Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: Aug 24, 2016 10:32 pm 
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Thank you, Kurt. No worries. Much respect. If you prefer Mr. Sellner, let me know. Even Dr. Weinberg preferred Alvin, so you know. To each their own.

I was speculating on reactor designs. I am not qualified. But for those as myself who are very eager to see the FE LFTR come to fruition to begin the thorium fuel cycle, and who are not nuclear engineers, the temptation is to dive into the deep end of the pool or some metaphor. Forgiveness is divine.

What can U.S. pro-LFTR non-nuclear engineers do? The more I learn about this nuclear picture, the more it seems that short of some real and present global emergency, nothing will be happening for decades. I might not live to see the U-233 LFTR. How saddening.

What was the business case for developing nuclear technology in the first place? War. Billions and even trillions spent on war. Kirk's frustration is something I share. (Kirk. Very much.) The cleanup costs at Hanford, Savannah River Site. All for plutonium tritium thermonuclear weapons of mass destruction. Great. Nice going.

There was a ray of hope thinking about the fluid-fueled designs. The U.S. DOE is so strapped dealing with nuclear war materials, what's left for peaceful use of nuclear energy? There is no business case. What was the business case for going to the moon? Beat the Russians at all costs? For why?

Fossil fuels will hold out for how long? I'll be dead and gone. But my grandnieces will probably have grandchildren. What world do we leave them? Isn't the future for the children to come a more worthy cause than war and destruction?

Shame on those who pretend to power. Shame on the U.S. representatives of the people. Shame on "the business case." Shame on Milton Shaw and the Department for firing Dr. Weinberg. There's money to fund development of thorium in molten salt reactors integrated into the existing uranium fuel cycles. Savannah River Site is 310 square miles with major nuclear infrastructures. There are major DOE labs. There's the GAIN program. The are plenty of highly-trained talented scientists and engineers who can be redirected to this superior mission.

Why are we together on Kirk's forum? Because we all care about Dr. Alvin's vision. The fluid state of molten salts makes immense sense in so many ways as it seems to someone who isn't an experienced nuclear engineer. This topic is a lot of speculation about dynamic processes that unlike solid fuel assemblies can be measured and monitored by virtue of the fluid state. A research prototype MSR can have its salts measured while the reactor is operating. Are solid reactors able to be analyzed as readily?

Kirk, you said in 2013 how the U.S. government has turned this over to private companies. Bad move for our nation. There is no precedent. All the big projects were too big for the private companies. I hope this wrong. I hope you get what you need to get the job done.

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PostPosted: Aug 25, 2016 2:14 am 
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Kurt Sellner wrote:
Work today was slow so I had some time to ponder about your proposal. In thinking about this I have a concern on your Np-237 extraction. I'll explain.

The path from thorium or U-235 to neptunium by neutron bombardment has a few different paths but nearly all of them end at Np-237. Those that happen to stop at a different isotope are unlikely and those that skip over have a high probability to fission or land back at Np-237 again. This will lead to a high purity Np-237 product. Then we get to the U-238 to Pu-239 breeding part you propose.

While the thorium to Np-237 path might have a couple different paths the path from U-238 to Pu-239 really has just one, the others being very complex and with low probabilities.
U-238 + n -----> U-239 -(B-)-> Np-239 -(B-)-> Pu-239

Unless you are keeping your thorium containing salt separate from your U-238 containing salt then the Np-239 is going to contaminate your Np-237 and also not be available for fuel once it decays to Pu-239. How do you propose addressing this?

I have a few ideas on how this might work but I'd like to hear yours before we might discuss their merits.
At this point, I don't see how the percentage of Pu239 in the side channel will be an issue. NASA allows a small percentage of Pu239 n the Pu238 they buy. If it turns out to be a problem, holding the Np237 for a short while before fluxing it will allow the Np239 to decay. I suspect it can then be fairly easily removed by the relative fluoride volatility of the Np vs Pu.

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PostPosted: Aug 25, 2016 4:13 am 
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Tim Meyer wrote:
Thank you, Kurt. No worries. Much respect. If you prefer Mr. Sellner, let me know. Even Dr. Weinberg preferred Alvin, so you know. To each their own.

Tim,
Teddy Roosevelt preferred to be addressed as "Colonel" even after retiring from being POTUS. One is typically addressed by the highest rank attained, I guess he saw his service in the US Army as a "higher" rank than even commander in chief. Just some trivia for you.

I'm fine with a first name basis. I mention my being addressed as "Mr. Sellner" by family as a bit of a humorous aside. My habit is so deep that I get some friendly mocking for it.

Tim Meyer wrote:
What was the business case for developing nuclear technology in the first place? War. Billions and even trillions spent on war.

I mention my concern of a business case since that is what I see as the "new normal" in nuclear power. We are past the need to have nuclear power as a means to feed our (real or imagined) need for nuclear weapons. We are past the need to argue for a carbon free energy source. Judging by some recent polling I've seen we may even be past the need to argue for the safety of nuclear power.

What will be always be a concern for every endeavor is one's ability to pay for it. I have a concern about making the business case for a MSR that burns plutonium and breeds U-233. The problem of a shortage of U-233 doesn't really exist. The US government has a stockpile of U-233 and LFTR can be started from U-235 and Pu-239, which the government also has plenty. In fact the US government has the problem of being unable to be rid of plutonium fast enough to meet treaty obligations.

India has a plan of meeting their need of U-233 for future thorium reactors by using solid fuel reactors. This seems reasonable to me since they are taking "baby steps" towards the goal of a thorium powered future. They know how to engineer a solid fuel reactor, adding the requirement that it produce U-233 is almost trivial.

I just see making the case for a plutonium burning and U-233 producing MSR as taking a big leap in technology. There does not yet exist a market for the thorium, in fact there are federal regulations effectively criminalizing this market. We have other problems to solve before we need to consider what you propose.

I do like what you are thinking, as I think it shows you are seeing a bigger picture and are looking ahead. Again, once we clear the hurdle of getting MSRs in service the engineering of a reactor that can breed U-233 from plutonium should be nearly trivial as it's not much more than a DMSR core inside a 2 fluid LFTR. At that point it's a matter of choosing the proper chemistry and physics, which are questions that will have clearer answers once we see see MSRs in operation.

Tim Meyer wrote:
Kirk, you said in 2013 how the U.S. government has turned this over to private companies. Bad move for our nation. There is no precedent. All the big projects were too big for the private companies. I hope this wrong. I hope you get what you need to get the job done.

I disagree as we have seen a precedent. The most recent example is in the commercial space programs. NASA has been a millstone around the neck of spacecraft development until fairly recently. The Space Shuttle was a bad idea as a reusable spacecraft, it was just too expensive. It's only after NASA was forced to retire it do we now see private development take off, if you'll excuse the pun. I have other examples I could give too but this new space race is the most recent and visible.

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PostPosted: Aug 25, 2016 5:31 am 
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KitemanSA wrote:
At this point, I don't see how the percentage of Pu239 in the side channel will be an issue. NASA allows a small percentage of Pu239 n the Pu238 they buy. If it turns out to be a problem, holding the Np237 for a short while before fluxing it will allow the Np239 to decay. I suspect it can then be fairly easily removed by the relative fluoride volatility of the Np vs Pu.

My concern is less about contaminating the Pu-238 product and more about taking valuable neutrons from the reactor in the form of Np-239.

A U-238/Pu-239 MSR may have to remove Np-239 from the core to decay for reasons of neutron economy just like how a Th/U-233 MSR has to remove Pa-233. Removing Np-237 from LFTR is a good idea since we get a valuable byproduct (feedstock for Pu-238 production), as well as prevent the production of TRU waste.

By mixing the Th/U and U/Pu cycles in the same reactor there will be TRU in the waste stream even if the Np is processed as you propose, so that advantage is lost. What also happens is that the Np-237 produced will be inherently less pure than what could be produced from a thorium cycle only MSR. Your proposal is going to be competing for a market with other Np-237 sources, and purity of the product will be a selling point. We have a reactor that can produce highly pure Np-237 in LFTR, and what you propose will reduce that purity in exchange for what? That is my real question I guess.

What you propose does sound technically feasible, just not very marketable. If one wants a reactor to produce Np-237 with minimal costs and maximum purity it would seem best to not contaminate it by putting U-238 in that reactor. If one wants to burn U-238 with minimal expense then losing neutrons from the core in the form of Np-239 counts against it, especially when it's avoidable by not extracting it in the first place.

If we avoid contaminating the Np-237 with Np-239 by not burning U-238 then we have a 2 fluid LFTR. If we don't extract the Np from the core and burn U-238 alongside thorium and plutonium then we have something so close to WAMSR as to be nearly indistinguishable, especially if that U-238 is sourced from SNF.

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PostPosted: Aug 25, 2016 6:17 am 
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Kurt,

I thought U-235 that doesn't fission eventually becomes Pu-238 then Pu-239. Are you saying this doesn't happen or has a tiny chance of happening ?

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PostPosted: Aug 25, 2016 6:35 am 
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Tim Meyer wrote:
Excellent, macpacheco! Thank you for this and the updates.
The "mining" SNF assemblies means serious processing. Given that in the U.S., the only project for nuclear fuel re-processing is Savannah River Site (SRS), and the efforts now to close it down or limit it to dilute and dispose (D&D), how do we get the U-233 (that will come with the U-232 and the other uranium isotopes)—in the U.S.?


The main complexity with reprocessing is if you need to separate Uranium from Plutonium from Americium from Curium, ..., and so on.
If your reactor can pretty much take any mix as long as it has the right fissile ratio, then reprocessing becomes easier.
See the reprocessing process created for the last American breeder reactor, its job is just to separate fission products from all fissile/fertile elements. Its called Pyro reprocessing.
The process requires the material to be fluorinated, but most MSRs already run on Fluoride fuel, so conversions are avoided.
Most discussions so far expected LEU spent fuel (starts at 3% U235+97% U238, after a typical burnup cycle half the U235 fissions, about 3% of the U238 becomes Pu239 or heavier, with a good chunk fissioning), if you reprocess that using pyro reprocessing you get a very high U238 content, which isn't a good fertile for thermal spectrum reactors (eats two neutrons to make 1.9 and that's before accounting for neutron losses).

But there's an interesting angle with LFTR and Thorium+Plutonium MOX SNF, what if you pyro reprocess the SNF, and then throw that into the process that separates Th232/Pa233 from U233 ? It will take all Uranium and it goes into the reactor core.
This is high fissile content Uranium (lots of U233 and U235, no U238).
The important question is what's the behavior for Plutonium/Americium/Curium/Neptunium, does it get treated like Thorium or like Uranium ?
Depending on the behaviour, planned LFTR facilities could have all reprocessing facilities needed, as long as we're talking spent fuel that starts with no U238 (Thor Energy/Light Bridge fuel).

Fast Plutonium reactors are better at eating enriched uranium spent fuel. LFTR is much better at spent fuel with most Thorium fuel.

Being smart doesn't make me a nuclear engineer, it just make me look like I'm one. This is supposed to be self deprecating, but I think I'm failing at that.

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PostPosted: Aug 25, 2016 9:52 am 
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macpacheco wrote:
Being smart doesn't make me a nuclear engineer, it just make[s] me look like I'm one. This is supposed to be self deprecating, but I think I'm failing at that.
Once again, thank you, macpacheco. I wish I were smart like you. Smart like Secretary Chu's enthusiasm for thorium MSRs. If you're having trouble with self-deprecating humor, may I suggest doing what I do? Try self-defecating humor instead. Comic relief. Sorry about that, chief. Sincere thanks for any and all nuclear details on how to get the fissile start up for FE LFTRs. I very much appreciate your contributions.

KitemanSA wrote:
NASA allows a small percentage of Pu239 [in] the Pu238 they buy.
KitemanSA: If you please, does NASA have pending orders for Pu238? If so, how much? And how will NASA fill their orders? Thank you. Also, in your signature you have "DRJ : Engineer - NAVSEA : (Retired)". What is "DRJ"? Did your experience at Naval Sea Systems Command help you to understand the subject quandary on how to start the thorium fuel cycle especially in regards to the Flibe Energy, Inc., Huntsville, AL, LFTR? Did Kirk Sorensen, former NASA, work with spacecraft Pu238 RTGs? I apologize for my curiosity if you're bothered by it.

"It is incumbent on those in high positions to reach wise decisions, and it is reasonable and important that the public be correctly informed. It is incumbent on all of us to state the facts as forthrightly as possible."

—Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover testifying before Congress in 1953

Kurt Sellner wrote:
Tim,

Teddy Roosevelt preferred to be addressed as "Colonel" even after retiring from being POTUS. One is typically addressed by the highest rank attained. I guess he saw his service in the U.S. Army as a "higher" rank than even commander in chief. Just some trivia for you.

I'm fine with a first name basis.
Kurt, I live for trivia. Bully! If you know and like the TV series South Park, and the recurring character Tim Burch, you might know why I mention this with respect to personal addresses, yes? So, at last we've cleared the air. Whew!

Back to the extreme foresight and high functioning of our President's cabinet position responsible for nuclear materials.

Kurt Sellner wrote:
What will always be a concern for every endeavor is [the] ability to pay for it.
Of course. For example, damming the Colorado River for a giant freshwater reservoir and hydroelectric power was completed in 1937. Who paid for that? I believe the money was created against the future value of the power and water that was paid back in 1987. The discoverers of U-233 observed that for the known reserves of thorium, such energy technologies might be worth as much as one hundred thousand trillion dollars. Let the financial people figure that out. I think that's a lot of money. Maybe. How do people estimate value? Should we ask Donald Trump?

Image
(From: Apollo Program Cost: An Investment in Space Worth Retrying?)

Kurt Sellner wrote:
I just see making the case for a plutonium burning and U-233 producing MSR as taking a big leap in technology.
Was Apollo a big leap in technology? The space shuttle? What about the U.S.S. Nautilus?
Kurt Sellner wrote:
There does not yet exist a market for the thorium, in fact there are federal regulations effectively criminalizing this market. We have other problems to solve before we need to consider what you propose.
And how! I'm not sure about the "we" part. Also, I think there are energy markets worth a lot of money. And thorium is condensed energy. There's no market for energy? Dr. Weinberg's MSRE at ORNL maximum power was limited to 7.4 MW(t) by the capability of the heat-rejection system.

I am impressed by your brave "federal regulations effectively criminalizing" thorium. Nice! The implication measured against natural truth (e.g., the half-life of thorium is around the age of the known cosmos), is somewhat like:

"One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."—Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963. African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania.

See: Rare Earth Elements & Thorium Legislative Efforts - Jim Kennedy @ TEAC7

Your competitor, Iowa State, has the DOE Ames Lab with its Critical Materials Institute (CMI) that says:
Quote:
"Rare-earth elements, with essential roles in high-efficiency motors and advanced lighting, are the most prominent of the critical materials today. Rare-earth metals and alloys are not manufactured in the United States, despite geologic resources, because the processes required to separate individual rare earths from one another and then convert them to metals and alloys are inefficient, costly, polluting, and potentially damaging to worker health and safety. The solution is innovation throughout the rare-earth supply chain."
Wow! Is that macpacheco smart? Or Timmy smart? "Timmhaw!" Are they pulling our supply chain? The point is that REE ores in the U.S. almost always come with thorium (and presumably uranium).

"How did we solve problems like that in the old days? Well, we worked together."—Jim Kennedy, ThREE Consulting.

Ten thousand tonnes of thorium a year in U.S. REE production if we only . . .

Rare Earth Elements & Thorium Legislative Efforts—Jim Kennedy at TEAC7 June 2015 wrote:
"[Washington thinks] that everything's going to be solved by the free markets. But what I say is that if you look at the last thirty years of U.S. industrial history, the only person who won from the free markets is . . . China. All of our assets, all of our IP, all of our manufacturing, all of our jobs, our tax base, it's now in China. . . . But what makes anyone think that the free markets suddenly just once in the last thirty years are going to do something that helps the United States or our western partners? . . . And China, strangely enough, employs something that they call free markets. And it's the free market system that the United States operated under for the first two hundred years. [Prior to Milt Friedman—another Milt—] that's how the United States built the highway system, built the aviation industry, that's how it supported the auto industry. And then suddenly we rejected all of that and lost everything."
(Milton Friedman received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences three years after Milton Shaw fired Dr. Weinberg from ORNL. Good going. Now China owns the United States and might have a working LFTR by 2024 when Dr. Le Blanc's IMSL (DMSR) is running. Wow. What's for lunch?)

Kurt, I respectfully disagree with you on the "business case" and defer to a man in the rare earths mining businesses from the mineral-rich "show me" state on your southern border.

Developing a way to meet our treaty obligation with Russia and deweaponize (burn up) our 35–37 tonnes of WG Pu (under serious protection at SRS K Area Complex) by using it to breed as much U-233 from thorium for the U.S. Flibe Energy LFTR (the only company qualified for the contract with one or two exceptions) fleet of about 35 LFTRs to start (correct?) is a big complex new project mission for SRS (and the whole constellation of DOE resources) worthy of U.S. action. Done. As your new Secretary of Energy, I . . . I . . . TIMMHAW!

President Putin will have a Russian thorium report on his desk March 1st next year. That will be two years after the ORNL and Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics signed an agreement to cooperate on development of salt-cooled reactors. If anyone knows how to get a copy of this ruinous CRADA, please post it here. Thank you.

-------------------

Editing side note: From the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (rule 2.9, p. 60), "Chicago ad­vises leav­ing a sin­gle charac­ter space, not two spaces, be­tween sen­tences and after colons used within a sen­tence." I'm a freelance copy editor, folks, and was harangued by a renowned writer/editor (my mentor) at the level of the neutron, if you can feel me.

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Last edited by Tim Meyer on Aug 26, 2016 11:52 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Aug 25, 2016 4:39 pm 
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Tim Meyer wrote:
KitemanSA wrote:
NASA allows a small percentage of Pu239 [in] the Pu238 they buy.
KitemanSA: If you please, does NASA have pending orders for Pu238? If so, how much? And how will NASA fill their orders? Thank you. Also, in your signature you have "DRJ : Engineer - NAVSEA : (Retired)". What is "DRJ"? Did your experience at Naval Sea Systems Command help you to understand the subject quandary on how to start the thorium fuel cycle especially in regards to the Flibe Energy, Inc., Huntsville, AL, LFTR? Did Kirk Sorensen, former NASA, work with spacecraft Pu238 RTGs? I apologize for my curiosity if you're bothered by it.
IIRC, NASA justcontracted with ORNL for $20M(?) for 2(?)kg of Pu238.
DRJ are my initials. KitemanSA is my nom-de-plume that I used while still working for the FedGov.

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PostPosted: Aug 25, 2016 7:32 pm 
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Merci beaucoup, KitemanSA. Were you a hang glider? Skilled in creative finance? Hobbyist in tethered aircraft? This is off topic, but connected.

Wow! NASA is paying ORNL $10 million a kilogram for Pu238. I wonder how you found that out but I don't want to trouble you. ORNL makes Pu238? I found this:

Image
Nuclear fuel glows blue during routine refueling of the Department of Energy's High Flux Isotope Reactor in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The reactor is presently producing small amounts of plutonium-238, a potent fuel that NASA may use for future deep-space missions. Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

"NASA Struggles over Deep-Space Plutonium Power"Scientific American, by Lee Billings on September 10, 2015 wrote:
There, bathed in the electric-blue light of the nuclear High Flux Isotope Reactor, aluminum tubes packed with small, silvery cylinders of the radioactive element neptunium-237 are being bombarded with neutrons. It is modern-day alchemy; the neutrons are transmuting the neptunium into something that, at least to NASA’s mission planners, is more precious than gold: plutonium-238 (Pu-238), one of the rarest and most fleeting materials in the universe. Once made, the Pu-238 will glow red-hot for years on end as it gradually decays into uranium. Pu-238 cannot be used to make atomic bombs, nor is it particularly useful for fueling nuclear reactors, which are widely considered too controversial and expensive for practical use in space missions. Instead, Pu-238’s steady supply of heat makes it an ideal power source for long-haul interplanetary voyages where conditions may be too dim and cold for solar power and chemical batteries.

Practically all of NASA’s Pu-238 stockpile was made as a byproduct of building nuclear weapons during the Cold War. As the Cold War wound down, so too did the Department of Energy’s Pu-238 production; it made its last batch in 1988, shutting off NASA’s supply save for occasional deliveries of small, lower-quality batches from Russia that ceased in 2010. At present, only about 35 kilograms of Pu-238 are left for the space agency, and radioactive decay has rendered all but 17 kilograms too weak to be readily used in NASA’s thermoelectric generators. NASA and DOE officials estimate there is only enough for four more generators, one of which is already committed to NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover.

In 2013, after a quarter-century hiatus, the DOE began making Pu-238 again, deep in the reactor pool at Oak Ridge. But ramping up to full capacity is proving to be a slow, frustrating process. The project is behind schedule and unlikely to reach its target of producing 1.5 kilograms of generator-ready plutonium per year by 2021—instead, DOE officials say, the pipeline might be annually producing less than a third of that amount by 2019.

I wonder how long it would take in a FE LFTR (two-fluid) breeder to accumulate appreciable Np-237 assuming it could be captured and extracted from the fuel salt. Evidently, it decays through Pa-233 (27 days) to U-233; the fuel. So I guess the FE LFTR would be a poor candidate for making it?

Given the great potential of the FE LFTR, you'd think these nuclear science and engineering professionals would be pushing this technology. Maybe there is something intrinsically wrong about Dr. Weinberg;s design but that is too complicated to communicate to readers of Scientific American?

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PostPosted: Aug 25, 2016 10:25 pm 
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Tim Meyer wrote:
Kurt Sellner wrote:
I just see making the case for a plutonium burning and U-233 producing MSR as taking a big leap in technology.
Was Apollo a big leap in technology? The space shuttle? What about the USS Nautilus?

Those examples you gave were certainly milestones in technology. What concerns me is trying to take a too big of a bite at a time. I believe that these problems are soluble but to get a better chance of success we should take them on in logical steps.

For example, I forget who did the presentation in the Youtube video I saw but he made the case for using steam turbines with a MSR boiler to save on costs and reduce risk. Gas turbines would be more efficient but since they are not yet a proven technology then it makes sense to take that route for the first few MSR power plants and see how that works for a while before trying a gas turbine cycle.

It is merely my opinion, given what I've seen, that it is difficult enough to get investors and licensing for the simpler designs already proposed. Just making a successfully operating LFTR would involve solving a number of material compatibility problems. I just think we should verify we have those problems solved before trying to tackle things like Np extraction from an operating MSR. If we make that device out of the wrong material then that is a greater loss in operating time and money.

Tim Meyer wrote:
I'm not sure about the "we" part.

I say "we" in reference to us Americans, mostly. As a taxpayer, citizen, and veteran I have great interest in how the government regulates and licenses nuclear power. I'd like to see us take the path that can lead to the greatest gains and least risk.

I will also use "we" as the members of this forum. I see this forum as a place for socratic debate. I will take a position that I feel is best and if I'm proven wrong then I'll move to a new position and argue that. I'm familiar with the engineering process, I've done requirements capture, design reviews, and so on. It's been done in the context of electrical and computer engineering but the process doesn't vary much between the different engineering disciplines. As such I view this forum also as an engineering exercise, and we are all part of the engineering team.

I will also use "we" as a member of the human race. We, as humans, need energy. We need energy that is inexpensive and reliable. Getting energy that is "carbon free" is not something I'm terribly concerned about for many reasons, one of which is because anything is "green" compared to coal.

We, as Americans, are falling behind because of the advances from Russia and China. We, as humans, gain from what Russia and China has done because what they do are lessons for the rest of us. We, on this forum, are likely helping in that process by discussing this in an open forum. These people in the rest of the world might not see this forum themselves but our discussions help the process because what is discussed here gets passed on by others that we talk with about thorium.

With that post I just burned through the study break I gave myself. I plan to come back to pick up where I left off.

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PostPosted: Aug 26, 2016 10:03 am 
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Thank you for giving up your study break, Kurt, and for clarifying "we", and for sharing some of your experience in engineering and describing those processes. I look forward to reading your extended views. I find you a good writer. And thank you for your service to our great nation.

Perhaps the video you mentioned is Gord's YouTube post last year July from the seventh Thorium Energy Alliance (TEAC7 in June) presentation by Lars Jorgensen: ThorCon: A Thorium Molten Salt Reactor System that can be built Now—by Lars Jorgensen @ TEAC7. Please note at 12:58/30:59 Lars says:
Quote:
"We use standard steam cycle turbine generators until other people spend the money to invent the Brayton Cycles. We have no objection to Brayton Cycles but we don't want to wait. I can buy the steam cycles today and I want it now."
Wow! That's a mouthful.

I guess Lars, who I admire about as much as Kirk Sorensen who I esteem the most, has decided to bail on the EFT. Probably just as well. ThorCon might have him very busy these days. Our extremely tolerant host of this forum controls a highly valuable repository of information on a subject of global import from my lowly vantage point.

The topic of fissile start up of a LFTR for non-nuclear engineers who are not any kind of employee of Flibe Energy, Inc. of Huntsville, AL, have to be in the dark on many pivotal subjects. Many of "us" (your definition of "we" is valuable) wish to see high-level progress on molten salt reactor development and especially the thorium fuel cycle. So this particular topic is the very heart of the matter.

Likewise, such as me are not in a position to speculate. Nuclear energy is unlike any kind of modern technology. Comparisons would run for pages. What materials are more regulated than those that fission? Aside from a few science professionals who call climate change a "hoax", millions in the scientific community have been alarmed for a long time about the effects of carbon burning. Compassionate people who care that a fifth of humanity lives in extreme poverty without necessary electricity. For example:

"How Nuclear Power Can Stop Global Warming"

That Scientific American article is from December 12, 2013, by David Biello.

The pro-nuclear climate-change article mentioned Transatomic Power but not Flibe Energy. That saddened me. Another thing I, for one, cannot know but I want to know is if Mr. Sorensen (Hi, Kirk!) is in some way working with Dr. Dewan behind the scenes. She didn't participate in the Thorium Energy Alliance conferences over the years so maybe her company with Dr. Massie is a maverick. It's a separate subject that links to the start up of the FE LFTR.

I hope to live long enough to witness a major break in this energy technology policy logjam. I had such high hopes with Secretary Chu. And then Secretary Moniz. What an insane responsibility Secretary of Energy. Maybe worse than President of the United States.

Hind sight may be twenty-twenty. But those who pretended to power when domestic civilian nuclear power was getting traction could have known better. All they had to do was humble themselves to a possessor of true power—Dr. Alvin M. Weinberg. Until someone shows up here to refute, Milton Shaw (with Congressman Holifield) is culpable for this global sin. Everyone and their mother seems to have a Wikipedia page . . . except for Milton Shaw. Hmm. U.S. DOE Timeline of events from the 1970s:

July 4, 1971
President Nixon announces as a national goal a commitment to complete a Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor demonstration plant by 1980. In what he refers to as the first comprehensive energy message to Congress by a United States president, Nixon calls the breeder reactor the best hope for meeting the growing demand for economical clean energy.


[Meanwhile, Dr. Alvin M. Weinberg, ORNL Director, was evaluating the MSRE results and preparing the MSBR program to use the better nuclear fuel that is thorium in the better fluid—not solid—reactor design. And no one knew better than Alvin.]

August 7, 1972
The Atomic Energy Commission announces a cooperative agreement with industry to build a Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor on the Clinch River in Tennessee.

[Note: Secretary Moniz, Flibe Energy is in the energy industry. Thank you.]

June 1973
President Nixon directs Dixy Lee Ray, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, to review federal and private energy research and development activities and recommend an integrated national program.

[Note: Dr. Ray (biology) was a smart strong woman. At least ORNL has the decency to give something on Dr. Weinberg that ENERGY.GOV finds irrelevant!Please note my next post on that link relevant to "Fissile start up of a LFTR"—thank you.]

June 29, 1973
President Nixon establishes the Energy Policy Office. The office is responsible for formulating and coordinating energy policies at the presidential level.

October 6, 1973
The Yom Kippur War breaks out in the Middle East. October 17, 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries declares an oil embargo, sparking the first "energy crisis."

November 7, 1973
President Nixon launches Project Independence, with the goal of achieving energy self-sufficiency by 1980. Recalling the Manhattan Project, Nixon declares that American science, technology, and industry can free the United States from dependence on foreign oil.

December 4, 1973
The Federal Energy Office replaces the Energy Policy Office. The new office is assigned the task of allocating reduced petroleum supplies to refiners and consumers and of controlling the price of oil and gasoline. William Simon is named Administrator.

[Note well! Our U.S. DOE current website from which I've extracted this timeline did NOT include the following from the Wikipedia article on Alvin M. Weinberg:

Dr. Weinberg was fired by the Nixon administration from ORNL in 1973 after 18 years as the laboratory's director, because he continued to advocate increased nuclear safety and molten salt reactors (MSRs), instead of the Administration's chosen Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR) that the AEC's Director of Reactor Division, Milton Shaw, was appointed to develop. Weinberg's firing effectively halted development of the MSR, as it was virtually unknown by other nuclear laboratories and specialists. There was a brief revival of MSR research at ORNL as part of the Carter administration's nonproliferation interests, culminating in ORNL-TM-7207, "Conceptual Design Characteristics of a Denatured Molten-Salt Reactor with Once-Through Fueling", by Engel, et al., which is still considered by many to be the "reference design" for commercial molten salt reactors.]

[I believe, Kirk, you met Engel?]

May 7, 1974
President Nixon signs the Federal Administration Act of 1974. The Federal Energy Administration replaces the Federal Energy Office.

August 9, 1974
Gerald R. Ford becomes President.

[Wait! First President Nixon was caught illegally trying to circumvent the U.S. democratic process. Facing impeachment, he became the only U.S. president to resign the office! Good going, DOE. Who are you people?]

October 11, 1974
President Ford signs the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, abolishing the Atomic Energy Commission and establishing the Energy Research and Development Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


January 19, 1975
The Energy Research and Development Administration is activated. The new agency is given responsibility for the Atomic Energy Commission's nuclear weapons program. President Ford appoints Robert C. Seamans, Jr., as Administrator.


[Getting warmer!]

January 20, 1977
Jimmy Carter is inaugurated President.

February 2, 1977
President Carter signs the Emergency Natural Gas Act of 1977.

[Ah! Natural gas. Good going, chief.]

February 7, 1977
John F. O'Leary is named Administrator, Federal Energy Administration.

March 24, 1977
The Energy Research and Development Administration [, not aware of the fundamentals of thermodynamics and energy density, ] announces the establishment of the Solar Energy Research Institute, a Federal facility dedicated to finding and improving ways to harness and use energy from the sun, at Golden, Colorado.


April 18, 1977
President Carter announces National Energy Plan in his first major energy speech. His plan calls for the establishment of an energy department.

[Meanwhile, back in the U.S.S.R. . . .]

August 4, 1977
President Carter signs the Department of Energy Organization Act. The Federal Energy Administration and Energy Research and Development Administration are abolished.

August 5, 1977
James R. Schlesinger is sworn in as first Secretary of Energy.

October 1, 1977
The Department of Energy (DOE) is activated. Bringing together a score of organizational entities from a dozen departments and agencies, the new department is also given responsibility for the nuclear weapons program.


[Here we go! Our beloved Department of Nuclear Weapons in support of Mutually Assured Destruction national defense deterrent. Wow! Good going Cold War! Well done! Ike should have cancelled the U2 flight by Captain Powers and went to Russia as planned.]

October 5-6, 1977
Secretary Schlesinger signs nine international energy agreements at a meeting of the International Energy Agency in Paris.

October 18, 1977
DOE proposes to accept and take title to spent nuclear reactor fuel from utilities on payment of one-time storage fee. In order to implement the policy, DOE will need both interim and permanent spent fuel storage capability.

November 9, 1978
President Carter signs the National Energy Act, which includes the National Energy Conservation Policy Act, the Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act, the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act, the Energy Tax Act, and the Natural Gas Policy Act.

March 28, 1979
A partial meltdown of the core occurs at one of the two reactors at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


[So much for the LMFBR! President Nixon should have ended the Vietnam Conflict (Congress never declared war), Dr. Weinberg should NOT have been fired, rather ORNL should have received additional funding from the Vietnam savings and enhanced hiring authority to complete the MSBR program running on thorium. Our nation has yet to atone for this sin on principle.]

June 20, 1979
President Carter announces program to increase Nation's use of solar energy, including solar development bank and increased funds for solar energy research and development.


[Secretary Schlesinger: "Excuse me, Mr. President. Recall from your thermodynamics, solar is too diffuse an energy source to meet demand for baseload power."]

July 15, 1979
President Carter declares energy to be the immediate test of ability to unite the Nation and proposes $88 billion decade-long effort to enhance production of synthetic fuels from coal and shale oil reserves.

[What?]

August 24, 1979
Charles W. Duncan, Jr., is sworn in as second Secretary of Energy.

June 30, 1980
President Carter signs the Energy Security Act, consisting of six major acts: U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation Act, Biomass Energy and Alcohol Fuels Act, Renewable Energy Resources Act, Solar Energy and Energy Conservation Act and Solar Energy and Energy Conservation Bank Act, Geothermal Energy Act, and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Act.

-------------------

Note that the ENERGY.GOV website "Timeline of Events: 1951 to 1970" has:

November 1965
The Atomic Energy Commission makes the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor its highest reactor development priority.


Who is ENERGY.GOV? That was the year the ORNL MSRE started up. Foul!

_________________
"Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it."

—James Arthur Baldwin, American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic


Last edited by Tim Meyer on Aug 26, 2016 11:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Aug 26, 2016 11:04 am 
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About nuclear physics/engineering basics knowledge...

Take this online free class:
https://www.coursera.org/course/nuclearscience

Was immensely helpful. If you ace this class, and watch Kirk's presentation, you should know just about all I know about nuclear physics/engineering.

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Looking for companies working to change the world.


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PostPosted: Aug 26, 2016 11:15 am 
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Excellent, macpacheco! Thank you. One minor detail:
Quote:
"We're sorry, that course is not available at this time. Feel free to browse our extensive catalog."

I'm grateful for your concern for my education in nuclear engineering. It's very kind of you. I was hoping EFT members would be my teachers and I would refer to Wikipedia articles online and other sources found through Google searches as I go. Is that a good plan? I have copies of many of the ORNL documents thanks to Kirk. I'm studying ionic liquids (bought a text). I paid FexEx for a copy of the EPRI report on the FE LFTR. And more.

_________________
"Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it."

—James Arthur Baldwin, American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic


Last edited by Tim Meyer on Aug 26, 2016 2:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Aug 26, 2016 11:32 am 
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As I referred to in my above post on how Dr. Weinberg's better breeder got cancelled for Nixon's LMFBR, the subject of fissile start up in a (Flibe Energy, Inc. Huntsville, AL, or "FE") LFTR must bear in mind what ORNL has been kind enough to post:

A Chat with Alvin M. Weinberg

"This article appeared in the ORNL Review magazine. For more information on ORNL and its research and development activities, please refer to one of our Media Contacts. In anticipation of Alvin Weinberg's 80th birthday in April 1995, Bill Cabage, editor of the ORNL Reporter, and Carolyn Krause, editor of the ORNL Review, interviewed the former ORNL director (1955-1973) in his home in Oak Ridge. The edited interview with Weinberg follows."

Image
Weinberg chats with Dixy Lee Ray, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and later governor of Washington. Weinberg introduced her to an ORNL audience in 1992 before she gave a talk on environmental research and regulation.

Quote:
Q: Dixy Lee Ray claimed in her autobiography—Is It True What They Say about Dixy? (by Louis R. Guzzo)—that she saved the [Oak Ridge National] Laboratory back in 1972. Is that a realistic claim?

Weinberg: Let me read to you what she said in her book: "One of the notions he (Milton Shaw) had was his stated desire to destroy the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I never really knew exactly why but I was equally determined that that fine American institution should live forever. At one time he (Milton Shaw) could have accomplished his goal, because he had Congressman Holifield on his side and both of them detested my old friend, Dr. Alvin Weinberg, who ran the Oak Ridge lab. To this day I don't understand the Holifield-Shaw dislike of Oak Ridge, but I had to believe it had no place in the Holifield nuclear empire."

So she fired Milton Shaw. Her claim that he was out to destroy the Lab is not realistic because the Lab is a big place. Shaw was out to get me fired, and I did get fired. But, in looking back, I think I had outlived my usefulness at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I left at an appropriate time. I had been director and research director for 26 years, which is an awfully long time.

Let's shop and compare at . . . Walmart? (Whatever happened to Kmart?) Kirk, you noted:
Re: Thorium MSR Workshop at UNIST, Ulsan, South Korea posted January 29, 2013, Kirk Sorensen wrote:
Nuclear power will be necessary to provide the energy that the population of the future needs while reducing the environmental impact of today's energy generation. Some contemporary writers consider nuclear power dead, but I disagree based on the energy density of nuclear fuel and the potential for newer, better, more efficient designs. Many design principles were proven by the operation of the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment in the United States at Oak Ridge National Lab from 1965 to 1969. It was a technological triumph, but Nixon's Atomic Energy Commission was focused on the sodium-cooled plutonium fast-breeder reactor and funding for Weinberg's molten-salt reactor development work was cut. The funding profile for the fast-breeder was always greatly in excess of the molten-salt work. But in 1974 the Indians detonated a nuclear bomb that made nuclear proliferation an issue in the 1976 presidential campaign, and President Ford banned the reprocessing of nuclear fuel. This was the end of the road for the fast-breeder reactor in the United States, but no one revisited the decision to cancel the thorium-fueled molten-salt reactor. Why?

Why indeed! Or maybe the better thing is to move on.

A major case must be made to correct this globally grave mistake. If no one has selected this for a doctoral dissertation, time to get that underway.

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"Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it."

—James Arthur Baldwin, American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic


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PostPosted: Aug 26, 2016 10:58 pm 
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Tim Meyer wrote:
Thank you for giving up your study break, Kurt, and for clarifying "we", and for sharing some of your experience in engineering and describing those processes. I look forward to reading your extended views. I find you a good writer. And thank you for your service to our great nation.

Perhaps the video you mentioned is Gord's YouTube post last year July from the seventh Thorium Energy Alliance (TEAC7 in June) presentation by Lars Jorgensen: ThorCon: A Thorium Molten Salt Reactor System that can be built Now—by Lars Jorgensen @ TEAC7.

Thank you, Tim, for the compliment and for linking to the video I had referenced.

Tim Meyer wrote:
Your competitor, Iowa State...

Ah, it seems you forget I studied engineering at ISU. I am studying large data analysis now at the University of Iowa but I started my education at ISU. In fact all my brothers and sisters graduated from ISU. One of my brothers got his MBA from UI after graduating from ISU in engineering. My sister in law studied engineering at UI but went to ISU to get her DVM. There's lots of love for both schools in my family. When it comes to the University of Northern Iowa, that's a different story. :^)

You may have noticed that there are a lot of engineers in my family, but I did it first!

Tim Meyer wrote:
Kurt, I respectfully disagree with you on the "business case" and defer to a man in the rare earths mining businesses from the mineral-rich "show me" state on your southern border.

I'm not sure how much I want to argue on business cases. I will get to that in a bit though based primarily on the engineering complexity.

macpacheco wrote:
Kurt,

I thought U-235 that doesn't fission eventually becomes Pu-238 then Pu-239. Are you saying this doesn't happen or has a tiny chance of happening ?

U-235 that does not fission may very well transmute into Pu-239, and unless something is in place to prevent it the probability is very high. When it comes to Pu-238 the probability for it to capture another neutron is quite high and so for matters of neutron economy, TRU waste reduction, and obtaining that valuable element for RTG use we will find it advantageous to remove Pu-238, or it's precursor Np-237, if possible.

I'm going to go through something of a thought experiment to compare the complexities of certain families of nuclear reactors to give something like a general order of magnitude estimates of the relative costs. I'll hand wave over a lot of detail, which may mean making some imprecise, but hopefully still generally correct, statements. If I do make an error it will likely be in the properties of neptunium as I have found it difficult to find them online.

I'll start with describing variations on what I'll call a TMSR. The "T" can stand for thermal, thorium, or theoretical, whichever you feel fits best. I do this to hopefully avoid confusion by not reusing an acronym that has a lengthy history attached to it. I've seen TMSR used before to describe a thorium reactor that may or may not be similar to LFTR, I may deviate from that somewhat and perhaps even describe something quite different. This TMSR will have features common to most or all MSRs, such as the removal of xenon gasses from the fuel salt. I'll try to stay away from specifying the specific salts used as that should have little effect on my thought experiment. I'll use the perhaps imprecise, or even incorrect, terms "thorium cycle", "plutonium cycle", and "mixed cycle" to refer to generally how these TMSR variants operate. Thorium cycle as I define it here means the reactor burns U-233 and breeds thorium. Plutonium cycle burns plutonium and breeds U-238. Mixed cycle combines the two. I'll hand wave over some details and consider anything with U-235 and U-238 in the fuel a mixed cycle unless the purity of the U-235 is "supergrade" where the U-238 content can be largely ignored, in which case this could be a thorium cycle unless some other aspect of the fuel makes it otherwise. Highly pure U-238, such as NU or DU, implies a mixed cycle.

The simplest TMSR is little more than the ideal "pot, pipe, and pump" that Mr. Jorgensen mentioned in his presentation. This will be a low cost reactor which will generally be a burner. To make this simple TMSR a breeder some complexity may have to be added, but not much. The non-gaseous fission products will need to be removed from the salt in a batch process periodically or only when the reactor has reached it's end of life. TRUs will be burned in this TMSR and so will operate on a mixed cycle unless fueled only with plutonium, then it's on the plutonium cycle. I'll call this a "3P TMSR", as it is just a pot, pipe, and pump.

Going up the complexity ladder is a TMSR that has a protactinium extraction mechanism, decay tank for that protactinium, and a uranium extraction on the decay tank to return this fuel to the reactor. This added complexity would be tolerated since it should provide economic advantages elsewhere, mostly in the cost of fuel and salt. This TMSR will be a breeder and operate on a thorium cycle or mixed cycle. It should be obvious to any regular visitor here that this is to allow Pa-233 to decay into U-233. Other isotopes will tag along but those Pa and U isotopes are generally of little concern due to their rarity and other aspects.

Another variant on the TMSR is one that we can use to produce Np-237, with NASA being the main customer as they can convert that to Pu-238 in their own reactors. This TMSR will operate only on the thorium cycle, which means a near absence of any TRUs. We'd want to do our best to keep TRUs and U-238 from the starter fuel. Anything heavier than Np-237 in the salt can contaminate the product. The added complexity is tolerated since it keeps TRUs from the waste stream since very little of it is produced except the very valuable Np-237. This also benefits neutron economy since there are no TRUs to "steal" neutrons, which benefits the total life costs as well. We stop at Np-237 because if we stop at Pu-238 we risk breeding Pu-239 from the big target that is Pu-238, which would contaminate the feedstock for NASA. We also do this because neutrons are expensive, let NASA buy the other neutrons elsewhere. As best I can tell the Np-237 purity should be very high and the dominate contaminate would be Pu-238, which should make NASA a happy customer.

Next I'll describe a possible interpretation of Kiteman's "2.2+ fluid LFTR". I'm probably stepping on some toes (and possibly land mines) here so I'll repeat a portion of my disclaimer above. This is a thought experiment where I'm going to be imprecise for the sake of making a general case on the relative complexity of these theoretical TMSRs, this hand waving is intentional and if I make any errors then I'll appreciate any corrections anyone can offer. This TMSR will combine features of the ones described above. This will operate with a mixed cycle and, depending on the makeup fuel added, can be a breeder or burner. By definition this is a 2 fluid reactor with an additional feature of Np extraction. As this operates with a mixed cycle the Np extracted will contain a mix of isotopes dominated by Np-237 and Np-239. These isotopes should dominate from what I've seen on neutron cross sections, the fuel used, and decay rates. The Np-239 has a roughly 2 day half life and decays into Pu-239, which must be extracted and returned to the reactor to avoid contaminating the Np-237 product and to allow the plutonium cycle of the reactor to complete. This makes the operation and complexity very similar to a purely thorium cycle TMSR with Pa extraction. As the half life of anything other than Np-237 and Np-236 is on the order of days or less the Np produced will be predominately one of these two isotopes. I have had difficulty estimating the ratio of these isotopes, and how it might compare to that of the Np-237 producing TMSR described above, as the properties of the isotopes of Np have been difficult for me to find. Unless there are other additions made, which comes with complexities and cost, the decay products of these Np isotopes other than Pu will accumulate in the decay tank. How much these decay products in the Np-237 produced concerns NASA is unknown to me.

To Kiteman,
How well does my description of your 2.2+ fluid LFTR match your vision of it?

To Alex P and others with the same questions,
I went through that thought experiment to demonstrate that the choice of starter fuel for LFTR and other TMSRs depends on the specific design and operational goals. I believe that we've established that there are many choices for starter fuels, the question then becomes which one, or mix of them, one might choose and why. Reactor designs used will be based on fuel availability, and over time the fuels available will flow from the reactors used.

To all,
I hope that my thought experiment wasn't too long and boring for you, and a thank you to those that read it all. I hope you found it a valuable contribution to the socratic debate and engineering process we have here.

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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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