Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: Mar 27, 2014 4:51 pm 
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I try to keep a balanced perspective. I've been looking at this Thorium thing for a few months now. I'm still trying to find it's Achille's heel. Here's a quote from an article I found:

"Nuclear enthusiasts have been singing the praises of nuclear reactors that use thorium as their fuel instead of uranium. Jan Beránek analyses the claims - and finds that thorium is a mere distraction on the way to our renewable future."

Here's the article:

http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2334778/exposing_the_thorium_myth.html

What features of this article are valid? What are actual valid criticisms of using Thorium as a fuel? I figure the people on this sight may be able to give me a clear picture of what the real problems are to its use.


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PostPosted: Mar 27, 2014 5:27 pm 
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Eino wrote:
I try to keep a balanced perspective. I've been looking at this Thorium thing for a few months now. I'm still trying to find it's Achille's heel. Here's a quote from an article I found:

"Nuclear enthusiasts have been singing the praises of nuclear reactors that use thorium as their fuel instead of uranium. Jan Beránek analyses the claims - and finds that thorium is a mere distraction on the way to our renewable future."

Here's the article:

http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2334778/exposing_the_thorium_myth.html

What features of this article are valid? What are actual valid criticisms of using Thorium as a fuel? I figure the people on this sight may be able to give me a clear picture of what the real problems are to its use.


This is a typical anti nuclear biased study that takes everything negative that can be thrown at nuclear fission and tries to show that fission will always be nasty, wicked and evil, missing a few extremely significant facts:

- Their stated cost of current nuclear is a bold faced lie, only one of a kind, reactors cost US$ 8000 / kW, typical reactors cost 75% less. It's the main tell that the study is biased

- The main proposition isn't Thorium, it's molten salt reactors, that articles totally ignore all the advantages of molten salt reactors

- Molten salt reactors make efficient usage of Thorium possible, Thorium is a much better nuclear fuel than Uranium

- Molten salt reactors can retain all transuranics inside the reactor until they are fully consumed, hence it's possible to produce nuclear waste two orders of magnitude less in volume and many orders of magnitude less in transuranics per GWh of electricity / heat produced (transuranics are the elements that have extremely long half lives taking millenia to become very low radioactivity materials, but they are still nuclear fuel, using thorium as fuel drastically minimize transuranics production while at the same time, molten salt reactors can be designed to fission close to 100% of transuranics without requiring a fast reactor)

- fast reactors are in theory an interesting option, except that the only heavily researched fast reactors use sodium as a coolant, which is risky in accidents where the coolant leaks outside the reactor (sodium explodes in contact with water and reacts strongly in contact with oxygen), and fast reactors must take around 10x more nuclear material to produce the same power output, with lots of extra risks and complexities a thermally moderated molten salt reactor can avoid

- Molten salt reactors are efficient even at a size 1/5th of a conventional light water reactor or less, making them excellent for small / modular applications

- Molten salt reactors are the best option for civilian nuclear energy, the reason they didn't become real is they had no perceived advantages for military platforms (making materials for nuclear bombs or nuclear powered submarines or surface ships), and 99% of public money into nuclear was for military interests, civilian usage of nuclear was just a nice sideshow, partly to give more profits to the companies involved, partly so the govt could say that investment was for the betterment of mankind, I say again, the reason we have this inferior light water reactors is because the proper investment was NEVER made in researching the right option for peaceful utilization

- If you read between the lines, what they mean is, all this money has already been spent on nuclear, it's bad, it's troublesome, so let's invest on this holy grail called renewables. They are convinced that any form of nuclear fission is bad, they want it to drop dead, instead of realizing that molten salt reactors could be much cheaper than "non nuclear renewables", and far more reliable (no dependence on wind blowing or sun shinning, no dependence on extremely large swats of desert land to install hundreds of miles worth of solar panels)

- Fuel fabrication costs are only applicable to solid fueled reactors, molten salt reactors avoid that cost, since the fuel is molten with the coolant

I'm not a nuclear engineer not a physicist. I'm an amateur junkie of molten salt tech, that I defend passionately, cause I believe fission is playing a game rigged to be lost, and I'm trying to push the awareness that the problem isn't the technology, but instead that the political game is stacked against it. So take my information with a grain of salt.

I'm not against solar and wind. I'm against those with a position that we don't need nuclear, that say we don't need nuclear at all. I believe it's impossible to fully offset coal and natural gas without a LOT of nuclear, period.

Cheers.

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Last edited by macpacheco on Mar 28, 2014 12:36 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mar 27, 2014 11:13 pm 
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Eino wrote:
Here's the article:

http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2334778/exposing_the_thorium_myth.html

What features of this article are valid? What are actual valid criticisms of using Thorium as a fuel? I figure the people on this sight may be able to give me a clear picture of what the real problems are to its use.
I have posted a number of comments on this article on the facebook page of The Ecologist:

https://www.facebook.com/TheEcologist/p ... omments=15

I am somewhat disappointed at the lack of comments from others: There are several thousand people subscribed to various pro-nuclear facebook pages, but so far only two have taken the time to comment.
Come on people ! Let's show that there is another way of looking at things than Greenpeas !


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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 9:44 am 
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The naysayers are beyond logic... I have banged my head against the wall trying to change their mind for so many years that I now think there is a medical condition, call it illogicalitis, that has the conditions of someone who would like to reduce CO2 but refuses to consider the best path forward that is stable and safe. If it is not a mental problem, then it must be a financial conflict, how else can one characterize it? In a small few, maybe it is dishonesty???

The rebuttal points above are very good. Thank you for those. But we are the choir.

I spend my time talking to open minded people now. I just finished sharing and dissecting the misleading article referenced above with an ecology professor so he would not fall for the propaganda and pass it on to students. He was converted to a position consistent with the general opinions of this forum. I do better one on one talking to people than writing to them in their own blogs -- I am not skilled enough to open closed minds.

N.B: I see our "friend" Oliver Trickell shows up again in references at the bottom of the original article.


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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 10:13 am 
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i think i have found a Achilles heel.
Its the mining. It produces dust which workers would breathe in. I think that was the 'main reason' why they closed rare earth mining in US and rest of the world. I mean they still do uran mining in Africa, which produces a lot of dust. But u know,i am just speaking with political logic.
Maybe its not about any Achilles heel, but just about that governments do what THEY want and nothing more... :cry:
If we had only a free press things now would look very very different with Thorium.
A good proof i think for why we DONT have a free press but a money/power driven one.
But we shouldnt give up hope. :mrgreen:


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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 10:35 am 
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I'm delivering a version of Kirk's YYC TEDx presentation on my rotary club.
Not like anybody there will decide on putting a penny towards nuclear research, but per the usual, once I announced I was going to talk pro nuclear, even before the presentation I already had a few fellows giving off their anti nuclear opinions. It will be an interesting discussion.

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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 12:42 pm 
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Myself I think thorium is currently a distraction from simply generating innovative ways to improve the economies of the once through uranium cycle - but thorium does have interesting effects on such processes.
(For instance the idea of diluting 20% LEU to LWR fuel concentrations using thorium before irradiating it once-through).


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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 2:07 pm 
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This is how the article ends:
Quote:
The future is renewable!

Let's not get distracted. Let's not waste even more time, money and brainpower on trying to make the impossible: a nuclear energy source that would actually really work. The future is renewable, and that's where we need to go as quickly as possible.


All through the article there was no mention at all of the economics of renewables. There was also no mention of the potential for future developments. I, like others posting above, know I'm preaching to the converted.

I suspect the reason the author, Jan Beránek, didn't mention the merits of renewables is because they are few. Solar power costs 5x to 10x what conventional fuels like coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydro. Wind costs 2x to 5x and has a tendency to kill endangered birds. I suspect many of the anti-nuclear crowd aren't too happy about hydro power either. Reliance on wind and solar means electricity costs will at least double, most likely triple. Without utility level electric storage in place blackouts will be common, with them the price of electricity would double again. Barring some leap in wind and solar technology that means electricity prices would be five times what we pay now.

So we need to abandon nuclear power development because it hasn't been giving returns fast enough, but how well has renewables been working out for us?

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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 5:51 pm 
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Arguing logic is pointless.

You tell them point blank, would they rather live in a solar powered world, or a nuclear powered world.

You ask them point blank, when china builds factory built LFTR reactors, will america ever be able to catchup with wind and solar?

You ask them if their house runs only on solar and windmill, tell them they are hypocrits.


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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 7:55 pm 
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Quote:
However thorium retains all the other main hazards...
Doesn't fit the facts as I know them.

Quote:
...in fuel mining and fabrication...
The article is innumerate. All the thorium is used in a LFTR, vs. <0.3% of the uranium in a light water reactor, so <1/333 of the mining occurs with thorium. Thorium also doesn't need an energy-hungry isotope enrichment plant.

Quote:
...reactor safety...
, LFTRs have low pressure cores (can't explode), and drain their fuel to handle loss of cooling accidents. IMO major improvements.

Quote:
production of dangerous waste
The radiotoxicity profile in the article has logarithmic axes, so that a thorium reactor's advantages may be shown honestly, but not clearly. LFTR waste is about 1/60 the weight of a uranium reactor's waste, measured per kilowatt-hour, because all the thorium is used. In a LFTR no U238 is transmuted to transuranics. Also, it appears to assume that a LFTR is not using up the transuranics, but instead operating a conventional breeding cycle. The thorium cycle has two off-ramps to prevent transuranics: First, it burns about 90% of the U233, then the remaining U233 is transmuted to U234, then U235, and 85% of that is burned. Transuranics, the nasty long-lived waste, become such a small part of the salt in a LFTR that they can be left in the reactor (they're fuels), and used up. There are still fission products from a LFTR, but the longest-lived, most radiotoxic fission product is cesium 137, with a half-life of 30 years. It's reduced a thousand-fold after 300 years. Even so, out at the crossover, both waste streams are well below the radiotoxicity of natural uranium ore. Nuclear waste is conventionally dissolved in pyrex logs and buried, making it into buried radioactive rock. We've always had radioactive rocks in the ground: So what? The real alternative energy sources, the ones used to "back up wind and solar" are fossil fuels, which emit their wastes directly into the biome. This part of the article is all consciously misleading at worst (damn lies, using statistics), innumerate at best.

Quote:
...nuclear weapons proliferation...
Absolutely true. Every nuclear fuel can power bombs. But let's be fair, and evaluate all fuels in this way: Since weapons using fossil fuels kill thousands of people annually, they must be outlawed immediately. Unlike fossil fuels, thorium has some antiproliferative traits: as U233 (thorium's fuel) ages, its decay chain produces high intensity gamma rays that make it easier to detect, and difficult to handle, store and use in stable bombs. It is well-suited to a power plant, and difficult to use in mobile military applications, such as bombs.

Quote:
And given that all over the world, U-238 / Pu-239 fast breeder reactors have proved to be technical and economic disasters...
I don't think so... Except for the French and Russian ones that have operated safely and economically for years. And also, LFTR breeders are slow breeders, with chemically-inert coolants, and therefore lack the sodium fires, criticality control, size, and cooling problems of uranium fast breeders.

Quote:
accelerator-based reactors
Have never been practical. So what?

Quote:
...current reactors reaching $8,000/kW...
This is high... the NEI says new Korean reactors cost $2/W; Just get them to build one, instead of the $8/W contractor, right?


Last edited by rgvandewalker on Mar 28, 2014 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 8:03 pm 
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Zoom back and consider the victory these pieces represent.

"Thorium" is enough of a problem to the party-line of Greenpeace that they sent someone to do a hatchet job on it. He couldn't be bothered to do real research of any sort, so he did what most anti-nuclear pieces do and hashed together a bunch of anti-thorium data gleaned from across the web without concern to internal consistency.

Except this time, he got thrashed for his poor argument in the comments section of the original Greenpeace article so soundly that I almost feel badly for the guy. On second thought, no I don't.


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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 11:19 pm 
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rgvandewalker wrote:
Quote:
production of dangerous waste
The radiotoxicity profile in the article has logarithmic axes, so that a thorium reactor's advantages may be shown honestly, but not clearly. LFTR waste is about 1/60 the weight of a uranium reactor's waste, measured per kilowatt-hour, because all the thorium is used. In a LFTR no U238 is transmuted to transuranics. Also, it appears to assume that a LFTR is not using up the transuranics, but instead operating a conventional breeding cycle. The thorium cycle has two off-ramps to prevent transuranics: First, it burns about 90% of the U233, then the remaining U233 is transmuted to U234, then U235, and 85% of that is burned. Transuranics, the nasty long-lived waste, become such a small part of the salt in a LFTR that they can be left in the reactor (they're fuels), and used up.
You missed an important one IMHO, the fact that neptunium can be fairly simply removed from the uranium and placed in a separate circuit to breed Pu238, a very desirable byproduct.

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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 11:22 pm 
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Kirk Sorensen wrote:
Except this time, he got thrashed for his poor argument in the comments section of the original Greenpeace article so soundly that I almost feel badly for the guy. On second thought, no I don't.
Me neither, chortle, chortle.

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PostPosted: Mar 28, 2014 11:57 pm 
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rgvandewalker wrote:
The radiotoxicity profile in the article has logarithmic axes, so that a thorium reactor's advantages may be shown honestly, but not clearly.
No. It is NOT "shown honestly" because it shows the profile for a once-through thorium cycle, typical of solid fuel reactors.
The text clearly points out Pa231 as the long-lived culprit and compares it to Pu239 (a valid comparison in terms of radiotoxicity).
But in a closed cycle, where the Pa231 is returned to the reactor, it will burn out - either by fission (fast neutrons) or by transmutation to U232 by neutron absorption.


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PostPosted: Mar 29, 2014 12:03 am 
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These Green Party mouthpieces and leaders are ethically and/or mentally retarded. There is no reasoning with them. I've tried! The best thing to do is to somehow get them out of power. I don't care what it takes, they are a huge threat to the well-being of mankind.


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