Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: Dec 04, 2009 7:21 pm 
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Mark William Energy writer for the AP needs to get educated as does Ed Lyman.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/art ... wD9CCENN02


Experts say while thorium fuel has some advantages, the benefits are modest at best.

"A lot of the hype one hears about thorium fuel is indeed too good to be true," said Ed Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Lyman said thorium can be used as a fuel in a fission reactor, where it would play a role similar to uranium-238. But it cannot replace uranium and plutonium. To start a chain reaction, thorium would have to be used together with either enriched uranium, uranium-233 or plutonium.

Thorium is more plentiful, but there is enough readily available uranium to meet projected world demand through 2070, said Felix Killar of the Nuclear Energy Institute. Plutonium is a viable energy source too.

Killar said fission of thorium produces uranium and plutonium that still could be used for nuclear weapons, just in smaller quantities. It also does produce waste, and there still would be the need for long-term disposal.

Lyman said Norway and India, which have vast thorium reserves, are exploring the technology, as is China.

There have been some federally supported projects over the years, but Lyman said he is not aware of any significant effort at this time.

Mark Williams

AP Energy Writer
Columbus, Ohio

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PostPosted: Dec 04, 2009 10:05 pm 
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Fission of thorium produces U and Pu? WTF?

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PostPosted: Dec 04, 2009 10:52 pm 
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Yeah, this one is going to get a blog post about it. Stay tuned.


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PostPosted: Dec 05, 2009 8:26 pm 
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fnord wrote:
Fission of thorium produces U and Pu? WTF?

Looks like spin compounded by ignorance. The statement 'thorium fission plants produce both U and Pu' is strictly true, as even a pure Th cycle reactor makes some Pu by successive neutron captures, as well as every U isotope from 232 to 236. However, most of the Pu is 238Pu - short-lived, very hot, and not fissile - unlike the Pu from LWRs. Anyone who has any knowledge about Th cycle reactors would know this, but the AP writer has not done his homework and so falls for the trap, thinking Pu = proliferation risk. No actual lies, but effective deception.


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PostPosted: Dec 05, 2009 11:24 pm 
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H J Bhaba, the prophet of Indian Nuclear science, had laid down thorium as third stage of the nuclear program. His acolytes in the Indian AEC, after six decades of work, think that it is some decades before thorium fuel can be used on an industrial scale. They have research reactors working on thorium and U233 and have ready designs for prototypes. Development of a nuclear deterrent was just a side job. Thorium is a fuel for the patient.
I have been nagging them for the last few years on two points:-
Use of safer coolants than sodium or safer heat exchangers to reduce the fire risk in fast reactors.
Use of thorium as part fuel fuel in PHWRs like the MOX in convention reactors (including the PHWR).
The opinion under discussion is, I still think. sheer negativity.


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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2010 6:00 am 
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Many of these newer, more recent attacks on thorium I've done already heard. When playing devil's advocate, I've been able to turn around and give rebuttals to most all of them. Like the arguement they are now making that thorium still produces long-lived technetium - 99 with a half - life of something like 213,000 years. But technetium makes - up only a percentage of overall waste. Most other isotopes are more short - lived. And it's just a weak beta emitter that can't penetrate anything when vitrified in borosilicate glass. There's far worse stuff coming from LWRs we have now. Like the long - lived transuranic actinides which a thorium reactor can eliminate. Technetium-99 is just an absurd red herring. Can't the Union of Concerned scientists conjure-up something better than this ?


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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2010 6:16 am 
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There's also the arguement about how U-233 is even more fissionable than U-235. This makes it even all the better for terrorists to steal for making a bomb, so the arguement goes.

But who wants to get close to it with U-232 mixed with it ? It would take some incredible sophistication by a terrorist group to steal it, separate various components, and etc. Only governments instead of terror groups have the financing to do that. And they are usually rich enough to finance bomb development anyway, if they want one enough. And there's far simpler ways to get the enriched material they need than the difficulty it entails to steal it from a thorium reactor.

This bunk about U-233 being more dangerous than U-235 is also a red herring by the Union of Concerned Scientists.


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PostPosted: Jan 07, 2010 3:11 pm 
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Technetium is very valuable metal on its own for extreme corrosion resistance in alloys and coatings. It is not used because we do not produce (and purify) much of it. The weak beta radioactivity of Tc is a non-issue for the intended applications.

Here is my favorite NNadir's diary about Tc at DKos: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/2/10/91157/6580


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PostPosted: Jan 07, 2010 3:40 pm 
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ondrejch wrote:
The weak beta radioactivity of Tc is a non-issue for the intended applications.

Is it a non-issue from the scientific/medical point of only, or also from the political ( = regulatory) point of view ?

Quite often the two are diametrically opposite !


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PostPosted: Jan 07, 2010 5:15 pm 
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The intended applications I can think of are vessels and pipes carrying corrosive liquids in heavy industries. These folks already use and know how to handle much stronger and potentially more dangerous rad sources than Tc, so I consider this an easy issue to manage.

Naively one could imagine Tc to be either an inner coating or an alloy in the inner layer which touches the liquid, and the remaining outer layer of the pipe/vessel would provide the needed shielding.


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PostPosted: Jan 07, 2010 5:33 pm 
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ondrejch wrote:
These folks already use and know how to handle much stronger and potentially more dangerous rad sources than Tc, so I consider this an easy issue to manage.

That's good.
Industrial rad sources are licensed.
Are there regs that allow licensed Tc use as you suggest ?
From what I have seen, even slightly rad-contaminated metal products are NOT allowed in industrial use in process & structural equipment.
Perhaps there is a nu-reg under which Tc use could potentially be licensed to some users.... But I'm not aware of it. Please specify.


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PostPosted: Jan 08, 2010 2:53 am 
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I'm not aware about these regulatory details either, and I agree that turning the fission products into profitable enterprise would require serious effort. It however seems to me entirely feasible, in particular due to low concentrations of Tc needed. Also it had been done already.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technetium ... d_chemical


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PostPosted: Jan 10, 2010 4:41 am 
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http://www.emcbc.doe.gov/Nickel/index.php

This nickel is contaminated with TC 99.
It seems that DOE wants the contractor to purify the nickel before selling it( for nuclear applications). Would Tc 99 help or hurt hasteloy N used in a LFTR?


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PostPosted: Jan 10, 2010 5:15 pm 
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I once dissed Ed Lyman on Kos.

Contemplating the Terrorist Who Strikes the Indian Point Nuclear Station.

It was one of the most fun diaries I wrote back in those days. I think I did a pretty good job of making him look like an ass, and the sequence of diaries lead to the frequent appearance of King Kong in my polls.


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PostPosted: Jan 10, 2010 6:21 pm 
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Good !

...now if I could just remember where I debated that moron.


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