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Author Topic: Thorium power, how is it going in the US?  (Read 11152 times)
myrkul
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August 20, 2012, 06:56:04 PM
 #101

There's no taking out the intermediate wastes, reprocessing them into fuel, and putting them back in.
Many people strongly object to molten salt reactors when they hear about online reprocessing because they hear the word "reprocessing" and immediately think "dirty, dangerous and expensive" without realizing how little liquid fuel reprocessing resembles solid fuel reprocessing.

It's different enough that I almost wouldn't call it the same thing. It's more of a chemical filtration process, if anything.

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August 20, 2012, 07:01:40 PM
 #102

There's no taking out the intermediate wastes, reprocessing them into fuel, and putting them back in.
Many people strongly object to molten salt reactors when they hear about online reprocessing because they hear the word "reprocessing" and immediately think "dirty, dangerous and expensive" without realizing how little liquid fuel reprocessing resembles solid fuel reprocessing.

It's different enough that I almost wouldn't call it the same thing. It's more of a chemical filtration process, if anything.

The important thing is can it be safely and economically scaled down and how far...
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August 20, 2012, 07:14:23 PM
 #103

There's no taking out the intermediate wastes, reprocessing them into fuel, and putting them back in.
Many people strongly object to molten salt reactors when they hear about online reprocessing because they hear the word "reprocessing" and immediately think "dirty, dangerous and expensive" without realizing how little liquid fuel reprocessing resembles solid fuel reprocessing.

It's different enough that I almost wouldn't call it the same thing. It's more of a chemical filtration process, if anything.

The important thing is can it be safely and economically scaled down and how far...

Now that, you're gonna have to ask Kirk Sorensen about. I am pretty sure we could get it down small enough to power large-scale vehicles, like submarines and the like. A thorium powered car is probably out of the realm of feasibility. A neighborhood power plant is certainly within feasibility.

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August 21, 2012, 03:49:16 AM
 #104

There's no taking out the intermediate wastes, reprocessing them into fuel, and putting them back in.
Many people strongly object to molten salt reactors when they hear about online reprocessing because they hear the word "reprocessing" and immediately think "dirty, dangerous and expensive" without realizing how little liquid fuel reprocessing resembles solid fuel reprocessing.

It's different enough that I almost wouldn't call it the same thing. It's more of a chemical filtration process, if anything.

The important thing is can it be safely and economically scaled down and how far...

Now that, you're gonna have to ask Kirk Sorensen about. I am pretty sure we could get it down small enough to power large-scale vehicles, like submarines and the like. A thorium powered car is probably out of the realm of feasibility.


There have been both nuclear powered commercial ship prototypes and aircraft.  Ocean ship are fine, but anything that can crash into a residential zone (as opposed to sink into a ocean of radioation shielding) is a bad idea.  That goes double for actual street vehicles.  I'd much rather see a hydrogen powered bus in a city with a nuke powered hydrogen plant than actual nuke busses no matter what kind of fuel cycle it uses.

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A neighborhood power plant is certainly within feasibility.

Yes, easily.
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August 21, 2012, 03:57:51 AM
 #105


From the looks of it a proof of concept reactor could be built on a shoestring budget in a garage. Why hasn't it been done yet?


Probably because for most anyone with any training in the field capable of doing it without killing themselves, the construction of a reactor without the consent of the NRC is a federal felony.

Excluding the "Nuclear Boy Scout" of course, but all he did was build a breader reactor in his mom's tool shed, and probably shorten his lifespan by about 20 years.


Wouldn't any PHD in nuclear physics be able to get a permit or do they require one to be part of the cartel?

No, a permit is required regardless of what you are doing.  In the case of small research reactors, the licensing process is often as expensive as the construction of the entire reactor.  One reason that no one makes small, neighborhood sized reactors even though they certainly could.  A town in Alaska has been asked by some manufactuer from Japan to field test a prototype reactor that supposedly needs no attention nor refuling for 30 years at a time.  I forget what that type was called but it resembled a pencil stuck eraser first into a concrete hole in the ground.  The eraser being the actual reactor and the shaft of the pencil being a set of molten salt lines to function as a heat transport loop to the surface where the generators would be housed.  Last I heard the town was all about it, considering that they were so remote that everything ran on deisal gensets, but the NRC wan't giving the idea the time of day.  That would have been ten years ago, I think.
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August 21, 2012, 04:11:57 AM
 #106

There have been both nuclear powered commercial ship prototypes and aircraft.  Ocean ship are fine, but anything that can crash into a residential zone (as opposed to sink into a ocean of radioation shielding) is a bad idea.  That goes double for actual street vehicles.  I'd much rather see a hydrogen powered bus in a city with a nuke powered hydrogen plant than actual nuke busses no matter what kind of fuel cycle it uses.

A nuclear bus would be a scary concept. Not just because they'd be driven by public employees, either. A cracked reactor vessel, in the presence of even city street-level speeds could splatter molten radioactive salt all over the place. While it would be a heck of a lot easier to clean up than a cloud of radioactive steam, that's still a mess I would rather not deal with. I think it would be safer, radiologically, than a BWR, but short term, that salt would still be crazy radioactive. A hydrogen explosion could do some serious damage, but at least once the boom is over, it's over.

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August 21, 2012, 03:44:54 PM
 #107

In the case of small research reactors, the licensing process is often as expensive as the construction of the entire reactor. 

Alright, what about n_TOF at CERN? I mean that is at least inside the academic world, and from some poking around at the nuclear physics institute website in my city about everybody in the field knows about thorium reactors. They write about it as means of nuclear waste disposal but I think the potential for energy production is well known.

I have no affiliation with the field but if it is possible to leverage existing infrastructure that could even be a Bachelor or Master Thesis project for somebody...
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August 21, 2012, 05:44:54 PM
 #108

In the case of small research reactors, the licensing process is often as expensive as the construction of the entire reactor. 

Alright, what about n_TOF at CERN? I mean that is at least inside the academic world, and from some poking around at the nuclear physics institute website in my city about everybody in the field knows about thorium reactors. They write about it as means of nuclear waste disposal but I think the potential for energy production is well known.

I have no affiliation with the field but if it is possible to leverage existing infrastructure that could even be a Bachelor or Master Thesis project for somebody...

It is for many, particularly in India.  That's beside the point. n_TOF has a research license under CERN.  None of these guys could do any such thing without the explicit support of CERN.  It is a highly regulated field of research, with good reasons.  India has been deep into research regarding the thorium fuel cycle for many years, but mixed fuel reactors are probably the best way to breed uranium from thorium in the near future, and any such breeder design can also transmutate nuke waste from LWR or BWR designs.  However, as I mentioned before, such designs are not safely efficient for power production as well, and work best as municipal heat.
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August 22, 2012, 05:33:26 AM
 #109

we would have had thorium many years ago i we hadnt needed fissionable materials or weapons

but.. how is this economics?
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August 26, 2012, 01:07:32 PM
 #110

we would have had thorium many years ago i we hadnt needed fissionable materials or weapons

but.. how is this economics?
It's economics, mixed with politics, as always on that scale.

And energy is the most important resource so anything related to energy has the highest economical impact.
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November 25, 2012, 08:13:49 PM
 #111

The US is not going to spend billions developing Thorium reactors.  All the research money has gone into solar and it has paid off now that the price of solar has dropped 75% in the last 3 years.  Global energy production from solar went up 193% last year.  Solar is the future.  Here's a relevant post I made in the gas prices thread:

Gasoline prices will continue to fall.  The trucking industry, which accounts for 1/3 of all US oil consumption, can be converted to run on natural gas, and Obama has signed legislation to support this.  Natural gas can also be converted into oil very profitably at the current price ratio with GTL technology, and Shell and SASOL competing to build these facilities in the US.  Additionally, the price of solar panels has dropped by 75% in the last three years.  Solar is now competitive with daytime electricity rates, and it will continue to get cheaper.  But putting solar panels on roofs is just the tip of the iceberg.  By mid-century, most of our power will come from space.  Space-based solar panels are much more efficient as the sunlight is 5.5 times stronger in space, and the panels always operate at 100% with no night.  The power will get beamed to earth in the form of microwaves.  Private enterprise will lower the cost of space launch enough to undercut other methods of power generation.  Much to the environmentalist's delight, oil is on its way out.

The energy density of the sun is irrelevant, what matters is how much of it reaches the Earth's surface. The day time peak is roughly 1000
watts per square meter at the average latitude of the US, or approximately 100 watts per square foot in old currency. The best solar panels currently are only about 20%  efficient and it will be very difficult to get past 30% or so.  For the reason why, you need to understand the Carnot limit, see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnot's_theorem_(thermodynamics)

These numbers adjust downwards for time of day, time of year, percentage of cloud cover, etc., not to mention the problem of storing the energy when the sun does not shine. Every time energy is converted to another form there are conversion losses which do not occur in forms of energy production which can dynamically adjust to the immediate demand as is the case with nuclear and fossil fuels.

Solar energy is so inefficient it would take covering an area the size of Texas to supply the energy needs of the US even discounting the storage and conversion losses mentioned above. Thus, because fossil and nuclear power generation has relatively small foot prints they can easily be put near where the power is needed. Solar would have to be put significantly farther away (assuming the land is available at all), which means greater line losses to transport it, at least until someone manages room temperature super conductivity.

Finally used google to look this up, and it does seem that the argument is nonsense.  You are right that the day time peak is about 1kw per sq meter, but the US has 9 billion sq meters of land!  Half an hour of sun energy hitting the US is enough to power the whole country for a year.

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November 25, 2012, 09:01:07 PM
 #112

The US is not going to spend billions developing Thorium reactors.  All the research money has gone into solar and it has paid off now that the price of solar has dropped 75% in the last 3 years.  Global energy production from solar went up 193% last year.  Solar is the future.

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You are right that the day time peak is about 1kw per sq meter, but the US has 9 billion sq meters of land!  Half an hour of sun energy hitting the US is enough to power the whole country for a year.

I went into studying engineering physics in 1998, mostly because I was hopeful that the US would get its act together and invest in building real, safe nuclear energy, soon.  Unfortunately, I learned very quickly that Americans are far, far too stupid to do that.  Furthermore, we are far too stupid to let someone competent, like the French or Japanese, do it for us.

I've kept a pretty close eye on the energy situation since then.  It seems obvious that the decision was made, decades ago, to choose recession, austerity and warfare in a gambit to jump directly to renewables, and to skip nuclear entirely.

Photovoltaics are getting cheaper.  But the total power produced is insignificant.  They are still too efficient, and too expensive.  To really capture solar energy effectively, you need something more like wind turbines, with a large capture area, and a small capital cost.

We have lots of land.  But covering that land with anything that doesn't self-replicate is hugely expensive.  Consider roads.  They are just oil, and rocks;  the cheapest materials possible.  And they only cover a tiny fraction of the country.  Yet they cost billions of dollars a year, just to maintain.

All of the photovoltaics produced in all of human history cover something like a few hundred square miles, total.

And there is no viable storage mechanism.  So they only compete for peak power, in sunny areas, during the hot months.

Photovoltaics are getting cheaper.  But the cheaper technologies use more precious metals.  They will be limited.  And they will come from places like Afghanistan.

So, yes, I agree that the US will never produce a nuclear renaissance.  It has nothing to do with the feasibility of nuclear energy.  It has to do with the idiots in charge of the US.

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November 25, 2012, 09:49:14 PM
 #113

Thoruim reactors however don't require many concessions to safety, like building a huge dome around them, because they can't explode/vent dangerously, or containing uranium carefully, because they don't contain any uranium and much of the earth is made of thorium so it's quite safe.

If they worked in the same way uranium nuclear reactors do there would be no point at all.

Facts are irrelevant (to bureaucrats who will punish you violently if you attempt to do stuff without their permission).  Thorium reactors could be safer than a kitten, but the bureaucrat (with his natural petty tyrant tendency) won't give a shit about that -- and the average moron will support the bureaucrat because he doesn't understand that thorium reactors are safe.
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November 25, 2012, 09:53:42 PM
 #114

So given all that why did we use a uranium fuel cycle .... Simple, you can't build bombs with thorium.  The sad thing is the uranium legacy was for nothing.   After the DOD co-opted the DOE nuclear program and steered (forced ?) development away from Thorium and towards weapon friendly Uanium  it become obvious that power reactors would never be able to produce the quantity of weapons grade material necessary.  So we built dedicated "bomb reactors" optimized for the production of weapons grade plutonium.   The rest of the world copied the US model since the R&D, designs, and expertise already existed and Thorium being theoretical and untested got sidelined for 60 years.  

So, we don't have Thorium reactors today, because sociopathic closeted mass murderers saw no ability to use them to terrorize hundreds of millions of people with the threat of genocide.

Typical statist-religious bullshit.
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November 25, 2012, 09:55:59 PM
 #115

First of all the reactor couldn't operate at full power with no cooling for more than a very short period of time because of physics. High temperatures shut down the fission reaction.

That is bullshit.

I understand that you have some kind of anxiety problem and want to manage it by controlling the facts you are exposed to but you really should really find a more productive way to deal with it.

A therapist could help you out with the anxiety and a physics textbook could rectify the deficiencies in your understanding of how nuclear reactions work.

Excellent response.
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November 25, 2012, 09:58:22 PM
 #116

Just provide a quote of some research scientist or a paper outlining your claim and it will be fine. You made the claim you have to provide the facts.

Classified

LOL
You're just making yourself look like an ass and displaying your own ignorance. The effect of temperature on fission rates isn't something new - it's was already well-understood physics by 1950.

Any college physics textbook should describe the phenomenon and give you the information and the background to understand it.

I second this.  A quick Googling of what JustusRanvier said confirms what he said about temperatures and fission rates.  ElectricMucus is becoming more destructive and assholeish -- unnecessarily so -- as the thread develops, which leads me to agree with others in this thread who have pointed out that ElectricMucus has some sort of anxiety problem related to being exposed to facts he dislikes.
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November 25, 2012, 10:10:40 PM
 #117

Waiwaiwait... WE HAVE FUSION REACTORS ALREADY?

HOLY FUCKING SHIT.  I want a Mr. Fusion for my black Trans Am, NOW!!!  I won't be able to go to the future with it, but I would most definitely achieve Super Pursuit forrealz.
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November 25, 2012, 11:16:57 PM
 #118

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No, a permit is required regardless of what you are doing.  In the case of small research reactors, the licensing process is often as expensive as the construction of the entire reactor.  One reason that no one makes small, neighborhood sized reactors even though they certainly could.  A town in Alaska has been asked by some manufactuer from Japan to field test a prototype reactor that supposedly needs no attention nor refuling for 30 years at a time.  I forget what that type was called but it resembled a pencil stuck eraser first into a concrete hole in the ground.  The eraser being the actual reactor and the shaft of the pencil being a set of molten salt lines to function as a heat transport loop to the surface where the generators would be housed.  Last I heard the town was all about it, considering that they were so remote that everything ran on deisal gensets, but the NRC wan't giving the idea the time of day.  That would have been ten years ago, I think.

I think, you are speaking of Toshiba 4S reactor
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba_4S


Little offtopic guys, but there is something bugging me - since nuclear power plants are producing strontium-90 as one of fission products, wouldnt it be a good idea to use it to produce electricty? According to wikipedia strontium-90 produces around 0.46 kilowatts of heat per kilogram, due to radioactive decay with half life of about 30 years. Wouldnt it be a good idea to turn it into power source? I mean something like Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) or just hot steam production for traditional turbines?
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November 25, 2012, 11:30:36 PM
 #119

Little offtopic guys, but there is something bugging me - since nuclear power plants are producing strontium-90 as one of fission products, wouldnt it be a good idea to use it to produce electricty? According to wikipedia strontium-90 produces around 0.46 kilowatts of heat per kilogram, due to radioactive decay with half life of about 30 years. Wouldnt it be a good idea to turn it into power source? I mean something like Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) or just hot steam production for traditional turbines?
It's hard to accumulate enough of it in a small place to produce usable amounts of energy.

Just due to thermodynamics thermal energy is difficult to convert into a usable, concentrated form like electricity unless the temperature of your heat source exceeds 250C, and even that isn't particularly efficient.
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November 25, 2012, 11:41:07 PM
 #120

So given all that why did we use a uranium fuel cycle .... Simple, you can't build bombs with thorium.  The sad thing is the uranium legacy was for nothing.   After the DOD co-opted the DOE nuclear program and steered (forced ?) development away from Thorium and towards weapon friendly Uanium  it become obvious that power reactors would never be able to produce the quantity of weapons grade material necessary.  So we built dedicated "bomb reactors" optimized for the production of weapons grade plutonium.   The rest of the world copied the US model since the R&D, designs, and expertise already existed and Thorium being theoretical and untested got sidelined for 60 years.  

So, we don't have Thorium reactors today, because sociopathic closeted mass murderers saw no ability to use them to terrorize hundreds of millions of people with the threat of genocide.

Typical statist-religious bullshit.

The timely invention of the atomic bomb saved over 4 million lives:
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1708051/posts

Again, solar is going to get all the money now because it has had such a radical breakthrough in the last 3 years.

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