This is Kirk Sorensen’s comment on his Facebook group page EnergyFromThorium which has encouraged 60 interesting responses.
What garbage…a thorium reactor needs an accelerator like a fish needs a bicycle.
This is Kirk Sorensen’s comment on his Facebook group page EnergyFromThorium which has encouraged 60 interesting responses.
What garbage…a thorium reactor needs an accelerator like a fish needs a bicycle.
We’ve passed the tsunami test, the earthquake test and now the weather test.
I’m half joking but seriously I keep discovering more reasons to switch to LFTRs.
France never embraced Molten Salt Reactors fully but did experiment. Look at how they missed out. Weather conditions would not affect power production with LFTRs because supply of water is not required to cool them.
The seismic activity is not as serious as it would be with LWR’s or BWR’s and Fukushima recently showed that they withstand earthquakes quite well. ZCWUW7HCU7QW
The Wall Street Journal wrote this on Thorium MARCH 19, 2011
…Does a Different Nuclear Power Lie Ahead? By MATT RIDLEY
Might the Fukushima accident eventually create a chance for the nuclear industry to “reboot”? In recent years some have begun to argue that solid-fuel uranium reactors like the ones in Japan are an outdated technology that deserves to peter out and be replaced by an entirely different kind of nuclear energy that will be both safer and cheaper…
The attention brought by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant break down has had unexpected attention brought to the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor which by the way has no need for water or containment and cannot melt down and will not radiate the worst nuclear isotopes.
There was a time when the Americans chose a path based on the perceived need to compete with the Russians for military supremacy. Nuclear weapons needed Plutonium. The method at the time was to breed Plutonium in a reactor. But Thorium Molten Salt Reactors could not produce Plutonium. This was viewed as a negative and became shelved.
Fifty years later, the worst nuclear breakdown since Chernobyl in 1986 has turned turned out to be relatively minor and the 50 remaining nuclear reactors in Japan remain safe. The different circumstances are so obvious. For instance human error was responsible for the Chernobyl accident. A natural disaster of such an unexpected strength that has not been experienced by Japan in modern history caused the disruption of 4 reactor units at the same plant in Fukushima Daiichi. The safety record for nuclear power plants has been unsurpassed by any other power facility or other industry.
The antinuclear movement has unwittingly helped the progress of nuclear energy. Articles such as these will now become more common over the next few months. The reality is that people are asking why has there been so little innovation over the last 30 years? Can reactors be made safer?
One of the main inventors of the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor, Alvin Weinberg, knew that they were superior to the solid fueled reactors and pushed for their acceptance. He eventually lost his job for making too much noise about it when the politics of the time were more about arms than climate change. Weinberg was ahead of his time. He also designed the Light Water Reactor, currently the most popular reactors, which he himself turned against.
Now considered a fourth generation technology the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor shows the most promise as a nuclear energy design precisely because they solve the problems that made the older nuclear power plant designs unpopular.
From South Africa
Thorium could be answer to South Africa’s energy woes
Published 3 March 2011 in HSNW
…South African scientists are increasingly touting thorium as a viable solution for the country’s energy woes; scientists believe that South Africa could use its plentiful reserves of thorium, a radioactive rare earth metal, to generate greenhouse gas-free electricity; South Africa’s aging energy infrastructure has led to rolling blackouts and energy rations; South Africa currently generates 78 percent of its energy from coal making it one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases in the world; thorium is a better alternative to uranium in nuclear power production as it cannot be weaponized, does not need to be converted or enriched, its radioactive waste breaks down faster, and is less expensive and environmentally friendlier to extract…
According to Professor Mulder thorium was the preferred material for the nuclear industry for nearly twenty years, before it was eventually replaced by uranium because it could not be weaponized.
In pushing for the use of thorium, columnist Dave Gleason of NewsTime writes, the rare earth metal “is inherently incapable of causing a meltdown; it doesn’t need to be converted or enriched; it is very energy efficient; its waste lasts for tens of years unlike uranium which hangs around malevolently for thousands; it is much less expensive than uranium extracts and is reasonably environmentally friendly to mine.”
Eskom, the state owned utility company which generates 95 percent of the country’s power, says that it will not consider using thorium until it is licensed by the National Nuclear Regulator.
South Africa contains vast reserves of rare earth metals and in the 1950s was the world’s largest source of rare earth minerals.
South Africa’s thorium mine was closed in 1963, but last October a Canadian mining company was granted a license to extract thorium from the mine, located north of Cape Town.
The metal is not currently available for commercial use yet as a reprocessing plant must be built to “breed” uranium 223 from thorium before it can be used to generate power…
Utah needs water for nuclear power but water is scarce. (see Article in the Salt Lake tribune) The only alternative besides a LFTR is Natural Gas.
What’s that? A “LiFTer”? Huh? A LFTR is a Molten Salt Reactor that is a Fourth Generation Reactor yet it’s origins are predecessors of our current reactors. Why does China and Japan want them? China has started their own program as of last month. Japan will likely follow this year. Why? Because they are extremely adaptable and useful for all kinds of applications. Besides, thorium is plentiful and the reactors emit zero carbon dioxide. Natural gas emits how much CO2? We know that it’s a lot.
The TMSR’s are cleaner and more fuel efficient and create almost no nuclear waste. Oh, and did I mention that it can also reprocess used fuel very effectively and that they are less expensive to build than LWR’s because they don’t need a dome containment. Who invented the TMSR? Weinberg!!! Alvin Weinberg. You know who invented the light bulb. You know who invented the telephone. But you don’t know who invented the LWR. The basic principal originated with guess who? Alvin Weinberg!!! The 104 reactors (soon to be 105 if things work out) are all based on Alvin Weinberg’s design. Is his name in your child’s history book or science book? No.
These facts have been stated over and over among the various websites who advocate the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor and it’s successor the LFTR. China says it might take them 20 years but experts here say it could be done in less than 10 years maybe even 5 years. What’s stopping us? Just a few regulatory and licensing hurdles and an entourage of “do gooder” antinuclear groups who, like Oprah Winfrey’s audience, judges before they know the facts. Sorry Oprah. I guess you deserve some credit for recognizing they exist. I guess Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck also count on the gullible masses.
LFTR’s don’t use water. They don’t need pressurized containment. They can be shut down very quickly. What’s the old KnowItAll Nuclear establishment’s excuse? The graphite cracks. Hmm that’s a 50 year old problem. Material knowledge has grown immensely in 50 years. There are a whole group of smart guys who believe in this technology. You owe it to Alvin Weinberg. You owe it to the American people. You can’t just let this huge body of knowledge stay on the shelves of some library at ORNL.
“A single thorium mine in Idaho could produce 4500 MT of fuel per year. The current US energy load could be supplied by 400MT. We also ALREADY have 3200 MT of it stored underground in a Nevada Test Site from past efforts.”
It’s taken almost 30 years for us to realize that we’ve fallen behind in the energy race. We still are a highly resourceful people. The next wave of reactors really should be LFTR’s but how about building just one to start. What better opportunity than a place that is short of water. Ironically the 1st reactor in thirty years will start in 2012 will still be based on the LWR’s. And in that time France built their fleet to handle 80% of their electricity. It’s not the law enforcers who are to blame it’s the model of regulation, licensing and punitive rules for the unfair advantage they have over fossil fuels.
Even if the country does not embrace LFTR’s I am still pronuclear. The developments over the last 30 years have been huge in improvements to LWR’s and HWR’s (Canada’s contribution).
You can look around here or go to http://energyfromthorium.com or http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com or check out my blog list for more information.
Kirk Sorensen’s EFT page: Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR) is now being developed in China
and here is Charles Barton’s Post China starts LFTR Development Project
I’m sure Kirk Sorensen and Charles Barton had mixed emotions when they learned that China was building a TMSR. Details of the design are not available. For newcomers, this is a big deal because the LFTR is a TMSR. TMSR is a more general term.
So it’s great that somebody recognizes this technology as promising. It’s sad that the US, the place that gave birth to the first TMSR, has not revived the research to commercialize them. Alvin Weinberg must be turning in his grave.
The title says it all. When we can do something to save the planet but we sit back and watch it makes us realize that we need to change our priorities. There is a war term mostly used in recent years and that is “actionable”. It has an underlying meaning which really means doable with some serious threats but justifiable since it is war time. So rules for war were established and used in war zones that would be unacceptable anywhere else. So maybe we need to declare war on survival. It very well may be “actionable” to build LFTR’s in order to prevent the disaster of severe climate change.
DESIRE FOR PROFIT AN OBSTACLE
But those of us with innovation and original thinking need to abandon hope unless the path to profit is a clear pathway.
PUBLIC OPINION IS OVER RATED SPECIALLY AN UNINFORMED PUBLIC
The whole reason for the existence of nuclear regulatory bodies was originally to legitimize the existence of nuclear weapons. But it became the means to make safer nuclear energy plants. So now we have amazingly safe plants why can’t we forget about the regulatory process and build more safe plants. There’s a disconnect somewhere. For innovation to be held back because companies need to prove their ideas meet standards and for the same standards that nuclear be required to meet the fossil fuel industry does not need to meet. Does anybody else see a red flag here?
ACCELERATION, CRITICALITY, IRREVERSIBLE THESE ARE SCARY TERMS
It’s a basic mathematical principle and law of physics. Something set in motion that increases in speed is harder to stop or reverse once it’s path is set. We are perhaps facing a no turning back moment somewhere in the next 30 years. Why do we have to wait till it’s too late.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE … … … … REEDUCATE, RENOVATE, REVOLT, REVIVE
This blog proposes that people learn about the alternative approach to nuclear energy that needs revival. The Molten Salt Reactor with Thorium as a fuel was abandoned because it was not helpful during the buildup of nuclear weapons. That was a pivotal point in history. Now when third world countries want nuclear power the LFTR makes perfect sense. If this technology had been favored back in the sixties it would now be a less dangerous world. LFTR’s mean less plutonium and that’s a good thing.
My recent posts have been reviving lesser known freely available posts related to Thorium, LFTR’s or Nuclear Energy. This article originally posted as
NS Editorial: The Nuclear Case For Thorium
UPDATE: Originaly posted on Resource Investor
A Report on Thorium, the Newest of the Technology Metals, for 2009
- By Jack Lifton -
I do not wish to condemn nor glorify the world’s oldest profession, but I note here that said profession has created an enduring capitalist business model, which is succinctly stated as “Why give away something you can sell?” I was reminded of this adage when a colleague sent me the following link, http://www.bharatbook.com/Market-Research-Reports/Report-on-2009-World-Market-Forecasts-for-Imported-Thorium-Ores-and-Concentrates.html , for a report entitled” Report on 2009 World Market Forecasts for Imported Thorium Ores and Concentrates.”
Let me offer you the same information, and additional data, which I do not think the authors of the above report have, or have taken into account, for free.
The USGS has just released its commodity minerals summary for thorium for 2009. This can be found on the Internet athttp://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/thorium/mcs-2009-thori.pdf. A more detailed USGS discussion of thorium market fundamentals and end-uses can be found in the USGS’s “2007 Minerals Yearbook Thorium [Advance Release]” on the Internet athttp://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/thorium/myb1-2007-thori.pdf. Although this last article is dated 2007 it was released in late 2008 and is an analysis based on information gathered by the very conservative and through USGS throughout most of 2008.
My “take” on thorium in 2009 is that it is most likely going to be the last natural element to become a technology metal. Therefore I want to take this opportunity to expose and dispose of some myths about the potential supply of thorium and to bring you up to date on the potential for an explosive (excuse the pun) growth in demand for thorium.
The potential for thorium to be a breakout investment is based on its potential, and today more and more likely, use as a nuclear fuel component for civilian reactors used exclusively to produce electricity. There are three reasons why this will most likely come to pass.
1. Reactors using thorium in their fuel can be constructed so that they produce little or no products useful for explosive type-i.e., fission or fusion based, nuclear weapons,
2. Thorium reactors previously built and currently near operation, or in the design stage, produce far less radioactive waste material than the presently used uranium and/or plutonium based reactors, and
3. Thorium is more abundant in the earth’s crust by a factor of between 3 and 4 than uranium, and coincidentally is also found in recoverable-as a byproduct- grades and quantities in the United States, Canada, Australia, The Republic of South Africa, and The People’s Republic of China (i.e., the mainland). It has not yet been mined as a primary ore, more on this in a moment, but is rather always produced as a byproduct of either uranium or rare earth metals primary production.
Note the following statement from “Canadian Energy Research Institute – World Energy: The Past and Possible Futures — 2007”
“Nuclear became an important source of energy following the first oil price shock in 1973. The
main reasons for the rise of nuclear power are the low cost of fuel compared to
other primary energy sources, and abundant uranium resources located in politically stable
regions …. Total known recoverable uranium resources equal 4.7 million tonnes, half of which are
found in Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada. Canada is currently the largest manufacturer of
uranium, producing about one-third of the world’s total.”
So, therefore, in summary, thorium reactors are non-proliferative, they produce less waste, and even though there is a lot more thorium than uranium in the earth’s crust the USGS and Canadian Energy Research Institute reports, which are current, clearly indicate that the minable resources and reserves of thorium are less than those of uranium.
Even so, it is now apparent, and cannot be overemphasized at this point that the largest minable resources and reserves of thorium are today, in order of size, in the United States, Australia, China and Canada. Just as with uranium resources and reserves it now turns out that the largest accessible supplies of thorium are in politically stable and reliable regions. In particular it turns out that just as Canada has the world’s largest working deposits of minable uranium it is possible to cast the United States in the same role for thorium if the political will can be found.
Why doesn’t everyone stop building uranium and/or plutonium based reactors and start building and only build, from now on, thorium fuel type reactors? Let’s list some facts and then analyze them to find out :
1. Economics of Uranium, Supply and Demand
a. Nations, such as France, Japan, The United Kingdom, and the United States that produce a significant proportion of their electricity using nuclear reactors have a very large investment in those reactors and a large supporting infrastructure of existing uranium supplies. The World’s nuclear industry operates a total of 443 commercial nuclear generating units with a total capacity of about 364.9 gigawatts. To put this in perspective if all of this nuclear generating capacity were in the USA it would provide just about 1/3 of our current yearly demand. As of December 31, 2007, there are 104 commercial nuclear generating units that are fully licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to operate in the United States. Of these 104 reactors, 69 are categorized a pressurized water reactors (PWRs) totaling 65,100 net megawatts (electric) and 35 units are boiling water reactors (BWR) totaling 32,300 net megawatts (electric). Therefore the USA obtains about 10% of its electricity demand from commercial nuclear generating units. The corresponding figure for France is 80% and for Japan 34%,
b. Nations, other than G-7 members, which are financially capable of building reactors, look upon the production of weapons grade uranium and plutonium as assets to insure the security of their political systems. Even if they sincerely do not plan to build nuclear weapons with the output of their reactors the fact that they could do so gives many of them “clout” in the political world far beyond what their GDP or population size can do, and
c. The mining of uranium is a long established industry for which incremental growth is possible and for which there is still active exploration. Most importantly no one is concerned that political instability could interrupt Canada’s output of uranium!
2. Economics of Thorium “demand”
a. There are no commercial thorium reactors in operation anywhere in the world, but
b. Thorium reactors were built at the very beginning of the “nuclear age,” for testing the concept of purely civilian reactors that did not have a military weapons use, because of the non-weaponizability of their products, and so there is an archive of engineering design and operational data for those reactors. The best known thorium reactors were built in the USA and the Soviet Union, but may also have been constructed elsewhere, such as in the UK,
c. No significant quantities of thorium have been purposefully mined or refined for at least 30-40 years, and there is at present, except perhaps in the People’s Republic of China, and most likely in India no government or privately sponsored exploration program for thorium,
d. On the positive side, the major western and Japanese commercial reactor builders, as well as the government controlled ones in China, all have openly announced that they have recently been looking at thorium fuel designs, and one, Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd, AECL, has said that it already has a program being designed and tested to retrofit its well known and widely used CANDU reactors for the utilization of thorium fuel,
e. Additionally, India has announced that it is constructing or reconstructing a reactor to run principally on in-house designed thorium fuel, and that this reactor will be in operation within a couple of years and is intended to be a prototype for a future family and mass produced series of such reactors to take advantage of what is claimed to be India’s large domestic resources of thorium,
f. Other nations have evinced interest in thorium fueled reactors and seem to have made investments in their development including Norway, Russia, Canada, China, and the United States, and
g. It is, unfortunately conceivable that the People’s Republic of China, which has lately made no secret of its interest in thorium fueled reactors, and has instructed its rare earth mines-today the sole producers of these metals-to hold thorium removed during separation and purifying of the rare earths for the State Nuclear Authority, may have it in mind to conserve uranium for military purposes by switching planned civilian nuclear electric generating capacity to thorium fueled reactors. This may well also be the plan of the government of India, the world’s most vociferous proponent of thorium fueled reactors.
3. The supply of thorium
a. Thorium has always been available as a byproduct of the mining of uranium and of the rare earths, but it has traditionally been considered either a liability or a low value material,
b. Thorium reports and commentaries without fail or exception state that thorium is more common than uranium, but usually fail to emphasize that this is a statement of the relative abundances of both in the earth’s crust. It is in no way a statement of the relative distribution of thorium versus that of uranium in known minable deposits as discussed above and below,
c. There is actually no way to verify the thorium reserves that are contained in the world’s existing rare earth mines, because to the best of our knowledge such measurements have simply not been made, and, if they have, have certainly not been made public by the world’s largest and most actively mined rare earth deposits in the Bayanobo region of Inner Mongolia in the PRC. There are today no significant rare earth mining operations anywhere outside of the Bayanobo region. The largest previous single source mine for rare earths in Mountain Pass, California, stated to a magazine writer last month that it had no thorium production associated with its hoped for reopening of operations. The two large Australian rare earth startups, Lynas and Arafura, also do not comment on any planned thorium production, and, in any case, are both in turmoil due to the current economic crisis. Lynas has suspended operations and Arafura is not only not operating but is also in the process of selling a large stake to a Chinese operator. It is not commonly known whether India, which always claims to have significantly more thorium than uranium, in fact produces any thorium from its deposits of monazite “sands” which do contain low levels of “disseminated” thorium but are principally an ore of the rare earths of which India has very limited production. Finally Russia produces some rare earths and thus could produce some limited amount of thorium but it is not known if it does.
d. Uranium miners even in Canada have not announced any plans to produce thorium nor do any of them show thorium quantity produced in their accounts. The same is true for Australian producers and Kazakh thorium statistics do not exist.
e. The very best opportunity today to produce thorium in quantity from a high grade deposit would be in the United States in the Lemhi Pass region of Idaho and Montana. The claims in that region are owned today by Thorium Energy, inc., a privately held company, which purchased and extended the claims staked beginning fifty years ago by a group of utilities and engineering companies starting with Idaho Power. Those companies were looking for uranium ( and thorium ) for the purpose of becoming self sufficient and vertically integrated as nuclear power producers. But they were premature. The age of thorium was not yet ready to be born. Idaho Power and its successors noted also that the claims were rich in rare earths, but just as with thorium the birth of the age of those technology metals was still in the future.
f. Today, Thorium Energy, Inc., is in a unique position. It may be able to open the first primary thorium mine in American history with a substantial rare earths byproduct stream, if the demand is there, or it can develop a primary rare earth mining operation in the Lemhi Pass with a substantial thorium output as a byproduct. Economics and politics will determine which of the two paths is followed or if neither path is taken.
4. The conclusion at this point in time of this first Thorium Report for 2009 is that a thorium fueled civilian use only nuclear electric generating industry is looming on the economic and political horizon. At this moment no one knows how much thorium it is possible to produce as an adjunct to rare earth or uranium mining, but we do know that one of the largest deposits of high grade thorium and rare earths in the world is located in the Lemhi Pass region of Idaho and Montana. This deposit is accessible and minable. America could become completely self sufficient in non-proliferative nuclear electric power production and reduce its carbon footprint without sacrificing its standard of living or quality of life. Let’s see of our politicians have the will and leadership skills to make this happen. Our future depends on it.
Jack has spoken all over the world on the market fundamentals and end-uses of those minor metals that he classifies as technology metals and that he believes are truly precious to the global economy. He has been, and is, a prolific writer. His web site, now under construction, www.jacklifton.com, will shortly provide a wealth of data and analyses on minor metals and list the services that Jack offers to institutional investors.
The Wired Magazine article Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke
I remember when the author Richard Martin was lurking on the EnergyFromThorium forum researching the topic. Very good background article covers Kirk Sorensen’s early days with his first encounters with the ORNL masters and the book that taught him it’s secrets.
The enthusiasm is low-key as expected from the nerd culture of Wired Magazine but definitely worth reading.
Kirk Sorensen provided this fascinating look at what a LFTR could do in the not so distant future:
Each metric tonne of thorium consumed in a LFTR could produce:
9900 GWe*hr of electricity (at 45% conversion efficiency)
up to 15 kg (8400 watts*thermal) of Pu-238 for NASA space missions
20 kg of molybdenum-99 for medical procedures
5 g of thorium-229 for targeted alpha therapy medical procedures
3300 thermal watts of strontium-90 for heating sources
150 kg of stable xenon
125 kg of stable neodymium
$600M worth of electricity
~$100M worth of Pu-238
~$200-300M worth of Mo-99
and about $300K worth of xenon and neodymium
and many lives saved through clean electricity and medical radioisotopes.
See Kirk’s talk on Google Tech Talk posted Dec 6th 2010 – Is Nuclear Waste Really Waste?