12 results for month: 06/2006


Thorium Energy could be an Export Opportunity

Energy Crisis Is America's OpportunityThe U.S. could consolidate its superpower status with a Global Nuclear Energy Supply System, which, in time, would not only solve the world's energy problems but would also generate unimaginably vast export earnings, thereby providing a permanent solution to America's balance-of-payments deficit.--Paul Johnson, Forbes Magazine, July 3, 2006Wasn't this what I was just saying with regards to thorium-powered, municipal power submarines? I was teased a bit for trying to talk geopolitically, but this guy is a historian, and seems to be saying the same thing!

1972 Summary of ORNL Fluoride Reactor Evolution

This is a very nice summary of how ORNL viewed the origins, evolution, and progress of their fluoride reactor research in 1972. It comprises chapter 2 of the ORNL report 4812: The Development Status of Molten-Salt Breeder Reactors.2. EVOLUTION AND DEVELOPMENT OF MOLTEN-SALT REACTORSP. N. HaubenreichOriginsWhen the idea of the breeder was first suggested in 1943, the rapid and efficient recycle of the partially spent core was regarded as the main problem [1]. This problem, which is still crucial in breeder economics, was attacked in two ways—by striving for very long burnup and by seeking to simplify the entire recycle operation. The latter ...

Running the numbers with uranium…

I recently found a very interesting and useful feature on a somewhat-anti-nuclear website:Nuclear Fuel Energy Balance CalculatorThis nifty little site lets you type in the quantity of interest to you (such as the amount of electricity you want to generate) and then it will quantify most of the other aspects of the fuel cycle. I want to try to use that calculator to answer some persistent questions I've had.The mining and processing of uranium for nuclear reactors generates more CO2 than is saved by the reactor's operation vs. a coal plant.This is one of those silly assertions that seems to ludicrous at face value, yet I see it repeated over and over ...

Today's Nuclear vs. Tomorrow's Thorium

Another attempt at a comparison between today's typical solid-core, uranium-fueled reactors and what a thorium-fueled, liquid-fluoride reactor could do.

China and India: their problems are OUR problems…

This week I picked up my copy of TIME magazine, with a cover story on the blistering growth of the Indian economy. They contrasted the rise of the Indian "elephant" and the Chinese "dragon" with our own rather steady growth. One of the persistent problems highlighted is the trade imbalance between the US and these ascending nations. Essentially, in my simple understanding of economics, they have low-wage labor, and we like to buy all the things that low-wage laborers make.So what could we possibly sell them in sufficient quantities to alter the trade balance? Certainly not low-wage goods (we Americans cost too much) but perhaps something that they ...

(Utility-Scale) Submarine Power Plants

In November 1955, Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, summoned Rear Admiral "Red" Raborn to his office with an unusual request: create a mobile "Cape Canaveral" to launch nuclear weapons on ballistic missiles, and do it within a decade. On November 15, 1960, the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) put to sea, the first ballistic missile submarine.In just a few years, Admiral Raborn and his colleagues had done what many considered impossible. They had turned a submarine into a mobile launch platform for nuclear missiles. And to do so they had had to abandon many of the technologies that were considered the "conventional wisdom" of ...

"Dirty Kilowatts" of Coal

I read a report today about the plants in the country that have the greatest emissions of carbon dioxide. Unsurpisingly, they were coal plants. To my disappointment, many of them were in the South.I've often been caught at a railroad crossing as I watch the coal trains pass by--car after car--and I think how little thorium it would take to replace all that coal. A piece of thorium about the size of a sugar cube.Later on...Thanks to the beauty of Google Earth and TerraServer, and a rudimentary ability to search on the Web, it's not to hard to find these "dirty kilowatts". I thought I'd start with the biggest CO2 emitters of them all. After all, if ...

Dr. Taube has a Web page!

Several years ago, after reading an occasional passing mention of the possibility of a liquid-chloride reactor in a few papers, I thought myself very novel to imagine the benefits of such a reactor. Then one day, while perusing an old technical journal in the library, I came across a paper written by one "M. Taube" of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) that described the benefits of such a reactor.I was shocked! But very happy. I set about to see if I could get in contact with this Dr. Taube and after a fair amount of searching, I located an email address. I figured that by this point Dr. Taube must be well into his 80s, and perhaps ...

Two-Fluid LFRs all the way…

I realize that I am both going against the post-1970 ORNL liquid-fluoride reactor work and the small amount of "conventional wisdom" on the topic by advocating two-fluid (separate blanket and core salts), but I find nuggets in some of these older documents that tell me I am on the right track.This is from Reactor Physics and Fuel Cycle Analysis, a paper written by A.M. Perry and H.F. Bauman of ORNL in 1970.On page 209:We have previously given serious consideration to, a two-fluid reactor in which the fissile and fertile materials are carried in separate salt streams, the bred uranium being continuously stripped from the fertile stream by the fluoride ...

Massive Inconsistency…

Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post wrote,“We Americans want it all: endless and secure energy supplies; low prices; no pollution; less global warming; no new power plants (or oil and gas drilling, either) near people or pristine places. This is a wonderful wish list, whose only shortcoming is the minor inconvenience of massive inconsistency.”It has recently been noted that 50% of the American public lives within 50 miles of a coastline. In the last few years, we have been reminded by nature how susceptible coastal development is to the furies of nature. The tsunami in Southeast Asia in December 2004 and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in ...