Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: May 22, 2015 3:27 am 
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Kirk Sorensen wrote:
There are no drawings for an MSR that are "ready-to-build". None of the MSBR designs, none of the LFTR concepts, and not even the MSRE design could be built today. A design that can be built has yet to be designed. So don't think you're going to head out to the machine shop and get started this weekend. It would be a lesson in humility if you tried.


Kirk, granted that the full blueprints for the Thorcon and Terrestrial MSRs are not yet developed, so technically, they can't pour concrete tomorrow.

However, would you not say they are "almost ready to build"? Is there any new technology needing development, or any research? (Terrestrial probably need to demonstrate their melting salt jacket concept - but that's pretty straight forward).

What would stop someone recreating the MSRE design (apart from the regulators)?


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PostPosted: May 22, 2015 4:33 am 
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Do not underestimate money or public opinion.
In the U.S. Of A, there are perfectly runnable nuclear plants being closed in favour of natural gas plants. In Japan, the entire nuclear fleet is closed at big financial cost due to public opinion. The nuclear plants consume a lot of money even when closed.
Even if you are able to replicate the MSRE, these forces will command you, in capitals, to Mister Stop Running the nuclear plant.
Do you think Indians could not build a bigger version of KAMINI? Technically they can. It is money and the threat of stopping sale of fissile material.


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PostPosted: May 22, 2015 5:57 pm 
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jagdish wrote:
Do not underestimate money or public opinion.


I agree. However, do not assume that the money and public opinion is in favor of the status quo. It appears to me that there are plenty of people that are willing to invest in nuclear power. It also appears to me that bogeymen like global warming can be a powerful force to move public opinion. It appears to me that there is a dissatisfaction with how the government works on every level in the USA, this can mean we can expect some civil disobedience.

One thing I noticed some time ago was a bit of a rash of stories that had a common thread to it. I haven't seen many recent examples but perhaps other news pushed such stories out of sight. The common thread was that there was a mature man, successful, had family, elderly but not so much that they were weakened, and had stepped up to do something that might be considered suicidal by some. An example that will likely be memorable to those reading this is the Fukushima disaster. Elderly men volunteered to work on the damaged nuclear power plant so that younger people did not have to. The argument was that they were experienced men, and that they knew that the radiation present at the site would likely cause cancers after twenty years, they did not expect to live another twenty years either way. I do not know if their offers were taken seriously.

I mention that so that I can propose a possible means by which we could see a leap in nuclear technology despite federal regulation. Imagine a group of elderly men getting together in secret to build a nuclear reactor as a demonstration. They'd document everything they could in a way that would result in immediate public release of their findings should they be successful or attempts made to stop them. Why would anyone do this? Perhaps they feel that global warming is such a threat that they don't want to see civilization end with their grandchildren.

Technology is changing. Things are getting cheaper. What used to take months of work by a skilled craftsman to create can now be downloaded off the internet and recreated in fine detail by just about anyone that has a few thousand dollars to spare on equipment available to anyone. I'm not saying that at some point in the future people will be able to download and print a nuclear reactor. I will say that we can get real close to that.

Think back to the days when alcohol was prohibited. While it was illegal to make alcohol it was legal to sell "fruit juice" with a warning that if not stored properly the juice could ferment and produce wine. A nuclear reactor is a complex series of much simpler machines, devices, and what not. Much of these simpler devices required to make a nuclear reactor have uses outside of making a nuclear reactor and are therefore unregulated. For example, nickel alloys like Hastelloy and Inconel are common in a lot of items and is readily available in many forms such as piping and ingots. Such alloys have also been shown to be capable of holding up to the environment of a MSR and shown to be 3D printable by machines from Solid Concepts.

Perhaps a small group of intelligent elderly millionaires come together to show the world just how easy it would be to build a nuclear reactor. If these people were successful and they released a design to the world they'd no doubt face years in prison for operating an unlicensed nuclear reactor. So, then what? They'd go to prison for the rest of their lives knowing that they just freed humanity from the grip of fossil fuels. They knew this from the start and planned for it. As the song goes, freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

Yes, it would still take millions of dollars in materials to build any reactor created this way. Anyone that wanted to build one could go to the government for a license, as a large part of the engineering was already done. Someone with an equivalent "freedom" might go ahead even without government permission. Then the government will have a problem. Nuclear technology will no longer be solely in the hands of governments and large corporations. It's going to be real hard to put that toothpaste back in the tube.

Point is that we saw functioning MSRs being built decades ago. We've gone a long way in manufacturing technology since then. They were the giants and we can stand on their shoulders.

Will this leap in nuclear technology play out as I proposed? Perhaps not. I do expect that someday someone will release a design for a MSR that is within the reach of many people. What of the fuel? That is something that is already available, although perhaps not yet in a way as accessible or done in a way to show how to produce enough fuel for a MSR in a reasonable amount of time. That will come.

What of the starter fissile fuel? I expect two solutions. First, plans could be released for a particle accelerator to start the reactor. Second, a black market for U-233 could develop.

I'll get back to the question of why people would do this. Because people don't like being told what they can and can not do. Because energy is valuable. Because if the government fails to give people permission to do what they want then people might just stop asking for permission.

Here's something to ponder. Perhaps someone has already done this but hasn't told anyone yet. People have hid marijuana farms in underground bunkers. People have hid machine gun factories in the Thames River Valley. The world is a big place, there's plenty of places to hide even a nuclear reactor.

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Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.


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PostPosted: May 23, 2015 3:02 am 
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jagdish wrote:
Do not underestimate money or public opinion.


Please look at the penultimate graph here:
http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/05 ... imes-poll/

Still no answer on technical reasons why a MSR can't be built?


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PostPosted: May 23, 2015 12:38 pm 
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Kurt Selner wrote:

"Perhaps a small group of intelligent elderly millionaires come together to show the world just how easy it would be to build a nuclear reactor. If these people were successful and they released a design to the world they'd no doubt face years in prison for operating an unlicensed nuclear reactor. So, then what? They'd go to prison for the rest of their lives knowing that they just freed humanity from the grip of fossil fuels. They knew this from the start and planned for it. As the song goes, freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

It's been a long time. I wonder if the details about the reactors built for the original aircraft experiment are still classified or sitting in a drawer somewhere to be copied.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aircraft_Nuclear_Propulsion

This reactor does not need to be very big. This reactor is illegal. This reactor could use re-purposed parts (scrap tanks). This reactor has no 10CFR50 Appendix B requirements or any QA. It has to work. It has to be safe. It's a backwoods reactor that could be used for something as simple as heating a large space. It can have crude control and simple instrumentation. The fuel seems to be the main stumbling point. In one of Gordon Mcdowell's videos I remember the statement that Thorium is easy to extract from Monazite sands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monazite Are there any neutron sources available to zap the stuff into U-233?

I still wonder if someone is out there trying some variation of this right now. There certainly has been a lot of discussion on the net about thorium and molten salt reactors being a long life clean energy source. Maybe it could be used as process heat to produce an alcohol product from corn mash. :P


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PostPosted: May 23, 2015 2:36 pm 
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Eino wrote:
Are there any neutron sources available to zap the stuff into U-233?


People have been making fusors in basements and garages for a very long time.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusor

The materials required are easily obtained, vacuum pump, high voltage power supply, glass vacuum bell, deuterium gas, are just some of the perhaps more unusual items one might need. These things can be found at a shop that sells items for neon signs, bottled gas, medical supplies, and related industries.

How one might use such a fusor to produce U-233 can be imagined by many. I have my own ideas. Just goes to show that nuclear reactors are not out of the reach of people with enough time and resources. What did the people that produced the Aircraft Reactor Experiment have that we cannot obtain today? That was sixty years ago.

One thing I found out is that a major obstacle to a lot of things being done is that people believe it cannot be done. Once people know something to be possible there is inevitably lots of people that will try to recreate the act. Another obstacle is that people believe something to be illegal. Well, all we need for someone to build a nuclear reactor is someone that knows it to be possible but not know it to be illegal.

That brings another possible scenario to mind. Someone with enough money hires people with the needed know-how and tells them they have all the required government licenses to build a reactor. This someone would have to tell the people that all must be kept quiet, for security reasons of course. Might sound like something from a James Bond movie but I've seen stranger things happen in the real world.

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PostPosted: May 23, 2015 5:42 pm 
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Mr. Selner wrote:

Quote:
"That brings another possible scenario to mind. Someone with enough money hires people with the needed know-how and tells them they have all the required government licenses to build a reactor. This someone would have to tell the people that all must be kept quiet, for security reasons of course. Might sound like something from a James Bond movie but I've seen stranger things happen in the real world."


That's not all that strange. The government subcontracts out bits and pieces and keeps the rest secret. I could visualize that happening. There may be doubters out there who say such a thing could never happen. However, just remember Howard Hughes. He would do some radical things with his money. We've had lots of rich entrepreneurial folks out in Silicon Valley that weren't afraid to get their hands dirty, i.e. Hewlett Packard and the Apple boys.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Hughes I guess Elon Musk fits into that category.

Maybe we've got a LFTR out there already sitting in the dry arid Southwest. The people who built it may be just waiting for the right time to show it to the world. On the other hand, maybe I've been reading too much science fiction.


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PostPosted: May 24, 2015 10:43 am 
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When the INL was young and called the national reactor testing station the first reactors were built very fast and with local talent. In other words potato farmers built reactors of very large size in a year or two. Granted it was under the direction of the scientists and engineers with money from the feds.

I do not know of anyone that would be rich everything to build a reactor beyond the law. Even old guys think they are young and do not want to go to jail. it would be cheaper to bribe the politicians to give you legal license.


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PostPosted: May 24, 2015 11:09 am 
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Eino wrote:
On the other hand, maybe I've been reading too much science fiction.


Perhaps I have been as well. I've also seen enough university and industrial workshops to know that it's not too hard to hide some crazy stuff in plain sight.

Think about what a MSR experiment might look like. The reactor core would be a tank that is about a meter across, the height specified by how much room one might have or how much power output the lab could handle. The core would have another tank around it for the blanket material, two or three meters across and a meter or two taller than the core. There would have to be a structure to hold it all up. The lab this would be in would have to be equipped with the means to dispose of the heat. Presumably any chemical or power lab would have that capability. Keeping people safe from any radiation could be addressed with protocols in place for noxious fumes, radio frequency radiation, and other common warning signs. So long as anyone involved calls it a "chemical digester" or something just as vague and yet specific enough that people don't ask too many questions. The device would be large but not so much that it should be much of a concern for any organization with other experiments running of similar size.

I recall when at Iowa State University that there would be entire buildings where it seemed no one really knew what went on inside. There would be lights on, noises heard, so someone was inside doing something. I remember the Nuclear Engineering Building being something of a mystery. Turns out there was an operational nuclear reactor inside. The reactor is long gone now, I'm not sure the building is even there any more.

People are likely running experiments on MSRs. Whether or not anyone has one that is actually critical is anyone's guess. I'd think that it's within the capability of a large corporation or university to research on their own. Funding could be obtained by hiding what is really nuclear reactor research into things like material science for a space program or something.

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PostPosted: May 24, 2015 11:49 am 
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Kurt Selner wrote:

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People are likely running experiments on MSRs. Whether or not anyone has one that is actually critical is anyone's guess. I'd think that it's within the capability of a large corporation or university to research on their own. Funding could be obtained by hiding what is really nuclear reactor research into things like material science for a space program or something.


It seems to me you could call it research into a digester to turn manure into energy. You wouldn't have to work very hard to hide it, just spray some manure around once in a while. Make it smell bad. This would keep a lot of people away. Then hire the grandsons of the farmers who built the first reactors noted by Ida Ruskie. Farm boys are often a little better at solving mechanical problems. You could hide it in plain site.


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PostPosted: May 24, 2015 3:32 pm 
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