Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 2:10 pm 
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If Nuclear Power Has a More Promising Future ... Seth Grae Wants to Be the One Leading the Charge

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"Everyone knows nuclear plants run on uranium, right?" Grae continues, and then launches into a litany of uranium's persistent problems. Nuclear plants in service today run on a fuel mix that generates enough spent uranium and plutonium to build dozens of nuclear weapons each year in the United States alone. That waste will remain highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. It already adds up to more than 78,000 metric tons, with highly uncertain prospects for safe, long-term storage.

But what if these very same nuclear power plants were able to run on a different fuel mix? A mix that: first, would generate only a minor amount of waste, if any, that could be used to build a nuclear weapon. Second, could destroy tons of plutonium instead of generating it. Third, would produce less than half the volume of current fuel waste, which would remain radioactive for only a few hundred years. And, fourth, is made from an element far more abundant, less radioactive and cheaper than uranium: thorium.


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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 2:33 pm 
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Kirk, maybe you should create a new forum category: "Thorium hype"

I suspect that Seth Grae and Thorium Power, Inc. would feature prominently in many posts....

Another good one would be "Fusion hype", then maybe "coal CCS hype", and of course the perenial favourite, "You pet energy hype".


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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 2:50 pm 
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Maybe we should have one for heavy water too? :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 2:51 pm 
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Isn't Thorium Power, Inc sorta like adding ethanol to gasoline? Poor analogy?


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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 2:57 pm 
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dezakin wrote:
Isn't Thorium Power, Inc sorta like adding ethanol to gasoline? Poor analogy?


That's a really good analogy. Over on the THPW Message Board I've often drawn the analogy like diesel and gasoline, and how what's good in one engine isn't good in another. Thorium doesn't work so well in LWRs--it can be made to work, but not particularly well. Uranium isn't so good in liquid-fluoride reactors--it can be made to work, but not so well. But put the right fuel in the right kind of reactor and you get much better results.

All the THPW-fans are having a field day because their stock went from $0.17 to $0.34 and they chatter about how long until they sell and pump each other up. I'm rather unpopular when I comment over there, although a few say nice things.


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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 3:26 pm 
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I left a comment on the WaPo article:

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There is a way to use thorium much more efficiently than the "Thorium Power" design. This technique was proposed by Nobel Prize-winning scientists like Dr. Eugene Wigner, and later perfected by a research team under Dr. Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge National Lab in the 1950s through the 1970s. It is to use liquid-fluoride salts as a medium for nuclear reactions, specifically the conversion of thorium to energy.

When done this way, roughly 300 times more energy can be extracted from thorium than is currently extracted from uranium with conventional reactors.

I recently gave a talk at Google on this subject:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZR0UKxNPh8

And I maintain a blog with links to hundreds of documents with technical details of this approach:

http://thoriumenergy.blogspot.com/

I invite you to learn more about the Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), the key to our long-term energy independence.


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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 3:52 pm 
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Well done Kirk.

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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 4:07 pm 
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Kirk Sorensen wrote:
I left a comment on the WaPo article.


I just recommended it!


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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 4:50 pm 
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Axil wrote:
Maybe we should have one for heavy water too? :mrgreen:


Before you laugh too hard consider that thorium will probably first be used in production fueling heavy water reactors.


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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 4:53 pm 
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I don't think Grae's statements are out of line.
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A mix that: first, would generate only a minor amount of waste, if any, that could be used to build a nuclear weapon. Second, could destroy tons of plutonium instead of generating it. Third, would produce less than half the volume of current fuel waste, which would remain radioactive for only a few hundred years. And, fourth, is made from an element far more abundant, less radioactive and cheaper than uranium: thorium.

Don't we say the same thing about LFTR? He's not wrong, is he?

The US seems to be willing to burn MOX in existing reactors, which burn some Pu and generate some, less Pu. The spent MOX is not reprocessable by the French technology today, I think. So if Thorium Power could convince NRC and operators to put the plutonium/thorium seed/blanket fuels in existing LWRs, wouldn't that better than MOX, and wouldn't that be a step forward. Maybe this will be more important if we refuse to build uranium enrichment plants and the Russians refuse to dilute and sell us their HEU from dismantled weapons.

I think the Washington Post article is well written. I'd love to have such an article written about LFTR. I'll try to contact the author, unless the forum convinces me otherwise.


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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 5:31 pm 
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Inert Matrix Fuel (IMF) is a competing technology to the thorium use in LWRs. IMF maximizes plutonium burn and is favored by those who want to eliminate plutonium. IMF is another reason why plutonium should not be counted on to startup the Lftr.

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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 5:41 pm 
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[Somewhat out of my element here but for what it is worth]

In a once through process you would burn up Pu, generate u233, and burn up some of the u233. I suspect at the end of the day you will have burned up much of the plutonium while generating almost no new plutonium. You will also generate a fair amount of u233 and burn up a good portion of it. But you will still have a fair amount of u233 left in the fuel when it is spent. I expect the numbers to be resemble the Pu left over when you burn up MOX.

As with MOX you've helped the waste problem some - but nothing dramatic (assuming waste u233 and u234 are considered as bad waste as Pu239/240).

If you want to make a big difference then you need to process the spent fuel. If they stick with the PUREX like process then you've got the same mess as now. If you switch to fluorination then the thorium+plutonium fuel is much better since the plutonium will be largely gone and the uranium fluorinates so well.

In a solid fuel reactor though you need to be very careful about hot spots.
You need to know the isotropic makeup of the fuel very well since it will be left in place for several years.
This makes it harder to combine multiple recycling and solid fuel reactors IMHO.


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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 5:42 pm 
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Axil wrote:
Inert Matrix Fuel (IMF) is a competing technology to the thorium use in LWRs. IMF maximizes plutonium burn and is favored by those who want to eliminate plutonium. IMF is another reason why plutonium should not be counted on to startup the Lftr.

In that event, I'll be happy to take their spent fuel. It should have a fair amount of u233 in it.


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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 5:46 pm 
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Lars wrote:
Axil wrote:
Inert Matrix Fuel (IMF) is a competing technology to the thorium use in LWRs. IMF maximizes plutonium burn and is favored by those who want to eliminate plutonium. IMF is another reason why plutonium should not be counted on to startup the Lftr.

In that event, I'll be happy to take their spent fuel. It should have a fair amount of u233 in it.



IMF contains no thorium and no U233.

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PostPosted: Jul 31, 2009 7:15 pm 
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DV82XL wrote:
Axil wrote:
Maybe we should have one for heavy water too? :mrgreen:


Before you laugh too hard consider that thorium will probably first be used in production fueling heavy water reactors.

Advanced Heavy Water Reactor is likely to be constructed shortly in India.


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