Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: Nov 18, 2009 10:51 am 
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After seeing an "after-the-fact" notice about the Thorium Energy Alliance forum, I became very excited about the prospect of others taking an active role in promoting thorium. It’s impossible not to agree about the advantages thorium offers regarding energy production, but I would like to bring forth another perspective.

I have strong reservations about using thorium in conventional or uranium/thorium-based technology. In such technology, where the volume of fuel burned still does not exceed 10%, the use of thorium will have little meaningful impact on the four major drawbacks of conventional nuclear power:

1 - production and storage of long-term radiotoxic waste;
2 - proliferation of nuclear weapons;
3 - potential risks to human and environmental health;
4 - high economic costs related to construction, operation, financing, and liabilities.

Thorium can only be a real asset with equipment dedicated to full use of a thorium fuel cycle to address these concerns. The company I work for -- DBI -- has been advancing thorium in a secluded manner since the 1970s, designing a reactor that meets all the criteria discussed by Thorium Energy Alliance but with a low-pressure, moderate-temperature, gas-cooled, solid core.

The creation of equipment specifically for thorium is fundamental to extracting all of thorium’s internal energy without reprocessing. Whereas current technology accepts thorium as a supplemental fuel, DBI's technology is the opposite: thorium is the primary fuel and the reactor can accept conventional fuel (including existing waste stockpiles) as a supplemental starter. Using thorium in DBI's technology, reduction in long-term radiotoxic waste could over time exceed 90% by more efficient fuel utilization, significant reduction of long-lived radioactive isotopes, and elimination of packaging waste.

DBI is very familiar with the many efforts regarding thorium over the past decades but has found no other instance of technology that can burn enough fuel to truly address these major concerns in anything other than a minimal way. While conventional reactor design began by first considering energy production, then facing the drawback of the high-volume radiotoxic waste stream that followed, DBI began its Thorium Reactor Program from the premise of minimizing waste, then configured such a system to efficiently produce energy. The resulting technology minimizes—if not eliminates—the issues of waste, proliferation, safety, and cost (including liabilities).

The company is currently working to commercialize its designs, and by next week DBI's website should have more detailed information specifically about using thorium in uranium-based technology vs. dedicated unique technology.

Meanwhile, I would certainly like to hear the views of others on this subject and see how we can all work together to promote the use of thorium.

- Mia Ousley
mia_ousley@dauvergne.com


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PostPosted: Nov 18, 2009 2:58 pm 
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I am going to be blunt Mia, your company seems to be officered with among other things chiropractors, ex-hotel managers, and stockbrokers with mail-order degrees, along with you, an ex-journalist. What I don't see is engineers and more than the one token scientist and that one without a background in nuclear physics.

I don't see any papers published validating, at least theoretically, your ideas or for that mater any mention of patents held. Also missing is a design complete enough to be sent for type approval.

Companies with these sorts of principals, and lacking any evidence of anything beyond vague ideas and a flashy website do not engender a whole lot of confidence, at least in me, and I suspect the majority of those posting regularly here.


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PostPosted: Nov 18, 2009 11:56 pm 
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Yes, very slick website but without any real details of what the product is. My guess is the idea is to take a gas cooled fast breeder design and run it at extremely low power density so one can get 60 years out of the fuel pins instead of 10 or 15. At the same time the low power density means you might be able to get by with lower gas pressures and still cool the thing.

I can`t dismiss the concept outright but one huge issue I see is the massive amount of fissile material you are going to need to start these up. Gas cooled breeders already have a very high fissile load, I haven`t looked at data in quite awhile but I think the idea is to run a massive amount in your first core (maybe 20 tonnes per GWe) and run it as long as you can (up to 15 years) and then shut down long enough to process the whole thing. You need so much fuel because gas is a poor coolant and means more fuel pins needed. If the DBI idea is both to run tiny cores (which already need more fissile per MW) and to run at a quarter the power density then it sounds like a massive amount of very expensive fissile material needed (maybe 80 tonnes fissile Pu per GWe?). Also, that was for the U-Pu cycle, I`d imagine it must take even more fissile to start on thorium or we`d here more about it from the gas cooled breeder folks.

When you look at IFR documents from the early 1990s they talk about the cost of fissile plutonium being 100$ a GRAM when you actually account for the costs to process it out of spent fuel. If you look to startup on U235 you need even more tonnes for fast reactors (almost twice I think, anybody know better?).

Anyhow, if you want to give us more actual details I`m sure many of us would like to read more but until then I`d agree with the last post that it's all sizzle and no steak.

David L.


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PostPosted: Nov 20, 2009 12:36 pm 
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DV82XL is more than blunt, he is quite judgmental without any knowledge other than what he can turn into sarcasm. DBI’s founder (Hector D’Auvergne) is an electrical engineer, and nuclear physicists and nuclear engineers from major U.S. laboratories and universities are the primary contributors to the technology design. The chiropractor he mocks was a mechanical engineer and manager for many years with Boeing in Europe and Asia. (Personally, our staff is thankful for his additional area of expertise, since our necks, backs, and other physical ailments have been well attended to . . . free of charge!) You will not see patents for as long as possible, while the company tries to protect its intellectual property both from potential theft and from others whose interest may be to shelve the technology rather than risk change in the economic status quo. Oh, and thanks for calling the website “flashy”; I’ll pass on your complement to the designer.

Since Hector doesn’t type, he asked me to share with you that he chose not to work for national labs and “produce white papers,” feeling his work would end there on paper. In the private sector, DBI as a manufacturing company has built every design to ever cross Hector’s desk, including the new designs incorporated into the DBI Thorium Reactor . . . all privately funded through small grassroots investments.

David L’s comments about the fissile load are, of course, true . . . gas-cooled breeders require more starter fuel than liquid-cooled. Conventional thorium blanket technology results in a production of 233U mixed directly with the natural uranium and plutonium. However, DBI’s modular technology (25-MWe per module) has achieved the ability to keep the fuels separated—so the thorium can remain inside the reactor, the major absorbers can be removed, and a declining amount of fissile fuel will be needed for additional modules. One of the university physicists working with DBI believes that only 6-8 years will be needed with DBI technology, using a patented new nuclear fuel mix, to completely eliminate the need for the natural uranium, though without empirical data the company only feels it can document achieving an all-thorium fuel cycle in 15 years.

It would be foolish of me to make nucleonic claims without a means of supporting them, but I completely understand the need to share more details, and will try to do so while simultaneously protecting IP. Using a 232Th-to-233U breed-and burn cycle in situ without chemical reprocessing and shuffling the bred 233U within the reactor, reduction in long-term radiotoxic waste could over time exceed 90% by more efficient fuel utilization, significant reduction of long-lived radioactive isotopes, and elimination of packaging waste. The DBI reactor core includes a waste-burner zone that selectively destroys fissile isotopes, rendering the waste more proliferation resistant and deferring waste management expenses for several decades. DBI’s fuel cycle reduces the amount of processing from 17 steps for conventional uranium fuel to only 5 steps for thorium fuel, without the risk to human or environmental safety that comes from uranium mining, enrichment, and fuel packaging.

Over the past decades DBI has had more than 20 scientists—with doctoral degrees in nuclear physics or nuclear engineering—contribute to the research and development of DBI technology. Now with all this accumulated expertise and data, the company is preparing a facility to manufacture the components – especially cooling circulation hardware. After 30 years of experience manufacturing numerous pieces of hardware, as well as producing simulated reactor components, we feel very confident.


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PostPosted: Nov 20, 2009 4:00 pm 
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Location: Montreal, Quebec CANADA
MiaOusley wrote:
DV82XL is more than blunt, he is quite judgmental without any knowledge other than what he can turn into sarcasm.


That was no sarcasm in my reply to you Mia, just statements of fact from your company's website. If you wish I can link to several such that make claims of revolutionary energy technology that are very much like it. Upon closer examination they have turned out to be at best self-delusional, at worst outright frauds looking for 'investors.' This being the case you will excuse me if I need more than what your company is showing to take you seriously.

I stand by what I wrote earlier: the skills and work experience of this group of people does not strike me as one that can design, build and market a nuclear power plant. Many that frequent these pages do have those skills and in some cases served on such a team. Many of us here are also very familiar with the regulatory and licensing authorities of our countries, and can see clearly that you have nothing that can be brought forward, nor are likely to in the near future. Finally many of us here are professionals in our own right, and are not impressed by those that fling about the qualifications of others as a reason those people should be taken seriously on matters outside their field.

By the way thank you for confirming that he is indeed a chiropractor as I note that this was not mentioned on your website. Apparently that is not a 'qualification' of this company officer you want to broadcast.

Impressing the members here is going to be a hard sell for you Mia, I would caution you to walk carefully, we are not an easy bunch to wow.


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PostPosted: Nov 21, 2009 9:12 pm 
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I want to apologize, DV8. I was having a very bad day and you got the brunt of it. As I stated previously, I completely understand the need for details. Our senior physicist will be adding to the technical conversation after the holidays, but in the meantime I would really like to hear some thoughts on what I see as a still-inefficient system if on average only 4-6% of fuel is getting burned; the volume of waste produced is still unacceptable.


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PostPosted: Nov 21, 2009 10:03 pm 
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Mia you haven't provided, nor can I find on your website enough technical detail to answer your question, other than to say that the experimental once through thorium/uranium fuel cycle on a CANDU6 has shown 14% burnup in an unmodified reactor and theoretical projections of 21% with modified SEU fuel. These are cycles that do not use any reprocessing and the burnup of the uranium yields spent fuel with the same levels of fissile isotopes as typical enrichment tailings.

Also there are several small scale reactor designs being developed (in fact there are about 90 out there, most at the same stage as yours.) But as the list below shows there are a number that are being sponsored by some industry heavyweights and those with direct support from their national governments.

    VK-300, 300 MWe PWR Atomenergoproekt, Russia
    CAREM, 27 MWe PWR CNEA & INVAP, Argentina
    KLT-40, 35 MWe PWR OKBM, Russia
    MRX, 100 MWe PWR JAERI, Japan
    IRIS-100, 100 MWe PWR Westinghouse-led, international
    B&W mPower, 125 MWe PWR Babcock & Wilcox, USA
    SMART, 100 MWe PWR KAERI, S. Korea
    NuScale, 45 MWe PWR NuScale Power, USA
    HTR-PM, 105 MWe HTR INET & Huaneng, China
    PBMR, 165 MWe HTR Eskom, South Africa,
    GT-MHR, 280 MWe HTR General Atomics (USA),Minatom(Russia)
    BREST, 300 MWe LMR RDIPE (Russia)
    FUJI, 100 MWe MSR ITHMSO, Japan-Russia-USA

Frankly even if you guys are legitimate, you are up against competitors with really deep pockets and a lot of credibility in the field, and I can't see anything so far that convinces me that you have something so radical and special that you can play in this league.

As far as your attitude towads me, I consider that of little importance - I am only interested in facts and it takes more than you are likely able to dish out to get under my skin.


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PostPosted: Nov 22, 2009 12:28 am 
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Location: Columbia, SC
Quote:
Business Model

DBI/Century Fuels will license thorium nuclear power plant designs to current fossil fuel and nuclear plant market leaders to provide society with a clean, green, safe and economical nuclear solution to the energy crisis and global climate change.

DBI/Century Fuels is an intellectual property company that will earn revenue through the sale of technology licenses and the sale of nuclear fuel. DBI/Century Fuels will licence its reactor designs to operators. In addition to earning royalties from these licences, the company will generate revenue through the sale of proprietary fuel built to DBI’s specifications by existing approved nuclear fuel suppliers for DBI designed thorium nuclear breeding/breeder reactors.


I sincerely hope I am wrong but when I read things like this I always jump to the thought of predatory patent lawyer sharks circling to attack any organization getting close to success.

Patent law in the USA at least IMHO allows misuse of the legal system and victimizes true innovators. The effect is that innovation is squelched out of fear from getting sued by people saying they hold "rights" and "patents".


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PostPosted: Nov 22, 2009 8:00 am 
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With all the talk of percent going along...what the hell are you talking about? I assume it's Burn-up...and most probably the average cycle burn-up of a single fuel element. but what with the %?

x % as in the number of fissions of the initial fissile content?

or

x at% which is normally defined as the number of fissioned heavy metal atoms relative to the amount of heavy metal atoms initially present.

And x % of fuel isn't really an accepted unit, simply because fuel can be defined in many different ways.

_________________
Liking All Nuclear Systems, But Looking At Them Through Dark And Critical Glasses.


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PostPosted: Nov 22, 2009 9:01 am 
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The list of the "4 drawbacks" to nuclear power are all manufactured concerns generated, in my opinion, by people who don't know very much.


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PostPosted: Nov 22, 2009 9:50 am 
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NNadir wrote:
The list of the "4 drawbacks" to nuclear power are all manufactured concerns generated, in my opinion, by people who don't know very much.

I think we can all agree on the last one.....

MiaOusley wrote:
4 - high economic costs related to construction, operation, financing, and liabilities.

....which is why we want things like non-pressurized reactor vessels/ PHT circuit, chemically inert PHT media, getting rid of complex fueling machines or solid fuel elements, as well as their fabrication and dismantling in reprocessig plants, getting away from the need for costly enrichment plants, etc., etc.


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PostPosted: Nov 22, 2009 11:09 am 
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There is a fifth element which adds to costs that would licensing costs(teaching the NRC). Which may be listed as a sub category to liability. Any research project must get the NRC there learning the ropes.


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PostPosted: Nov 22, 2009 11:31 am 
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Ida-Russkie wrote:
There is a fifth element which adds to costs that would licensing costs(teaching the NRC). Which may be listed as a sub category to liability. Any research project must get the NRC there learning the ropes.

Good point!

To cut costs here, we could argue that, for example, teaching the NRC how to design, build and operate a plant loaded with hundreds of tons of liquid sodium metal is far more burdensome than simply showing that fluoride salts are chemically inert, period.

Of course on the flip side of this coin, the NRC needs to be shown how to design, build and operate a plant that lacks the first in a series of fission product containment barriers -- the solid fuel.
In this domain, one aspect that regulators pay close attention to is plant decommissioning plans, at the end of plant life.
Without that first fission product containment barrier, we are likely to have far more contaminated material to dispose of....
And, unfortunately, regulators are NOT very impressed by arguments about FP-contaminated waste requiring only a few centuries of decay to become harmless....


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PostPosted: Nov 22, 2009 11:42 am 
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jaro wrote:
NNadir wrote:
The list of the "4 drawbacks" to nuclear power are all manufactured concerns generated, in my opinion, by people who don't know very much.

I think we can all agree on the last one.....

MiaOusley wrote:
4 - high economic costs related to construction, operation, financing, and liabilities.

....which is why we want things like non-pressurized reactor vessels/ PHT circuit, chemically inert PHT media, getting rid of complex fueling machines or solid fuel elements, as well as their fabrication and dismantling in reprocessig plants, getting away from the need for costly enrichment plants, etc., etc.


I fully credit what you say on one level, but I don't think that the economic costs of construction are really all that profound, at least if you consider the amortization time of a nuclear plant, which is roughly sixty years, maybe even longer.

The problem is short term thinking and a selfish attitude toward future generations. In an ideal world - and as a political liberal I believe, even as late as this, in idealism - each generation is concerned not with its own short term interests but with the interests of future generations.

A nuclear plant, even with all of the expenses of building it, is a gift to the future, a gift to generations that will come after us.

Here in New Jersey, where I live, a decent proportion of our electricity comes from the Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant, which was finished in 1969. When I turn on my lights more than 40 years later, I am more at peace since that portion of my electricity is as clean and as safe as it could possibly be.

Seen this way, a nuclear plant is cheap, especially when compared to disposable junk like solar cells and wind plants.


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PostPosted: Nov 22, 2009 2:37 pm 
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STG wrote:
With all the talk of percent going along...what the hell are you talking about? I assume it's Burn-up...and most probably the average cycle burn-up of a single fuel element. but what with the %?


That's a very pertinent question. This has been the way it has been reported in the press of late for the results from INL that define it as the amount of uranium-235 remaining over the amount of uranium-235 stated with, expressed as a percentage, and I assume that is what the other examples mean. However you are right that this is not the proper application of the term.


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