CO2 concentration has increased 50% since pre-industrial times. Is that good or bad? Thorium Nuclear Power is the answer. A Limerick.

 

As CO2 warms up the poles

burned oil, gas and coal play their roles.

CO2 is still good;

makes plants green, grows more food,

and clouds are the climate controls.

We live in interesting times, the CO2 concentration has increased 50% since the beginning of industrialization. In the last 30 years the level has risen 17%, from about 350 ppm to nearly 410 ppm. This is what scares people. Is is time to panic and stop carbon emissions altogether as Greta Thunberg has suggested?As if on cue the climate models have been adjusted, and they suddenly show a much higher rate of temperature increase, in this case what is supposed to happen to global temperatures for a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial times, from 270ppm to 540ppm.

 

 

 

There are two ways to approach this problem. The models make certain assumptions about the behavior of the changing atmosphere and model future temperature changes. This is the approach taken by IPCC for the last 32 years. These models are all failing miserably when compared to actual temperature changes.

The other way i to observe what is actually happening to our temperature over time as the CO2 increases. We have 50 years of excellent global temperature data, so with these we can see where, when and by how much the earth has warmed.

The most drastic temperature rise on earth has been in the Arctic above the 80th latitude. In the winter of 2018 it was 8C above the 50 year average. See charts from the Danish Meteorological Institute:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note, there is no increase at all in the summer temperatures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fall temperature saw an increase of 5C and the spring temperature saw an increase of about 2.5C.

The 2020 winter recorded an about 4c increase Source: DMI.

Notice: In this chart the there is no recorded summer temperature increase at all!

The 5 thru 8C winter rise of temperature is significant, most would even say alarming, but my response is, why is that?

To get the answer we must study molecular absorption spectroscopy and explain a couple of facts for the 97% of all scientists who have not studied molecular spectroscopy. IPCC and most scientists claim that the greenhouse effect is dependent on the gases that are in the atmosphere, and their combined effect is additive according to a logarithmic formula. This is true up to a certain point, but it is not possible to absorb more than 100% of all the energy available in a certain frequency band! For example: If water vapor absorbs 90% of all incoming energy in a certain band, and CO2 absorbs another 50% of the energy in the same band, the result is that 95% is absorbed, (90% + 50% * (100% – 90%)),  not 140%, (90% + 50%).

The following chart shows both CO2 and H2O are absorbing greenhouse gases, with H20 being the stronger greenhouse gas, absorbing over a much wider spectrum, and they overlap for the most part. But it also matters in what frequency range s they absorb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this we will have to look at the frequency ranges of the incoming solar radiation and the outgoing black body radiation of the earth. It is the latter that causes the greenhouse effect. Take a look at this chart:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The red area represents the observed amount of solar radiation that reaches the earth’s surface, the white area under the red line represents radiation absorbed in the atmosphere. Likewise, the blue area represents the outgoing black body radiation that is re-emitted. The remaining white area under the magenta, blue or black line represents the retained absorbed energy that causes the greenhouse effect.

Let us  now take a look at the Carbon Dioxide bands of absorption, at 2.7, 4.3 and 15 microns. Of them the 2.7 and 4.3 micron bands absorb where there is little black body radiation, the only band that is of interest is at 15 microns, and that is in a band where the black body radiation has its maximum. However it is also in a band where water vapor also absorb, not as much as CO2,only about 20% to 70% as much. Water vapor or absolute humidity is highly dependent on the temperature of the air, so at 30C there may be 50 times as much water vapor, at 0C there may be ten times as much water vapor, and at -25C there may be more CO2 than water vapor. At those low temperatures the gases are mostly additive. In the tropics with fifty times more water vapor than CO2, increased CO2 has no influence on the temperature whatsoever. Temperature charts confirm this assertion:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here the temperature in the tropics displays no trend whatsoever. It follows the temperature of the oceans, goes up in an El Niño and down in a La Niña. The temperature in the southern hemisphere shows no trend. In the northern temperate region there is a slight increase, but the great increase is occurring in the Arctic. There is no increase in the Antarctic yet even though the increase in CO2 is greater in the Antarctic and the winter temperature in the Antarctic is even lower than in the Arctic. So CO2 increase cannot be the sole answer to the winter temperature increase in the Arctic.

There is an obvious answer. When temperatures increase the air can contain more moisture and will transport more moisture from the tropics all the way to the arctic, where it falls as snow. Is the snow increasing in the Arctic?

Let us see what the snow statistics show. These are from the Rutgers’ snow lab.

The fall snow extent is increasing, and has increased by more than 2 percent per year.

 

The winter snowfall has also increased but only by 0.04 percent per year. The snow covers all of Russia, Northern China, Mongolia, Tibet, Kashmir and northern Pakistan, Northern Afghanistan, Northern Iran, Turkey, Part of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Canada, Alaska, Greenland and part of Western and Northern United States.

In the spring on the other hand the snow pack is melting faster, about 1.6 percent less snow per year. One of the major reasons for an earlier snow-melt is that the air is getting dirtier, especially over China, and to some extent Russia. The soot from burning coal and mining and manufacturing changes the albedo of the snow. The soot is visible on old snow all the way up to the North Pole. The other reason is that the poles are getting warmer. In the fall and winter it is mostly due to increased snowfall, but in the spring, as soon as the temperature rises over the freezing point, melting occurs.

So the warming of the poles, far from being an impending end of mankind as we know it, may even be beneficial. Warmer poles in the winter means less temperature gradient between the poles and the tropics, leading to less severe storms. They will still be there, but less severe.

There is one great benefit of increased CO2, the greening of the earth.

Thanks to this greening, accomplished with only the fertilizing effect of CO2, the earth can now keep another 2 billion people from starvation, not to mention what it does to plants and wildlife.

Having said that, I am still a conservationist. Coal, oil and gas will run out at some time, and I for one would like to save some for my great grandchildren, not yet born. In addition I would like to minimize the need for mining, which is quite destructive.

The best solution is to switch most electricity generation to Thorium molten salt nuclear power. There are multiple reasons why this should be done as a priority.

Here are some of them:

The case for Thorium. 1. A million year supply of Thorium available worldwide.

The case for Thorium. 2. Thorium already mined, ready to be extracted.

The case for Thorium. 3. Thorium based nuclear power produces 0.012 percent as much TRansUranium waste products as traditional nuclear power.

The case for Thorium. 4. Thorium based nuclear power will produce Plutonium-238, needed for space exploration.

The case for Thorium. 5. Thorium nuclear power is only realistic solution to power space colonies.

The case for Thorium. 6. Radioactive waste from an Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor decays down to background radiation in 300 years compared to a million years for U-235 based reactors. A Limerick.

The case for Thorium. 7. Thorium based nuclear power is not suited for making nuclear bombs.

The case tor Thorium. 8. Produces isotopes that helps treat and maybe cure certain cancers.

The case for Thorium. 9. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors are earthquake safe, only gravity needed for safe shutdown.

The case for Thorium. 10. Molten Salt Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors cannot have a meltdown, the fuel is already molten, and it is a continuous process. No need for refueling shutdowns.

The case for Thorium. 11. Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors have a very high negative temperature coefficient leading to a safe and stable control.

The case for Thorium 13. Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport.

The case for Thorium. 14. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Nuclear reactors scale beautifully from small portable generators to full size power plants.

The case for Thorium. 15. No need for evacuation zones, Liquid Fuel Thorium Reactors can be placed near urban areas.

The case for Thorium. 16. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants.

The case for Thorium. 17. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid.

The case for Thorium. 18. Russia has an active Thorium program.

The case for Thorium. 19. India is having an ambitious Thorium program, planning to meet 30% of its electricity demand via Thorium based reactors by 2050.

The case for Thorium 20. China is having a massive Thorium program.

The case for Thorium. 21. United States used to be the leader in Thorium usage. What happened?

The case for Thorium. 22. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like the Three Mile Island disaster will not happen.

The case for Thorium. 23. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like Chernobyl are impossible.

The case for Thorium. 24. With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen.

The case for Thorium. 25. Will produce electrical energy at about 4 cents per kWh.

The case for Thorium. 26. Can deplete most of the existing radioactive waste and nuclear weapons stockpiles.

The case for Thorium. 27. With electric cars and trucks replacing combustion engine cars, only Thorium Nuclear power is the rational solution to provide the extra electric power needed.

The case for Thorium 28. The race for space colonies is on. Only Molten Salt Thorium Nuclear reactors can fit the bill.

The case for Thorium. 27. With electric cars and trucks replacing combustion engine cars, only Thorium Nuclear power is the rational solution to provide the extra electric power needed.

It seems that electric powered vehicles are finally taking off, and sales are ready to explode. The Tesla electric car company capitalization value has increased eight-fold in the last half year, and is now worth more on paper than GM, Ford, Chrysler and Honda combined .

If CO2 is the great driver of environmental destruction, never mind that the increased CO2 is feeding 2 billion more people than before thanks to the greening effect of increased CO2, then we should work at warp speed to develop the additional electricity needs that will arise with all electric vehicles coming to market needing charging stations.

It makes no sense to build more coal and gas fired electric plants, replacing one CO2 generator with another, the best wind power sites are already taken, waste, geothermal and solar power is still a pipe dream, so, what to do?

Conventional nuclear power is limited and requires a very long and extensive approval process, partly due to the not in my backyard regulation attitude.  We are already the world’s largest importer of Uranium, and the world’s supply is to a large extent controlled by non allies. .

How do you eliminate all Coal and natural gas electric plants? Look at the U.S usage: (Last  year 2016)

Image result for electric production"

We can see that renewable energy will not suffice. The only real answer is to expand nuclear electricity, but we are already the world’s biggest importer of Uranium. (The Uranium One deal, when we sold 20% of our Uranium mining rights to Russia did not help, but we were in trouble even before ). No, the only real answer is to rapidly develop molten salt Thorium nuclear electricity production. They do not require water for cooling, so they can be placed anywhere where additional capacity is needed, eliminating rapid expansion of the electric grid.

Let us go to it now!

The case for Thorium. 26. Can deplete most of the existing radioactive waste and nuclear weapons stockpiles.

LFTR is a type of Molten Salt Reactor with equipment to convert plentiful thorium into uranium (U233) to use as fuel. It can also use plutonium from LWR (Light Water Reactor) waste. LFTR is not very efficient at using depleted uranium (need a Fast-Spectrum reactor to fission U-238 effectively; in a thermal-spectrum reactor like LFTR or LWR, would convert some U-238 to plutonium which is fissile).

Because a LFTR fissions 99%+ of the fuel (whether thorium, or plutonium from nuclear waste), it consumes all the uranium and transuraniums leaving no long-term radioactive waste. 83% of the waste products are safely stabilized within 10 years. The remaining 17% need to be stored less than 350 years to become completely benign.

“LFTR technology can also be used to reprocess and consume the remaining fissile material in spent nuclear fuel stockpiles around the world and to extract and resell many of the other valuable fission byproducts that are currently deemed hazardous waste in their current spent fuel rod form. The U.S. nuclear industry has already allocated $25 billion for storage or reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and the world currently has over 340,000 tons of spent LWR fuel with enough usable fissile material to start one 100 MWe LFTR per day for 93 years. (A 100 MW LFTR requires 100 kg of fissile material (U-233, U-235, or Pu-239) to start the chain reaction). LFTR can also be used to consume existing U-233 stockpiles at ORNL ($500 million allocated for stockpile destruction) and plutonium from weapons stockpiles.”

FS-MSRs essentially avoid the entire fuel qualification issue in that they are tolerant of any fissile material composition, with their inherent strong negative thermal reactivity feedback providing the control necessary to accommodate a shifting fuel feed stream. Fast Spectrum Molten Salt Reactor Options,

See also point 17: Russia develops a fission-fusion hybrid reactor.

Some of the pictures are from a slide presentation given by David Archibald in Melbourne Feb 5 2011. He posted it “for the benefit of all” which I have interpreted as waving the copyright of the pictures

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/12/david-archibald-on-climate-and-energy-security/

The case for Thorium. 25. Will produce electrical energy at about 4 cents per kWh.

Produces electrical energy at about 4 cents per kWh.

The United States sources of Electricity generation is one third from Natural Gas, one third from Coal and one third from non fossil fuel sources.

Image result for us electricity generation by source

The cost to produce electricity with Thorium nuclear power should be about 40% less than Advanced Nuclear and about 30 % less than from Coal (with scrubbers)  Solar generation is about 4 times more expensive (without subsidies) Wind power is cheaper when the wind blows, but the generation capacity has to be there even when the wind doesn’t blow, so the only gain from wind power is to lessen the mining or extraction of carbon. In addition, wind power kills birds, the free yearly quota of allowable Bald Eagle kills was upped from 1200 to 4200 during the Obama administration. (https://lenbilen.com/2019/04/12/what-is-more-precious-babies-eagles-or-fighting-climate-change/). Golden Eagles and a few other rare birds has a quarter of a million dollar fine associated with their kills. If wind power is increased without finding a solution to the bird kills, whole species may be extinct. Solar power is, and will be used in special applications such as on roofs for backup and peak power assist. Hydroelectric power is for all practical purpose maxed out, so nearly all future increase must come from Coal, Natural Gas, Petroleum or Nuclear. Thorium powered Nuclear Generators is the way to go.

The case for Thorium. 24. With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen..

With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen.  It began with a magnitude 9.0 earthquake not far from the Fukushima 6 Nuclear reactor complex. The impact was a magnitude 6.8 earthquake and the operators immediately scrammed the safety rods to stop all the reactors. This succeeded! The reactors were designed with earthquakes in mind, and they passed the test. The backup power started up successfully so the cooling pumps could operate. There was one major problem though. The earthquake was so bad that the water in the spent fuel holding tanks splashed out and exposed the spent fuel rods to air, releasing enough radioactivity to make entering the buildings impossible.

Image result for fukushima reactor design

The water pumps worked for a while, but then came the tsunami. All the reactors were inside a tsunami wall, so far, so good. But the fuel storage tanks for the fuel for the backup power generators were outside the tsunami wall and were washed away. The batteries were only supposed to last until backup power was established, and with complete power loss and water circulation ended the meltdown started. This disaster was even bigger than Chernobyl and contamination is still spreading.

In a molten salt Thorium reactor, when power is cut off in an emergency, only gravity is needed for a safe shutdown, and gravity hasn’t failed us yet.

The case for Thorium. 23. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like Chernobyl are impossible.

With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like Chernobyl are impossible. The Three Mile Island accident was bad. The Chernobyl disaster was ten million times worse. Ah yes, I remember it  well.

One morning at work, a fellow co-worker, a Ph.D. Chemist working on an Electron Capture Detector, containing a small amount of Nickel 63, came with a surprising question: You know nuclear science, how come the reactors in Chernobyl don’t have a containment vessel? Well- I answered, it is because they are carbon moderated and their failure mode is that they go prompt critical, and  no containment vessel in the world can hold it in, so they skip it. He turned away in disgust. A few weeks later my wife’s father died, and we went to Denmark to attend the funeral. The day of the return back to the U.S. we heard that there had been a nuclear incident in Sweden, too much radiation had caused two nuclear power stations to close down. The Chernobyl disaster had happened 26 April 1986, and this was the first time anyone outside of Chernobyl has heard about it, two days later. This was still the Soviet Union, and nothing ever did go wrong in it worthy of reporting.

Image result for the chernobyl disaster

(Photo Courtesy of EBRD)

(But the carbon moderated Uranium reactors are the most efficient in producing Pu-239 the preferred nuclear bomb material.)

This has nothing to do with anything, but Chernobyl can be translated wormwood. It is mentioned in the Bible, Revelation 8: 10-11 “ And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

Molten Salt Thorium reactors cannot be used to supply bomb material, and they are far safer than even Light water Uranium reactors.

The case for Thorium 20. China is having a massive Thorium program.

China is having a massive Thorium program. The People’s Republic of China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology. The thorium MSR efforts aims not only to develop the technology but to secure intellectual property rights to its implementation. This may be one of the reasons that the Chinese have not joined the international Gen-IV effort for MSR development, since part of that involves technology exchange. Neither the US nor Russia have joined the MSR Gen-IV effort either.
China is currently the largest emitter of CO2 and air pollutants by far, and according to the Paris accord was allowed to emit six times as much pollutants as the U.S. by 2030, being a “developing nation”. Their air quality is already among the worst in the world so something had to be done if they were to achieve world dominance by 2025 and total rule by 2030. Only Thorium can solve the pollution problem and provide the clean energy needed for the future. Regular Uranium Nuclear reactors require large amounts of water and Molten Salt Thorium reactors require little water to operate.

Geneva, Switzerland, 21 August 2018 – As the world struggles with a record-breaking heatwave, China correctly places its trust in the fuel Thorium and the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR) as the backbone of its nation’s plan to become a clean and cheap energy powerhouse.
​​The question is if China will manage to build a homegrown mega export industry, or will others have capacity and will to catch up?
For China, clean energy development and implementation is a test for the state’s ability. Therefore, China is developing the capability to use the “forgotten fuel” thorium, which could begin a new era of nuclear power.​
The first energy system they are building is a solid fuel molten salt reactor that achieves high temperatures to maximize efficiency of combined heat and power generation applications.
However, to fully realize thorium’s energy potential and in this way solve an important mission for China – the security of fuel supply – requires also the thorium itself to be fluid. This is optimized in the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR).
The TMSR takes safety to an entirely new level and can be made cheap and small since it operates at atmospheric pressure, one of its many advantages. Thanks to its flexible cooling options it can basically be used anywhere, be it a desert, a town or at sea. In China this is of special interest inland, where freshwater is scarce in large areas, providing a unique way to secure energy independence.
“Everyone in the field is extremely impressed with how China saw the potential, grabbed the opportunity and is now running faster than everyone else developing this futuristic energy source China and the entire world is in a great need of.”
– Andreas Norlin, Thorium Energy World
Picture
China is not telling all they are doing on Nuclear Energy.

The case for Thorium. 16. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants.

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants. LFTR’s operate at a much higher temperature than conventional power plants and operate at about 45% electricity conversion efficiency, as opposed to 38% or lower for steam generators. In addition, because of the higher operating temperature it is ideal for hydrogen generation. The reactor would use the electricity generation to satisfy the current demand and produce hydrogen during times of low demand. This hydrogen would be temporarily stored and used for electricity production at peak demand. And  hydrogen power produces only water when burned, no CO2  or polluting fumes are generated. With the objective of reducing the cost of hydrogen production,  solid oxide electrolyser cells (SOECs) are especially well suited.  SOECs operate at high temperatures, typically around 800 °C. At these high temperatures a significant amount of the energy required can be provided as thermal energy (heat), and as such is termed High temperature electrolysis.

The case for Thorium 13. Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport.

 Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport. I have been following the events at Fukushima Nuclear Power plants disaster with great interest. How ironic that one of the greatest problems was with the spent fuel, not with the inability to shut down the working units. The spent fuel issue is the real Achilles’ heel of the Nuclear Power Industry. The cost of reprocessing and storing spent reactor fuel will burden us for centuries after the reactors themselves have been decommissioned after their useful life. Molten Salt Thorium nuclear power works differently from  conventional Uranium fueled Reactors as  the fissile fuel gets generated in the breeding process itself and nearly all fuel gets consumed as it is generated. When the process shuts down, that is it. Only the radioactivity that is en route so to say will have to be accounted for, not everything generated thus far in the process. The difference is about ten thousand to one in the size of the problem. It is high time to rebuild and expand our Nuclear power generation by switching to Thorium.

The case for Thorium. 12. Atmospheric pressure operating conditions, no risk for explosions. Much safer and simpler design.

Molten Salt nuclear Reactors operate under Atmospheric pressure  conditions, no risk for explosions. Materials subjected to high radiation tend to get brittle or soften up. Molten Salt Thorium nuclear reactors operate under atmospheric conditions so the choice of materials that can withstand both high temperatures and high radiation is much greater, leading to a superior and less expensive design.  There is no high pressure gas buildup and the separation stage can be greatly simplified, leading to a much safer design. (From Wikipedia:)

The LFTR needs a mechanism to remove the fission products from the fuel. Fission products left in the reactor absorb neutrons and thus reduce neutron economy. This is especially important in the thorium fuel cycle with few spare neutrons and a thermal neutron spectrum, where absorption is strong. The minimum requirement is to recover the valuable fissile material from used fuel.

Removal of fission products is similar to reprocessing of solid fuel elements; by chemical or physical means, the valuable fissile fuel is separated from the waste fission products. Ideally the fertile fuel (thorium or U-238) and other fuel components (e.g. carrier salt or fuel cladding in solid fuels) can also be reused for new fuel. However, for economic reasons they may also end up in the waste.

On site processing is planned to work continuously, cleaning a small fraction of the salt every day and sending it back to the reactor. There is no need to make the fuel salt very clean; the purpose is to keep the concentration of fission products and other impurities (e.g. oxygen) low enough. The concentrations of some of the rare earth elements must be especially kept low, as they have a large absorption cross section. Some other elements with a small cross section like Cs or Zr may accumulate over years of operation before they are removed.

As the fuel of a LFTR is a molten salt mixture, it is attractive to use pyroprocessing, high temperature methods working directly with the hot molten salt. Pyroprocessing does not use radiation sensitive solvents and is not easily disturbed by decay heat. It can be used on highly radioactive fuel directly from the reactor. Having the chemical separation on site, close to the reactor avoids transport and keeps the total inventory of the fuel cycle low. Ideally everything except new fuel (thorium) and waste (fission products) stays inside the plant.

One potential advantage of a liquid fuel is that it not only facilitates separating fission-products from the fuel, but also isolating individual fission products from one another, which is lucrative for isotopes that are scarce and in high-demand for various industrial (radiation sources for testing welds via radiography), agricultural (sterilizing produce via irradiation), and medical uses (Molybdenum-99 which decays into Technetium-99m, a valuable radiolabel dye for marking cancerous cells in medical scans).

Mo-99 is used in hospitals to produce the technetium-99m employed in around 80% of nuclear imaging procedures. Produced in research reactors, Mo-99 has a half-life of only 66 hours and cannot be stockpiled, and security of supply is a key concern. Most of the world’s supply currently comes from just four reactors in Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia and South Africa, and recent years have illustrated how unexpected shutdowns at any of those reactors can quickly lead to shortages. Furthermore, most Mo-99 is currently produced from HEU targets, which are seen as a potential nuclear proliferation risk.

With the Mo-99 having a half-life of 66 hours and being continuously separated out from the fertile core in a LFTR, this seems to be the ideal vehicle to cheaply produce ample supplies of this valuable medical resource.