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Could Thorium provide the solution to the world's energy crisis?


Breadan O'Connor

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Jun 3, 2007
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Dr Carlo Rubbio is working at CERN on the use of Thorium as a clean and safe alternative to Uranium in nuclear reactors.

Dr Rubbio says a tonne of the silvery metal produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of Uranium or 3.5 million tonnes of coal.

Thorium consumes its own hazardous waste and it can even scavenge the Plutonium left by Uranium reactors.

Apparently one of the main reasons why Uranium became the standard fuel for the nuclear industry after WW II is because of the need for Plutonium for nuclear warheads.

Thorium is very abundant and is produced as a by-product of many mining operations.

Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium - Telegraph

Thorium - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 


SideysGhost

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Interesting...12 of those distributed small 600MW plants would see us right for a while. And it'd be half the price of Anglo! Or of course a wide combination of wind, tidal, pumped storage, solar, thorium, small distributed power supplies from a variety of sources, makes far more sense than one huge dirty liable-to-explode traditional nuclear reactor...if there really is anything in this and if we had a govt with a clue we should be clamouring to volunteer, just like we should have been beating down the door of the Scands when they started co-operating on future energy research programs a few years ago.
 

SideysGhost

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But new technologies are always expensive at first...there's a lot of entrenched vested interests who would be firmly agin it...and is it cheap energy or stable energy we want?

If the price worked out for electricity at the equivalent of $100-a-barrel for oil but that price was reliable and non-fluctuating in real terms for the next 1000 years, there was no hazardous waste, and each individual plant was small-scale and easily replaced/decommissioned, wouldn't that be much better than some of the loony alternatives being touted?
 

He3

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Helium 3 is the energy source of the future :)
 

He3

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needle_too

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Lemme guess.... Ireland is just bursting with the stuff, right?
 

cry freedom

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Below is an extract from a letter I sent to a few influential USA
politicians and industrialists earlier this year.
I have to admit that as of today, I have not heard back from any of them but I live in hope




Lay people outside the industry can be forgiven for thinking that nuclear technology is dead and buried. After all, no new power plant has been started in the USA in the last 30 years.

Quietly and behind the scenes, old generating stations have been transformed both by technical modifications and new safety procedures. These “old dogs” have provided 20% of the USA’s power for over a quarter of a century without loss of one life or release of any significant pollution.

If this type of old uranium reactor were all that was on offer today I would not bother you with this letter.

There is renewed interest in new generation nuclear power and it is about this that I write to you.

New is a slight misnomer as most of the research into this technology was carried out between 1950 and 1970.

It was abandoned mainly I think because it did not offer any great scope for the creation of nuclear weapons and you will no doubt recall that during that cold war period military considerations were uppermost in the minds of those in control of the tax dollars. Global warming and energy independence are today’s imperative.

As about 70% of the research is already successfully completed and looking extremely promising it would seem to me [and other much more qualified advocates of this technology], sensible to push forward the last few steps to prove its ultimate viability.

This technology is called LIQUID FLUORIDE THORIUM REACTOR, [LFTR]
Or “Lifter” to its fans.

Compared to a uranium plant it is:
· Cheaper to build.
· Generates less than 1% of the waste.
· The waste it does create decays to safe levels in 200 years as opposed to thousands of years in the case of old type reactors.
· Thorium is 4 times more abundant than uranium, and therefore cheaper.
· The USA has vast reserves of thorium. Some say enough to last it 1,000 years.
· Of no real practical use in making nuclear weapons.
· Inherently safe. You could not start a meltdown even if you tried.
· Could be used [in theory at least] to burn up existing nuclear waste.
· It works on fluid based fuel technology and as such allows chemical separation of the waste products rather than the much more difficult isotopic separation of solid fuel technology.

“If it is so wonderful why is it not in use;” I hear you ask.
A very good question and I have to admit that I am not entirely sure of the answer.
As far as I can tell, it appears to be a mixture of politics and the old chicken and egg situation. You cannot build a nuclear power station without a government license
You cannot get a license until the research is completed. No private organization is going to fund the research if the end result is likely to be a license refusal. In addition, the industry leaders in atomic fuel technology have so much invested in solid fuel uranium technology they are naturally reluctant to let any new kid on to the block in case it would upset their little applecart.

To move the situation forward, the US government would need to fund further feasibility research and the construction of a small working [say 100MW] model. While I have the hand out I might as well ask for some money for research into the Brayton closed cycle turbine which would also make the whole process even more efficient.

With all the tax dollars that are being invested in some of the “Tweety Pie” engineering on the renewable side I would hope that some could be spared for the “hard “ engineering side of the equation.

The USA is rich in thorium and its use would help President Obama reduce USA dependence on imported fuels while creating jobs at home and improving his credentials with the climate change brigade.

Its value to little Ireland is that it would give us a trickle down opportunity to set our energy requirements on a safer road than the “something will turn up” approach being currently adopted by our government.
To this end I take the liberty of asking you and your organization to use your contacts and experience to lobby for funding for the above project.

While making every allowance for the gushing zeal new converts display when taking up a new project, [especially an environmental project] I have to say that I am very impressed with the quiet confidence and expertise of some of the nuclear engineers who are pushing this idea forward. Dr.Joe Bonometti and Dr. Kirk Sorensen to name but two.

Serious decisions about the make up of the energy generating industry will have to be made in the next few years and I feel that the LTFR should be at least part of the solution.


PS.
Some suggested links:
Welcome to the Energy From Thorium Learning Center
Thorium Energy Alliance Objectives[/QUOTE]
 

Thac0man

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Very interesting thread. The Travelling Wave reactor is a great idea if it could be made work.
 
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Hmm. Sounds very interesting, and very viable. However, the "collective pyschology" of our government and other governments means that the best alternative can often be the most unlikely to be chosen. So unfortunately, without some advertising campaign/big book launch it will be ulikely to be chosen. Until we start shooting eachother for a drop of oil, when it will be heralded as a last minute "miracle of modern science.":shock:
 

Andyormonde

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Thorium Fueled Reactors

Its certainly for Thorium to be the answer to the worlds energy requirements. Firstly beware of the negative comments out there (some of them included in the responses to your question). The claim that thorium reactors are expensive is inaccurate. These claims focus on solid fuel thorium reactors which would be expensive. If you analyses the areas of expense regarding nuclear power they are,

1. Processing fuel for the reactor
2. Safety and Containment
3. Spent fuel storage
4. Decommissioning

1. Fuel processing and the cost of nuclear fuel is huge. It is rumored that fuel processors will build power plants for client nations just to sell the fuel. Its a sweet deal for the companies as they can lock governments into multi-decade contracts.

2. Building containment for the current crop of reactors "pressurised light water reactors" is costly. You have to build them strong enough and big enough to contain the steam and gasses that might escape from a reactor breach. Add to this (3) constant cooling requirement and the spent fuel "after care" and you have a pretty expensive form of energy.

If we want a viable form of nuclear energy then we have to tackle items 1,2 and 3.

Thorium molten salt reactors promise to be this answer.
Firstly, these reactors use spent uranium fuel (or new Uranium 233) as the catalyst to initiate a thorium reaction (Thorium cant reach criticallity on its own). The Uranium requirement is tiny compared to a standard reactor and if spent fuel is used the uranium is free!!! A blanket of a liquid fluoride salt laced with Thorium is cheap to produce, in fact too cheap (hence one of the problems getting big companies interested). This kills the fuel cost issue.
Secondly, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTr) are only fissile at sub-atmospheric pressures. In other words the higher the pressure, less fission takes place and therefore the reaction is self limiting. This means it cant blow up and it subsequently means that you don't require huge and expensive containment buildings to house the whole thing.

Finally the fissile waste left over afterwards, generally has a half life of 12 months with a small portion with a half life of 300 years. Compare this to the current spent fuel with a 25,000yr half life.

In summary, LFTr's are cheap - Solid Fuel Reactors are expensive!! We've just got to get moving and start building the damned things.
 

zakalwe1

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Joined
Oct 3, 2008
Messages
5,305
Its certainly for Thorium to be the answer to the worlds energy requirements. Firstly beware of the negative comments out there (some of them included in the responses to your question). The claim that thorium reactors are expensive is inaccurate. These claims focus on solid fuel thorium reactors which would be expensive. If you analyses the areas of expense regarding nuclear power they are,

1. Processing fuel for the reactor
2. Safety and Containment
3. Spent fuel storage
4. Decommissioning

1. Fuel processing and the cost of nuclear fuel is huge. It is rumored that fuel processors will build power plants for client nations just to sell the fuel. Its a sweet deal for the companies as they can lock governments into multi-decade contracts.

2. Building containment for the current crop of reactors "pressurised light water reactors" is costly. You have to build them strong enough and big enough to contain the steam and gasses that might escape from a reactor breach. Add to this (3) constant cooling requirement and the spent fuel "after care" and you have a pretty expensive form of energy.

If we want a viable form of nuclear energy then we have to tackle items 1,2 and 3.

Thorium molten salt reactors promise to be this answer.
Firstly, these reactors use spent uranium fuel (or new Uranium 233) as the catalyst to initiate a thorium reaction (Thorium cant reach criticallity on its own). The Uranium requirement is tiny compared to a standard reactor and if spent fuel is used the uranium is free!!! A blanket of a liquid fluoride salt laced with Thorium is cheap to produce, in fact too cheap (hence one of the problems getting big companies interested). This kills the fuel cost issue.
Secondly, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTr) are only fissile at sub-atmospheric pressures. In other words the higher the pressure, less fission takes place and therefore the reaction is self limiting. This means it cant blow up and it subsequently means that you don't require huge and expensive containment buildings to house the whole thing.

Finally the fissile waste left over afterwards, generally has a half life of 12 months with a small portion with a half life of 300 years. Compare this to the current spent fuel with a 25,000yr half life.

In summary, LFTr's are cheap - Solid Fuel Reactors are expensive!! We've just got to get moving and start building the damned things.

seriously sounds brilliant....but whats the catch?
there is usually a catch with cheap and easily available fuel sources (see fossil fuels)
 

seabhcan

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Sep 3, 2007
Messages
14,327
Thorium and inefficient solar power? That's good enough for me

Lynas, which has built a new rare earths refinery in Malaysia, will have thorium as a byproduct (there's always Th in your rare earth ores). They've announced that they're getting offers to actually buy it from them: the price has turned positive.

Now, OK, that's possibly only a matter of interest to metals geeks like myself: but what it actually means is that someone, somewhere, is being serious about starting up test runs of thorium reactors. It's the only possible use for the material these days in any quantity.

If someone's buying then someone is at least considering filling up a test reactor. My best guess is that this is the Indian research programme: although it could, possibly, be the Russian one and there are rumours of a Chinese as well.
Someone, somewhere is getting ready to fire up a large Thorium reactor.
 

Eire1976

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Joined
Nov 20, 2010
Messages
14,152
Dr Carlo Rubbio is working at CERN on the use of Thorium as a clean and safe alternative to Uranium in nuclear reactors.

Dr Rubbio says a tonne of the silvery metal produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of Uranium or 3.5 million tonnes of coal.

Thorium consumes its own hazardous waste and it can even scavenge the Plutonium left by Uranium reactors.

Apparently one of the main reasons why Uranium became the standard fuel for the nuclear industry after WW II is because of the need for Plutonium for nuclear warheads.

Thorium is very abundant and is produced as a by-product of many mining operations.

Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium - Telegraph

Thorium - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
My money is on the stuff in the hold of the Titanic or unobtainium.
 

dammit_im_mad

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seabhcan

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Yawn....Another Nuclear industry charm offensive.

I guess profits are down from building lucrative reactors on geological faultlines and they are growing impatient that the public are not forgetting Fukushima as quickly as they would like, so they can get on with building more of them. :roll:

The Fukushima Nightmare Gets Worse » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update for August 27th to August 29th, 2013 | Greenpeace International
Oh, come on.

"In fact, there is no certainty as to what’s causing this out-of-control flow of death and destruction."

Not a single person has died from the Fukushima leak, not one. Compare that to the 30,000 who died due to the sea deciding to empty itself onto the land.
 

dammit_im_mad

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Oh, come on.

"In fact, there is no certainty as to what’s causing this out-of-control flow of death and destruction."

Not a single person has died from the Fukushima leak, not one. Compare that to the 30,000 who died due to the sea deciding to empty itself onto the land.
Yeah, and nobody died as a direct result of Chernobyl either. Oh wait, that was russian radiation so a few probably did.

"But those rising rates of thyroid cancer can be caused by just about anything. "

No doubt babies in Fallujah weren't deformed at birth as a result of depleted uranium dust either.

Depleted uranium used by US forces blamed for birth defects and cancer in Iraq ? RT News

You pro nuclear guys crack me up! :roll:

Pity you are all such useful corporate idiot ideological sociopaths when it comes to technology.
 

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