UK stays cautious over thorium as nuclear fuel

Sep 16, 2012 by Nancy Owano report
Thorium-232 crystal, prepared by the van Arkel (chemical vapour transport) process. Credit: The Actinide Group, Institute for Transuranium Elements

(Phys.org)—The claim is dramatic: An alternative nuclear fuel that could offer a safer and more abundant alternative to the uranium that powers conventional reactors. That is what supporters have to say about thorium, a mildly radioactive element that occurs naturally, with reserves in Australia, the United States, Turkey, India, Brazil and Venezuela. Scientists promoting thorium as an alternative nuclear fuel believe it is a safer, more economical way of generating nuclear power than uranium. A new report out in the UK, however, begs to differ.

The government's Department of Energy and (DECC) looks at the potential of thorium and says that while thorium remains on its as a topic of interest, its benefits are often overstated. Thorium claims have ranged from better safety to better efficiency to lower costs.

The report calls for the government to keep its eyes on the future of thorium nonetheless. "It may therefore be judicious for the UK to maintain a low level of engagement in thorium research and development by involvement in international collaborative research activities."

Thorium's supporters have said that it does not yield weapons-grade waste the way uranium does. Its waste lasts for only a few hundred years, not the tens of thousands associated with uranium. (More specifically, they say the radioactivity of the resulting waste drops to safe levels after a few hundred years, whereas tens of thousands of years are required for current nuclear waste to cool off.)

Reza Hashemi-Nezhad, director of the Institute of at the University of Sydney, has focused on the advantages of thorium when used in an accelerator-driven nuclear reactor operating at subcritical conditions. is less toxic than from a standard reactor. In a lecture delivered last year, he said that thorium fuel is a safe and cleaner source of nuclear energy, that the use of in is controversial, and that the latter suffers from many disadvantages. "A thorium burning Accelerator Driven Subcritical Nuclear Reactor (ADSNR) avoids many of these problems," he said. "The reactors cannot melt-down, there is minimal production of long lived waste, diversion to military use is very difficult, reserves of thorium are almost inexhaustible and costs are expected to be lower than for uranium fuelled reactors." Additionally, he said, "If an ADSNR is fueled with fissile material bred from abundant natural thorium it can provide the world with an almost unlimited amount of clean and cheap energy."

Thorium initiatives are under way outside the UK, in India, China, Russia, France and the US. Scientists are actively pursuing thorium in the belief that thorium could be a game changer. In the US, Flibe Energy says that the company will develop small modular reactors based on liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) technology. "Liquid-fluoride reactors operate at high temperature but not at high pressure because they use a chemically stable medium as the fuel and the coolant, making them much safer to operate than conventional reactors. Thorium is the only abundant that can be efficiently utilized in a thermal-spectrum reactor and is uniquely chemically suited for use in a fluoride reactor."

Anti-nuclear environmentalists argue, however, that thorium is still under their No Nuclear umbrella. 
Every creates fission products that are materials to make energy. They argue that its reactors would be producing toxic byproducts and wastes. One such argument is that the fission materials produced from thorium are of a different spectrum to those from uranium-235, but include a number of dangerous-to-health alpha and beta emitters.

Explore further: First of four Fukushima reactors cleared of nuclear fuel

More information: www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/11… ison-fuel-cycles.pdf

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ValeriaT
1 / 5 (18) Sep 16, 2012
IMO the ongoing progress in cold fusion will wipe out all these blind alleys of nuclear energetics. I wouldn't invest a penny into thorium fission research, until I wouldn't get engaged into nuclear weapon production.
djr
5 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2012
It can be hard to sort out the facts in the midst of so many claims - and the reality that many claims are influenced by the hope of economic benefit - leaving the claims as more of a sales job. I have seen some of the sales pitches for lftr - and they are pretty convincing to a non nuclear scientist. It is interesting to ask "if thorium is so great - why has no one commercialized it?" But I am getting more willing to admit my own bias perspective these days - so willing to take a wait and see attitude. This article on using depleted uranium as a fuel is interesting - http://www.techno...ld-fund/ Politics definitely corrupts science - just figuring out where can be the tough part.
PPihkala
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 16, 2012
I have the understanding that thorium was alternative at 1960`s, but because superpowers wanted to make weapon grade uranium (U235) and plutonium, uranium based reactors become the only ones developed and used.
cdt
1.4 / 5 (10) Sep 16, 2012
I won't be in the nuclear camp again until they figure out how to eliminate human error, or until the worst case scenario doesn't leave hundreds of square kilometers of land unusable for decades. In our current state no one has figured out how to eliminate human error or how to compensate for it with 100% effectiveness, and I highly doubt that the worst cases we've seen to date are the worst that is possible.

Just for comparison, the levels of radiation around Chernobyl are still claimed by the government to be too high to allow people to live within a 31km radius -- i.e. about 3,000 square kilometers -- and are predicted to stay that way for the next 20,000 years. And I'm sure the people who used to live there were told that nuclear was safe then. I'd chalk it up to lies, except that I get the feeling the people who were going on about nuclear safety were sincere. And at least as naive.

So, is thorium the answer? Highly doubtful.
Husky
5 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2012
there is still about 112 ton of plutonium at sellafield that the uk has to MOX or burn in a fast reactor, the funny thing is plutonium burns very well in a molten salten reactor design for thorium...It would appear to me that they would try to ride out the whole MOX fuel cycle before they look at thorium again.
gopher65
5 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2012
cdt:
Most designs for thorium reactors are physically incapable of melting down. If for no other reason than that, they are safer. The worst case scenario is quite mild for a LTR (Liquid Thorium Reactor), a ADSNR (Accelerator Driven Subcritical Nuclear Reactor), or even a low pressure reactor like the LFTR described above.
antialias_physorg
2.6 / 5 (16) Sep 16, 2012
No Matter what: Wastes that are around for several hundred years (in a state that has to be guarded and made safe from seeping into groundwater, etc.) is a no-go.

Any one who promises you that he can do that is lying through his teeth.
Husky
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2012
There is simply too much previous investments in urannium mines and seperation plants and people on positions depending on this if its not broken dont fix it cycle to come up with potentielly high payoff but risky investment in Thorium unless forced (i give it 20 years than gravity will do the work for thorium, india and china will lead the way)
gopher65
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
Husky:
Most designs for a Thorium reactor require them to start with a small amount of plutonium as a seed. Also, if they have extra plutonium, that can be burned in a Thorium reactor without issue (except that you get different waste products).

PPihkala:
That's not entirely true, but it's close to the truth. When US companies were looking to commercialize fission power they had two main choices: they could go with uranium 235 fission (and then hopefully transition to U238 breeder reactors... which didn't happen) or they could go with thorium fission.

They knew that thorium was safer, more efficient, cheaper, and produced less waste. Unfortunately it would have taken them 10 years and cost them several billion dollars in R&D to go the thorium route. On the other hand uranium fission power plant research had already been largely completed by the US military as part of their nuclear weapons program. From the corporations point of view the choice was clear.
axemaster
4.7 / 5 (12) Sep 16, 2012
I'm a bit confused... The article states that the benefits are overstated, but then cites only supporters of the technology???

Also, why are environmentalists so stupid? They don't want nuclear, even while CO2 is poised to cause massive damage. Now they also oppose a much cleaner version of nuclear, even though there's huge benefits and very little downside. Get some priorities people!
eachus
4.1 / 5 (9) Sep 16, 2012
People who have been "educated" by the media, where scare tactics are used to hold onto viewers or to sell toothpaste, see the word nuclear and have palpitations. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) imaging was a hard sell until it became Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Same technology, no nuclear reactions, just magnetic fields and radio waves.

The same silly logic applies to "long term nuclear waste." In the area where I live, radon gas seeping up from the granite below the house can be a significant threat if ventilation is inadequate. That gas comes from the (natural) decay of Uranium. The only way to prevent that decay from happening is to put the Uranium in a nuclear reactor and through fission convert it into two new (main) atoms with short half-lives. That's the part of "long-term nuclear waste" to worry about, and it is basically dead in 600 years. The unburned uranium will remain radioactive for billions of years, just as it would if it stayed under my house.
ShotmanMaslo
2 / 5 (4) Sep 16, 2012
Benefits are overstated only with thorium solid fuel light water reactors. Most supported proposal among thorium advocates is the thorium molten salt reactor (LFTR) that avoids all the issues with solid fuel rods and offers the possibility of continual reprocessing.
kunosoura
3.5 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2012
The only fissionabe materials are U-233, U-235, Pu-239 because they can suffer fission as a resulr of capturee of neutrons of all energies. However, thorium Th-232 (as well as U-238) may be converted by slow neutron, into fissionable Th-233 which is a negative beta-emitter with half life of 23.5 min. ; the product being Pa-233, also beta decay (27.4 d.) to U-233. Reactors that convert fertile to fissionable material are called regenerative reactors.The Hanford reactors fell into this category, i.e., U-235 mainatained the fission chain, neutron captured by U-238 ultimate formation of Pu-239. Realize heat is released bu the fission of U-235 (200 mev/fission), that heat being wasted. The same applies to Th-232. Incidentaly, there is no known way to regenerate U-235, presumptive will eventually be consumed completely. I went to Los Alamos from Grad school when still a closed town. The Sherwood program sought controlled fusion. Not solved yet. Google the ITER. to soon to give up.
Sigh
5 / 5 (6) Sep 16, 2012
I won't be in the nuclear camp again until they figure out how to eliminate human error

You need to be more specific. Do you mean all human error, including whether people remember to switch off the light when leaving the office? Can't do. Or only error that relates to the safety of the plant? You can design plants that can't melt down because the laws of physics don't allow it. No Chernobyl or Fukushima there.

or until the worst case scenario doesn't leave hundreds of square kilometers of land unusable for decades.

See above.

There is no technology without cost or risk. If you say one technology must not be used until the risk is 0, then you will use another technology that has risk > 0, and the expected cost may well be greater. Check the total radioactive emissions from coal power plants.

By the way, I think most people would consider me a Green. I just think most Greens are not nuanced enough in their approach to nuclear power.
Dane
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2012
No Matter what: Wastes that are around for several hundred years (in a state that has to be guarded and made safe from seeping into groundwater, etc.) is a no-go.

Any one who promises you that he can do that is lying through his teeth.


There exists lots of waste from industry that are far far worse and linger around in landfills at LEAST as long as 300 years.
E.g. blades from windmills are not recyclable and are instead put in landfills where they remain for many centuries decaying only very slowly (maybe into toxic compounds?).

We already accept dumping all kinds of stuff in landfills where it can remain for many many years. Nuclear waste is neither worse or better than the other stuff, but the advantages obtained by using LFTR are huge.
NOM
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
If Iran genuinely only wants nuclear reactors for power, rather than to produce nuclear weapons, this may be a way out.
The West provides safer, cleaner thorium reactors to Iran, the dwarf puppet gets to stay in power, and Iran doesn't get carpet bombed by the US.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
If Iran genuinely only wants nuclear reactors for power, rather than to produce nuclear weapons, this may be a way out.

I'm not so sure. Nuclear is a way for Iran to stay energy independent in a post-oil world. They do have uranium, but I don't think they have thorium.

(Of course Iran would be ideally suited for solar, but that doesn't seem to be a popular option for the power/industrialist elite in the country)

We already accept dumping all kinds of stuff in landfills where it can remain for many many years.

And? Is that supposed to be an excuse to keep doing it or what exactly is your argument here?
Why is it so nefarious to want to leave a world to the next generation that does not fill up with ecological trip mines?
Why is it considered Ok to want to produce long lasting waste when alternatives are available?

I just can't understand you guys. Do you ever think beyond your wallet?
ShotmanMaslo
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2012
But are better alternatives available? How much harmful chemical waste (that would NEVER decay) is produced during the manufacture of solar panels or wind turbines (per equal unit of energy)?

http://i.imgur.com/yqpb1.jpg

Due to its high energy density compared to amount of power plant materials and fuel needed, I would not be surprised if nuclear power produced less waste per GWh than all other energy sources, even when we include fission products waste.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (12) Sep 16, 2012
Nuclear is a way for Iran to stay energy independent in a post-oil world. They do have uranium, but I don't think they have thorium.
Plenty of resources to explore out there for those of us who are not content to PRETEND we know what we are talking about...

"In the years it would take Iran to build a conventional nuclear reactor, with its hundred-foot cooling towers and thousands of miles of plumbing, the nation could make a factory to turn out small thorium reactors. Iran has modest rare earth deposits and China, as Iran's largest trading partner, could easily supply the reactors' fuel. China and also India could share their growing technical expertise with Iran, not over international objections but with the approval of the rest of the world."
chocoman
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
Unless and until the current uranium based nuclear power plants can be separated from the military aspects of nuclear fuel, thorium will operate at an economic disadvantage.
If we could get the military to abandon nuclear weapons and nuclear ships/subs, the entire cost of providing uranium based fuel would be born by the civilian nuclear industry. Thorium might have a chance.
I'm a big fan of thorium technology but a realist when it comes to accepting that uranium is here to stay in the military. Without a government willing to take on production of 2 fuels for nuclear, I see little chance for thorium to succeed. This is one of those times that reality really sucks.
eachus
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2012
Thorium Molten Salt reactors need some form of enriched fuel to get started (either added U235 or Pu239). Then they can run forever on Thorium 232 breeding to U233, and if you want to they can consume all sorts of nuclear waste and convert it to inert isotopes. The core of an MSR is melted salts circulating around a graphite core. (Duh!) If the graphite structure gets damaged, the reaction stops. The reaction also stops when the molten salt is not around the graphite.

The most recent designs use heat pipes--like in the cooler of your computer's CPU or graphics card--to carry the heat from the molten salt to the water/steam. Water getting to the core is not in the same class of disaster as water getting to the molten sodium in a liquid metal fast breeder reactor, but it is still nice to have a design where it is not a likely failure path.

So why aren't all reactors MSRs? Because they can't be used to make bombs.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.9 / 5 (14) Sep 16, 2012
I'm sitting here in the bookstore looking at a book titled 'Super Fuel - thorium the green energy source for the future' by one Richard Martin, on the shelf across from me. Should I get up and grab it? Naw I've already got one titled 'Moral Origins' by Christopher boehm. And I think I already know how this one turns out so it should be a quick read.

Both in the science section by the way. Right next to the Danica mckellar math book and 'Turings Cathedral'. And 'Darwins Ghost - the secret history of evolution'. Oh hey - there's one called 'Breasts - a natural and unnatural history'.

Scientists - have they no sense of decency? Books about evolution in public bookstores... shocking.
gopher65
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2012
ShotmanMaslo: Yup, nuclear produces less waste than any other form of power, even when you consider the reactor and its subsystems as waste (and you should. They're radioactive after use).

The hypocrisy of the "green" movement isn't that they consider 40 year old U235 plants dangerous compared to solar. They are. No, their hypocrisy is in their unwillingness to consider the full cost of the photovoltaic solar panel life cycle, while slamming nuclear proponents who make the same mistake.

The full life-cycle and recyclability of *all* energy sources should be considered when making an informed decision about what source is best for a given area. Other factors like local environment, fuel availability, and site security, etc need to be considered too of course.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.9 / 5 (14) Sep 16, 2012
Unless and until the current uranium based nuclear power plants can be separated from the military aspects of nuclear fuel, thorium will operate at an economic disadvantage.
One of the REASONS that uranium reactor tech has been pursued is because it made the production of fissiles far cheaper. They are the most valuable material a civilization at our stage of development can possess.

Fissiles are freedom. They enable us to operate autonomously and independently in hostile environments, including underground and in space. They alone will enable us to leave this planet in a significant and permanent way. And they can subdue any enemy. Future gens will thank us for having the foresight to create 5000 tons of the stuff.
RealityCheck
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 16, 2012
Hi everyone.
The military need not produce new Uranium-plutonium anymore. These are only triggers for Hydrogen Nuclear Fusion bombs. Even for smaller 'tactical' weapons using just Fission, there is already enough stockpile of such fission material to level all future battlefields one cares to envisage. So the military connection/rationale is not tenable as justification for saying Thorium won't be seriously considered until this connection is broken etc etc.

Anyway, the PRIVATE sector can MORE SAFELY (no 'china syndrome' meltdowns and less intractable waste stream/storage/lifetimes) engage in secure/profitable making/selling electricity generated from Thorium. They don't have to consider 'permissions/connections' from military/other to set up from scratch.

Also: private Thorium Reactor power generation company can apply AND GET significant additional income from 'carbon offset' CREDITS much more easily/legitimately (than Uranium-Plutonium plants) to combat GW.

Win-win!

Cheers.
cdt
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
cdt:
Most designs for thorium reactors are physically incapable of melting down. If for no other reason than that, they are safer. The worst case scenario is quite mild for a LTR (Liquid Thorium Reactor), a ADSNR (Accelerator Driven Subcritical Nuclear Reactor), or even a low pressure reactor like the LFTR described above.


Define "quite mild". Mild compared to what happened in Chernobyl and Fukushima could still leave behind a wasteland that we have no current technology capable of cleaning up. That would still be an unacceptable risk. I'm not hell-bent against this technology, but I'm not willing to accept often naive claims from its supporters.
cdt
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
I won't be in the nuclear camp again until they figure out how to eliminate human error

You need to be more specific. Do you mean all human error, including whether people remember to switch off the light when leaving the office? Can't do. Or only error that relates to the safety of the plant? You can design plants that can't melt down because the laws of physics don't allow it. No Chernobyl or Fukushima there.

Only error relating to safety. But let me include in that stupidity on the behalf of governments licensing land. In Japan there are several nuclear plants that have been built on seismic fault lines. Many more are on the coast with inadequate protection against a tsunami. Human error includes the decisions that led to constructing these plants where they are.

My point about human error is that when the potential risks are too great then the potential for error has to be zero. Making a plant that can't melt down is a definite improvement. (cont.)
cdt
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
(cont)
It doesn't address the question of what's the worst that can happen, though. Worst case: vaporization of a whole plant or of the waste that comes from it, e.g. through terrorist attack, or extreme natural disaster, or someone not noticing that the water levels in the cooling tanks has evaporated or leaked out.
Sanescience
2.8 / 5 (4) Sep 17, 2012
Human psychology is pretty clearly skewed against putting your costs up front. Nobody will pay a thousand dollars for a phone, but sign up for $100 monthly plans. Keeping energy hogging freezers when an energy efficient one would pay for itself after a few years. Credit cards. So here we have atomic power that is so offensive because all the waste is concentrated where you can do something with it. Yet letting fossil fuels and their production spread their damage over the whole earth is somehow more acceptable.

This doesn't even get into issues of how we have trapped ourselves with the dumbass LWR designs of the 1950s. Imagine if we had frozen car designs in the 1950s because they were fuel inefficient. Or how we yank the fuel out of them after only extracting about 1% of the energy and call it "waste". Where did most of the push back in the day come from to undermine atomic? I wonder if the fossil energy companies might know, 'cause it couldn't have worked out better 4 them
StoicGoof
3 / 5 (4) Sep 17, 2012
Gopher65: Thank you for the work you are doing here in the comments. Your answers are concise, accurate, and thoughtful.
I wish the article would also mention that many of the "waste" products of LFTRs are useful in medicine and can be recaptured from the molten salts at medical grade purity.

**Excerpt from http://liquidfluoridethoriumreactor.glerner.com/2012-useful-lftr-fission-by-products/**

"Fission of 1000 kg U-233 produces several chemicals essential for industry, readily extracted from a LFTR, including 150kg xenon, 125kg neodymium (high-strength magnets), 20kg medical molybdenum-99, 20kg radiostrontium, zirconium, rhodium, ruthenium, and palladium."

"Radioactive isotopes are needed for medical treatment, including highly-targeted cancer treatments. These are currently very rare, since they have half-lives of a few days. LFTRs would produce these as part of the decay of U-233, and they would be easy to remove from the fuel salt."
Osiris1
1 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2012
There exists in the world a most toxic entity to human prosperity, its health, and its future. This entity should be eradicated lest it destroy all peace on this world. It is the virulent anti nuclear protester/litigator/obstructer! These folks will never be satisfied until their luddite obsession is fulfilled. The Chinese have the Tian-An-Men solution, and that is probably what will have to be done in every nation, one by one, as they are forced to confront reality and the need for energy in a world of depleted chemical resources. These folks are economic saboteurs in the truest sense of the word, and only liquidation as a class will stop them, Just like Stalin did in the Soviet time before the Great Patriotic War. We have a solution! It works! Get on with it! It is the democratic centralist way!
charliedarwin
not rated yet Sep 17, 2012
SO- you wont be doing anything much til you die, then? Unless of course you are blessed with the ability to avoid ALL risk?
DaveMart
5 / 5 (1) Sep 17, 2012
'No Matter what: Wastes that are around for several hundred years (in a state that has to be guarded and made safe from seeping into groundwater, etc.) is a no-go. Any one who promises you that he can do that is lying through his teeth.'

It really helps if you find out what you are talking about.
The longer lived elements in some designs of molten salt reactors are transmuted, to give a maximum lifetime of 300 years until the radioactivity has decayed to the same level as that of the ores from which it was mined.
Bill Gates's reactor design also does the same.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 17, 2012
Plenty of resources to explore out there for those of us who are not content to PRETEND we know what we are talking about...

In the years it would take Iran to build a conventional nuclear reactor, with its hundred-foot cooling towers and thousands of miles of plumbing, the nation could make a factory to turn out small thorium reactors. Iran has modest rare earth deposits and China, as Iran's largest trading partner, could easily supply the reactors' fuel.

First you say I dodn't do my research then yiou say the EXACT SAME THING was saying. Do you even read before commenting?
If China was to supply Iran with thorium then Iran would then be dependent on China. That's no better than being dependent on Russia for uranium.

They have number of uranium mines. Best to be independent.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2012
It really helps if you find out what you are talking about. The longer lived elements in some designs of molten salt reactors are transmuted, to give a maximum lifetime of 300 years until the radioactivity has decayed to the same level as that of the ores from which it was mined.

Show me one country that has remained stable for the past 300 years (i.e. without a major change in political system). What do you think happens when a country changes hands? Responsible handling of wastes from the previous regime? When has that ever happened?
Plus: since you'll be producing more waste all the time this problem will never go away. It will only stabilize at a level (assuming constant usage levels) which is reached after dumping 300 years worth of wastes. Do you have any idea how much that will be? We're talking huge numbers, here.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (3) Sep 17, 2012
What do you think happens to conventional chemical waste and dangerous chemicals storage sites when a country changes hands? The same happens to nuclear waste storage site.

Unless there is a major war with widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure (in such case dangerous wastes would be among the least of your worries) there is no reason to assume that dangerous chemical or nuclear wastes will threaten people. Political instability or revolution does not mean that all sites with dangerous materials suddenly collapse. And in such case I would be more worried about radiotherapy radioactive materials leaking from hospitals than from well protected reactor waste storage sites.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 17, 2012
What do you think happens to conventional chemical waste and dangerous chemicals storage sites when a country changes hands? The same happens to nuclear waste storage site.

Exactly. That's why we shouldn't be doing it.

there is no reason to assume that dangerous chemical or nuclear wastes will threaten people.

You are aware that there are already water leaks in the salt mines where this stuff is dumped? That the containers which were claimed to be 'rust proof' for a century at least are already falling apart after 30 years?
(And what good is a century if you need 3 centuries worth of durability?)

These storage sites are neither stable, nor well protected by any standards. They are also very expensive (so much so that if you include the total cost of storage then the REAL cost of nuclear is about 2 dollars per kWh)
ShotmanMaslo
2 / 5 (4) Sep 17, 2012
"Exactly. That's why we shouldn't be doing it."

Say goodbye to all modern industry then. You cant really have it without production of dangerous chemical wastes.

"You are aware that there are already water leaks in the salt mines where this stuff is dumped? That the containers which were claimed to be 'rust proof' for a century at least are already falling apart after 30 years?"

Salt mines are not the solution. Protected buildings with dry casks or pools is the solution, similarly like majority of waste storage today (and chemical waste storage). The volume of nuclear waste from a LFTR would be 1/30 per GWyear compared to light water reactors, and would decay after 300 years, so there is no need to resort to such things as mine storage or geological storage. Simple storage building is enough. We have medieval cathedrals that already lasted for over 1000 years, with far less protection or build quality than a nuclear waste storage sites would have.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (6) Sep 17, 2012
First you say I dodn't do my research then yiou say the EXACT SAME THING was saying. Do you even read before commenting?
If China was to supply Iran with thorium then Iran would then be dependent on China. That's no better than being dependent on Russia for uranium.
Iran is already dependent on others for their nuclear tech. I used the excerpt to show that Iran has it's own deposits of thorium. Look elsewhere on the INTERNET for more info on this.

Iran wants uranium reactors for the same reasons the west did - to make bombs. Far from wanting to be left alone, they want to be able to irradiate anyone who insults the prophet. AND they want to spread Islam throughout the world because the prophet and amadijinedad both demand it.

This is not a world in which any country can expect to be independent. Even a wholly Islamic world would not be such a world. Self-sufficiency is a myth.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.9 / 5 (13) Sep 17, 2012
Plenty of good uses for spent nuclear waste. We will be recycling it like we will be mining landfills in the future. And what we can't use we will be hauling up space elevators and flinging toward the sun.

And if we are not able to do these things in the future then we will be as good as extinct anyway, because these capabilities indicate the level of technological development we will need to attain, if we can expect to survive in this universe for any length of time.

We either become able to do these things, and DO them, or we die.
tadchem
5 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2012
I would welcome an increased intrerest in deriving energy from high-level radioactive waste. Currently the nuclear power plants operating in the US are not permitted to transport or store their high-level waste anywhere with high public safety and security because of the environmentalist and bureaucratic opposition to the development of a high-level waste repository. This waste is being generated continually by all plants (operating or not!) where nuclear fuel exists. It is being stored "temporarily", mostly on-site, with far less security and safety than an underground repository could provide. If we can't get rid of it, we should d*mn well be learning to use it - before it gets used against us in dirty bombs.
dacarls
not rated yet Sep 17, 2012
Fiberglass turbine blades have not been considered for reuse yet. But if they have a finite safe use period, they could still be usefully repurposed: example- support for light duty bridges: little physical support would be needed for 200 meter road crossing.
I expect that a calculated loss of strength for turbine blades might be an issue after many years: no failures needed! BUT NOTE: commercial fiberglass reinforced polyester resin sailboats arrived in the 1960s and MANY are still around: tho too heavy and perhaps over built, they are still excellent bargains!
wwqq
5 / 5 (1) Sep 18, 2012
there is still about 112 ton of plutonium at sellafield that the uk has to MOX or burn in a fast reactor[...]


Feed the plutonium into two-fluid molten salt reactors and make clean U-233(i.e. not polluted by transuranics).

The U-233 is put towards new reactors and the Pu is gradually fed through "dirty" molten salt reactors and destroyed.
wwqq
not rated yet Sep 18, 2012
They are also very expensive (so much so that if you include the total cost of storage then the REAL cost of nuclear is about 2 dollars per kWh)


The cost of geological storage is a fraction of 1 cent per kWh. You're off by almost 3 orders of magnitude.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 18, 2012

The cost of geological storage is a fraction of 1 cent per kWh

Calculate that over hundreds of years (including inflation) and include all the cost for securing/guarding (and maybe even occasionally relocating/repackaging) all that stuff. the costs are simply enormous. and this is WITHOUT taking into account the possibility of accidents - the costs of which are inestimable.
gopher65
not rated yet Sep 18, 2012
antialias:

I'm curious: what is your preferred power source?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2012
I'm curious: what is your preferred power source?

Anything that is sustainable indefinitely (at least to human timescales).
Anything that does not have an 'Oops, Apocalypse'-type of issue attached to it.
Anything that cannot be monopolized (e.g. by resources being available only in a few countries)
Anything that cannot be weaponized (even economically weaponized like cutting resource deliveries).
Anything that when we stop using it doesn't burden the next generation(s) with a problematic legacy - because I think it's not fair (or nice) to hand off debts to people not yet born.

Currently this amounts to (earth based) solar, wind, hydro, and - with some qualifiers - biogas.
gopher65
not rated yet Sep 20, 2012
Solar and Wind both use large amounts of Rare Earth Metals. See http://phys.org/n...als.html

Current photovoltaic solar also produces tremendous amounts of toxic waste during its manufacture. I don't see how anyone claiming to be "green" can support such a powersource. If you point out that scientists are currently trying to develop panels that really *are* green with some limited success, then I'll point out that I can say the same thing about 4 different methods of fusion:P. We'll almost certainly have commercially viable fusion before we have green solar power.

Wind is fine except for its high resource and land usage. I don't think those are a problem (wind is great IMO), but based on your list, you should. Large wind farms also have an effect on weather patterns.

Dam hydro destroys ecosystems (which is why environmental groups want all dams destroyed). In river hydro is great though.
cdt
not rated yet Sep 20, 2012
The main advantages of solar over petroleum and nuclear are (i) that once built, solar requires no constant supply of fuel, and (ii) the environmental costs are entirely in the production and disposal of the equipment, each of which should happen once every 30 years for any given installation rather than every day, week or month. These both mean that the consumer has to pay a lot up front, but only maintenance costs over time and possibly disposal costs. It is this last one that I'm sure accounts for the lack of enthusiasm about solar power within the energy industry. It would mean trading a stead income stream designed to continue forever for an income derived entirely from sales and maintenance of equipment. That's another reason why I'm very much interested in seeing solar energy come to fruition, though. Nothing against other renewables, of course, but chances of my being able to generate significant wind or hydro power on my own land are essentially nil.
gopher65
5 / 5 (2) Sep 21, 2012
cdt: Total highly dangerous waste per watt is greater for solar (current gen of course) than it is for any other form of power except coal. Nothing is worse than coal. It's just nasty.

Compared to thermal solar, wind, geothermal, or in river hydro (which anyone living near so much as a stream could use if they wanted), photovoltaic solar is a horribly dirty power source. Even compared to the total environmental costs of current gen nuclear it's bad.

*Eventually*, yes, photovoltaic solar will be a neat niche power source with numerous applications (the main niche applications are: living off the grid, rapid forward military base setup, rapid disaster relief, and fast roleout of power infrastructure in poverty stricken areas). But that day has not yet come. 50, maybe a 100 years from now? Sure. But not today.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.4 / 5 (11) Sep 21, 2012
cdt: Total highly dangerous waste per watt is greater for solar (current gen of course) than it is for any other form of power except coal.
Sorry do you have a reference for this? I would like to see it.

All I can find is this
http://thingsworsethannuclearpower.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-real-waste-problem-solar-edition.html?m=1

-which talks about large VOLUMES of waste, and cadmium and lead, which are recyclable but require energy to do so. But nothing about 'highly dangerous' waste on the order of spent nuclear fuel. I also see in your link that mining rare earths does free certain amounts of radioactive marls but so do uranium and thorium mining.

I'd like to see a comparison.
cdt
5 / 5 (1) Sep 21, 2012
Thanks Otto -- you posted just what I was about to.
gopher65
not rated yet Sep 21, 2012
Oh, I didn't mean radioactive waste. I meant regular, every day toxic waste. Same as any electronics manufacturing. Sorry for the confusion.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (6) Sep 22, 2012
Oh, I didn't mean radioactive waste. I meant regular, every day toxic waste. Same as any electronics manufacturing. Sorry for the confusion.
No, what you said was
cdt: Total highly dangerous waste per watt is greater for solar (current gen of course) than it is for any other form of power except coal. Nothing is worse than coal. It's just nasty.
-which you need to provide a source for if you don't want it to be regarded as total bullshit. A statement like that should be based on a study showing direct comparisons among power sources and the types and quantities of waste produced.

This should be easy to understand and easy to provide if it exists.
Scalziand
5 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2012
Unless and until the current uranium based nuclear power plants can be separated from the military aspects of nuclear fuel, thorium will operate at an economic disadvantage.
If we could get the military to abandon nuclear weapons and nuclear ships/subs, the entire cost of providing uranium based fuel would be born by the civilian nuclear industry. Thorium might have a chance.


That's not true. Thorium is far more common than uranium. It's also a byproduct of rare earth mining, so rare earth mines typically have huge stockpiles of the stuff sitting around, regarded as a nuisance because it contaminates the rare earths.

Here's a map of stockpiles. There's millions of tons.
http://www.target...Id=14104
LBrant
not rated yet Oct 06, 2012
I was hoping to see some independent info on here of the use of beryllium to stabilize nuclear reactions and the fuel rods, and eliminating much of the waste, with some kind of cladding. What I am hearing may be promotion of this tech by the company trying to sell their stock. Perhaps the just annouced Beligian experiments and concerns that thorium might make it unnecessary have killed the stock -- it has gone nowhere for a year. Hmm.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (4) Oct 06, 2012
Yes, it's true, that the sources of natural thorium are way more abundant, than the sources of uranium, but this abundance goes with its own price, which will get the more pronounced, the higher density of civilization will live on the Earth. The thorium technology is just a concentrate of all drawbacks of uranium technology: it requires to run at much higher temperatures or pressures than the classical nuclear reactors, it requires to work with corrosive agents and with highly radioactive nuclides at the place of power plant in way larger scale, which in turn will promote the nuclear proliferation and spreading of nuclear technologies and materials into uncivilized world. It's just all the danger and dirtiness of classical fission technology squared. Again, if we would listen only the voices of unscrupulous individuals, who are expecting jobs, salaries and profit from research and spreading thorium technology, then we will get fucked very soon.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Oct 07, 2012
ValeriaT - you dont know what you are talking about. Please read the LFTR article on Wikipedia. It does not run at higher pressures, in fact it runs at atmospheric pressure. The salts are not corrosive with respect to the reactor materials (Hastelloy), in fact the corrosion is lower than corrosion of water with respect to current reactor materials. The online reprocessing of a LFTR wont cause nuclear proliferation, since it removes only fission products which are unusable for bombs.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (3) Oct 07, 2012
It does not run at higher pressures, in fact it runs at atmospheric pressure.
If you would use the liquid sodium for cooling, then yes. But the liquid sodium in Fuskushima plant would cause a quite different kind of problem: it would cause this plant difficult to find after tsunami. The molten salt FUELED reactors are tested in molten silica vessels. Above 850 °C thermochemical production of hydrogen occurs, which creates additional engineering difficulties.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Oct 07, 2012
Both sodium and molten salt plants run at atmosperic pressures. LFTR uses molten salt, which do not react with air or water very much.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (5) Oct 07, 2012
The MSR and the LFTR (or lifter) reactor has something of a scientific Cargo cult following on line. Fluoride fuel salts release of corrosive fluorine gas, and uranium hexafluoride due to radiolysis of the salt from fission products. Certainly the fission products from a Thorium reactor are a worry, Technetium-99 has a half life of 220,000 years, uranium-232 produces thallium-208 (a nasty wee gamma emitter), Selenium-79 (a beta emitter with a 327,000 year half-life), even Thorium-232 is a problem with its half life of 14 Billion years (and while the T-232 isn't a major worry its only mildly radioactive, all the time during this 14 Billion years it will be decaying and producing stuff that is!).
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Oct 08, 2012
Radiolysis only happens in cold fluoride salts, not 600 C or more LFTR salts. And the rest of your post is garbage. You clearly do not grasp the relationship between radioactivity and half-life. And Th-232 is a problem? Really? lol..

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