Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: Oct 26, 2010 8:39 pm 

Joined: Mar 07, 2007 11:02 am
Posts: 916
Location: Ottawa
Perhaps others that attended can give their thoughts as well. I have just returned from the Thorium conference in London which I would rank a moderate to high success. Kudos to the organizer Andreas Norlin for putting it together and getting the hallowed halls of the Royal Institute where Faraday lectured as the venue. The worldwide turnout of researchers was very good but unfortunately the public turnout was weak, even for the free first day of the conference. The timing conflicted with another conference that most of the Oak Ridge people were attending so we didn't get their valuable input.

My work is split between the tube within tube Two Fluid iso-breeder and the greatly simplified Denature Molten Salt Reactor converter which needs top ups of Low Enriched Uranium. I only presented work on the DMSR. There was a strong French delegation that presented several good talks on their fast spectrum design which looks promising but several challenges to overcome. There were several Japanese presentations on the FUJI concept (which itself comes in several varieties). Prof Furukawa and his business partner (former Japanese Senator) made a strong case for the commercial viability of even the smallest mini-FUJI design (10 MWe) to make a profit before moving to a higher power output. I personally agree with 95% of the FUJI approach due to its great simplicity but I disagree with the approach of needing to produce an external makeup of U233, especially by accelerators. I believe though I am having success in convincing more of them that using Low Enriched Uranium with thorium is a more practical and politically acceptable route (the DMSR is basically a denatured FUJI approach). Prof Yoshioka and his graduate student presented early work on starting the FUJI U3 (harder spectrum) on LEU. While the results were good, the conclusion was obvious that a softer spectrum would be better since U235 is so poor for epithermal neutrons (they will model that soon, I can't wait!).

The variety of Molten Salt/Liquid Fluoride approaches is fascinating and while it is my opinion that we should move forward with at least two or three molten salt reactor designs ranging from fast to thermal spectrums as well as converters versus breeders it unfortunately might come across as world efforts being fractured and without unity.

We also of course had other thorium approaches presented. The people presenting use in LWR had a hard time sounding very hopeful and we had a presentation by Areva that confirmed the fact that use in LWRs has some minor benefits but big drawbacks. The other major category was those looking at accelerator driven systems (mainly lead cooled fast reactors running off thorium). I am still trying to understand if this approach actually increases safety, I asked about the possibility of accelerator power surging accidentally and didn't get a satisfactory answer and they also seem to consider the failure to shutdown the beam as an impossibility. I'm afraid I am like most in the nuclear community and view the concept as a billion dollar control rod that may or may not be superior to conventional control rods.

Debate between the various communities did get a little heated at times, perhaps more so between the MSR and accelerator folks who had no understanding of MSRs. Longtime MSR proponent Prof Furukawa was also very strong in his views, summed up by what he would say to almost every non MSR presentation, something along the lines of "I know your heart is in the right place but you must know you are completely wrong so please stop wasting your time!".

I missed the third day where John Kutch presented and there was more for the media so I am interested to hear how that turned out. I don't think there will be video's available and we'll have to wait to see if they will at least post power point presentations. During the conference there was a local film crew doing a documentary, I had fun doing an interview with them (Square Planet Films). It is their first documentary so I wish them luck and look forward to seeing the results.

If any are interested, here are my slides. Much is repeated from my spring talk at Oak Ridge National Labs. I started by showing a golf ball that represents a typical Westerner's lifetime energy (double for U.S.) using thorium (0.5 kg). Contrasting to that I showed a soccer ball which would be about the volume of uranium by LWR Once Through (100 kg), much more of course but still impressive compared to a 1000 tonnes of coal which would have filled the auditorium. Finally I showed a large orange which would be about the amount of uranium (10 kg) needed for a DMSR approach (along with half a golf ball of thorium).

David LeBlanc

LeBlancLondonRevised.ppt [1.27 MiB]
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