuclearpower.googlepages.com/aimhigh Robert Hargraves

    LFTR can deliver energy cheaper than coal.

    Kyoto failed. Copenhgen failed. The Senate declined cap and trade. If not even the US will accept the economic pain of carbon taxes, you can see how impossible it is to expect developing nations to.

    The only feasible way to stop all nations from burning coal and gas is to provide an energy source that is cheaper than coal. The design objective if $2/watt capital cost, delivering electricity at $0.03/kWh.

    In addition to checking global warming, this strategy ends 24,000 deaths/year in the US from coal plant emissions — and over a million worldwide. Inexpensive energy can also improve the standard of living in developing countries, allowing them to rise to a modest prosperity level with lifestyles that include fewer births, checking world population growth. Mass producing LFTRs can be a $50 billion export business for the US.

    LFTR is inexpensive, safe, waste-consuming, and feasible, with inexhaustible thorium fuel.

    LFTR prototypes can be running by 2005, with mass production starting in 2010.

  • Martin Burkle

    LFTR Cost Problems
    I think that fuel costs are a small consideration for our current reactors (maybe 10% of the operating costs). The real incentive for building LFTR would need to be construction costs. It is my opinion that whatever is saved by operating at atmospheric pressure and smaller reactor size is offset by the reprocessing systems required to make LFTR work.

    Remember that scale matters! Never have the onsite repressing methods worked at the scale needed for a production site.

    Can anyone estimate the cost of PRODUCTION repressing on site? Will there be a hot room with manipulators? What will the procedure be when the distiller gets clogged? How do you test to see if the neutron absorbing gas is being removed correctly? What is the procedure to fix the pump to move the working fluid back into the reactor. There are a hundred questions like this that need to be considered and a risk needs to be assigned to each. Once this is done the costs will skyrocket.

    The 1980 layout of a LFTR plant had much more floor space for the reprocessing than the reactor. Remember, all the the reprocessing space is highly radioactive. It looks to me like the radioactive floor space is about the same for the LFTR as for the AP1000 therefore the cost will not be much different.

    PS. Is it true that highly radioactive material would need to be shipped to a new site so that the new site could be started? Doesn’t this present a large public relations problem? Maybe even a large cost?

  • Martin Burkle

    LFTR Cost Problems
    I think that fuel costs are a small consideration for our current reactors (maybe 10% of the operating costs). The real incentive for building LFTR would need to be construction costs. It is my opinion that whatever is saved by operating at atmospheric pressure and smaller reactor size is offset by the reprocessing systems required to make LFTR work.

    Remember that scale matters! Never have the onsite repressing methods worked at the scale needed for a production site.

    Can anyone estimate the cost of PRODUCTION repressing on site? Will there be a hot room with manipulators? What will the procedure be when the distiller gets clogged? How do you test to see if the neutron absorbing gas is being removed correctly? What is the procedure to fix the pump to move the working fluid back into the reactor. There are a hundred questions like this that need to be considered and a risk needs to be assigned to each. Once this is done the costs will skyrocket.

    The 1980 layout of a LFTR plant had much more floor space for the reprocessing than the reactor. Remember, all the the reprocessing space is highly radioactive. It looks to me like the radioactive floor space is about the same for the LFTR as for the AP1000 therefore the cost will not be much different.

    PS. Is it true that highly radioactive material would need to be shipped to a new site so that the new site could be started? Doesn’t this present a large public relations problem? Maybe even a large cost?

  • Martin Burkle

    LFTR Cost Problems
    I think that fuel costs are a small consideration for our current reactors (maybe 10% of the operating costs). The real incentive for building LFTR would need to be construction costs. It is my opinion that whatever is saved by operating at atmospheric pressure and smaller reactor size is offset by the reprocessing systems required to make LFTR work.

    Remember that scale matters! Never have the onsite repressing methods worked at the scale needed for a production site.

    Can anyone estimate the cost of PRODUCTION repressing on site? Will there be a hot room with manipulators? What will the procedure be when the distiller gets clogged? How do you test to see if the neutron absorbing gas is being removed correctly? What is the procedure to fix the pump to move the working fluid back into the reactor. There are a hundred questions like this that need to be considered and a risk needs to be assigned to each. Once this is done the costs will skyrocket.

    The 1980 layout of a LFTR plant had much more floor space for the reprocessing than the reactor. Remember, all the the reprocessing space is highly radioactive. It looks to me like the radioactive floor space is about the same for the LFTR as for the AP1000 therefore the cost will not be much different.

    PS. Is it true that highly radioactive material would need to be shipped to a new site so that the new site could be started? Doesn’t this present a large public relations problem? Maybe even a large cost?

  • SteveK9

    The best hope for Thorium is probably India — they are actually interested. They have their own, seemingly complicated scheme, but hopefully they will become more knowledgeable and interested in molten-salt reactors and avoid ‘not-invented-her’ prejudice. I thought David LeBlanc’s recent, to be published paper, LeBlanc, D., Molten salt reactors: A new beginning for an old idea. Nucl. Eng. Des. (2010), doi:10.1016/j.nucengdes.2009.12.033, is terrific. India has plenty of competent Physicists and Engineers. I hope some of them read this.

    As far as cheaper than coal, I think there is quite a good chance that China will do that with current Gen III+ LWR. They are not paralyzed by indecision, they are also not absurd about regulation. It’s to be hoped that they don’t sacrifice ‘actual’ safety performance, we will have to see, but what I read makes me feel optimistic.

  • SteveK9

    The best hope for Thorium is probably India — they are actually interested. They have their own, seemingly complicated scheme, but hopefully they will become more knowledgeable and interested in molten-salt reactors and avoid ‘not-invented-her’ prejudice. I thought David LeBlanc’s recent, to be published paper, LeBlanc, D., Molten salt reactors: A new beginning for an old idea. Nucl. Eng. Des. (2010), doi:10.1016/j.nucengdes.2009.12.033, is terrific. India has plenty of competent Physicists and Engineers. I hope some of them read this.

    As far as cheaper than coal, I think there is quite a good chance that China will do that with current Gen III+ LWR. They are not paralyzed by indecision, they are also not absurd about regulation. It’s to be hoped that they don’t sacrifice ‘actual’ safety performance, we will have to see, but what I read makes me feel optimistic.

  • SteveK9

    The best hope for Thorium is probably India — they are actually interested. They have their own, seemingly complicated scheme, but hopefully they will become more knowledgeable and interested in molten-salt reactors and avoid ‘not-invented-her’ prejudice. I thought David LeBlanc’s recent, to be published paper, LeBlanc, D., Molten salt reactors: A new beginning for an old idea. Nucl. Eng. Des. (2010), doi:10.1016/j.nucengdes.2009.12.033, is terrific. India has plenty of competent Physicists and Engineers. I hope some of them read this.

    As far as cheaper than coal, I think there is quite a good chance that China will do that with current Gen III+ LWR. They are not paralyzed by indecision, they are also not absurd about regulation. It’s to be hoped that they don’t sacrifice ‘actual’ safety performance, we will have to see, but what I read makes me feel optimistic.

  • Lars Jorgensen

    Martin,

    LFTRs can be designed in many different configurations emphasizing different traits.
    For countries where proliferation is not a concern (for example countries that already possess nuclear weapons and those that have all the capability but have chosen not to develop weapons (like Japan or Canada) I think the variant that is most interesting is a low waste production and low cost.

    This variant would have onsite processing to process the off-gas, noble metals, and clean the salt. The processes involved are primarily physical to avoid generating any extra waste from the processing chemicals. The precise processes are not yet selected. There are proofs of concept for most of them. They need to be scaled up to prototype scale. The processing rates are generally very modest. Yes the cost per unit processed will be high compared to large scale industrial chemical plants but since the volumes we need are so small the cost impact to the nuclear plant is modest (<10% of the total from the ORNL estimates and they were doing processing much faster than current plans since they were trying to achieve the best breeding). We won’t know the precise cost until we get more engineering behind us but I don’t the cost of on-site processing as a big risk. For example, the distiller in MSRE fit in a cell (from the pictures it was something 4x8x12 feet) and provides around 1/3 of the capacity needed for a 1 GWe reactor.

    Yes any where we have fuel or blanket salt the room will be at 600C or so – there will be no personel there during operations (obviously) so remote operation is a must. In the 1960′s this meant remote manipulators and long handled tools. They got the job done then. Today I would think of robotics.

    What to do if the distiller gets clogged?
    Actually a good question since the original one did get clogged and they did not have a pre-planned answer (so their experiment was cut short). It would have to be part of the design to make it self-cleaning – rods that can be sent down the pipes or some such. This is also an issue for sea-water cooled LWRs and even sea water aquariums. One needs to foresee the problem and incorporate the solution in the design but this isn’t a killer issue.

    How do you test if the off-gas system is working correctly?
    First I would say by the heat flow rate of the gas. This is a very fast feedback mechanism that should tell you within a minute if something isn’t working. Later, you should know fairly precisely how much tritium, krypton, xenon, (and their daughter products) you are collecting. These can be compared to the expected amounts based on the amount of power produced.

    What is the procedure to fix the pump?
    The pumps are split into two pieces. The motors are located above the radiation shield. The impellers are located below. The motors are fairly readily accessible. Replacing an impeller would be a more major repair but the detailed design of the reactor should allow for this. Usually the impellers are located at the top of the reactor around the periphery. They are typically welded into the piping. ORNL developed remote cutting and welding robotics back in the 60′s. Today automakers use them all the time.

    The gist of your questions are very practical and the answers to them are part of the submissions to the NRC which add up to thousands of pages. There is no doubt plenty of work to do but none of the issues you mention make me concerned for the viability of LFTR.

    First I would expect the lifetime of a reactor site to be very long (a few hundred years) so the shipment would be within the site. Second, when ORNL switched from u235 to u233 they used fluorination to remove the u235. They found they were able to do this with very little residual radioactivity in the removed uranium. The good stuff you want to start a new reactor would be the uranium and the salt. These can be extracted with only modest radioactivity. You should also compare this to the current LWR fleet where the entire spent fuel material with all the fission products will one day be shipped someplace.

    Hope this helps,
    Lars

  • Lars Jorgensen

    Martin,

    LFTRs can be designed in many different configurations emphasizing different traits.
    For countries where proliferation is not a concern (for example countries that already possess nuclear weapons and those that have all the capability but have chosen not to develop weapons (like Japan or Canada) I think the variant that is most interesting is a low waste production and low cost.

    This variant would have onsite processing to process the off-gas, noble metals, and clean the salt. The processes involved are primarily physical to avoid generating any extra waste from the processing chemicals. The precise processes are not yet selected. There are proofs of concept for most of them. They need to be scaled up to prototype scale. The processing rates are generally very modest. Yes the cost per unit processed will be high compared to large scale industrial chemical plants but since the volumes we need are so small the cost impact to the nuclear plant is modest (<10% of the total from the ORNL estimates and they were doing processing much faster than current plans since they were trying to achieve the best breeding). We won’t know the precise cost until we get more engineering behind us but I don’t the cost of on-site processing as a big risk. For example, the distiller in MSRE fit in a cell (from the pictures it was something 4x8x12 feet) and provides around 1/3 of the capacity needed for a 1 GWe reactor.

    Yes any where we have fuel or blanket salt the room will be at 600C or so – there will be no personel there during operations (obviously) so remote operation is a must. In the 1960′s this meant remote manipulators and long handled tools. They got the job done then. Today I would think of robotics.

    What to do if the distiller gets clogged?
    Actually a good question since the original one did get clogged and they did not have a pre-planned answer (so their experiment was cut short). It would have to be part of the design to make it self-cleaning – rods that can be sent down the pipes or some such. This is also an issue for sea-water cooled LWRs and even sea water aquariums. One needs to foresee the problem and incorporate the solution in the design but this isn’t a killer issue.

    How do you test if the off-gas system is working correctly?
    First I would say by the heat flow rate of the gas. This is a very fast feedback mechanism that should tell you within a minute if something isn’t working. Later, you should know fairly precisely how much tritium, krypton, xenon, (and their daughter products) you are collecting. These can be compared to the expected amounts based on the amount of power produced.

    What is the procedure to fix the pump?
    The pumps are split into two pieces. The motors are located above the radiation shield. The impellers are located below. The motors are fairly readily accessible. Replacing an impeller would be a more major repair but the detailed design of the reactor should allow for this. Usually the impellers are located at the top of the reactor around the periphery. They are typically welded into the piping. ORNL developed remote cutting and welding robotics back in the 60′s. Today automakers use them all the time.

    The gist of your questions are very practical and the answers to them are part of the submissions to the NRC which add up to thousands of pages. There is no doubt plenty of work to do but none of the issues you mention make me concerned for the viability of LFTR.

    First I would expect the lifetime of a reactor site to be very long (a few hundred years) so the shipment would be within the site. Second, when ORNL switched from u235 to u233 they used fluorination to remove the u235. They found they were able to do this with very little residual radioactivity in the removed uranium. The good stuff you want to start a new reactor would be the uranium and the salt. These can be extracted with only modest radioactivity. You should also compare this to the current LWR fleet where the entire spent fuel material with all the fission products will one day be shipped someplace.

    Hope this helps,
    Lars

  • Lars Jorgensen

    Martin,

    LFTRs can be designed in many different configurations emphasizing different traits.
    For countries where proliferation is not a concern (for example countries that already possess nuclear weapons and those that have all the capability but have chosen not to develop weapons (like Japan or Canada) I think the variant that is most interesting is a low waste production and low cost.

    This variant would have onsite processing to process the off-gas, noble metals, and clean the salt. The processes involved are primarily physical to avoid generating any extra waste from the processing chemicals. The precise processes are not yet selected. There are proofs of concept for most of them. They need to be scaled up to prototype scale. The processing rates are generally very modest. Yes the cost per unit processed will be high compared to large scale industrial chemical plants but since the volumes we need are so small the cost impact to the nuclear plant is modest (<10% of the total from the ORNL estimates and they were doing processing much faster than current plans since they were trying to achieve the best breeding). We won’t know the precise cost until we get more engineering behind us but I don’t the cost of on-site processing as a big risk. For example, the distiller in MSRE fit in a cell (from the pictures it was something 4x8x12 feet) and provides around 1/3 of the capacity needed for a 1 GWe reactor.

    Yes any where we have fuel or blanket salt the room will be at 600C or so – there will be no personel there during operations (obviously) so remote operation is a must. In the 1960′s this meant remote manipulators and long handled tools. They got the job done then. Today I would think of robotics.

    What to do if the distiller gets clogged?
    Actually a good question since the original one did get clogged and they did not have a pre-planned answer (so their experiment was cut short). It would have to be part of the design to make it self-cleaning – rods that can be sent down the pipes or some such. This is also an issue for sea-water cooled LWRs and even sea water aquariums. One needs to foresee the problem and incorporate the solution in the design but this isn’t a killer issue.

    How do you test if the off-gas system is working correctly?
    First I would say by the heat flow rate of the gas. This is a very fast feedback mechanism that should tell you within a minute if something isn’t working. Later, you should know fairly precisely how much tritium, krypton, xenon, (and their daughter products) you are collecting. These can be compared to the expected amounts based on the amount of power produced.

    What is the procedure to fix the pump?
    The pumps are split into two pieces. The motors are located above the radiation shield. The impellers are located below. The motors are fairly readily accessible. Replacing an impeller would be a more major repair but the detailed design of the reactor should allow for this. Usually the impellers are located at the top of the reactor around the periphery. They are typically welded into the piping. ORNL developed remote cutting and welding robotics back in the 60′s. Today automakers use them all the time.

    The gist of your questions are very practical and the answers to them are part of the submissions to the NRC which add up to thousands of pages. There is no doubt plenty of work to do but none of the issues you mention make me concerned for the viability of LFTR.

    First I would expect the lifetime of a reactor site to be very long (a few hundred years) so the shipment would be within the site. Second, when ORNL switched from u235 to u233 they used fluorination to remove the u235. They found they were able to do this with very little residual radioactivity in the removed uranium. The good stuff you want to start a new reactor would be the uranium and the salt. These can be extracted with only modest radioactivity. You should also compare this to the current LWR fleet where the entire spent fuel material with all the fission products will one day be shipped someplace.

    Hope this helps,
    Lars

  • http://left-atomics.blogspot.com David Walters

    This is a good discussion.

    Yes, we want a few billion toward a prototype LFTR. This will solve many problems and work out any kinks. The great thing is that what is learned from a true R&D LFTR can be applied to really big LFTRs as well as smaller ones. The great thing about LFTR as Lars notes is that there is a use for it in multiple places, multiple needs.

    It is an *ideal* reactor for developing countries that have under developed grids. LFTRs can anchor a grid and development of high energy industries can be built around it. I’m thinking, for example, Vietnam which is interesting in developing a newly discovered bauxite reserve by building several PWRs. The LFTRs would be far better. Some big ones in So. Ca. could be built on existing nuclear properties (Diablo Canyon and San Onofre) and be devoted to desalination using LFTRs high temp. out put. And so on, etc…all using more or less the exact same design, but bigger.

    Even large LFTRs can be build in “line production” not unlike large passanger airliners are done today or built in ship yards using drydocks and overhead gantry cranes. Build a barge around ‘em, float ‘em up river to an existing coal yard and tie into the existing grid. QED.

    The biggest hurdle (outside all the politics and the “uranium-industrial complex” that doesn’t like thorium) is the *closed* cycle Brayton turbine we would *like* to employ as it’s lighter in weight, smaller in size and gives a 50% efficiency to the whole reactor in terms of thermal efficiency. There are no closed cycle turbines like this and it’s I honestly believe that *more* money needs to head in this direction than toward the LFTR itself…once we settle on the kind of gas we want to use as the motive force (CO2? N2? He?).

    David Walters

  • http://left-atomics.blogspot.com David Walters

    This is a good discussion.

    Yes, we want a few billion toward a prototype LFTR. This will solve many problems and work out any kinks. The great thing is that what is learned from a true R&D LFTR can be applied to really big LFTRs as well as smaller ones. The great thing about LFTR as Lars notes is that there is a use for it in multiple places, multiple needs.

    It is an *ideal* reactor for developing countries that have under developed grids. LFTRs can anchor a grid and development of high energy industries can be built around it. I’m thinking, for example, Vietnam which is interesting in developing a newly discovered bauxite reserve by building several PWRs. The LFTRs would be far better. Some big ones in So. Ca. could be built on existing nuclear properties (Diablo Canyon and San Onofre) and be devoted to desalination using LFTRs high temp. out put. And so on, etc…all using more or less the exact same design, but bigger.

    Even large LFTRs can be build in “line production” not unlike large passanger airliners are done today or built in ship yards using drydocks and overhead gantry cranes. Build a barge around ‘em, float ‘em up river to an existing coal yard and tie into the existing grid. QED.

    The biggest hurdle (outside all the politics and the “uranium-industrial complex” that doesn’t like thorium) is the *closed* cycle Brayton turbine we would *like* to employ as it’s lighter in weight, smaller in size and gives a 50% efficiency to the whole reactor in terms of thermal efficiency. There are no closed cycle turbines like this and it’s I honestly believe that *more* money needs to head in this direction than toward the LFTR itself…once we settle on the kind of gas we want to use as the motive force (CO2? N2? He?).

    David Walters

  • http://left-atomics.blogspot.com David Walters

    This is a good discussion.

    Yes, we want a few billion toward a prototype LFTR. This will solve many problems and work out any kinks. The great thing is that what is learned from a true R&D LFTR can be applied to really big LFTRs as well as smaller ones. The great thing about LFTR as Lars notes is that there is a use for it in multiple places, multiple needs.

    It is an *ideal* reactor for developing countries that have under developed grids. LFTRs can anchor a grid and development of high energy industries can be built around it. I’m thinking, for example, Vietnam which is interesting in developing a newly discovered bauxite reserve by building several PWRs. The LFTRs would be far better. Some big ones in So. Ca. could be built on existing nuclear properties (Diablo Canyon and San Onofre) and be devoted to desalination using LFTRs high temp. out put. And so on, etc…all using more or less the exact same design, but bigger.

    Even large LFTRs can be build in “line production” not unlike large passanger airliners are done today or built in ship yards using drydocks and overhead gantry cranes. Build a barge around ‘em, float ‘em up river to an existing coal yard and tie into the existing grid. QED.

    The biggest hurdle (outside all the politics and the “uranium-industrial complex” that doesn’t like thorium) is the *closed* cycle Brayton turbine we would *like* to employ as it’s lighter in weight, smaller in size and gives a 50% efficiency to the whole reactor in terms of thermal efficiency. There are no closed cycle turbines like this and it’s I honestly believe that *more* money needs to head in this direction than toward the LFTR itself…once we settle on the kind of gas we want to use as the motive force (CO2? N2? He?).

    David Walters

  • Rick Schlosstein

    David,

    Pratt & Whitney built 100 MW industrial gas turbines in the early 1970s and studied closed cycle engines with Helium as the working fluid for the General Atomics High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) at that time.

    I am sure that Pratt, GE, Solar or any number of gas turbine companies understand the requirements and would have engines ready to test in 3 years or less. I don’t think the Brayton engine would pace LFTR development.

    For efficiency the only fluid to consider would be Helium, CO2 was used in early gas cooled reactors but has poor heat transfer properties relative to He.

  • Rick Schlosstein

    David,

    Pratt & Whitney built 100 MW industrial gas turbines in the early 1970s and studied closed cycle engines with Helium as the working fluid for the General Atomics High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) at that time.

    I am sure that Pratt, GE, Solar or any number of gas turbine companies understand the requirements and would have engines ready to test in 3 years or less. I don’t think the Brayton engine would pace LFTR development.

    For efficiency the only fluid to consider would be Helium, CO2 was used in early gas cooled reactors but has poor heat transfer properties relative to He.

  • Rick Schlosstein

    David,

    Pratt & Whitney built 100 MW industrial gas turbines in the early 1970s and studied closed cycle engines with Helium as the working fluid for the General Atomics High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) at that time.

    I am sure that Pratt, GE, Solar or any number of gas turbine companies understand the requirements and would have engines ready to test in 3 years or less. I don’t think the Brayton engine would pace LFTR development.

    For efficiency the only fluid to consider would be Helium, CO2 was used in early gas cooled reactors but has poor heat transfer properties relative to He.

  • Jagdish Dhall

    First of a kind engineering involved and NRC clearance will take decades. In the meanwhile:-
    Use Th-20% LEU fuel in existing reactors as in the Indian design AHWR300LEU.
    Run a few TMSR/DMSR to master the liquid salt handling.
    Develop the energy conversion equipment and the gas to be used.

  • Jagdish Dhall

    First of a kind engineering involved and NRC clearance will take decades. In the meanwhile:-
    Use Th-20% LEU fuel in existing reactors as in the Indian design AHWR300LEU.
    Run a few TMSR/DMSR to master the liquid salt handling.
    Develop the energy conversion equipment and the gas to be used.

  • Jagdish Dhall

    First of a kind engineering involved and NRC clearance will take decades. In the meanwhile:-
    Use Th-20% LEU fuel in existing reactors as in the Indian design AHWR300LEU.
    Run a few TMSR/DMSR to master the liquid salt handling.
    Develop the energy conversion equipment and the gas to be used.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Martin, your question is an interesting one and one which will require further research. The answers will most likely not be simple. First, reactor design would have a good deal to do with with how the reprocessing system would be designed. Most designs would require the removal of nobel gases. This can be accomplished by bubbling helium through the core and then recapturing it along with the nobel gasses that will accompany the helium bubbles out of the salt solution. The gases would then be piped away and stored under pressure, until nuclear decay turns them into solid fission products. The helium would then be recycles into the reactor.

    It would also be desirable to remove volatile fission products from the fuel salts. Stripping volatile fission products would enhance reactor safety and would lower other safety related costs.

    In a two fluid LFTR, Protactinium-233 would not require continuous removal. U-233 can be periodically removed from the blanket salt by batch reprocessing. Fission products that are not continuously removed can also be removed by batch processing of the fuel salt. Since it is expected that LFTRs will be clustered, each cluster can share batch reprocessing units. The LFTR could be shut down for batch reprocessing, and then cleaned fuel and blanket salt returned to the reactor which would then be restarted.

    For stand alone units, mobil batch processing units could be designed. The mobil units would travel from reactor to reactor, processing fuel and blanket salts. I believe that these solutions would limit LFTR footprints, and thus would lower structure costs.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Martin, your question is an interesting one and one which will require further research. The answers will most likely not be simple. First, reactor design would have a good deal to do with with how the reprocessing system would be designed. Most designs would require the removal of nobel gases. This can be accomplished by bubbling helium through the core and then recapturing it along with the nobel gasses that will accompany the helium bubbles out of the salt solution. The gases would then be piped away and stored under pressure, until nuclear decay turns them into solid fission products. The helium would then be recycles into the reactor.

    It would also be desirable to remove volatile fission products from the fuel salts. Stripping volatile fission products would enhance reactor safety and would lower other safety related costs.

    In a two fluid LFTR, Protactinium-233 would not require continuous removal. U-233 can be periodically removed from the blanket salt by batch reprocessing. Fission products that are not continuously removed can also be removed by batch processing of the fuel salt. Since it is expected that LFTRs will be clustered, each cluster can share batch reprocessing units. The LFTR could be shut down for batch reprocessing, and then cleaned fuel and blanket salt returned to the reactor which would then be restarted.

    For stand alone units, mobil batch processing units could be designed. The mobil units would travel from reactor to reactor, processing fuel and blanket salts. I believe that these solutions would limit LFTR footprints, and thus would lower structure costs.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Martin, your question is an interesting one and one which will require further research. The answers will most likely not be simple. First, reactor design would have a good deal to do with with how the reprocessing system would be designed. Most designs would require the removal of nobel gases. This can be accomplished by bubbling helium through the core and then recapturing it along with the nobel gasses that will accompany the helium bubbles out of the salt solution. The gases would then be piped away and stored under pressure, until nuclear decay turns them into solid fission products. The helium would then be recycles into the reactor.

    It would also be desirable to remove volatile fission products from the fuel salts. Stripping volatile fission products would enhance reactor safety and would lower other safety related costs.

    In a two fluid LFTR, Protactinium-233 would not require continuous removal. U-233 can be periodically removed from the blanket salt by batch reprocessing. Fission products that are not continuously removed can also be removed by batch processing of the fuel salt. Since it is expected that LFTRs will be clustered, each cluster can share batch reprocessing units. The LFTR could be shut down for batch reprocessing, and then cleaned fuel and blanket salt returned to the reactor which would then be restarted.

    For stand alone units, mobil batch processing units could be designed. The mobil units would travel from reactor to reactor, processing fuel and blanket salts. I believe that these solutions would limit LFTR footprints, and thus would lower structure costs.

  • http://left-atomics.blogspot.com David Walters

    The idea of traveling processing plants I suspect will not go over well. They would have to have zero fission products, transuranic elements and absolutely zero U233 to be allowed on the roads in a more or less continual manner. But I think I think more thought in terms of the expense and complexity of having EVERY LFTR have an onsite reprocessing module(s) needs to be done. Charle’s idea is compelling from the counter-complexity/cost POV.

    Krik is probably right about the Brayton cycle turbine. If that much R&D has been done we are way ahead of the game. On energyfromthorium Rod poised the idea of using the much denser form of intert gas, nitrogen, which has got to be cheaper than helium, the latter which is a fossil resource and of limited quantities.

  • http://left-atomics.blogspot.com David Walters

    The idea of traveling processing plants I suspect will not go over well. They would have to have zero fission products, transuranic elements and absolutely zero U233 to be allowed on the roads in a more or less continual manner. But I think I think more thought in terms of the expense and complexity of having EVERY LFTR have an onsite reprocessing module(s) needs to be done. Charle’s idea is compelling from the counter-complexity/cost POV.

    Krik is probably right about the Brayton cycle turbine. If that much R&D has been done we are way ahead of the game. On energyfromthorium Rod poised the idea of using the much denser form of intert gas, nitrogen, which has got to be cheaper than helium, the latter which is a fossil resource and of limited quantities.

  • http://left-atomics.blogspot.com David Walters

    The idea of traveling processing plants I suspect will not go over well. They would have to have zero fission products, transuranic elements and absolutely zero U233 to be allowed on the roads in a more or less continual manner. But I think I think more thought in terms of the expense and complexity of having EVERY LFTR have an onsite reprocessing module(s) needs to be done. Charle’s idea is compelling from the counter-complexity/cost POV.

    Krik is probably right about the Brayton cycle turbine. If that much R&D has been done we are way ahead of the game. On energyfromthorium Rod poised the idea of using the much denser form of intert gas, nitrogen, which has got to be cheaper than helium, the latter which is a fossil resource and of limited quantities.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    Martin,
    LFTRs admit of more technology variation than most other reactor approaches. Real time or quasi-real time chemical processing of nobel gases,fission products, and neutron poisons is only a possible but not a necessary “feature” of commercial LFTR reactors.
    ORNL lavished considerable resources on working out and verifying processes for Molten Salt Reprocessing and the flow sheets of these systems were verified in most cases on at least a laboratory level. Compared to other reprocessing systems, LFTR reprocessing is remarkably efficient and economical. The ORNL MSBR was probably the most fully explored and completely engineered commercial size Molten Salt Breeder Reactor concept. The support chemical plant for this reactor, which was designed to be an efficient breeder and for that reason required a relatively complete chemical support processing plant to keep the breeding ratio up, only added about 5% to the overall cost of this 1000 MW(e) MSR as is documented in Report ORNL-3996. This compares favorably with a Purex or Purex+ reprocessing plant that frequently cost multiple times the cost of a Light Water Reactor. While an unusual “feature” relative to more familiar LWR technology, the chemical plant associated with a LFTR is responsible for some of LFTRs most exceptional performance characteristics. If the chemical support plant only adds 5% to the cost of LFTR and it permits extraordinary fuel utilization efficiency, exceptionally low fissile start-up requirements, and reduced production of Minor Actinides including proliferation sensitive Pu-239, why not include it?

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    Martin,
    LFTRs admit of more technology variation than most other reactor approaches. Real time or quasi-real time chemical processing of nobel gases,fission products, and neutron poisons is only a possible but not a necessary “feature” of commercial LFTR reactors.
    ORNL lavished considerable resources on working out and verifying processes for Molten Salt Reprocessing and the flow sheets of these systems were verified in most cases on at least a laboratory level. Compared to other reprocessing systems, LFTR reprocessing is remarkably efficient and economical. The ORNL MSBR was probably the most fully explored and completely engineered commercial size Molten Salt Breeder Reactor concept. The support chemical plant for this reactor, which was designed to be an efficient breeder and for that reason required a relatively complete chemical support processing plant to keep the breeding ratio up, only added about 5% to the overall cost of this 1000 MW(e) MSR as is documented in Report ORNL-3996. This compares favorably with a Purex or Purex+ reprocessing plant that frequently cost multiple times the cost of a Light Water Reactor. While an unusual “feature” relative to more familiar LWR technology, the chemical plant associated with a LFTR is responsible for some of LFTRs most exceptional performance characteristics. If the chemical support plant only adds 5% to the cost of LFTR and it permits extraordinary fuel utilization efficiency, exceptionally low fissile start-up requirements, and reduced production of Minor Actinides including proliferation sensitive Pu-239, why not include it?

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    Martin,
    LFTRs admit of more technology variation than most other reactor approaches. Real time or quasi-real time chemical processing of nobel gases,fission products, and neutron poisons is only a possible but not a necessary “feature” of commercial LFTR reactors.
    ORNL lavished considerable resources on working out and verifying processes for Molten Salt Reprocessing and the flow sheets of these systems were verified in most cases on at least a laboratory level. Compared to other reprocessing systems, LFTR reprocessing is remarkably efficient and economical. The ORNL MSBR was probably the most fully explored and completely engineered commercial size Molten Salt Breeder Reactor concept. The support chemical plant for this reactor, which was designed to be an efficient breeder and for that reason required a relatively complete chemical support processing plant to keep the breeding ratio up, only added about 5% to the overall cost of this 1000 MW(e) MSR as is documented in Report ORNL-3996. This compares favorably with a Purex or Purex+ reprocessing plant that frequently cost multiple times the cost of a Light Water Reactor. While an unusual “feature” relative to more familiar LWR technology, the chemical plant associated with a LFTR is responsible for some of LFTRs most exceptional performance characteristics. If the chemical support plant only adds 5% to the cost of LFTR and it permits extraordinary fuel utilization efficiency, exceptionally low fissile start-up requirements, and reduced production of Minor Actinides including proliferation sensitive Pu-239, why not include it?

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    David, a mobil reprocessing unit need not carry fissionable isotopes like U-233. The U-233 can be extracted from the blanket salts on site, and stored onsite as well until it is used for nuclear fuel. If a LFTR is a 1 to 1 converter, removing U-233 from the product stream would eventually force the reactor shutdown. Thus, running a reactor as a 1 to 1 converter is attractive from a proliferation avoidance viewpoint.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    David, a mobil reprocessing unit need not carry fissionable isotopes like U-233. The U-233 can be extracted from the blanket salts on site, and stored onsite as well until it is used for nuclear fuel. If a LFTR is a 1 to 1 converter, removing U-233 from the product stream would eventually force the reactor shutdown. Thus, running a reactor as a 1 to 1 converter is attractive from a proliferation avoidance viewpoint.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    David, a mobil reprocessing unit need not carry fissionable isotopes like U-233. The U-233 can be extracted from the blanket salts on site, and stored onsite as well until it is used for nuclear fuel. If a LFTR is a 1 to 1 converter, removing U-233 from the product stream would eventually force the reactor shutdown. Thus, running a reactor as a 1 to 1 converter is attractive from a proliferation avoidance viewpoint.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    Q1: IS THORIUM A VIABLE OPTION FOR THE FUTURE?
    A1: YES!

    (It is a bit unfortunate that more critics of the Thorium Fuel Cycle did not turn up for this week’s Nuclear Townhall. I do not have it in me to argue against Thorium but I know that there are many designers that would never consider using it. I believe that many of the bias against Thorium comes from early experience with the fuel in solid fuel rod form where its performance and economics (including Thorex reprocessing) was mediocre).

    Thorium in fluoride salt LFTRs is just darned good tech.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    Q1: IS THORIUM A VIABLE OPTION FOR THE FUTURE?
    A1: YES!

    (It is a bit unfortunate that more critics of the Thorium Fuel Cycle did not turn up for this week’s Nuclear Townhall. I do not have it in me to argue against Thorium but I know that there are many designers that would never consider using it. I believe that many of the bias against Thorium comes from early experience with the fuel in solid fuel rod form where its performance and economics (including Thorex reprocessing) was mediocre).

    Thorium in fluoride salt LFTRs is just darned good tech.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/robertsteinhaus Robert Steinhaus

    Q1: IS THORIUM A VIABLE OPTION FOR THE FUTURE?
    A1: YES!

    (It is a bit unfortunate that more critics of the Thorium Fuel Cycle did not turn up for this week’s Nuclear Townhall. I do not have it in me to argue against Thorium but I know that there are many designers that would never consider using it. I believe that many of the bias against Thorium comes from early experience with the fuel in solid fuel rod form where its performance and economics (including Thorex reprocessing) was mediocre).

    Thorium in fluoride salt LFTRs is just darned good tech.

  • Martin Burkle

    Staff Costs
    Thank you all for the most reasonable and well explained answers I have ever gotten on a blog site. I think the biggest revision to my thinking is the really small volume of fluid to be cleaned of fission products per day (about half of a 5 gallon bucket). So each of the reprocessing steps can have quit small inventions doing the work. It is obvious that a lot of engineering development is needed for the reprocessing portion of the plant. I see now that the reprocessing would not cost as much as the reactor but I would still bet that it’s more than 5%.

    Since you all answered that question so well, could we try another line of thinking – personnel costs? I have not been able to find a generalized break down of the people employed at a LWR nuclear plant. What I would like to think about is the staffing of a LFTR plant. If we could look at the job types for a LWR plant and the number of each job type employed, then we could think about what the staffing would be for a LFTR plant.

    Even in the absence of a list for a LWR plant, these questions come to mind?
    1. Is there any reason to believe that fewer people would be needed for a LFTR plant?
    2. Does the number of security people depend on the output of the reactor? In other words, does a 200MW reactor need 1/5 the number of security people as a 1000MW reactor?
    3. How many people does the “balance of plant” (steam side) require for a 1000 MW LWR plant? or is the staff even divided this way?
    4. How many new jobs types would be required? maybe nuclear chemist or remote robot master

  • Martin Burkle

    Staff Costs
    Thank you all for the most reasonable and well explained answers I have ever gotten on a blog site. I think the biggest revision to my thinking is the really small volume of fluid to be cleaned of fission products per day (about half of a 5 gallon bucket). So each of the reprocessing steps can have quit small inventions doing the work. It is obvious that a lot of engineering development is needed for the reprocessing portion of the plant. I see now that the reprocessing would not cost as much as the reactor but I would still bet that it’s more than 5%.

    Since you all answered that question so well, could we try another line of thinking – personnel costs? I have not been able to find a generalized break down of the people employed at a LWR nuclear plant. What I would like to think about is the staffing of a LFTR plant. If we could look at the job types for a LWR plant and the number of each job type employed, then we could think about what the staffing would be for a LFTR plant.

    Even in the absence of a list for a LWR plant, these questions come to mind?
    1. Is there any reason to believe that fewer people would be needed for a LFTR plant?
    2. Does the number of security people depend on the output of the reactor? In other words, does a 200MW reactor need 1/5 the number of security people as a 1000MW reactor?
    3. How many people does the “balance of plant” (steam side) require for a 1000 MW LWR plant? or is the staff even divided this way?
    4. How many new jobs types would be required? maybe nuclear chemist or remote robot master

  • Martin Burkle

    Staff Costs
    Thank you all for the most reasonable and well explained answers I have ever gotten on a blog site. I think the biggest revision to my thinking is the really small volume of fluid to be cleaned of fission products per day (about half of a 5 gallon bucket). So each of the reprocessing steps can have quit small inventions doing the work. It is obvious that a lot of engineering development is needed for the reprocessing portion of the plant. I see now that the reprocessing would not cost as much as the reactor but I would still bet that it’s more than 5%.

    Since you all answered that question so well, could we try another line of thinking – personnel costs? I have not been able to find a generalized break down of the people employed at a LWR nuclear plant. What I would like to think about is the staffing of a LFTR plant. If we could look at the job types for a LWR plant and the number of each job type employed, then we could think about what the staffing would be for a LFTR plant.

    Even in the absence of a list for a LWR plant, these questions come to mind?
    1. Is there any reason to believe that fewer people would be needed for a LFTR plant?
    2. Does the number of security people depend on the output of the reactor? In other words, does a 200MW reactor need 1/5 the number of security people as a 1000MW reactor?
    3. How many people does the “balance of plant” (steam side) require for a 1000 MW LWR plant? or is the staff even divided this way?
    4. How many new jobs types would be required? maybe nuclear chemist or remote robot master

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Martin, there are in fact reasons to believe that lFTRs will require fewer staff. The original MSRE did not require operators, because it was determined that there was noting for operators to do. Molten Salt Reactors are extremely stable, and do not require operator intervention for control. MSRs will automatically shutdown before they overheat, and can be designed to automatically increase power output as electrical or heat demand increases. For this reason MSRs require no operations personnel, can be monitored remotely, and really require no staff aside from security personnel.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Martin, there are in fact reasons to believe that lFTRs will require fewer staff. The original MSRE did not require operators, because it was determined that there was noting for operators to do. Molten Salt Reactors are extremely stable, and do not require operator intervention for control. MSRs will automatically shutdown before they overheat, and can be designed to automatically increase power output as electrical or heat demand increases. For this reason MSRs require no operations personnel, can be monitored remotely, and really require no staff aside from security personnel.

  • http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ Charles Barton

    Martin, there are in fact reasons to believe that lFTRs will require fewer staff. The original MSRE did not require operators, because it was determined that there was noting for operators to do. Molten Salt Reactors are extremely stable, and do not require operator intervention for control. MSRs will automatically shutdown before they overheat, and can be designed to automatically increase power output as electrical or heat demand increases. For this reason MSRs require no operations personnel, can be monitored remotely, and really require no staff aside from security personnel.

  • Mike Conley

    Not to sidetrack the discussion (Thorium RULES, homies!) but there’s some things that DocForesight wrote that I just felt I should respond to:

    “We are no more in danger of running out of petroleum than we are of uranium. Can we dispense with the Malthusian doom-and-gloom?

    Nukes of all sizes and fuels, where economically feasible, for electricity, desal and industrial uses. Petroleum and NatGas for transportation, fertilizer and other chemical uses. Simple.”

    Except it’s not so simple, Doc.

    With all due respect, I believe that M. King Hubbert would strongly disagree with you. There is more than ample evidence to suggest that, while we are not “running out” of oil, the world is peaking in the production of “cheap” oil – meaning high-grade, accessible, easily-refined crude. After decades of denial and decades of fudging their reserves reports, most of the major producers have finally come around to admitting that this is indeed the case.

    Although there are several ways to juice up production in the short term (tar sands, deepwater drilling, etc.), the big-picture global trend shows that we are indeed peaking, while energy demand is inexorably rising. So not to get all Malthusian on you, but the days of having a sanguine view of our petroleum supplies are long gone. The party is over. Way over.

    The bulk of petroleum and natural gas is currently used for transportation. It can be replaced by converting the global fleet of ground vehicles and large sea vehicles to electric power, supplied by nuclear reactors. Reactors can also provide the electricity needed to synthesize carbon-neutral syngas, which internal combustion engines can burn with only minor modifications. And, the existing petroleum infrastructure can be used to store, transport, and dispense syngas fuel.

    While petroleum must still be used for air travel, and for some pharmaceuticals and some plastics, variations of many common plastics can be fabricated with plant-based oils such as soy and algae. Which will also biodegrade much better in landfills.

    As for fertilizers and pesticides, they’ve been irresponsibly overused for decades by the current model of agribusiness and industrial farming. (Agribusiness is basically the use of plants to transform hydrocarbons into carbohydrates.)

    Organic farming methods produce more (and better) food per acre, and crops such as hemp actually feed and replenish the soil. Cotton rapes the soil (hence fertilizers), while hemp feeds the soil, and produces the longest fiber in nature. (Nylon was modeled after the hemp fiber. DuPont’s goal was to produce a synthetic hemp fiber – from petroleum.)

    In fact, agribusiness is a petroleum hog, and will have to be completely re-thought, and very soon, or we WILL start getting Malthusian on each other. Hungry people do desperate things.

    More on hemp – its paper is naturally acid-free, and can be processed without the usual chemicals. Hemp seed is packed with protein, and contains all 22 essential amino acids, in the proper ratios, for human nutrition. And a word about algae – dried algae meal (the plant material left after extracting the oil) is an excellent source of protein – spirulina plankton – which can feed millions. And may HAVE to feed millions, since we’re over-fishing our oceans, and destroying our soil and rivers with factory meat production.

    Anyway, you get the idea. Sorry to get all lecture-y on you, but I just felt I should say something.

    We now return to our regularly scheduled debate:

    THORIUM RULES!

  • Mike Conley

    Not to sidetrack the discussion (Thorium RULES, homies!) but there’s some things that DocForesight wrote that I just felt I should respond to:

    “We are no more in danger of running out of petroleum than we are of uranium. Can we dispense with the Malthusian doom-and-gloom?

    Nukes of all sizes and fuels, where economically feasible, for electricity, desal and industrial uses. Petroleum and NatGas for transportation, fertilizer and other chemical uses. Simple.”

    Except it’s not so simple, Doc.

    With all due respect, I believe that M. King Hubbert would strongly disagree with you. There is more than ample evidence to suggest that, while we are not “running out” of oil, the world is peaking in the production of “cheap” oil – meaning high-grade, accessible, easily-refined crude. After decades of denial and decades of fudging their reserves reports, most of the major producers have finally come around to admitting that this is indeed the case.

    Although there are several ways to juice up production in the short term (tar sands, deepwater drilling, etc.), the big-picture global trend shows that we are indeed peaking, while energy demand is inexorably rising. So not to get all Malthusian on you, but the days of having a sanguine view of our petroleum supplies are long gone. The party is over. Way over.

    The bulk of petroleum and natural gas is currently used for transportation. It can be replaced by converting the global fleet of ground vehicles and large sea vehicles to electric power, supplied by nuclear reactors. Reactors can also provide the electricity needed to synthesize carbon-neutral syngas, which internal combustion engines can burn with only minor modifications. And, the existing petroleum infrastructure can be used to store, transport, and dispense syngas fuel.

    While petroleum must still be used for air travel, and for some pharmaceuticals and some plastics, variations of many common plastics can be fabricated with plant-based oils such as soy and algae. Which will also biodegrade much better in landfills.

    As for fertilizers and pesticides, they’ve been irresponsibly overused for decades by the current model of agribusiness and industrial farming. (Agribusiness is basically the use of plants to transform hydrocarbons into carbohydrates.)

    Organic farming methods produce more (and better) food per acre, and crops such as hemp actually feed and replenish the soil. Cotton rapes the soil (hence fertilizers), while hemp feeds the soil, and produces the longest fiber in nature. (Nylon was modeled after the hemp fiber. DuPont’s goal was to produce a synthetic hemp fiber – from petroleum.)

    In fact, agribusiness is a petroleum hog, and will have to be completely re-thought, and very soon, or we WILL start getting Malthusian on each other. Hungry people do desperate things.

    More on hemp – its paper is naturally acid-free, and can be processed without the usual chemicals. Hemp seed is packed with protein, and contains all 22 essential amino acids, in the proper ratios, for human nutrition. And a word about algae – dried algae meal (the plant material left after extracting the oil) is an excellent source of protein – spirulina plankton – which can feed millions. And may HAVE to feed millions, since we’re over-fishing our oceans, and destroying our soil and rivers with factory meat production.

    Anyway, you get the idea. Sorry to get all lecture-y on you, but I just felt I should say something.

    We now return to our regularly scheduled debate:

    THORIUM RULES!

  • Mike Conley

    Not to sidetrack the discussion (Thorium RULES, homies!) but there’s some things that DocForesight wrote that I just felt I should respond to:

    “We are no more in danger of running out of petroleum than we are of uranium. Can we dispense with the Malthusian doom-and-gloom?

    Nukes of all sizes and fuels, where economically feasible, for electricity, desal and industrial uses. Petroleum and NatGas for transportation, fertilizer and other chemical uses. Simple.”

    Except it’s not so simple, Doc.

    With all due respect, I believe that M. King Hubbert would strongly disagree with you. There is more than ample evidence to suggest that, while we are not “running out” of oil, the world is peaking in the production of “cheap” oil – meaning high-grade, accessible, easily-refined crude. After decades of denial and decades of fudging their reserves reports, most of the major producers have finally come around to admitting that this is indeed the case.

    Although there are several ways to juice up production in the short term (tar sands, deepwater drilling, etc.), the big-picture global trend shows that we are indeed peaking, while energy demand is inexorably rising. So not to get all Malthusian on you, but the days of having a sanguine view of our petroleum supplies are long gone. The party is over. Way over.

    The bulk of petroleum and natural gas is currently used for transportation. It can be replaced by converting the global fleet of ground vehicles and large sea vehicles to electric power, supplied by nuclear reactors. Reactors can also provide the electricity needed to synthesize carbon-neutral syngas, which internal combustion engines can burn with only minor modifications. And, the existing petroleum infrastructure can be used to store, transport, and dispense syngas fuel.

    While petroleum must still be used for air travel, and for some pharmaceuticals and some plastics, variations of many common plastics can be fabricated with plant-based oils such as soy and algae. Which will also biodegrade much better in landfills.

    As for fertilizers and pesticides, they’ve been irresponsibly overused for decades by the current model of agribusiness and industrial farming. (Agribusiness is basically the use of plants to transform hydrocarbons into carbohydrates.)

    Organic farming methods produce more (and better) food per acre, and crops such as hemp actually feed and replenish the soil. Cotton rapes the soil (hence fertilizers), while hemp feeds the soil, and produces the longest fiber in nature. (Nylon was modeled after the hemp fiber. DuPont’s goal was to produce a synthetic hemp fiber – from petroleum.)

    In fact, agribusiness is a petroleum hog, and will have to be completely re-thought, and very soon, or we WILL start getting Malthusian on each other. Hungry people do desperate things.

    More on hemp – its paper is naturally acid-free, and can be processed without the usual chemicals. Hemp seed is packed with protein, and contains all 22 essential amino acids, in the proper ratios, for human nutrition. And a word about algae – dried algae meal (the plant material left after extracting the oil) is an excellent source of protein – spirulina plankton – which can feed millions. And may HAVE to feed millions, since we’re over-fishing our oceans, and destroying our soil and rivers with factory meat production.

    Anyway, you get the idea. Sorry to get all lecture-y on you, but I just felt I should say something.

    We now return to our regularly scheduled debate:

    THORIUM RULES!

  • Mike Conley

    Addendum to my last post:

    The UN is actually considering a campaign to promote insects as an alternative to meat protein, to feed our burgeoning global population.

    How’s THAT for Malthusian?

  • Mike Conley

    Addendum to my last post:

    The UN is actually considering a campaign to promote insects as an alternative to meat protein, to feed our burgeoning global population.

    How’s THAT for Malthusian?

  • Mike Conley

    Addendum to my last post:

    The UN is actually considering a campaign to promote insects as an alternative to meat protein, to feed our burgeoning global population.

    How’s THAT for Malthusian?

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