Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: May 09, 2016 8:35 pm 
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Well, the data is in for a major EU country with massive implementation of wind and solar. It did manage to make an impact on CO2 emissions... CO2 emitted increased (as in: it emitted more rather than less) compared to the prior year.


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PostPosted: May 10, 2016 4:33 am 
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Tim Meyer wrote:
The optimum magnetic material for EV motors is the rare earth neodymium with iron and boron (NIB) where China has temporarily succeeded in their near total dominance of the rare earth markets--a serious rub with the Thorium Energy Alliance. Demand for more electric motors and dynamos demands neodymium; a fission product output of the Flibe Energy LFTR.

Thorium regulations impede REE production in the US as I understand it.

Discussions of solar and renewable production with advances in storage and distribution are relevant to the energy from thorium forum to the extent that they provide a contrast for clarifying how nuclear is superior for baseload power.

The performance of U-233 from thorium in the thermal spectrum (moderated) in the hot liquid phase at 1 atm is superior compared to any other immediately available fuel.

Source of neodymium is the same as that of thorium, the monazite. However, the main advance in wind or solar energy is required in storage. The flow batteries using organic fluids may turn out to be the most viable for all stationary generation


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PostPosted: May 10, 2016 11:58 am 
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jagdish wrote:
Source of neodymium is the same as that of thorium, the monazite. However, the main advance in wind or solar energy is required in storage. The flow batteries using organic fluids may turn out to be the most viable for all stationary generation
Thank you, jagdish, for replying to my point. Organic fluid batteries? More homework. Do you know more about it that can be revealed here?

That the neodymium is a product of rare earth mining and refining is exactly the major rub with US participation in the Chinese-dominated REE markets. I urge partisans of energy from thorium to search YouTube for "Jim Kennedy" and digest his presentations at the Thorium Energy Alliance conferences and appreciate his exasperation and hard work with John Kutsch (now with Terrestrial Energy? Wow!) to get our US Congress to act on "the thorium problem."

Off topic in this thread: Jagdish, Have you read Kirk Sorensen's "Thorium Research in the Manhattan Project Era"? (University of Tennessee--Knoxville, May 2014). I just finished reading the UTK version last night (The Flibe Energy version here in this post is better). I plan to comb through this forum looking for feedback on his thesis. If I can't find anything, I would think that it ought to be a very serious topic for discussion. (Obama to make historic visit to Hiroshima)

On topic, solar energy growth is linked to grid storage technology. Elon "Iron Man" Musk's Tesla Energy Gigafactory is located near a major lithium deposit. I believe they're making their power panels, yes? They're impressive. A small Li-ion battery can blow up and cause serious injury and even death (UPS Airlines Flight 6 had a pallet load). Tesla's power panels better have major safety features. Modern energy technology is a Faustian bargain all the way around.

Again, if the bugs get worked out of the Flibe Energy LFTR and the US NRC get's an upgrade (S.2795?) to open up the licensing for advanced nuclear reactor designs to include allowance for the Th-232/U-233 fuel cycle AND it's true that Li-7F-BeF2 is not only unbeatable in performance but Materion is competitively able to meet demand as they claim, lithium demand will begin to accelerate.

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Last edited by Tim Meyer on May 10, 2016 12:16 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: May 10, 2016 12:06 pm 
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rc1111 wrote:
Well, the data is in for a major EU country with massive implementation of wind and solar. It did manage to make an impact on CO2 emissions... CO2 emitted increased (as in: it emitted more rather than less) compared to the prior year.
Another frustrating result in the context of energy from thorium (burned in a Flibe Energy LFTR): If wind and solar manufactures were powered by thorium, that carbon footprint would be drastically reduced!

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PostPosted: May 10, 2016 10:53 pm 
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jagdish wrote:
However, the main advance in wind or solar energy is required in storage. The flow batteries using organic fluids may turn out to be the most viable for all stationary generation

I will maintain that grid level storage alone will not make wind and solar viable, we will still need to see wind and solar power get much cheaper than coal. By "much cheaper" I mean it must be 1/2 or 1/3 the price of coal.

The problem with coal and traditional nuclear is that they cannot load follow. Any electrical generation that relies on boiling water cannot follow the minute by minute changes in electrical load due to its very nature. I won't pretend that I understand the how and why but it's been stated by people more knowledgeable than me that steam systems cannot follow the changes in load that is seen on the electrical grid. What we do now to address this is use some much less efficient gas turbines that can load follow to make up for this limitation. We use steam systems in spite of their limitations because they are much more efficient than anything else we have. Many of you reading this already know this but I state it for completeness.

What regular visitors to this forum also know is that wind and solar are intermittent power sources and the cost of the electricity they produce is in many cases double what electricity from steam would cost whether that be from coal or nuclear. If we get a viable grid storage system, one that can manage the minute by minute changes in power production from wind and solar, then nothing prevents these systems being applied to the much cheaper coal and nuclear power plants. Power from boilers can then be made a larger portion of the electrical generation capacity since expensive gas turbines would no longer be needed.

For wind and solar to compete with cheap boilers in this situation they must be able to produce power cheaper than coal and nuclear by a large margin. Solar PV panels can only produce power during the day, the utilities will rely on base load and grid storage at night. Wind is at an advantage here because it will produce power at night and day but with a capacity factor much like solar of about 30%. To make up for this poor capacity factor the wind and solar power generation would have to be 1/3rd the cost of coal and nuclear or the utilities will not make money on them. With grid storage the advantage is not for wind and solar, the advantage lies with coal and nuclear. Given that the reason one would even consider wind and solar at all on an electrical grid is to reduce CO2 emitted in the air then the advantage goes solely to nuclear.

What we have with MSRs is the ability to load follow. If the people advocating for MSRs are to be believed then we should be able to not only see load following but also electricity produced that is cheaper than coal. At that point grid storage is too expensive at any price.

One proposal I saw which I thought was both brilliant and insane was to use MSRs to load follow for wind and solar. I found this brilliant since it would get the people that want to cash in on wind and solar subsidies behind financing nuclear power development. What makes this insane is that if we have nuclear power that is cheap and able to load follow then we have a power plant that gives us the trifecta of cheap, carbon free, and can load follow. If we have all of those then the idea of adding wind and solar is insanity because they can only add to the complexity of the grid while also adding to the cost.

For grid storage to be viable the cost of maintaining the batteries would have to compete with the cost of generating it with natural gas turbines. As pointed out before if we get MSRs to produce power at a price as cheap as coal then storage makes no sense at all. If MSRs produce power as cheap as turbines then that sets a price of storage that is easier to meet but it still makes wind and solar look bad. MSRs as cheap as turbines can load follow with a CO2 output lower than wind and solar.

I think a lot of wind and solar advocates forget what the original goal was. I thought the goal was to reduce CO2 emitted in the air. When it is pointed out to these advocates on how wind and solar are failing on this goal, and/or that the solutions they propose will not reduce CO2 output, they will inevitably talk about how investing in wind and solar will create jobs, expand domestic manufacturing, or some other social or economic benefit. That's good I suppose but then what we are doing at best is creating busy work, at worst it's corporate welfare. We are creating a regulatory environment for an industry that would not exist otherwise.

Grid storage batteries may become a viable technology but people need to consider what such a technology would bring. I do not believe it will expand wind and solar usage, I believe it will bring about burning more coal. That is unless we see more nuclear to replace the coal.

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PostPosted: May 11, 2016 11:02 am 
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On the most important topic in and foundational reason for this forum (EPRI publishes tech innovation report on Flibe Energy's LFTR), the founder of this forum, the one highly talented Chief Technology Officer and founder of Flibe Energy, the one person who has almost single-handedly focused world attention on the vision of the greats Dr. Alvin Weinberg and Nobel prize-winner in chemistry, Dr. Glenn Seaborg (whose namesake is element 106), a great vision that has languished for decades, replied to my concern that the achievement of the independent ERPI technology assessment of his LFTR design was receiving a paltry response . . .
Kirk Sorensen wrote:
I certainly share your surprise that more of the commenters on this site would rather talk about a thousand other things of far lesser significance than the first thought-out, carefully-described, credibly-backed design work on a thorium molten-salt breeder reactor since the 1970s. It just goes to show how poorly I guess at how people will respond to things.

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PostPosted: May 11, 2016 3:18 pm 
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There is no reason to load follow with a nuclear reactor.

Even an ESBWR only has a marginal generation cost of ~0.65 US cents per kilowatt hour.
So unless your wind turbines have a levellised cost below that then it is better to just run your plant all the time and not buy the wind plant.
Or if you must have the wind plant, you just have a special tarrif of ludicrously cheap electricity that is only available when wind and nuclear are both generating.


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PostPosted: May 11, 2016 9:48 pm 
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E Ireland wrote:
There is no reason to load follow with a nuclear reactor.

I don't mean to be punny but I'm not sure I follow. I agree that the nuclear power plant would not have to load follow but production must follow load or bad things happen. Something must provide this load following, I'm just saying that brayton cycle power plants are capable of load following and taking advantage of that ability costs nothing.

E Ireland wrote:
Even an ESBWR only has a marginal generation cost of ~0.65 US cents per kilowatt hour.
So unless your wind turbines have a levellised cost below that then it is better to just run your plant all the time and not buy the wind plant.
Or if you must have the wind plant, you just have a special tarrif of ludicrously cheap electricity that is only available when wind and nuclear are both generating.

Load shedding is already commonplace with large commercial customers. I've heard of cases of aluminum plants that got a sweet deal on electricity would shut down for months at a time only so that they could re-sell their electricity contracts for profit. I've also heard of industrial customers getting paid to use electricity just so the utility would not have to go through the trouble and expense of idling a coal plant when demand was low.

It's the mandates and subsidies on wind and solar that has brought us this unusual phenomenon of negative electricity pricing. The windmill owners will normally be paid a top dollar price for their electricity by the government, regardless of demand. When demand is low and winds are high this can lead to windmill owners effectively paying the industrial users to take their electricity so that they can cash in on the subsidies. This might result in something like an aluminum plant going into high gear, meaning we got something useful from these government subsidies. It could also mean an office building opening up the doors and windows and running their heaters at maximum.

I believe what you propose is already common practice. What I believe we should have learned from these subsidies resulting in negative electricity pricing is that the need for wind power subsidies is past. What I believe the industry has learned instead is that they can keep building windmills and the government will pay the bills.

I saw a similar story make it to another forum I visit frequently...
https://science.slashdot.org/story/16/0 ... s-feds-say

I have noticed over time that the anti-nuclear comments on Slashdot are not nearly as common as in years prior. I think we're gaining some converts here.

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PostPosted: May 11, 2016 9:59 pm 
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That Slashdot article I gave above links to the following:
http://www.computerworld.com/article/30 ... s-say.html

They point out that in the next 20 or 30 years we can expect to see global nuclear power output double. They also expect natural gas and renewables to double. Coal should remain about the same.

Perhaps solar energy use will increase exponentially but then so should nuclear, wind, and natural gas. The only "loser" in this would be coal. Coal is dirty in so many ways that I don't expect many to be upset about coal losing out. Coal miners will have to find a new job though. Perhaps they can mine for thorium?

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PostPosted: May 12, 2016 12:13 pm 
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Coal has numerous uses that don't involve burning it.
You can hydrogenate it for example to make oils and plastics.

Coal is a far more widely available feedstock than oil.
Although shale gas might have changed that calculations a bit.


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PostPosted: May 13, 2016 11:26 am 
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Kurt Sellner, E Ireland, and the author of this topic, rgvandewalker:

How is what you're discussing relevant to the effort to derive energy from thorium?

For example, it costs energy to work with coal and so those processes aren't done because the products are cheaper to synthesize from oil products. If pure thorium fuel cycle machines that meet the U.S. definition of "advanced reactor" (H.R.4979) were online, in that the energy density of thorium is a million times greater than coal, oil, and natural gas, the thorium energy would make feasible the processes you're discussing.

If NET Power, CB&I, Exelon, and 8 Rivers Capital are successful in working together to develop and commercialize the application of supercritical carbon dioxide power cycle (the Allam Cycle) technology for efficient emissions-free electric power generation, a resource utilization technology that emits 0% CO2, the fossil fuels get an emissions reprieve.

GE doing sCO2 turbine PR

NET Power/8 Rivers has a version of the Allam Cycle for coal. It's 100% carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Aside from what to do with coal ash, another energy problem that could be solved by energy from thorium, CCS Allam Cycle is a way to keep coal going long enough to be humane about the transition away from coal and ease the impacts on millions of families who depend on coal for a living.

How much does coal mining translate to rare earth (thorium) mining?

The reason why so many great chemical engineering processes are not commercialized is because the energy costs are too high to make the products competitive. This is why cracking the thorium nut is so vital. Direct thermal from, for example, a Flibe Energy LFTR running on a pure thorium fuel cycle would solve that market competitiveness problem.

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Last edited by Tim Meyer on May 17, 2016 9:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: May 14, 2016 2:38 pm 
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Tim Meyer wrote:
Kurt Sellner, E Ireland, and the author of this topic, rgvandewalker:

How is what you're discussing relevant to the effort to derive energy from thorium?

Information about the reality of market conditions today, and in the past when other conditions prevailed, is critically important to projecting how best to utilise the technologies available, such as thorium based energy generation.
Tim Meyer wrote:
For example, it costs energy to work with coal and so those processes aren't done because the products are cheaper to synthesize from oil products.

Coal to olefins production totalling several millions of tonnes per annum is in operation in China.
Then the coal to calcium carbide production which totals many millions of tonnes itself for acetylene, butadiene and numerous other speciality and value added products.

There are also significant coal hydrogenation operations in South Africa, China and I believe one operating plant in the US.
There is also the Pearl GTL works that produces ~200,000bbl of oil equivalent a day in the form of waxes and high value added oil products, derived entirely from natural gas, syn gas gasification plants would enable the same processes to work relatively affordably from brown/hard coal that has essentially no cost beyond what it costs to dig it out of the ground. The supply of which is essentially impossible to interrupt as the mine is adjacent to the plant consuming it.


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PostPosted: May 14, 2016 3:42 pm 
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Tim Meyer wrote:
Kurt Sellner, E Ireland, and the author of this topic, rgvandewalker:

How is what you're discussing relevant to the effort to derive energy from thorium?

Every comment I've made has been through the lens of solar power as competition to nuclear energy in general, which thorium is certainly a part.

I recall our host, Mr. Sorensen, stating in one of his speeches that he'd abandon thorium as an energy source if something better came along. If solar power proves to be a better source of energy then I think we have an obligation to recognize that. Isn't the ultimate goal more about improving human lives? Thorium has shown to be a viable means to improve lives and therefore it deserves discussion and support. If solar power is gaining support at a greater pace than thorium then that shows a failure somewhere on the part of thorium.

Where I believe the failure lies is in large part in mainstream media. Call me a conspiracy theorist or a "ditto head" if you like but anyone that reads these articles should be able to see that while solar power has made great gains we've seen similar gains in nuclear power. The fact that gains in solar power makes it to the headline but gains in nuclear power makes it as a comment halfway through the article shows a bias in reporting. This bias may be from the news outlet because the authors and editors are more supportive of solar than nuclear. This bias may be from the public in that new articles get more clicks and therefore float to the top of news feeds.

Given how poorly solar power has performed in producing cheap and reliable energy I would have expected it to be largely abandoned as a source of power for the national grids. Given support from politicians, and perhaps support from the public and news outlets, it seems that solar power will not be allowed to die. Those of us supporting thorium as an energy solution simply cannot ignore the gains that solar power has made. This should be discussed, and we should do so in how it competes for funds, public support, and clicks on news websites.

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PostPosted: May 14, 2016 11:46 pm 
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Different analyses point out a dramatically different picture. Using EIA data the Manhattan Institute reaches a different conclusion. The real reduction in the USA's CO2 emission has far more to do with natural gas and fracking technology -- by a huge margin.

A quote from a recent report (www.manhattan-institute.org/issues2016):

"Notwithstanding frequent reports
that renewable-energy production
in the U.S. is “rising at an exponential
rate,” its growth has stalled.
Since achieving a 60 percent year-over-
year increase in 2008, growth
in total wind and solar generation
has been consistently slowing: 33
percent in 2009, 28 percent in 2010,
27 percent in 2011, 19 percent in
2012, 22 percent in 2013, and 13
percent in 2014—the lowest since
2003. Total generation of wind and
solar power actually fell in the first
half of 2015 compared with the first
half of 2014. Solar continued to
grow, but the rate of growth fell by
more than half, while wind generation
fell in absolute terms."

So one can analyze the situation on their own or include such analyses as the Brookings Institute or the Google study. In a nutshell, solar and renewables cannot power our future society over the next fifty years and meet CO2 reduction targets. We must have a disruptive new approach.


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PostPosted: May 15, 2016 1:57 pm 
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Hear! Hear!

Excellent, informative post by rc1111 in reply to the topic question.

rc1111 wrote:
So one can analyze the situation on their own or include such analyses as the Brookings Institute or the Google study. In a nutshell, solar and renewables cannot power our future society over the next fifty years and meet CO2 reduction targets. We must have a disruptive new approach.

Brookings Institute does good work and Google, too. One such "disruptive new approach" is discussed over on:

Post subject: GE doing sCO2 turbine PR (Posted: Apr 11, 2016 10:43 pm)

One overlap in regards to this forum is the intention to employ sCO2 turbomachinery in the power conversion systems of advanced nuclear reactors like the Flibe Energy LFTR. The new Allam Cycle at the heart of the NET Power plant will use a "first-of-its-kind" commercial sCO2 turbine to be delivered by Toshiba this September to La Porte, TX.

If NET Power's pilot performs well next year, they intend to scale up x5 (up to the commercial scale of 250 MWe). If their carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) machine works for natural gas, and they have an Allam Cycle version for coal burning, then their new energy technology can lead to 0% emissions from burning fossil carbon for energy.

Re: Durham’s NET Power breaks ground on zero-emissions plant

That would buy time for the inauguration of the new advanced nuclear reactors that can happen sooner if U.S. citizens will vote for and the president sign into law the H.R.4979 Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016 facilitated by DOE's GAIN program.

If the new advanced reactors pass the bill's definition of "advance reactor" and meet the new NRC framework for licensing and commercial deployment, they are likely to begin to dominate the power markets at near 0% emissions (depending on that definition).

One such design at the heart of this forum is the Flibe Energy LFTR that is being design to run on a pure thorium (U-233) fuel cycle. If that design cracks the thorium nut, it would offer the promise of displacing legacy energy technologies based on a fuel source that is dwarfed by one that is a million times more energy dense.

Solar and wind development would then become marginalized to niche markets.

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


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