Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Bill Gates Is Beginning to Dream the Thorium Dream
motherboard ^ | 7/4/2014 | Brian Merchant

Posted on 07/27/2013 2:59:13 PM PDT by ckilmer

Bill Gates Is Beginning to Dream the Thorium Dream

By Brian Merchant Image: Wikimedia

Mention thorium—an alternative fuel for nuclear power—to the right crowd, and faces will alight with the same look of spirited devotion you might see in, say, Twin Peaks and Chicago Cubs fans. People love thorium against the odds. And now Bill Gates has given them a new reason to keep rooting for the underdog element.

TerraPower, the Gates-chaired nuclear power company, has garnered attention for pursuing traveling wave reactor tech, which runs entirely on spent uranium and would rarely need to be refueled. But the concern just quietly announced that it's going to start seriously exploring thorium power, too.

“We’re thinking about it and trying to work on it and we have a few proprietary ideas that we’re cooking up,” John Gilleland, TerraPower's CEO, said in an interview with the Weinberg Foundation. “We like to work on an idea for a while before we run out and tell about it – so we have some ideas which we’re trying to ferret out how good they are.”

He wouldn't say more, but Gilleland was talking about molten salt reactors, which are considered by many to be safer than the conventional pressurized water reactors currently operating in the United States—especially when they run on thorium. Gilleland said that their "big bet" remains on the traveling wave technology, but that thorium was definitely receiving some renewed attention.

The American thorium dream—which the United States government pursued in tandem with the uranium-fueled reactors we're familiar with now throughout the 60s—was more or less entirely burst in 1973. This despite the successful testing of a thorium-fueled facility, built at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and some evidence suggesting that thorium was a safer, more abundant fuel. Research was halted, and uranium-fueled reactors emerged as the standard.

Yet estimates place the amount of accessible thorium at around four times as much as uranium, and it's less radioactive, too. Furthermore, thorium advocates point to the molten salt reactors that harness it—they use, as nuclear expert Mark Halper notes, "use liquid fuel that cannot melt down and that harmlessly drains into a holding tank in the event of an emergency."

For the above reasons, the alternate nuke juice is again drawing interest in the energy world as the search for reliable carbon-free power sources intensifies. China is currently studying thorium power, using US-pioneered research as a jumping off point. India is about to start building its own thorium nuke plant. And Norway just recently announced that it's doing intensive testing at its new thorium facility this summer. Investors as diverse as Toshiba, Thor Energy, and South Africa's Steenkampskraal Thorium Ltd are financing the project. Now Bill Gates, and his bottomless coffers, will begin funding the thorium dream, too.

Gates has been interested in energy innovation for years now; in a widely-shared TED talk, he spoke about his traveling wave reactors, and the lack of experimentation in energy tech. He's previously funded research into molten salt reactors, but this is the first time his team has explicitly stated that they're getting into thorium.

Last year, TerraPower hired a man named Jeff Lakowski to be its new Director of Innovation, and he started showing up at national thorium conferences (which are typically small but spirited affairs). Now he's made clear that Gates' team is seriously pursuing the tech. It's not clear if any patents have been filed, or what innovations TerraPower is pursuing. Gilleland did say that they're not harkening back to the Oak Ridge model, as most ongoing thorium projects do—he said their plans have "considerable departures" from the old thorium standard.

What those departures may be remain to be seen—and in the meantime, they'll no doubt have the small legion of fervent thorium fans dreaming of a cleaner, safer nuclear technology with resurgent vigor.


TOPICS: Computers/Internet
KEYWORDS: alvinweinberg; billgates; energy; fission; nuclearenergy; thorium; thoriumreactor
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcsd0FVHn54&list=PLv2owRmD8gH-hFVm5o3M2psjUc-Ut1ZNV&Camp=BrandH213SKATE:15177175
1 posted on 07/27/2013 2:59:13 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

whoops that above link is the wrong link to the utube of the thorim dream.this is it. http://motherboard.vice.com/read/motherboard-tv-the-thorium-dream


2 posted on 07/27/2013 3:02:16 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

Interesting stuff

I wonder if his support of things like this is the real reason the hard left hates the otherwise rather leftist Gates so much?

The environmental movement often appears to me to interested not so much in the environment as it is nature worship. Any form of energy that allows people to not live in mud huts is frowned on


3 posted on 07/27/2013 3:09:33 PM PDT by Fai Mao (Genius at Large)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

All the advantages for thorium-powered nuclear reactors still apply, but apparently there is a large constituency for the prevention of widespread adoption of a cheap, reliable and safe source of energy for the population at large.

Uranium-powered nuclear reactors have received the lion’s share of funding into research to make them more reliable, at the expense of funding thorium-based reactors, for what apparently is one overriding reason - it is impossible to weaponize the spent fuel from a thorium reactor into a thermonuclear bomb of some kind. It is my firm belief that the “spent” uranium rods, by-product of uranium power plants, which still contain some 97% of the potential extractable energy when removed from service, are retained for only one purpose - the production of fission and fusion thermonuclear weapons, or at least the threat to carry out such a program.

The presence of such a threat sure keeps the SANE crowd pumped up, but then, they actually have another agenda - maintaining an artificial scarcity of potential means to spread prosperity to parts of the world that do not now enjoy the benefits. With prosperity comes independence and freedom, through competition and assignment of benefits based upon individual initiative - rewarding merit.

And the possibility of that just sends some folks into fits of paranoia and jealousy.


4 posted on 07/27/2013 3:25:01 PM PDT by alloysteel (Unattended children will be given a Red Bull and a free Kazoo. Reminds me of Congress...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

If Gates supports it it probably reduces fertility somehow. That seems to be his and Melinda’s whole MO in the past 15 years.


5 posted on 07/27/2013 3:31:10 PM PDT by Black Agnes
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Fai Mao
Any form of energy that allows OTHER people to not live in mud huts is frowned on.

Fixed

6 posted on 07/27/2013 3:36:19 PM PDT by Sgt_Schultze (A half-truth is a complete lie)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Fai Mao
The environmental movement often appears to me to interested not so much in the environment as it is nature worship.

Despite their talking points, our socialists are less interested in the result than in the process, the process being the destruction of 'capitalism', which is their narrow Marxian view of natural economic activity. On a personal level, they don't want others to be demonstrably more successful at life than them, i.e. envy.

So they want to impede or destroy anything that might create greater economic activity or prosperity. That includes oil exploration, production and transportation, shale gas, nuclear power, and, yes, thorium energy. You will see widespread attention being given lately to the dangers of thorium reactors: gamma rays, etc. Only a few years ago it seemed like they would support the "champagne of petroleum". Sure enough they spread their views on aquifer pollution to the point that France, against its interests, now bans gas fracking. We will soon see this happen with thorium.

Appropriately, the countries that are influenced by the socialists will suffer declining influence and those that follow common sense will achieve prosperity. That does not bode well for "developed" nations.

7 posted on 07/27/2013 3:43:09 PM PDT by Kennard
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

Thorium powered coal to liquids. Best of both worlds!


8 posted on 07/27/2013 3:52:26 PM PDT by taxcontrol
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

This might be the first thing he’s done right in a couple of decades


9 posted on 07/27/2013 4:19:03 PM PDT by bigbob
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer
Brian Merchant

Contributing Editor / Brooklyn, New York

Brian Merchant is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn, NY. He covers politics for TreeHugger, with a focus on climate and energy issues. Brian has written for Slate, Paste, Salon, GOOD, and the Huffington Post, among many others.

Brian Merchant profile at TreeHugger.com

Yep, good old Brian looks like your Go-To guy for accurate, unbiased information & commentary on various energy sources....

/sarc

10 posted on 07/27/2013 4:20:44 PM PDT by BwanaNdege ("To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize"- Voltaire)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

There is no excuse for any power reactor to not be “walk-away safe”. We have over 100 operating nuclear power plants in the US and because of political opposition to a national repository for spent fuel, those power plants are now forced to store spent fuel onsite. Most of those storage facilities require ongoing active cooling.

For me the issue isn’t that the cooling and safety won’t be maintained by competent and dedicated crews. The issue is: what will be the consequences when maintaining cooling is impossible due to some cause that is beyond the ability of the crews and infrastructure to recover from.

This is exactly the case at this very moment in Japan at Fukushima where a tsunami destroyed the ability of the facility to maintain cooling of the spent fuel pool.

It took many years for us to get in this mess. The sooner we start to work our way out, the sooner we won’t have the risk of this kind of disaster to worry about.


11 posted on 07/27/2013 4:43:24 PM PDT by theBuckwheat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Fai Mao

I wonder if his support of things like this is the real reason the hard left hates the otherwise rather leftist Gates so much?
.........
hard to say. Might have something to do with windows.

The environmental movement often appears to me to interested not so much in the environment as it is nature worship. Any form of energy that allows people to not live in mud huts is frowned on
.......
agree.


12 posted on 07/27/2013 5:04:19 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: alloysteel

Well one of the biggest reasons the Federal labs abandoned the two thorium reactors they were testing — was because they were not dual use. You can’t use thorium for nuclear weapons.


13 posted on 07/27/2013 5:06:51 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Black Agnes

Not the whole MO but certainly a big part of it. Fertility has been going down for quite some time. This decline in fertility has not been attributed to nuclear fission. However, its likely that anyone irradiated with atomic energy will see a decline in their fertility if not their life expectancy.


14 posted on 07/27/2013 5:09:36 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: theBuckwheat

There is no excuse for any power reactor to not be “walk-away safe”.
.........
Yeah that’s part of the genius of thorium lftr reactors. they are walk away safe.


15 posted on 07/27/2013 5:12:35 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Kennard

imho the oil/gas industry will succeed despite the best efforts of the enviro’s to stifle it.

On the other hand if thorium lftr reactors get made — they will likely eclipse the the hydrocarbon industry because they can produce electricity for about 1/10th the cost of the cheapest coal.

That will result in an enormous increase in the wealth and prosperity of the whole world — in addition to an enormous increase in the use of electrical power—including in automobiles.


16 posted on 07/27/2013 5:16:47 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer; Fai Mao; alloysteel; Black Agnes; Sgt_Schultze; Kennard; taxcontrol; bigbob; BwanaNdege; ..
This ebook came out last summer. It advocates that Gates switch over to thorium reactors. Might have something to do with his change of heart. Collapsing Water and Energy Costs: How Bill Gates [Or You!] Can Create the Inventions That Spark the Next Industrial and Agricultural Revolution
17 posted on 07/27/2013 5:22:40 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

I still don’t trust Gates. Every word out of his mouth is related to ‘overpopulation’, ‘sustainability’, ‘reproductive health’ (which we know is a synonym for abortion), and more.


18 posted on 07/27/2013 5:44:18 PM PDT by Black Agnes
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Fai Mao
You may be on to something.

Greenies worship dirt. “Progress” to these people is when the government becomes the repository of all virtue.

19 posted on 07/27/2013 5:48:52 PM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks ("Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: All

Perhaps FR can have a “Thorium” ping?


20 posted on 07/27/2013 6:17:27 PM PDT by Kolath
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: Eric in the Ozarks

Greenies worship dirt.

Dirt has trace amounts of Thorium in it.....hey greenies, put that in your pipe and smoke it!!!!


21 posted on 07/27/2013 6:20:18 PM PDT by Kolath
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer; theBuckwheat

My understanding is that the French pebble bed uranium reactors are totally walkaway safe. Pellets of uranium are encapsulated in ceramics (think space shuttle tiles) that both keep the pellets at a uniform distance and also prevent meltdown should the water evaporate.


22 posted on 07/27/2013 6:20:58 PM PDT by SampleMan (Feral Humans are the refuse of socialism.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

Have you read it? If so, how is it? Worth the $10?

I have not been able to find a review.

Thanks for the heads-up!


23 posted on 07/27/2013 8:41:00 PM PDT by BwanaNdege ("To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize"- Voltaire)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: BwanaNdege

Yeah, I read it. It gives a lot of details on why Gates should shift over to lftr—including links to detailed ongoing discussions between many physicists over the years that show how they shifted in favor of lftr; also a link to a paper written by Edward Teller—father of the H-bomb. In his last years —around 2004—at age 91— he wrote a paper which supported thorium reactors. I’m not quite sure what reactor design he specified. But the link to Teller’s paper is part of the report. Then there’s stuff like how to get across the valley of death —and around federal regulations...actually the US military wants to buy portable reactors for their bases in the USA so that they can get off the vulnerable grid—so they provide away around regulations as well as a first buyer.

There’s also some interesting stuff on desalination. Thorium lftr reactors promise to cut the cost of electricity to 1/10 current lowest cost coal produced electricity. This has profound effects on the cost of desalination—including the grand possibility of making desalinized water cheap enough for desert agriculture.

The ebook also mentions something the oil industry has since picked up on. Lower electricity costs will make insitu mining for oil shale in the green river basin (and in israel and elsewhere)....competitive. (because more than half the cost of insitu mining is the cost of electricity.) That’s the reason they have been involved in recent events that have promoted lftr companies like transatomic power. This would have been particularly galling for gates because one of the young MIT students who formed the company worked for Gates company and walked away to form TerraPower.

Those are the stories that stand out most to me. But there are a bunch of others. Including many that relate to water desalination. Its a good read with a good grasp of technology history and...if you’re into future history...that sort of thing too.


24 posted on 07/28/2013 3:38:03 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: SampleMan

My understanding is that the French pebble bed uranium reactors are totally walkaway safe
.........
Walk away safe is only part of the reason that thorium lftr reactors produce such excitement. The biggest parts are that there is an unlimited supply of very cheap thorium; the thorium reactors can be used to burn up uranium wastes, thorium itself has a half life of only 300 years. Thorium can’t be used for atomic bombs.

Last bu not least however, is that thorium reactors will collapse the cost of electricity to 1/10th the cost of the cheapest coal based electricity.

getting electrical power for 1/10 the cost of current cheapest cost electricity ... will set off a new industrial and agricultural revolution as big as anything seen in the 19th or 20th centuries.


25 posted on 07/28/2013 3:44:31 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: BwanaNdege

This would have been particularly galling for gates because one of the young MIT students who formed the company worked for Gates company and walked away to form TerraPower.
........
I didn’t write this quite right. This should read....

This would have been particularly galling for gates because one of the young MIT students who worked for Gates company called TerraPower .... walked away to form Transatomic Power.


26 posted on 07/28/2013 3:48:06 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

You have my interest. What is the best source for me to read up on thorium?


27 posted on 07/28/2013 4:38:22 PM PDT by SampleMan (Feral Humans are the refuse of socialism.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: SampleMan

There are a couple references up the thread. Also just google “thorium reactor” or lftr or Flibe thorium or transatomic power.

What makes this ebook interesting that was published last summer http://www.amazon.com/kindle-store/dp/B0089Z7V6Y

is that two of its recommendations have already been implemented: gates to shift to thorium. the oil industry should shift to thorium or lftr.


28 posted on 07/30/2013 8:13:25 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson