Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: Mar 26, 2014 10:06 am 
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Wired posted an article about clean coal development in China:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/03/clean-coal/

The comments section seems to be getting a lot of next-gen nuclear supporters to come out of the woodwork, which was gratifying to see.


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PostPosted: Jun 07, 2016 11:38 am 
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Wow! Considering that energy from thorium has a major impact on the future of energy from coal, isn't it surprising that your topic, glemieux, has gone unanswered?
Charles C. Mann wrote:
"The combustion of coal is responsible for more than 70 percent of CO2 emissions, dwarfing those from any other fuel used for generating electricity. With nearly 1,200 more coal-fired power plants planned in 59 countries, that cloud of greenhouse gas could grow by 4 billion tons, increasing nearly 50 per­cent by 2020." —V.T.

This article is an excellent thumbnail sketch and reality check of the whole global energy issue of detrimental climate change; the very point and purpose of this forum, as best as I can tell. No one bothered to read it? It's been two years and not much has changed, folks.

I came across "Can the next generation of reactors spur a nuclear renaissance?" by Umair Irfan, E&E reporter, ClimateWire: Wednesday, July 1, 2015.
Umair Irfan wrote:
"One kilogram of coal can keep a 100-watt light bulb lit for four days, while the same amount of uranium nuclear fuel can keep it lit for 140 years without carbon dioxide emissions."

So, one pound of coal can keep a 100-watt light bulb lit for ~two days, while that same amount of thorium can keep it lit for 5,000 years, correct?

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Last edited by Tim Meyer on Jun 07, 2016 1:46 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Jun 07, 2016 12:28 pm 
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glemieux wrote:
The comments section seems to be getting a lot of next-gen nuclear supporters to come out of the woodwork, which was gratifying to see.

A lot? Of 209 comments, there seemed to be "a lot of" marginally polite rejection of clean coal and complaints about Wired featuring this article by Charles C. Mann (Science, May 25, 2014.) These comments are relevant to this forum and seem to represent the present generally informed consensus on energy from thorium:

Quote:
john carraway: There is absolutely no reason to build more coal-burning power plants. The advent of thorium technology will provide more than enough safe, clean, disaster-proof electric power for hundreds of years with no CO2 added to the atmosphere. See Flibe Energy.

pixelpusher220: Thorium is decades away from grid scale deployment. Not that it isn't a good thing, but you can't replace [coal with thorium] today.

Thunderbuck: I am very enthusiastic about Flibe [Energy, Huntsville, AL], but we're not likely to see commercial-scale thorium MSRs in North America for a good decade, at least. It's encouraging to see that both China and India are constructing serious demonstration plants, but they're deciding to shoulder the risks.

john carraway to Thunderbuck: Did they not tell you that thorium was the preferred source of nuclear energy back in the 50's, but they chose high-pressure water-cooled plutonium reactors instead because they can be used to produce nuclear weapons? There is nothing new about thorium reactors, it is a proven system with none of the high-risk factors of today's power plants.

Thunderbuck: It wasn't "preferred" but it was definitely interesting. Yes, the Oak Ridge demonstration reactor was dismantled primarily due to the inability to breed weapons-grade material, but there was also a demo plant in Germany that reverted to conventional fuel due to technical/safety issues. A second commercial-grade German plant was designed to use thorium but also wound up reverting to conventional fuels and was eventually dismantled after a leak. Thorium holds a LOT of promise, and I think its time is finally coming, but pretending it has no issues does nothing to advance the discussion.

john carraway: That must have been some 30 years ago at least. I think they've gotten all the bugs out of the system by now. India and China have been working with thorium for years, and soon will have patents on the same.

infidel to john carraway: If South Korea isn't in the mix, I would be shocked.

pixelpusher220 to john carraway: It was an option and yes they chose uranium/plutonium [to weaponize]. But, they never built a full-scale, long-term thorium reactor. You can't just turn them off for maintenance; they are sealed and need to stay contained for 40+ years. Molten salts at those temps aren't easy to keep in the cask. Not something we've perfected yet.

Chugs 1984 to pixelpusher220: Ok, people. It wasn't like they didn't give thorium good consideration. However:

- Caustic salts that are so hot they're liquids are not exactly easy to handle.

- This isn't some problem easily solved. We will need a breakthrough in material science to create an affordable material that can hold for decades at a time these hot salts.

- That sort of tech isn't lying around, and more to the point, the sort of momentum required in order to get those sorts of breakthroughs takes decades to create.

See, take solar. At present we have 136 GWp of capacity installed with about 39GW of that installed in 2013. These production figures are off the back of a worldwide effort. There are dozens of universities and institutes dedicated to solar technology. Huge amount of constant investment, especially with space crafts [that have] sustained and nurtured thousands of scientists who have beavered away on all facets of PVC. There are journals dedicated to PVC able to publish every month dozens of papers on PVC research.

Thorium on the other hand, despite a huge wealth of nuclear scientists and engineers, has none of that. As much as we would love to see a thorium reactor, it's just not going to happen any time soon. Like 2030 soon. The money and effort would be better spent rolling out PVC which has blown all of the predictions and is, by BP's own analysis, on to provide 10% of the world's power by 2018 and 100% by 2027.
Of course, members here know Chugs 1984 is misrepresenting the state-of-the-art. As soon as the U.S. enacts the advanced nuclear law(s), development and deployment of a first-of-its-kind commercial liquid fluoride thorium reactor (Flibe Energy, Huntsville, AL) is likely to arrive on the commercial scene sooner than later!

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Last edited by Tim Meyer on Jun 07, 2016 1:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Jun 07, 2016 1:02 pm 
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This article subject is mainly about carbon capture and storage (CCS); a topic also being discussed here: GE doing sCO2 turbine PR.
Charles C. Mann wrote:
Most important, constantly boiling a silo’s worth of monoethanolamine (MEA) carbamate solution requires a great deal of energy. Common estimates are that this kind of CCS will eat up 20 to 30 percent of a power plant’s output. Given that typical coal plants can translate only 50 percent of the energy in coal into electricity, deploying CCS means that power plants will consume 40 to 60 percent more of the black stuff. Mitigating the environmental costs of digging up and burning coal thus means digging up and burning even more coal.
Not if co-located SMR and especially TMSR power provides the make-up.

Charles C. Mann wrote:
The industry jargon for these costs, parasitic costs, are [often] estimated at $100 per ton of stored CO2. A single 500-megawatt [coal-fired] power plant emits roughly 3 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. Arithmetic suggests that sticking all that gas from thousands of plants in the dirt would cost $2 trillion a year, a figure that doesn’t include the billions required to build the CCS facilities in the first place. This back-of-an-envelope calculation rests on implausible assumptions: coal plants of identical size, no technical progress, no economies of scale, no plant conversions to lower-emission natural gas, and so on. But the overall conclusion—that CCS based on present technology is prohibitively expensive—is all too plausible.

Advanced nuclear reactors change this CCS business case: they would supply the power necessary to leverage CCS for the inevitable transition to future 100% emission-free energy when we've transitioned away from energy from carbon. Advanced, new nuclear ought not be deployed such that thousands and millions of carbon jobs get killed. It would be wiser to enhance carbon energy with co-located advanced reactors for CCS long enough to help the industries absorb the economic impacts of new nuclear.

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PostPosted: Jun 07, 2016 3:23 pm 
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There are far better things to do with coal if we have a nuclear reactor available.
We can fire it into nitrolim, chemicals, liquid fuels and any number of other products.


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PostPosted: Jun 07, 2016 3:52 pm 
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Ah! E, you agree. Frank-Caro process. Interesting.

Still waiting for your review of ionic liquids for HD lithium.

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PostPosted: Jun 07, 2016 6:35 pm 
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TOSCOAL type low temperature retort to produce chemical feedstocks and then use the semi coke in Frank-Caro or a straight carbide furnace.


Last edited by E Ireland on Jun 08, 2016 12:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Jun 07, 2016 8:31 pm 
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Fascinating, E. Now the ionic liquids method for HD lithium. Does it look like it'll work?

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PostPosted: Jun 08, 2016 5:37 am 
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It will probably work, the question is just how expensive the crown ether extractants will be and what the losses to solvent will be.
That sort of thing you only know for sure when you get to building a pilot plant.


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PostPosted: Jun 08, 2016 12:09 pm 
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It is worth noting that whilst current LWRs can't be used for direct heating of the aforementioned retorts, almost all advanced reactor concepts would be able to do so - we only require temperatures of ~900 Fahrenheit steam outlet. Which is only 480C.

Even an SCWR can do that.


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PostPosted: Jun 08, 2016 1:27 pm 
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Thanks, E. The one ionic liquid method doesn't use a crown ether, but another does. I just received a copy of text on ILs. I'm researching the costs of these processes. Re: Lithium-7

Direct thermal from new advanced nuclear designs is a MAJOR draw to getting the U.S. laws enhanced to accommodate the non-LWR designs. But you're not U.S. citizen. Still, pretty sure U.S. decisions impact UK decisions.

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