Skip to comments.Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke
Posted on 04/18/2010 12:55:27 PM PDT by Titus-Maximus
The thick hardbound volume was sitting on a shelf in a colleagues office when Kirk Sorensen spotted it. A rookie NASA engineer at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Sorensen was researching nuclear-powered propulsion, and the books title Fluid Fuel Reactors jumped out at him. He picked it up and thumbed through it. Hours later, he was still reading, enchanted by the ideas but struggling with the arcane writing. I took it home that night, but I didnt understand all the nuclear terminology, Sorensen says. He pored over it in the coming months, ultimately deciding that he held in his hands the key to the worlds energy future.
Published in 1958 under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission as part of its Atoms for Peace program, Fluid Fuel Reactors is a book only an engineer could love: a dense, 978-page account of research conducted at Oak Ridge National Lab, most of it under former director Alvin Weinberg. What caught Sorensens eye was the description of Weinbergs experiments producing nuclear power with an element called thorium.
At the time, in 2000, Sorensen was just 25, engaged to be married and thrilled to be employed at his first serious job as a real aerospace engineer. A devout Mormon with a linebackers build and a marines crew cut, Sorensen made an unlikely iconoclast. But the book inspired him to pursue an intense study of nuclear energy over the next few years, during which he became convinced that thorium could solve the nuclear power industrys most intractable problems. After it has been used as fuel for power plants, the element leaves behind minuscule amounts of waste. And that waste needs to be stored for only a few hundred years, not a few hundred thousand like other nuclear byproducts.
(Excerpt) Read more at geni.org ...
It is cheaper than uranium, does not make U239 and plutonium (i.e. no weapons), no runaway meltdowns, and the waste lasts hundreds of years and not thousands. The reactors will be cheaper and smarter. The world would have gone with thorium if it weren't for weapons development from uranium.
China and India will pick up and run with the thorium industry while America wastes valuable time and resources on wind and solar which creates more CO2 than it prevents and is useless for a 24/7/365 economy.
Can we get back to useful productive science, rather than using junk science to make up false problems about global warming and then making up more fantasy about solving it with wind and solar! Al Gore is running a ponzi-scheme-circle-jerk and decrying Co2 in the most arrogant way possible. If people actually believed that Co2 will kill us - and we have not yet started to build nukes than somebody in charge ought to get arrested. (No one truly believes that Co2 is killing us, that's why this is a stepped down hurry, a jogging speed, not a sprint.)
Do you know how abundant Thorium is? Where is it primarily produced?
Truman’s Atoms for Peace project was a proliferation scam from Day 1 anyway.
And back to weapons, we need the Neutron Bomb.
Thorium wiki page:
Now, where did you get your Nuclear Engineering degree?
while America wastes valuable time and resources on wind and solar.
While America allows these crooks to dictate and strangle America!
Worthwhile evaluating - though I am very, very skeptical of ANY energy idea supported by Harry Reid. (2008, with Hatch, was sponsoring a Thorium program....)
India a building a Th reactor, with intentions to make 5 more once the first goes on line in 2011-2012 timeframe.
http://www.thoriumenergy.com/ We have the largest supply, and it might be best if the US stays interested in the Moon and the space program.
STP Units 3 & 4 Move Forward with EPC Agreement
Wadsworth, Texas Feb. 25, 2009 STP Nuclear Operating Company, Nuclear Innovation North America LLC (NINA)*, CPS Energy and Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corp. (TANE) have signed and executed the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreement for proposed STP Units 3 & 4.
TANE will provide engineering and development services on a time and materials basis until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issues a license for Units 3 & 4. Once the federal license is granted, the EPC agreement will become lump-sum and turnkey, with performance and schedule guarantees.
This is another significant accomplishment in making the new units a reality, said Kevin Richards, Group Vice President, STP Units 3 & 4. The execution of the EPC agreement concludes lengthy and detailed negotiations on virtually all aspects of the project. We continue to make substantial progress in licensing and constructing the first new nuclear reactors in the U.S. in nearly three decades.
The agreement follows the NRCs announcement on Feb. 11 of a review schedule for STPs license application to build and operate the units. Based on the NRCs schedule, the license likely will be granted in 2012.
NINA and CPS Energy each currently have a 50-percent share in the proposed plant expansion. NINA has announced that additional investors will be sought, with the expectation that NINA and CPS Energy will have 40 percent each and a new partner will have a 20 percent share. NRG Energy last week said that 15 parties have expressed interest in buying the minority share.
STP supplies approximately 7.5 percent of the electricity used in Texas. The plant is managed by the STP Nuclear Operating Company and owned by Austin Energy, CPS Energy and NRG Texas. STP’s twin reactors produce 2,700 megawatts of carbon-free energy, powering more than two million homes and businesses throughout Texas. To learn more about STP, visit www.stpnoc.com.
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Future Submittals of Applications:
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Article is very very suspect.
Article states that Rickover (Father of Nuclear Power for Navy) was against thorium
FACT - Bettis Labs (which is the Navy lab that helped develop nuclear power for the Navy) - helped commercialize nuclear power (Shippingport PA reactor). Later - Bettis developed a Light water breeder reactor core for Shippingport - using seed material of Uranium and a blanket material of Thorium. So much of the initial work on the Thorium cycle was accomplished under the auspices of H.G.Rickover!
What the article fails to clarify is that Thorium can’t be used in a reactor by itself. It must be converted to U233 by breeding. After breeding - if the Thorium were to be in rods containing only Thorium (not mixed oxide with U235 and U238) - the converted U233 could be separated out from the unconverted Thorium and made into bomb material.
The article is correct in that fission products from U233, which came from Thorium has more preferential decay products than fission products from U235. But if we reprocessed our spent fuel - neither would be much of a problem.
(My Nuclear Engineering expertise comes from Navy Nuclear Power Training, and working in civilian nuclear power industry.)
Great post. Thanks.
What about Thulium and Thalium?
Your post is spot on. Additional, there were fuel fabrication and neutron economy issues. Going uranium had nothing to do with the bomb program but everything about the navy nuclear program.
or these guys?
Not even remotely useful for energy production.
His latest entry talks about the history of nuclear energy policy. He shows how decisions made during and just after WW II have gotten us to where we are now.
Australia and India hold about half of the world’s reserves.
I love it. A 25 year old aerospace guy picks up a book written in 1958 and duh, he is an expert. I guess I should have dropped out of nuclear engineering when I read that 1958 book and saved myself thousands of dollars and opened up my own website. Oops. They didn’t have websites in 1975 ...
Is the article wrong in its assertion?
Oh! My Friend! Please don’t underestimate Harry! He knows that under Obama and the Dems, clean energy can make someone - correction: Harry - VERY wealthy! It’s Perfect! It’s clean, cheap, abundant, and Harry somehow has his hands in it is my bet.....
Just to clarify, Thorium is a vital path, it is just not the pie-in-the-sky story that the guy is telling. If fact, the Chinese have rejected the technology that he is promoting.
Did you read GENI’s mission? Also go to their page of endorsements and find the real story.
“GENI’s mission is to conduct research and to educate world leaders and the public about the critical viability of the interconnection of electric power networks between nations and continents, with an emphasis on tapping abundant renewable energy resources, what we call ‘the GENI Initiative.’ Our research shows that linking renewables between all nations will mollify conflicts, grow economies and increase the quality of life and health for all. This is a strategy rooted in the highest priority of the World Game simulation developed by Dr. Buckminster Fuller three decades ago.”
Titus, did you see what your GENI org is really about? Do you really think they are promoting nuclear power? Q/A from their site.
How do we provide sufficient electricity for everyone in an ecologically sustainable way?
A: First, understand that there is no energy scarcity. The renewable energies (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal and biomass) are abundant far beyond our needs — and several are now cost competitive. So, tap renewable resources in remote sites (where they are usually found), and move the power via high-voltage transmission lines, which now can reach 7000 kilometers, connecting nations and continents.
Thank you. I did some more research into the GENI site. they are just another one-world, renewable energy site endorsed by the U.N.
I have to apologize. Any site endorsed by Walter Cronkite and Boutros Boutros-Ghali passes the FR smell test ....
Thank you. This is the field I make my $100 an hour in.
This site posted an article from Wired which cannot be posted on FR.
See other comments for technical issues regarding thorium reactors.
Uh-oh. That sounds like what Ozymandias said he was going to do in the Watchmen. And we all know how that turned out.
But you posted an article from wired.com ...
See other comments for technical issues regarding thorium reactors.
Big if. We need to be reprocessing the "spent" fuel. We would get much more energy and much less waste.
Developing a thorium-based fuel cycle
Despite the thorium fuel cycle having a number of attractive features, development has always run into difficulties.
The main attractive features are:
The possibility of utilising a very abundant resource which has hitherto been of so little interest that it has never been quantified properly.
The production of power with few long-lived transuranic elements in the waste.
Reduced radioactive wastes generally.
The problems include:
The high cost of fuel fabrication, due partly to the high radioactivity of U-233 chemically separated from the irradiated thorium fuel. Separated U-233 is always contaminated with traces of U-232 (69 year half-life but whose daughter products such as thallium-208 are strong gamma emitters with very short half-lives). Although this confers proliferation resistance to the fuel cycle, it results in increased costs.
The similar problems in recycling thorium itself due to highly radioactive Th-228 (an alpha emitter with two-year half life) present.
Some concern over weapons proliferation risk of U-233 (if it could be separated on its own), although many designs such as the Radkowsky Thorium Reactor address this concern.
The technical problems (not yet satisfactorily solved) in reprocessing solid fuels. However, with some designs, in particular the molten salt reactor (MSR), these problems are likely to largely disappear.
Much development work is still required before the thorium fuel cycle can be commercialised, and the effort required seems unlikely while (or where) abundant uranium is available. In this respect, recent international moves to bring India into the ambit of international trade might result in the country ceasing to persist with the thorium cycle, as it now has ready access to traded uranium and conventional reactor designs.
It is hard to say it ....damn liberals always want to be more like Europeans. Well ...France reprocesses their spent fuel, and does the same for Japan. I am quite willing to be like the French in this area!!
(Damned idiot Peanut Farmer who thought he knew something about Nuclear power ....and f..’d it up, like everything else he did!!)
The internet has fabulous resources. We just have to cull, cull, cull. The internet is full of misinformation. Full of it. Learning who is a trustworthy source of information is a big part of gaining knowledge from the internet, and not garbage.
It sounds like you are a good source for the knowledge on this thread.
Thank you. Feel free to FRmail me if you have any questions.
Dr. Joe Bonometti is the individual that brought me to thorium.
Damn, the article sure made it sound good, thanks for your comments.