Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: May 15, 2016 3:03 pm 
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I am continually amazed at the fervor for renewables in the face of evidence of insufficiency to the contrary. I guess research and projects follows the political direction defined by funding and subsidies and the professors follow the grants and promotions from publications. Heck, I used to do research in areas that got healthy funding myself. If we could just get 10 percent of the funds down the wasted rabbit hole to develop new nuclear solutions with the thorium fuel cycle and molten salts, the payoff would be far more useful to mankind. My theory is this is akin to some sort of religious zeal based worship of renewables without regard to physics and economics. It is a case of don't give me data and facts, I have preconceived bias that defies logic.


Last edited by rc1111 on May 15, 2016 7:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: May 15, 2016 4:14 pm 
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rc1111 I totally agree. Regardless of what form of “renewable energy” is currently espoused from the political pulpit and supported with your tax dollar (because they can not compete or become profitable on their own merit) it does strike of something akin to religious zeal.

With a middling amount of research it becomes readily apparent that thermodynamically speaking only by exploiting the energy release of breaking the nuclear bond in a thorium fuel cycle will we be able to maintain the current level of energy use, let alone bring it to the billions of souls on the planet who suffer due to an inability to access electricity.

The pressure is on to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change. The way proposed by most people is to switch away from fossil fuels to alternatives such as wind, solar, tidal and geothermal. Such alternative energy sources are often described as ‘renewable’ or ‘sustainable’. This terminology implies to most people that such alternatives can meet our energy demands in perpetuity. This is wrong, and has led to serious errors in policy making, as demonstrated by our current administration.

Energy generated for human use cannot be ‘green’, ‘clean’, ‘renewable’ or ‘sustainable’. These words are all part of the ‘greenwashing’ or ‘sugar-coating’ vocabulary used for the benefit of corporate or political interests, or simply words of misunderstanding. They have no foundation in rigorous scientific language or thought.

There is no silver bullet or free lunch, we are presented only with the opportunity to endorse and support that which will give us the most "bang for our buck".


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PostPosted: May 15, 2016 7:53 pm 
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Well tidal power is, to a large extent, predictable in output for at least until the earth tidally locks to the moon.
Well it isn't, because that is not predicted to occur before the oceans boil off and tidal interactions effectively cease.

Putting it in the same boat as wind and solar is problematic in my opinion.
Pairs of properly positioned Tidal power schemes (be they estuary dual generation barrages or Dynamic Tidal power facilities) can produce energy that is largely constnat over the diurnal cycle and is only subject to variations over the 14 day horizon.
Whilst the 14 day horizon is hard to buffer its inherent predictability makes it possible to use demand side management and storage to swallow up the variations.

You can't really do this with wind or solar without far far more storage or demand management.


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PostPosted: May 15, 2016 10:55 pm 
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Tidal power "in the same boat" pun intended? ;)

Again not belaboring the point... no other energy conversion system comes close (by orders of magnitude -thorium-7.9x107) whether attempting to harness power from the lunar pull or extracting power from molten core of our little blue planet.

Increasingly we wish to convert solar radiation into different forms of energy such as electricity or fuel, that can do work. This can only be achieved by creating devices or machines to convert one form of energy into another and the resources for those devices come from the earth’s crust. Those devices have a finite life span and depend on yet further infrastructure (transport, cities, factories, universities, police, etc.) to maintain and operate them, which in turn has a finite life span.

If I had control over the use of my tax dollar as it was spent to develop a secure electrical future, it would be spent on developing a LFTR. No other energy conversion system of which I'm aware comes close to the potential energy that could be extracted as that offered by utilizing the decay cycle of thorium. Money spent and conversations (on this forum or anywhere else) about any other conversion system is essentially playing in the dark corners of our electrical reality. NOT a good return on the investment.

Thorium shines brighter far than the sun, at least from a realistic electrical energy potential viewpoint.


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PostPosted: May 16, 2016 9:09 am 
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Nuclear reactors also have a finite life span.
And the concrete and steel reinforcing in a barrage potentially has a lifespan of centuries if maintained properly.

So a tidal barrage is also an example of an "eternal" power generation system.


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PostPosted: May 17, 2016 12:01 am 
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We may never know the usefulness of tidal forces because funding and subsidies have been disproportionately allocated to wind, solar, and biomass. That is the puzzling question of the moment, why? One of the old companies I worked for built the biggest solar power planet of its time and it achieved 29 percent efficiency (which blows away PV.) It even used molten salts. However, the problems of maintenance and intermittency made it unsuccessful even though the price point was less than today's PV plants (adjusted for present value.) I am just tired of us chasing the solar dream at the expense of far better and more reliable solutions. We now freely admit wind is not economically competitive, but that reality has not been completely accepted in the PV world.


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PostPosted: May 17, 2016 3:30 am 
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' Tidal power is .. predictable in output '.
Not really. Besides the monthly cycle of king and neap tides, you also have effects from changes in barometric pressure, storm surges, and offshore wind. Just like wind and solar, it's only reliable to a very loose definition of the word. Also like solar, it's not only intermittent ( daily ) and variable ( over the month versus the year ), but the output when it's on will vary considerably, in this case as the pressure head varies.
Tidal will also most likely have worse direct environmental consequences than any other ' renewable ', except maybe large scale biomass. The world's largest tidal plant is being built in South Korea. It will degrade a large part of the already threatened feeding grounds of the bar-tailed godwits, the bird with the longest non-stop migration flight on earth - Alaska to New Zealand, no touch-downs. They burn half their weight as fuel en route. On the way back to their northern nesting grounds, they stop off to bulk up for the breeding season around the Yellow Sea, but rampant reclamation is impinging on the tidal flats there. Sihwa Lake will be the largest tidal power plant in the world, but still only 250 MW, and with a low capacity factor - it only generates on the inflow, so the outgoing tide can flush out farm effluent. About a two percent upgrade of an OPR 1000 would give better results.


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PostPosted: May 17, 2016 8:54 am 
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jon wrote:
' Tidal power is .. predictable in output '.
Not really. Besides the monthly cycle of king and neap tides, you also have effects from changes in barometric pressure, storm surges, and offshore wind. Just like wind and solar, it's only reliable to a very loose definition of the word. Also like solar, it's not only intermittent ( daily ) and variable ( over the month versus the year ), but the output when it's on will vary considerably, in this case as the pressure head varies.

The barometric effects will only be a major problem in the case of really really serious storms, which don't occur every day. Even in sunny Britain.
And even then all barometric effects can do is delay the generation that would have occured anyway, since that water is still going to arrive/depart, even if the barometric overpressure/underpressure holds it back for a few hours.
It is certainly superior on that score to wind and such.
Storm surges are normally only a metre or two, compared with eight or nine for the tidal range of sites like the Severn and similar tidal sites.

jon wrote:
Tidal will also most likely have worse direct environmental consequences than any other ' renewable ', except maybe large scale biomass. The world's largest tidal plant is being built in South Korea. It will degrade a large part of the already threatened feeding grounds of the bar-tailed godwits, the bird with the longest non-stop migration flight on earth - Alaska to New Zealand, no touch-downs. They burn half their weight as fuel en route. On the way back to their northern nesting grounds, they stop off to bulk up for the breeding season around the Yellow Sea, but rampant reclamation is impinging on the tidal flats there. Sihwa Lake will be the largest tidal power plant in the world, but still only 250 MW, and with a low capacity factor - it only generates on the inflow, so the outgoing tide can flush out farm effluent. About a two percent upgrade of an OPR 1000 would give better results.

If we can cite the example of the second largest scheme in the world, the Rance facility in France [240MW instead of 250MW] - although the existing ecosystem was largely eliminated by the construction of the barrage it was replaced with a second ecosystem or equal or greater biodiversity that only exists because of the barrage. So it is hard to say what the net effect on biodiversity of wildlife is.
However there is another point - sea level rise means that those wading bird habitats are already largely doomed.

With dual generation barrages that now appear practical it is also possible to generate a tidal pattern inside the estuary that is largely the same as that outside the barrage, just of smaller amplitude and time shifted, which should have considerably less impact than that of an ebb barrage.
Additionally such a barrage has been modelled to use pumping to largely restore the tidal range in the barrage, which actually has the side effect of drastically increasing production during neap tide cycles, as the barrage pumps water up ~0-1m at high tide so it can let it flow downhill at ~3m head later in the cycle.
I direct you to the Atkins study on 'SEVERN EMBRYONIC TECHNOLOGIES SCHEME' Study on a Very Low Head barrage in the Estuary.
It makes for very interesting reading.

A 10000MWe tidal barrage between Minehead and Aberthaw (and a further downsteam barrage would produce much more energy) would have a capacity factor of ~35%.
The bulk of this variation is produced over diurnal cycles and indeed with relatively little storage something approaching ~3GWe of stable output over the entire monthly cycle can be provided.
There will be spikes of more power available at the spring tides, which will always occur at the same time of day.
The profile of the Cardiff Weston barrage [only 5800MWe] provided gives an average tidal cycle output of ~28GWh and a minimum of 22GWh.

If tidal site locations are chosen properly it is possible to ensure that at least one of the two spring tide energy surplusses arrives at a high demand time of day.


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PostPosted: May 17, 2016 10:34 am 
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E Ireland wrote:
Tim Meyer wrote:
How is what you're discussing relevant to the effort to derive energy from thorium?

Information about the reality of market conditions today, and in the past when other conditions prevailed, is critically important to projecting how best to utilize the technologies available, such as thorium based energy generation.

Coal to olefins production totaling several millions of tonnes per annum is in operation in China.
Then the coal to calcium carbide production which totals many millions of tonnes itself for acetylene, butadiene and numerous other speciality and value added products.

There are also significant coal hydrogenation operations in South Africa, China and I believe one operating plant in the US.
There is also the Pearl GTL works that produces ~200,000bbl of oil equivalent a day in the form of waxes and high value added oil products, derived entirely from natural gas; syn gas gasification plants would enable the same processes to work relatively affordable from brown/hard coal that has essentially no cost beyond what it costs to dig it out of the ground. The supply of which is essentially impossible to interrupt as the mine is adjacent to the plant consuming it.

Thanks, E Ireland, for this info and the perspective.

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"Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it."

—James Arthur Baldwin, American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic


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PostPosted: May 17, 2016 10:37 am 
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Tim Meyer wrote:
How is what you're discussing relevant to the effort to derive energy from thorium?


It's not. Tired of checking the forum only to see discussions about solar energy. You can go talk about that somewhere else, ad nauseum. Topic locked.


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