Recent Developments

I just looked back and realized that I didn’t post a single time in the month of January. For that I apologize–I want you to know that the frequency of posting is not connected to the pace of development in the world of thorium. In fact, it may be just the opposite–the more that is going on the less time there seems to be to make good high-quality postings.

Nevertheless, in an attempt to recapitulate recent developments let me call a few out:

Baroness Worthington discussed thorium in the House of Lords on January 12th as part of a larger discussion on British national energy policy:

Lords debate the government’s green agenda

“I shall end on a discussion of whether the tried and failed technologies that we talk about a lot will deliver, and by that I mean the current generation of nuclear reactors. We often hear the promise that we are going to build eight or even 10 new reactors to replace the ones that are closing. My reading from those whom I speak to in the industry is that there is a great deal of cynicism about this. It is very unlikely that we will see the scale of build that the Government are anticipating because our current reactor designs are simply not attractive. As one executive who had looked at both designs put it to me, “They are both pretty awful and we do not like them”. I think that a nuclear renaissance is possible and indeed desirable, but it will have to be achieved by looking at the full range of new generation nuclear reactors. It will come as no surprise that I shall mention thorium molten-salt reactors, because of all the technologies that I have looked at in relation to climate change this one has huge potential. If we were able to match the amount of money that we are currently spending on nuclear fusion, there is no doubt that we would develop a technology that had massive potential for export. I would like to mention the Lords Science and Technology Select Committee report on nuclear research and development. It is an excellent report and I hope that the Government will respond to it, because we really do need to look again at our spending.”

I particularly like how she juxtaposed the large investments in nuclear fusion, which has never produced a single watt of electrical power with the non-existent investment in fluid-fueled thorium reactors.

While the noble Baroness was defending an advanced nuclear option in the House of Lords, one of our biggest media exposures of all time was taking place on the TED.com website:

TED.com: Kirk Sorensen: Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel

George Monbiot is increasingly realizing that so-called “nuclear waste” might have a lot of value, if placed in machines suitably designed to use it:

Monbiot: A Waste of Waste

But others worry about the glut of natural gas and its effects:

CSMonitor: The natural gas glut is reshaping electricity markets

The DOE is announcing financial support for the licensing of small modular reactors:

US DOE launches major funding program for small nuclear reactors

While the Chinese keep visiting Oak Ridge to get more data on MSRs:

Who’s that knocking at ORNL’s front door? Yep, it’s China (again and again)

And finally, in Japan, the mighty nation is laid low yet again, as the shutdown of their nuclear power plants drives them into a trade deficit for the first time in decades.

Reuters: Exporter Japan eyes first trade deficit in 3 decades

5 thoughts on “Recent Developments

  1. I only wish that you and the UK start with simpler designs for a quicker start. Unmoderated LFTR using FNaBe and reactor grade Pu could be used for initial designs. It could meet all the aims the UK want to achieve with Prism reactors. The US Department of Defense is also not wanting of fissile material.
    Improvements for an iso-breeder or even a breeder can be introduced later out of returns of a smaller initial investment. Once power production starts from any MSR, fence-sitters like India could be inspired to join the fray.

  2. Another Recent Development…

    On 14 Feb, the Secretary of the Army published his top ten strategic priorities. Ninth on the list (of ten) is "Develop Energy Solutions". Here is the paragraph on that.

    Supplying energy to our Army around the world is increasingly challenging and expensive. Initiatives such as cool roofs, solar power, storm water management and water efficiency are positive steps in addressing the challenges of energy security. Decreasing energy requirements must be a key consideration for U.S. Army installations, weapon systems and contingency operations. The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment will continue to evaluate our ability to use renewable and alternative power sources. Key to increasing our Army's flexibility will be innovative and adaptive leaders who seek ways to increase energy efficiency and implement renewable and alternate sources of energy force-wide.

  3. In reference to Jagdish's post –

    Is it necessary to use a fast reactor to eat spent fuel? Can the LFTR do part of the job? I vaguely recall an Oak Ridge document that suggested a slow(?) reactor might use up to 20% minor actinides. What fuel pre-processing would be required? I can see reaming out the fuel pellets and getting rid of the oxygen. Would you want to run it through the fluoridator to get rid of the Uranium, or would you want to burn that, too?

    EAT SPENT FUEL RODS – great bumper sticker!

  4. Wow- I'm impressed. Anyone who can persuade someone to Move out of Austin to anywhere is the man to get LFTR off the ground;-)

  5. Another military development – Earlier this month the Air Force published "Energy Horizons: United States Air Force Energy S&T Vision 2011-2026"

    The report mentions Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTG), butr beyond that considers modular fission reactors for space and ground use.

    "…the Air Force space systems portfolio should consider piloting small modular nuclear systems, a view previously recommended by the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board."

    by which I hope they mean pilot plants. Piloting certainly has another definition in the AF.
    I also found another political point of interest in the document…

    "In the 2010 NDAA, PL 111-08428 October 2009 Sec 2845, Congress directed the DoD to determine the feasibility of nuclear power plants on DoD installations.

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