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

US reveals plan for nuclear power plant on the MOON that could power lunar Space Force base

NASA astronauts could one day live on the Moon inside a base powered by a lunar nuclear plant.

That’s according to plans shared by the US Department of Energy, which hopes to have the sci-fi power station up and running by 2027.

Nasa may one day build a nuclear power plant on the Moon.

The DoE on Friday put out a request online for ideas from the private sector on how to build such a contraption.

Dubbed a fission surface power system, the station could help man survive harsh environments on the Moon, Mars and beyond.

“Small nuclear reactors can provide the power capability necessary for space exploration missions of interest to the Federal government,” the DoE wrote in the notice published Friday.

Nasa has plans to put astronauts on the Moon in 2024 – the first manned mission to the lunar surface in almost five decades.

Nasa plans to establish a permanent base on the Moon in 2028

 
Nasa plans to establish a permanent base on the Moon in 2028.

The space agency has said it wants to set up a permanent base on Earth’s rocky neighbour in 2028. The base will help launch future missions to Mars.

Questions remain over what will power the base. Nasa would like to use solar panels, but the most power is needed during the 14 day lunar night every month, so nuclear power is the only practical solution.

It seems the space agency, working with the The Idaho National Laboratory and Department of Energy, is at least exploring the nuclear option.

According to the notice published to the DoE’s website, officials are looking for ideas on how to build a mostly autonomous lunar power station.

Only Molten Salt Thorium reactors would fit the bill.

It should work for 10 years at full power and boast a modular design that allows power units to connect together like Lego bricks.

Would-be designers are asked to whip something up that can survive the surface of Mars without modification.

They can be made very compact and modular

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

United States used to be the leader in Thorium usage. What happened?

The 40 MWe Peach Bottom HTR in the USA was a demonstration Thorium-fueled reactor that ran from 1967-74.  and produced a total of 33 billion kWh.

The 330 MWe Fort St Vrain HTR in Colorado, USA, ran from 1976-89.  Almost 25 tons of Thorium was used in fuel for the reactor.

A unique Thorium-fueled light water breeder reactor operated from 1977 to 1982 at Shippingport in the USA– it used uranium-233 and had a power output of 60 MWe.

However, after 10 years passed and billions invested, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission abandoned thorium research, with uranium-fueled nuclear power becoming the standard. In the 1980s, commercial Thorium ventures failed, such as the Indian Point Unit 1 water reactor near New York City, because of the vast financial costs of going alone in a hostile regulatory environment, and fuel and equipment failures. By the 1990s, the US nuclear power industry had abandoned Thorium, partly because Thorium’s breeding ratio was thought insufficient to produce enough fuel for commercial industrialization.

After the Three Mile Island accident, Middletown, PA in 1979 there was a 30 plus  year hiatus in building another nuclear plant, and Thorium was not on any politicians list of areas in which to invest scarce research funds.

Some research and development was still conducted, but it was more concentrated in protecting the U.S. leading position in monitoring  and controlling existing nuclear technology. As a contrast even the Netherlands is developing a molten salt Thorium reactor.

Will the U.S. again show leadership?

The Three Gorges Dam is is danger of collapsing. A Limerick.

Precarious, the Three Gorges dam;

the rain is the battering ram

and the earthquake as well

as the Yang Tse does swell

Constructing the dam was a sham.

When the Three Gorges River was built it was hailed as an engineering masterpiece and proof of the superiority of the central planning and execution of the Communist regime of the People’s Republic of China. But there were real problems from the start. It was built without an independent quality control function, so they asked a western organization to verify the structural integrity of the construction. It turned out that the rebars in the large concrete blocks were not affixed properly from unit to unit, and had not been affixed to the bedrock below, but could be subject to a slow creep under the pressure of water. The findings were not only ignored, but the inspectors were accused of racial prejudice, and besides, the construction was already done, and could not be changed. So it was given the final go-ahead.

There are troubling pictures emerging of that “slow creep:”

The creep in not inches, some parts of the dam has moved many feet from their original position. This is a disaster in making.

The torrential rains have been falling and now all the floodgates are open. The water behind the dam has risen to more than 50 feet above flood level and is close to top the whole dam.

Downstream there is a 700 year old Buddhist temple. It is still standing, but mostly under water

And this is what it looks like under normal circumstances.

Further downstream the flooding is getting worse than they were before the Three Gorges dam was constructed. After all it was made to alleviate floods.

Downstream are big cities like Wuhan, Nanjing and Shanghai.

Death toll in the north and central China floods have risen to 150 people, with scores still missing and hundreds of thousands forced from homes.. The dam is in a region that experiences frequent earthquakes, and so far there has been a small, shallow earthquake in the region, but everybody is bracing for the “big one.”

This is just the beginning.

 

 

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

Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors have a very high negative temperature coefficient leading to a safe and stable control. This is another beauty of the molten salt design. The temperature coefficient is highly negative, leading to a safe design enabling simple and consistent feedback. What does that mean?  It means that when the temperature of the fissile core rises, the efficiency of the reaction goes down, leading to less heat generated. There is no risk for a thermal runaway. In contrast,  graphite moderated generators can have a positive temperature coefficient which leads to complicated control, necessitating many safety circuits to ensure proper startup, operation and shutdown. Their worst failure mode is they go prompt critical, and no containment vessel can contain the explosion that would occur, so they were built without one. There have been several major accidents in graphite moderated reactors, with the Windscale fire and the Chernobyl disaster probably the best known.

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 nuclear waste meant for Yucca

would destine Nevada the sucka

But with Thorium we rid

us of waste that is hid

No need for that waste to be trucka!

Radioactive waste from an LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor)  decays down to background radiation in 300 years instead of a million years for U-235 based reactors. Initially LFTRs produce as much radioactivity as an U-235 based nuclear reactor, since fission converts mass to heat, but the decay products have a much shorter half-life. See the figure below.

Where is the storage for spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste now? Look at the map, it is scary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And these are just the U.S. installations!

Many years ago I studied Engineering at Chalmers’ University in Sweden and I thought I would become a nuclear engineer. Sweden had at that time a peaceful heavy water based nuclear power program together with Canada and India. The advantage with heavy water as moderator is that it can use natural, un-enriched Uranium. One of the end products is of course Plutonium 239, the preferred material to make nuclear bombs, but it could also use Thorium, and the end product is then mostly Plutonium 238, used in space exploration, and we were dreaming big. One of the advantages of Thorium as fuel is that it produces about 0,01%  of trans-Uranium waste compared to Uranium as fuel. About that time the U.S. proposed we should abandon the heavy water program and switch to light water enriched Uranium based nuclear power. They would sell the enriched Uranium, and reprocess the spent fuel at cost. They also had the ideal final resting place for the radioactive waste products in Nevada. This was an offer the Swedish government could not refuse, at the height of the cold war. This was  in the 1960’s! India on the other hand did refuse, and they eventually got the nuclear bomb. Since that meant Sweden was never going to use Thorium as nuclear fuel, and I could not figure out how to get rid of all the radioactive waste products, I switched my attention back to control engineering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did President Trump mean with innovative approaches?

Is this where Thorium comes in!?

Penn State University Engineering Capstone Showcase 2018.

Thursday, two days before finals was the PSU Engineering Capstone showcase. Even though I have been a lecturer there for the last six years I didn’t realize it is by far the largest Capstone showcase of this type in the world, and it is growing year by year. This year there were over 200 teams competing, mostly graduating seniors, but a good number of freshmen in engineering, and not a few graduate projects, in all over 1000 participants.

The set-up began at 10:30 a. m. in the Bryce Jordan main Arena, with 139 senior Capstone projects displaying their projects.

The overflow training area had over 70 projects from Civil Engineering and Earth Science, Nuclear Engineering, as well as graduate projects and the displays from the freshman Engineering Design course.

The success of the showcase is in part because of a large number of corporate sponsors, many who sponsor multiple projects. Some of these projects are the very cutting edge of  science, and provide a real challenge for the students.

My role as an instructor is quite simple: To convert the engineering students from students to world class engineers in 17 short weeks. The engineering students are organized in teams of 4 or 5 persons. Most of the teams consist of engineers from more than 2 disciplines. So the teams must get to know each other, work together as a functioning team, do the research, build a prototype or a final product as a team, with deadlines to meet. This is quite different from cramming for an exam.

The projects are quite different:

Here is a project to build a prototype fit-bit that monitors the total activity and inactivity of a subject.

Next is a happy team that made a LED light that can adjust the color and saturation of light and modulate upon command.

Not all projects are innovative. This project from Philips ultrasound division involved upgrading an old impedance measuring device to function with the newest hardware and software, in short a project that many computer engineers will experience; what to do with legacy hardware and software.

Next was a project to utilize the internet of things.

 

This project was interesting: Modify existing wood carving software to get a realistic wood carving of a dog from a photo.

They certainly seem happy!

My favorite project this year was to use a hololens to make an image of a liver projected in 3D in the hololens. The object was to help the surgeon by identifying nerves and vessels to improve the accuracy of surgery.

At 3 o’clock it was time for the presentation of the awards. Free Creamery ice cream for everyone!

Another successful Showcase at Penn State University, making yet another batch of world class engineers. Yes, they come from all over the world, one of my teams only had one American!