10 results for month: 06/2009


Rep. Sestak Calls for Thorium Study

It's no secret that I have not supported the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, but I want to commend Rep. Joe Sestak for trying to make some lemonade out of those lemons with his amendment to the bill:AMENDMENT TO HR 2454OFFERED BY MR. SESTAK OF PENNSYLVANIAPage 296, after line 6, insert the following new section:SEC. 199. STUDY.Not later than February 1, 2011, the Secretary of Energy shall transmit to the Congress a report showing the results of a study on the use of thorium-fueled nuclear reactors for national energy needs. Such report shall include a response to the International Atomic Energy Agency study entitled "Thorium fuel cycle - Potential ...

A Response to IAEA-TECDOC-1450

IAEA-TECDOC-1450 is a document that was issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency in July of 2005. It is a fairly comprehensive treatment of the use of thorium in many different types of nuclear reactors.Most of the attention in the paper is focused on the use of solid thorium oxide fuel assemblies in light-water and heavy-water reactors, with some consideration of how to use thorium in liquid-metal fast breeders as well.On pages 29 and 30 of the document there is a description of a "molten-salt" reactors that could utilize thorium as well.The overall benefits of thorium are described in TECDOC-1450 as:(1) Thorium is 3 to 4 times more abundant ...

Fluoride Reactor Presentation by Dr. Jan Uhlir

While I was at the ANS Conference in Atlanta, I had the good fortune of attending a presentation by Dr. Jan Uhlir of the Nuclear Research Institute located in Rez in the Czech Republic. During his presentation, Dr. Uhlir described the research work going on at the NRI and talked in particular about their recent research into thorium-fueled fluoride reactors.Here is a diagram of their overall approach:Dr. Uhlir is the head of the Fluoride Chemistry Division at NRI, and has come to some of the same conclusions about thorium-burning fluoride reactors that I have, namely, that a two-fluid fluoride reactor (where the thorium-bearing and uranium-bearing ...

Thorium Fluoride not Thorium Oxide

Lately I've heard some descriptions about the potential of "thorium" that were very specific to the form of thorium that you would use in solid-fueled, water-cooled reactors--thorium oxide.Thorium oxide, or specifically thorium dioxide (ThO2) is the solid form of thorium that one would use in a light-water reactor or in a pebble-bed reactor, perhaps even in a sodium-cooled fast breeder. Thorium dioxide is VERY chemically stable and has the highest melting point of any oxide--3300 degrees Celsius. This is why it is sometimes said that "thorium" can't have a meltdown in a nuclear reactor--they're talking about thorium dioxide fuel.The problem with ...

The TVA That Could Have Been

A couple of months ago, I felt like a nuclear "Indiana Jones" when a trip out to Iuka, Mississippi took me face-to-face with the ruins of a nuclear reactor. Or maybe it was more like an episode of "LOST" where they find a four-toed statue. But there I was looking at a huge, unfinished cooling tower, a turbine hall that looked pretty well completed but abandoned, and a containment dome whose rebar had been completely overgrown by vegetation. Further investigation led me to discover that this was once TVA's Yellow Creek Nuclear Plant, begun in 1978 and shut down in 1984 after the expenditure of billions of dollars. Yellow Creek never made a watt of ...

Rep. Sestak (D-PA7) Requests Naval Evaluation of LFTR

Congressman Sestak Includes Key Provisions in National Defense Authorization ActThorium Study for Energy EfficiencyThis provision directs the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to jointly carry out a study on the use of thorium-liquid fueled nuclear reactors for naval power, an important assessment of an energy source that has shown great potential to be more efficient for our military. While our nuclear Navy has thrived with a continuing record of zero reactor accidents, thorium may be more efficient than uranium as a fuel source. Massive fuel rods would not have to be utilized, and it produces only 1/2000th the ...

Zoe and Kaija Recite the Periodic Table!

I love my little daughters very very much and am very proud of them for just being themselves. But they've learned how to do something over the last few months that, as an aspiring nuclear engineer, makes me just about bust my buttons with pride. They've learned (almost) the whole periodic table:When I was at the American Nuclear Society conference in Atlanta this week, I was hoping to show this ability to a group of peers, and the right opportunity presented itself in a session about public education. As the next speakers were setting up their talk on getting girls excited about math and science, I asked to show my own personal efforts to get two ...

Sometimes Other People are Right

There's a burger joint near Georgia Tech called "The Varsity" and when I was a grad student there people (not students) often mentioned it as part of some Georgia Tech "tradition" I dimly understood. No students seemed to ever talk much about The Varsity other than to tell me that the food was greasy and the service was bad. So I wasn't terribly interested in eating there.So I never did.Until this last week. I went there and had lunch with my family, and guess what?The food was beyond greasy, the service was bad, they botched my order, things were overpriced, and the whole place had a bad smell. People had told me these things, and they were ...

Supercritical CO2 is dense like water

Sometimes I learn stuff that makes me feel like I'm on the right path with the LFTR concept. I had that feeling today as I listened to a talk by Dr. Steven Wright of Sandia National Labs about a supercritical-carbon-dioxide closed-Brayton-cycle gas turbine.That's an awfully large number of adjectives to describe an engine that can turn heat (random kinetic energy) into work (directed kinetic energy) and do it very well. Heat is what we can provide from the fission of thorium (well, actually U233) in a LFTR and work is what we want (in the form of electricity) to provide to customers and users.SCO2-engines are an interesting variant of the jet ...

The Enterprise visits a dead planet

As the away teams reported back to the Starship Enterprise, the reports were all the same. Everywhere on the planet were signs of an advanced civilization. Great abandoned cities were found all over the planet. In each the signs were the same: a loss of energy followed by a drastic population drop. The fossil fuel resources of the planet appeared to have been exhausted, and as power plants died computers had been shut down. Wind generators were everywhere, but when Scotty looked at their pictures he shook his head. “Good God,” he said, “you cannot run a planet on wind.” Mr. Spock nodded. “I don’t understand why they did not build ...