THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal

THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal has just been published and is available from Amazon. Click on the cover image for more information, including hundreds of links for reference or further study.

Thorium energy can help us

  • check CO2 and global warming,
  • cut deadly air pollution,
  • provide inexhaustible energy
  • increase human prosperity

Our world is beset by global warming, pollution, resource conflicts, and energy poverty. Millions die from coal plant emissions. We war over mideast oil. Food supplies from sea and land are threatened. Developing nations’ growth exacerbates the crises.

Few nations will adopt carbon taxes or energy policies against their economic self-interests to reduce global CO2 emissions. Energy cheaper than coal will dissuade all nations from burning coal. Innovative thorium energy uses economic persuasion to end the pollution, to provide energy and prosperity to impoverished peoples, and to create energy security for all people for all time.

A market-based environmental solution

We can solve our global energy and environmental crises straightforwardly – through technology innovation and free-market economics. We need a disruptive technology – energy cheaper than coal. If we offer to sell to all the world the capability to produce energy that cheaply, all the world will stop burning coal. It’s as simple as that. Rely on the economic self-interest of 7 billion people in 250 nations to choose cheaper, nonpolluting energy.

Energy is about 7% of the economy. We, and especially developing nations, can not afford to pay much more for energy. Many environmentalists advocate replacing fossil fuel energy with wind and solar energy sources, blind to the fact that these are 3-4 times more costly! Global economic prosperity requires lower energy costs, not higher costs from taxes or mandated costly wind and solar sources. THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal advocates lowering costs for clean energy – a market-based environmental solution.


1 Introduction: an introduction to world crises related to energy and the environment, and the potential for good solutions.

2 Energy and civilization: the relationship between energy, life, and human civilization, easy energy science, life’s dependence on energy flows, civilization’s progress with the energy of the Industrial Revolution, and the 21st century crises of global warming and energy consumption.

 3 An unsustainable world: global warming and its terrifying implications for water, agriculture, food, and civilization; depletion of economical petroleum reserves, deadly air pollution from burning coal, increased competition for natural resources from a growing population, and the solution of new energy technology, cheaper than coal.

4 Energy sources: the character and cost of current and principal emerging energy sources: coal, oil, natural gas, hydropower, solar, wind, biomass, and nuclear.

5 Liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR): the history and technology of liquid fuel nuclear reactors, the Oak Ridge demonstration molten salt reactors, thorium, LFTR, the denatured molten salt reactor (DMSR), builders, and possible contenders for energy cheaper than coal.

 6 Safety: the safety of molten salt reactors, comparisons to alternative energy sources, radiation risks, waste, weapons, and fear.

 7 A sustainable world: environmental benefits of thorium energy cheaper than coal: reduced CO2 emissions, reduced petroleum consumption, synthetic fuels for vehicles, hydrogen power, water conservation, desalination.

8 Energy policy: current confused policies; failure to reduce CO2 emissions, subsidies, recommendations, leadership.


“This book presents a lucid explanation of the workings of thorium-based reactors. It is must reading for anyone interested in our energy future.”
Leon Cooper, Brown University physicist and 1972 Nobel laureate for superconductivity

“As our energy future is essential I can strongly recommend the book for everybody interested in this most significant topic.”

George Olah, 1994 Nobel laureate for carbon chemistry

“Hargraves’ book contains a wealth of information that I’ve never seen anywhere. Very informative and insightful.”

Steve Kirsch, San Jose entrepreneur and philanthropist

“The book describes mankind’s hope for a sustainable and prosperous future: high-temperature thorium-based reactors. The writing is clear and factual, and the book will helpful to anyone interested in energy choices.”

     Meredith Angwin, Director of Energy Education for the Ethan Allen Institute

“A terrific book-length description of the need for energy solutions for this century, leading the reader to the advantages of thorium fissioning in a fluid of of molten salt. He explains the technical basis for how such a power plant works and why it can be cheaper than making power from coal — the dominant fuel for power plants today. This book will be a valuable aid for the many people who will take this demonstrated technology of the 1960s at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee through the rebirth phase and into deployment in this century possibly to dominate the power plants by the later part of the 21st century. Another book about why the molten salt reactor development option was abruptly stopped in early 1970s, even though its demonstration was successful and the use of thorium held great promise is Super Fuel by Richard Martin (2012). For background the reader is referred to The First Nuclear Era by Alvin Weinberg (1994).”
     Ralph Moir, retired Lawrence Livermore Laboratory physicist, expert in fusion and molten salt reactors




41 Replies to "THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal"

  • J Verger
    September 14, 2012 (5:10 am)

    @Rick Armknecht
    I knew better and heard it all before. Democrats always promise the world and give you nothing but misery. If it were up to them all would live in endless misery of endless problems they create so that an unsuspecting electorate can keep them in power. This isn't a political thread/blog and

    I apologize for the rant but the only way we will ever see the light of LFTR is that if we allow free market capitalism to take off. This means, kicking the government to the curb and reversing the past regulatory nonsense that got us here. The DOE along with the NRC and it's many tentacles need to go. The Dept of education has it's ugly consequences as well forcing stupidity upon us all.

  • Nathan Wilson
    September 15, 2012 (9:08 pm)

    I just posted this review on

    Though this book is nominally about a thorium-burning nuclear reactor called the LFTR, this is also a great book about energy in general. It is much broader than “Plentiful Energy” (which discusses only the IFR, a fast breeder reactor); it goes well beyond thorium to discuss fossil fuels, renewables, energy storage, and transportation fuel. Even the nuclear chapters provide background on competing technologies like LWRs, LMFBRs, TWRs, SMRs, PB-AHTRs, and DMSRs.

    It provides less history, and more technical detail than “Super Fuel” or “Power to Save the World”. It is more like an updated and greatly enhanced version of “The Nuclear Energy Option” ( ) with its thoughtful treatment of energy safety and radioactivity.

    This is a great book, covering an important topic. It’s time to make the switch to sustainable energy, and Dr. Hargraves tells us how to do it.

  • Evan Maughan
    September 22, 2012 (5:35 pm)

    Make Thorium and election issue, not this go around. Romney is focused on talking about the economy and, yes, energy policy, but LFTR would be too hard to start explaining to voters at this point. Obama is focused on Romney and anything but the economy, and now foreign policy. Obama would never push anything nuclear because it is "evil" to many on the left (fortunately not all).

    My hope is that when Romney becomes president someone will present the benefits of LFTR. He is one of the best venture capitalist the U.S. has ever had. There would be a good chance that he could see the huge potential of this technology and the path to help the U.S. become energy independent.

    If Obama becomes president I do not see anything with the word nuclear get any help or promotion from the POTUS. I have contacted my senators, both Dems, but I am just a mosquito in the swamp of voters and lobbyist that they deal with. Too bad, if Obama went supported LFTR he would get support from the right. Most conservatives are all for nukes and cheap energy.

    I look at over 1.5 trillion spent on all the "stimulus" packages and think what a waste! What did we get for it? We could have fast tracked development of LFTR and started mass production in a year or two.

    I know there are left leaning voters on this site, and I think LFTR is a great tech that can bring both sides together. If you really do believe in LFTR, the odds are much better if Romney wins. Obama mentioned nukes in '08 one time from what I remember, but it was just campaign talk to appeal to the other side. Nothing ever came of many of his promises.

  • Robert Hargraves
    September 23, 2012 (5:40 am)

    Evan, thank you. I've been unsuccessful in trying to meet with my Senator Shaheen, who is on the energy and natural resources committee. I've been trying a center of the political spectrum approach; I've posted comments such as the following.

    The way to satisfy both Republicans and Democrats is through new technology for energy cheaper than coal. Republicans fear that carbon taxes will put the US at an economic disadvantage to exempted developing nations. Democrats fear that continuing CO2 emissions will increase global warming with disastrous consequences for water and food. Both are right.The US has the capability to develop advanced nuclear power technologies that can produce energy cheaper than coal. Making such clean, safe power plants available globally is the only way to convince 7 billion people in 250 nations from burning coal — economic self interest.The liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR), originally developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratories, is now being refined by China, while the US fails to harvest this technology that could check global warming, end energy poverty, and as well lead to a $70 billion export industry. The new book about this,THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal, is described at thorium

  • Russ Paielli
    October 1, 2012 (8:28 pm)

    Prof. Hargraves,

    I have read about half of your new book, and I am finding it very informative.

    I recently had some email contact with a Prof. Mark Z. Jacobson at Stanford, who is pushing for massive wind energy development. This guy has very impressive credentials and is considered a world-class expert on energy systems:

    I informed him about the LFTR concept, and I also mentioned your book to him. He replied to my first couple of emails, but then he stopped replying. Our correspondence was completely cordial.

    I am not sure what to make of Prof Jacobson. His resume' and his publications appear stellar, yet he is pushing for massive wind power, which seems nonsensical to me (even more so after reading the wind section of your book). Have you or anyone else heard of him? If not, I suggest you look him up. If so, what do you know about him? Thanks.

    –Russ Paielli

    October 3, 2012 (12:46 am)

    Wind power is great, for the 1800's. It is also great when electricity costs 1 dollar or more per kwh ( right now it is pretty cheap at about 0.14 cents per kwh).

    I've never seen any futuristic ideas/movies/aliens that have used windpower.

    Yeah wind power is great, I am accepting donations so i can power my house with a windmill ONLY! I only have 300,000 dollars left before i can afford my own windmill, and finally be off the grid.

  • Robert Hargraves
    October 3, 2012 (4:45 am)

    Russ, Mark Z. Jacobson certainly is an industrious academic. He builds climate models. The most famous paper on his website, Review of energy solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security, shows rather high CO2 emissions for nuclear power. That's because the model assumes that more nuclear power will beget nuclear wars, and the paper counts the CO2 emissions from destroying and burning cities. This exemplifies how one can build complex models to achieve any desired results. This is the reason the models in my book are simple — to illuminate the basics.

    Robert M, Wind power is even more expensive than you say. Cape Wind is approved to charge 18.7 cents/kWh, escalating to 31 cents/kWh, provided the federal production tax credit is renewed; if not they can add 2.2 cents/kWh more. [And it's intermittent and not dispatchable.] See p 134 et seq.

  • Russ Paielli
    October 3, 2012 (2:34 pm)

    Yeah, factoring hypothetical nuclear wars into the accounting for CO2 emissions for nuclear power … seems a bit misleading to say the least!

    In one of his email replies to me, Prof. Jacobson pointed out that uranium mining consumes lots of power, and he apparently assumed that the power would come from coal, thus adding to the CO2 emissions due to nuclear power. That seemed rather fishy to me. I asked him why that power could not come from nuclear or gas, but he did not reply.

    It appears to me that Prof. Jacobson may be trying to deliberately mislead the public on energy matters. Yet he publishes in ostensibly prestigious journals, and he probably has great influence on public policy. What are we to make of that? Is the scientific establishment itself corrupt? If so, how can we fight that corruption?

    That leads me into the whole issue of global warming. Based on what I have read, I am skeptical of CAGW (catastrophic anthropogenic global warming). However, I don't want to let it distract us from the larger issue of energy policy. GW is an argument in favor of nuclear power, but as you have pointed out, the case for LFTR is very strong even without this particular argument.

    Here's my suggestion for dealing with global warming. Rather than simply accepting it as established truth, treat it as the controversial issue that it is, and point out that LFTR wins whether CAGW is real or not — but particularly so if it is real. In other words, just don't accept the premise that CAGW is proven scientific fact, because I don't think it is.

  • robertm
    October 3, 2012 (5:21 pm)

    Robert Hargraves…..

    Oh you must have misunderstood my original comments. I said Wind energy is good because it costs about 1 dollar per kwh to produce. But its not so good, because across the entire country , coal + nuclear + natural gas only cost .14 cents per kwh…

    So wind has to wait for a huge increase in average electrity to even start to be competitive.

    Sometimes, my scarcasm fails on the internets.

  • Grigory
    October 12, 2012 (2:22 pm)

    Why the book is not available on Amazon Kindle store? Like many people I stopped buying paper books some time ago.

  • Robert Keyes
    November 3, 2012 (12:06 am)

    Can we get a new blog here? Three months with no new news makes it seems like nothing is happening.

    November 4, 2012 (12:29 am)

    Yes! a new post would be soo great. I have been checking here daily for the past 3 months…… still no new posts !!!

    really sad now 🙁

  • Nils
    November 5, 2012 (2:52 pm)

    I bought this book and was really disappointed. First of all the layout is really terrible. It looks like an assignment done by a student too lazy to format his/her stuff properly. Also some pictures are soo small that you cannot read the text in the pictures anymore.

    About the content: Some interesting facts (ship cause more global warming than all cars together), however I was interested in nuclear energy. No proper introduction to nuclear fission. Also some LFTR designs use graphite as a moderator which is highly inflammable and IIRC the Chernobyl power plant also used graphite. It is simply mentioned that some designs may use graphite or water. No word about safety there.

    I will take the Coursera course about Nuclear Energy in 2013 and hopefully learn more

  • Anonymous
    November 7, 2012 (8:45 pm)

    Nuclear energy from thorium or uranium will have much higher CO2 equivalent emissions than wind, concentrated solar, geothermal, tidal, photovoltaic, or wave power primarily to the long planning-to-operation delays required for new nuclear power plants. This average lead-time required is 10 or 11 years up to 19 years. For these others, it's only 2-5 years. Wind and solar are all we need to provide all global energy. Even new hydroelectric power plants, most of them are built-out already, but a new hydro plant typically gets built more quickly than a new nuclear plant. As a result, we can replace coal more quickly. So Jacobson factors the opportunity costs, in terms of emissions, of having to wait around, wondering if the nuclear plants will ever be built. Emissions from a nuclear exchange are considered, he does not ignore the possibility of these emissions, nor the possible death rates, however, regardless of whether or not these are included, nuclear is not as good as these other ones in dealing with climate change or air pollution, and the risk of catastrophe from wind and solar plants are zero. There are terrorism risks associated with hydroelectric power plants, because they are more centralized. In sum, wind, water and solar power simply beat out other alternatives. We need definite solutions which can be implemented quickly.

  • Robert Hargraves
    November 8, 2012 (4:50 am)

    Dear anonymous, You provide no evidence that CO2 equivalent emissions from building nuclear power plants are "much higher" than renewables, because they are not. You and the other anti-nukes are those responsible for the long delays in building nuclear power plants, which defers the benefits. Re-read Mark Z Jacobsen's materials to learn that his postulated CO2 emissions from nuclear power plants are due to this logic — nuclear power begets nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons beget nuclear war, nuclear war destroys the earth's cities, and the burning cities release CO2, attributed to nuclear power plant construction!

    November 11, 2012 (4:04 pm)

    Dear anonymous, please use a name. We all have at least some name we go by on this website.

    Nuclear does not produce CO2. It works at night or daylight, in calm wind, and in hurricane force winds.

    It is true the 1970 level of Pressurized Water Reactors take a very long time to build and develop, but low pressure high temperature thorium and salt cooled reactors are faster to build. Lower pressure means less complexity, less cost, and more safety.

    I must admit, Anonymous, you have a much easier case to justify. There is a hype of "green" energy funding ( and kickbacks) and the 'pie in the sky' story about how solar power and windmills are going to save the world like magic. Wind doesn't work everywhere, and solar only works when the sun is shinning.

    Solar and wind are only good if you want to pay 10 times the normal price of electricity. That is why nobody builds solar or windmill without government subsidies(and kickbacks).

    Thorium is cheap. Really cheap. Cheap as dirt. We need cheap energy that can last forever, and work in daylight, darkness, wind or no wind. We need thorium.

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