Here is a resource paper/technology summary on the top ten basic attributes/reasons why LFTRs (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors) should be pursued. This is a very easy to use resource to have handy when you are talking to a legislator or talking to a friend, neighbor, or family member. While Thorium’s use in a LFTR has many benefits we feel these top ten are the easiest to convey to someone knowing little about the technology in order to peak their interest.
THORIUM AND LFTR TOP TEN ATTRIBUTES
The abundance of the element thorium throughout the Earth’s crust promises widespread energy independence through Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) technology. A mere 6,600 tonnes of thorium could provide the energy equivalent of the combined global consumption of 5 billion tonnes of coal, 31 billion barrels of oil, 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, and 65,000 tonnes of uranium. With LFTR, a handful of thorium can supply an individual’s lifetime energy needs; a grain silo full could power North America for a year; and known thorium reserves could power advanced society for many thousands of years.
LFTR is based on demonstrated technology with sound operational fundamentals proven by 20,000 hours of reactor operation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the late 1960′s. Despite recognized, compelling advantages, LFTR development stalled when political and financial capital were concentrated instead on fast-spectrum plutonium breeding reactors.
LFTR operates at low pressure, is chemically and operationally stable, and passively shuts down without human intervention. Low pressures eliminate the need for massive and costly pressure containment vessels and alleviate safety concerns about high-pressure releases to the atmosphere. LFTR offers significant gains in safety, cost and efficiency with greatly reduced environmental impact relative to existing light-water reactors (LWRs).
LFTR is more efficient, using 99% of the thorium-derived fuel and extracting significantly more energy from abundant, inexpensive thorium than other reactors can from more scarce and costly uranium. LWRs burn scarce fissile reserves as a one-time consumable; LFTR consumes fertile thorium, using fissile reserves only to start the thorium fuel-cycle.
LFTR can use a range of nuclear starter fuels and can consume plutonium and other actinides from legacy spent nuclear fuel stockpiles. Molten salt reactors were started on all three fuel options and once operational, LFTR can continue operation with just thorium.
LFTR produces safe, sustainable, carbon-free electricity and a range of radioisotopes useful for medical imaging, cancer therapy, industrial applications and space exploration. LFTR waste heat can be used to desalinate sea water and high primary heat can drive ammonia production for agriculture and fuels or synthesis of liquid hydrocarbon fuels.
Most LFTR byproducts stabilize within a decade and have commercial value; the minor remainder has a half-life of less than 30 years, stabilizing within hundreds rather than tens of thousands of years. LFTR waste is primarily fission products and does not include unspent fuel, fuel cladding, or long-lived transuranics typical of legacy spent nuclear fuel.
LFTRs can be mass-produced in a factory and delivered and reclaimed from utility sites as modular units. Modular LFTR production offers reduced capital costs and shorter build times. Modular installation near the point of need also eliminates long transmission lines. Higher temperatures and turbine efficiencies enable air-cooling away from water bodies.
LFTR and thorium are proliferation resistant. Thorium and its derivative fuel, uranium-233, are impractical and undesirable for weaponization efforts relative to well-known uranium enrichment and plutonium breeding pathways. Thus, despite 60 years of thorium research, none of the world’s tens-of-thousands of warheads are based on the thorium fuel-cycle.
Liquid salt fuels cannot fail or meltdown. The liquid salt fuels have a thousand-degree liquid range, eliminating the possibility of fuel failure scenarios from overheating or meltdown like at Fukushima. The liquid fuel form is a key differentiator from conventional solid-fueled LWRs with LFTR’s liquid salts serving as both a fuel carrier and coolant. The salts are not reactive with water or the atmosphere like some existing fuels and coolants. Fuel can be added to the salts and byproducts removed while the reactor remains online.
Learn more at www.energyfromthorium.com
David Amerine has 45 years of experience in the nuclear industry. He began his career in the U.S. Navy, after graduating from the United States Naval Academy and obtained a Masters in Management Science from the Naval Post Graduate School while in the Navy. After leaving the Navy, he joined Westinghouse at the Department of Energy (DOE) Hanford Site. There he worked as a shift operations manager and then as the refueling manager for the initial core load of the Fast Flux Test Facility, the nation’s prototype breeder reactor. Mr. Amerine furthered his career in the commercial nuclear power industry throughout the 1980’s, first as the Nuclear Steam Supply System (NSSS) vendor, Combustion Engineering, Site Manager at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station during startup of that three-reactor plant and then as Assistant Vice President Nuclear at Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station. There he led special, interdisciplinary task forces for complex problem resolutions involving engineering and operations during recovery period at that facility back in the late 1980’s.
Davis-Besse was the first of eight nuclear plants where he was part of the leadership team or the leader brought in to restore stakeholder confidence in management and/or operations. In the DOE Nuclear Complex these endeavor recoveries included the Replacement Tritium Facility, the Defense Waste Processing Facility, and the Salt Waste Processing Facility projects. In addition to Davis-Besse in the commercial nuclear industry, in 1997 he was brought in as the Vice President of Engineering and Services at the Millstone Nuclear Power Station where he was instrumental in leading recovery actions following the facility being shut down by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). His responsibilities included establishing robust Safety Conscious Work Environments (SCWE) programs.
In 2000, Mr. Amerine assumed the role of Executive Vice President of Washington Government, a $2.5 billion business unit of Washington Group International (WGI). In this role, Mr. Amerine was responsible for integrated safety management, conduct of operations, startup test programs, and synergies between the diverse operating companies and divisions that made up WGI Government. Mr. Amerine was then selected as the Executive Vice President and Deputy General Manager, CH2M Hill Nuclear Business Group, where he supported the President in managing day-to-day operation of the group, which included six major DOE sites, three site offices, and numerous individual contracts in the international nuclear industry. He was charged with improving conduct of operations and project management, expenditures and staffing oversight, goal setting, performance monitoring, and special initiatives leadership.
Mr. Amerine came to B&W in 2009 where he was subsequently selected as President of Nuclear Fuel Services in early 2010 after the NRC had shut down that facility which is vital to the security of the United States since it is the sole producer of fuel for our nuclear Navy. He led the restoration of confidence of the various stakeholders including the NRC and Naval Reactors. The plant was restored to full operation under Mr. Amerine’s leadership. He retired from NFS in 2011.
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.
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
Here are three of the talks from the first day of the 4th Thorium Energy Alliance Conference, edited by Gordon McDowell.
Energy from Thorium reader Raul Parolari thought that some of our posts should be presented in other languages, so he offered this translation to French.
French translation follows…
In the recent Nuclear Ammonia article post, ammonia was illustrated as a fuel that could propel vehicles in a zero carbon era. Despite our best efforts in developing new internal combustion engines and direct ammonia fuel cells, there will continue to be a role for carbonaceous fuels. Gasoline and jet fuel have double the volumetric energy capacity of liquid ammonia. A given fuel tank can only contain half as much ammonia combustion potential energy as gasoline combustion potential energy. Fuel tank size is very important in aircraft. Decades of engineering of airframes and turbine engines have optimized aircraft performance using diesel-like JP8 jet fuel.
Click to read full post…
I would tend to agree with Mr. Gates:
“In a conversation with Wired Editor in Chief Chris Anderson today at the magazine’s third annual Business Conference, Gates said that one of the best aspects of nuclear power at the moment is its lack of innovation thus far, which leaves it ripe for disruption in the coming years.”
LFTR can be that disruptive technology that he seeks, and it will be much simpler to engineer and operate than the travelling wave reactor, because its thermal-neutron spectrum requires 10-15 times less fissile fuel per unit of electrical output than the fast-neutron spectrum of the travelling-wave reactor or the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR).