I remember it like yesterday. We sat up late in the evening of July 20 1969 and watched the first landing on the moon, in real-time and transmitted over all 3 networks. Later President Nixon commented: “This is the greatest week in the history of the world since Creation.” Be that as it may, it was watched by about 500 million people world-wide and the future looked bright. Look at us since then:
Fifty years since “a small step for man.”
It seemed we lost sight of the plan.
Now it’s back to the Moon
with the Gateway, and soon
for with Thorium power, we can.
The ambition is to build a space colony on the moon, have a space station, the “Gateway”, and from there launch unmanned and finally manned Mars missions. A very ambitious program. The only way it is possible by utilizing molten salt Thorium nuclear reactors on the moon to cope with the 14 day nights on the moon. This 10 min video tells it well.
No need for evacuation zones, can be placed near urban areas. Molten Salt Thorium reactors operate at atmospheric pressure and have a very high negative temperature coefficient, so there is no risk for a boil-over. They are easily made earthquake-safe and no pressure vessel is needed. This will greatly simplify the approval process, no need for elaborate evacuation plans have to be developed. Since the Three Mile Island accident there was a thirty year gap in approvals for new nuclear plants. The “not in my backyard ” mentality reigned supreme, and delay and denial was the rule of the years. But the lawyers still got their share, leading to escalating cost for new nuclear power. In the early days of nuclear power France took the approach of building some of their nuclear plants near the Belgian and German border, so they only had to develop half of an evacuation plan, leaving the other half to their understanding neighbors. It also leads to placing the nuclear plants where there is the least resistance, not where they are needed the most, adding to the strain on the electric grid.
Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport. I am following the events at Fukushima Nuclear Power plants with great interest. How ironic that the greatest risk is 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. Molten Salt Thorium nuclear power works differently from conventional Uranium 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 one to ten thousand in the size of the problem. It is high time to rebuild and expand our Nuclear power generation by switching to Thorium.
With Molten Salt nuclear Reactors there is no risk for a meltdown, the fuel is already molten, and that is a safe design. The fissile fuel in a Thorium reactor is U-233 in the form of UraniumFluoride (UF4) salt which also contains Lithium and Beryllium. In its molten form it has a very low vapor pressure. The salt flows easily through the heat exchangers and the separators. The salt is very toxic, but it is completely sealed. Being a fluid, it is constantly mixed for optimum efficiency. The reactor will never have to be shut down for refueling, it is a continuous flow process. Uranium-235 Nuclear reactors on the other hand have to be shut down for refueling and rebalancing of the fuel rods a little more often than once every two years. The average shutdown is 35 days, or about 5% of the time. Then comes the major problem of safely and securely transporting and reprocessing the spent fuel.