Eleven more reasons to switch to Thorium as Nuclear fuel.

Eleven more reasons to switch to Thorium as Nuclear fuel. The first eleven are found in https://lenbilen.com/2012/02/15/eleven-reasons-to-switch-to-thorium-based-nuclear-power-generation/  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. Thorium power works differently as 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 10000 to one in the size of the problem. Time to switch over to Thorium.

12.  Scales beautifully from small portable generators to full size power plants. One of the first applications was as an airborne nuclear reactor.

 Granted this was not a Thorium breeder reactor, but it proves nuclear reactors can be made lightweight. Thorium reactor may be made even lighter as long as they are not of the breeder type.

13. No need for evacuation zones, can be placed near urban areas. 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 since no pressure vessel is needed.

14. Rapid response to increased or decreased power demands. The increase in power output to increased power demand is faster than in coal-fired power plant. All you have to do is increase the speed of flow in the core and it will respond with raised temperature.

15. Lessens the need for an expanded national grid. The National Electric grid is at the breaking point. It needs to be expanded, but neighborhood resistance is building in many areas where they need an expansion the most. The grid is also sensitive to terrorism activities.

 As we can see the national grid is extensive, and under constant strain. A way to lessen the dependency on the national grid is to sprinkle it with many small to medium sized Thorium Nuclear Power generators.  They can be placed on barges in rivers and along the coast, giving the grid maximum flexibility to respond in  case of an emergency.

16. Russia has a Thorium program This is a self-contained Thorium Nuclear Reactor on a barge. Coolant readily available. Hoist it a couple of cables and the town will have all the power it needs.

17. China is starting up a Thorium program. The People’s Republic of China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology, it was announced in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) annual conference on Tuesday, January 25. An article in the Wenhui News followed on Wednesday. Chinese researchers also announced this development on the Energy from Thorium Discussion Forum. Led by Dr. Jiang Mianheng, a graduate of Drexel University in electrical engineering, 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. A Chinese delegation led by Dr. Jiang travelled to Oak Ridge National Lab last fall to learn more about MSR technology and told lab leadership of their plans to develop a thorium-fueled MSR.The Chinese also recognize that a thorium-fueled MSR is best run with uranium-233 fuel, which inevitably contains impurities (uranium-232 and its decay products) that preclude its use in nuclear weapons. Operating an MSR on the “pure” fuel cycle of thorium and uranium-233 means that a breakeven conversion ratio can be achieved, and after being started on uranium-233, only thorium is required for indefinite operation and power generation.

18. India has an active Thorium program. • India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power program and expects to have 20,000 MWe nuclear capacity on line by 2020 and 63,000 MWe by 2032.  It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050. • Because India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons program, it was for 34 years largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials, which has hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009. • Due to these trade bans and lack of indigenous uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium. • Now, foreign technology and fuel are expected to boost India’s nuclear power plans considerably.  All plants will have high indigenous engineering content. • India has a vision of becoming a world leader in nuclear technology due to its expertise in fast reactors and thorium fuel cycle. • India’s Kakrapar-1 reactor is the world’s first reactor which uses thorium rather than depleted uranium to achieve power flattening across the reactor core. India, which has about 25% of the world’s thorium reserves, is developing a 300 MW prototype of a thorium-based Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). The prototype is expected to be fully operational by 2011, following which five more reactors will be constructed. Considered to be a global leader in thorium-based fuel, India’s new thorium reactor is a fast-breeder reactor and uses a plutonium core rather than an accelerator to produce neutrons. As accelerator-based systems can operate at sub-criticality they could be developed too, but that would require more research. India currently envisages meeting 30% of its electricity demand through thorium-based reactors by 2050.

19.Lawrence Livermore Laboratories is developing a small portable self-contained Thorium reactor capable of being carried on a low-bed trailer. A Democratic member of the United States House of Congress (Joseph Sestak) in 2010 added funding for research and development for a reactor that could use thorium as fuel and fit on a destroyer-sized ship.  Lawrence Livermore national laboratories are currently in the process of designing such a self-contained (3 meters by 15 meters) thorium reactor. Called SSTAR (Small, Sealed, Transportable, Autonomous Reactor), this next-generation reactor will produce 10 to 100 megawatts electric and can be safely transported via ship or truck.  The first units are expected to arrive in 2015, be tamper resistant, passively failsafe and have a operative life of 30+ years.

20. The need for a Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facility will eventually go away. Since Thorium consumes the fissile material as it is getting created, the need for a long term storage facility of the Yucca Mountain type will eventually go away. In remote locations there can be built Thorium Nuclear Power generators that consume spent material from other nuclear processes. The need to do it in remote locations is the hazard of the already existing nuclear wastes. It should be possible to reduce the existing stockpile of nuclear wastes and nuclear bombs by about 90% and make electricity in the process. The cost to do this is higher than the normal process due to the additional cost of security.

21. Produces electricity at a cost of about 4 c/kWh.  The cost to produce electricity with Thorium generators 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.  Even if we double the renewable power we will only go from 3.6% to 7.2% of total energy needed.  Hydroelectric  power is for all practical purpose maxed out, so all future increase must come from Coal, Natural Gas, Petroleum or Nuclear. Thorium powered Nuclear Generators is the way to go.

22. Save $500 Million and use the 1600 Kg U-233 we have to start Thorium Reactors! Here is an idea on how to save money that comes from the Thorium community on how to save more than 500 million dollars in the federal budget and energy, scientific and medical benefits as a bonus. The situation: The Department of Energy has 1400 Kg Uranium-233 stored at Oak Ridge National Lab. They are in process of downgrading it to natural uranium by downblending it with depleted uranium. They need 200 tons of depleted uranium to do the task, rendering it unusable for anything. The decommissioning was approved in 2003 and to date 130 million has been spent, but the actual downblending hasn’t even started yet.

Proposal 1. Sell it to India which has an active Thorium nuclear reactor program. There it can be used as a fuel producing an estimated 600 million dollars worth of electricity. Sarah Palin is going to India to be the keynote speaker at the India Today Conclave, a good forum to publicize this and other potential cooperation in future of nuclear power generation.

Proposal 2. Stop the decommissioning immediately. Build our own Thorium Nuclear Reactor and over time get 600 million dollars worth of electric power and 45g of Plutonium-238.

Nuclear Power. Why we chose Uranium over Thorium and ended up in this mess. Time to clean up.

I was born in Sweden, on the beautiful west coast where fishing was a way of life, the sunsets magnificent in the summer and the sailing around the skerries and in the fjords could never be forgotten. On the West Coast is also the second largest Swedish city, Gothenburg, home of the famous Chalmers’ Technical University. The year was 1948 and the Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl had made his famous “Kon-Tiki  expedition” sailing on a balsa raft from South America to Polynesia.

Apr 30 is the official day to celebrate the arrival of spring in Sweden and Chalmers celebrates it in its own way with a parade somewhat like the Mardi Gras parade in Latin countries. I was there as a 6 year old lad when the float with a rather imaginative copy of the Kon-Tiki raft rattled by. I say rattled, for a galvanized wash tub was hooked up in the back with a rope and it made a loud metallic noise going down the cobblestones. This was the greatest thing I had seen or heard, so I decided right then and there to become a Chalmerist.

Sweden is a beautiful country with clean and abundant water, beautiful forests, a coast line full of small islands and fertile valleys, where the long summer days provide enough growing season to ensure good harvests. The nature is fragile, sensitive to acid rain and pollution. As I grew up I noticed a sharp deterioration in the water quality, there was too much nitrogen in the lakes, “we are fertilizing or lakes on average four times as much as our land” was a quote that stuck in my mind. The acid rain that came in from England and Germany killed the trouts in the cold mountain lakes, and algae bloom took out the oxygen in the larger lakes. In addition we had been treating our seed with Mercury, so carnivorous birds and animals were threatened with extinction.

The time came to apply to University, and to my delight I was accepted to Chalmers’ as a Technical Physics major. I felt, maybe I can do my part by becoming a Nuclear Engineer and help solve the energy needs of the future. The Swedes at that time championed the heavy water – natural Uranium program together with the Canadians. Sweden was at that time non-aligned, so it was not privy to any atomic secrets, it had to go it alone. They settled on the heavy water moderated natural Uranium process because Sweden had an ambition to produce its own nuclear bomb. Officially this was never talked about, and I was not aware of it at that time. They could have gone with Thorium instead, but Thorium produces very little Plutonium, and what it produces is PU-238, not suitable for bomb making.

I was excited to learn about all the possibilities and signed up for a couple of nuclear classes. One lab was to design a safety circuit, then run the heavy water research reactor critical and hopefully watch the reactor shut down from your circuit, not the safety shutdown. Then the word came that U.S. will sell partially enriched uranium at bargain basement prices if Sweden agreed to abandon the heavy water project and sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, a treaty being formulated by U.N.

Sweden was in awe about U.N, all the problems of the world were to be solved through it, and it had such capable General Secretary in Dag Hammarskjöld, a Swede. I looked at the light water, partially enriched  Uranium nuclear power plants being developed and decided to have no part with it, not due to safety concerns but it was the design that produced the most nuclear waste of any of the available designs. At that time there was still optimism that fusion would be ready by about the year 2010 or so. The cost of maintaining spent fuel in perpetuity was never considered, so light water reactors became the low cost solution.

India on the other hand refused to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, kept their heavy water program going and had by 1974 produced enough plutonium for one nuclear bomb, which they promptly exploded.  They still use heavy water moderated reactors, but since India is low on Uranium but rich in Thorium they have now converted one heavy water reactor to thorium with a Plutonium glow plug. It is set to go on-line in 2011. (1)

They are also developing  molten salt Thorium reactors, but full production is still a few years off.

There we have it. We could have gone with Thorium from the beginning, but the cold war was on, and the civilian peaceful use of nuclear energy was still all about nuclear weapons. Once all the bombs we could ever need were developed the greatest asset of nuclear power became its greatest liability.

We need to start over with Thorium, producing 0.01% of the long term wastes of other processes. There is enough Thorium around to last a million years at today’s cost. They can be built and produce energy for about 60% of the cost of a light water plant, and the total cost of ownership is even less since it produces and consumes its own fuel as you go. We will run out of just about every other ore long before then.

As time goes by, garbage dumps will look more and more attractive, having batteries, Mercury lamps, poisons galore, but also useful stuff capable of producing energy and fuel for transportation.  There are ongoing plans to convert garbage to jet fuel is taking place(2)

The future will need more energy to clean up the mess we’ve gotten  ourselves into.  Thorium is one part of the answer. Wind and solar are only blips on the energy chart, ethanol made from corn or other edible sources should be done away with, other biofuels can only do so much. Nuclear will have to play an increased role. Go Thorium!

• (1) India has a vision of becoming a world leader in nuclear technology due to its expertise in fast reactors and thorium fuel cycle. India’s Kakrapar-1 reactor is the world’s first reactor which uses thorium rather than depleted uranium to achieve power flattening across the reactor core. India, which has about 25% of the world’s thorium reserves, is developing a 300 MW prototype of a thorium-based Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). The prototype is expected to be fully operational by 2011, following which five more reactors will be constructed. Considered to be a global leader in thorium-based fuel, India’s new thorium reactor is a fast-breeder reactor and uses a plutonium core rather than an accelerator to produce neutrons. As accelerator-based systems can operate at sub-criticality they could be developed too, but that would require more research. India currently envisages meeting 30% of its electricity demand through thorium-based reactors by 2050.

(2)(Feb 18, 2010) British Airways has announced plans to source a part of its fuel supplies from waste municipal waste to fuel plant. The company plans to procure 16 million gallons of green jet fuel annually from the Solena plant that would come up in London. The plant which is expected to come online in 2014 would convert 50,000 tonnes of municipal waste into jet-grade fuel. The volume of fuel supplied initially would be 2 percent of the total fuel consumption of British Airways. This would cut down on the carbon emissions generated due to the conventional jet fuel, kerosene.