Bookmark and Share

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Nuclear Paradigm Shift While We Were Not Looking

Hydrogen Fuel
Biodiesel Fuel
Canada's Green Party
Batteries and Supercapacitors

Nuclear Physics 101
Nuclear Paradigm Shift
Can Auto Dealers Go Green
Wind and Other Energy Alternatives

Thorium is the 90th element in the periodic table not far below Uranium and Plutonium. Its use in the form of a Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) specifically Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) has re-emerged in recent years as a surprisingly neglected alternative approach to creating nuclear energy. In fact I was amazed at what I did not know and had been kept secret for so many years. For instance. Why did the idea of a safer technology get shoved aside in favor of Light Water Reactors? Some say it was because the safer MSR was not able to produce Nuclear Weapons grade fuel. How different things could have been if the MSR's were developed instead of the water cooled
and more dangerous and expensive and toxic variety.

A quick list of advantages. Current Scientists and Engineers are saying that Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors:
1) eliminate the need for fuels that produce carbon emissions therefore removing one of the root causes of war. It's true we fight to defend what we need. And for too long we have needed energy in the form of fossil fuels. And that needs to change. Our military leaders know that and more than anything they want to change that basic story. That is why our message of thorium-based power enabling US energy independence resonates so strongly with them. It will also resonate well as a deterrent to allowing countries such as Russia from bullying other countries in need of their fossil fuels.
2) can consume waste nuclear fuel. LFTR's in the modern view are actually two Nuclear Plants in one. They can provide energy and burn up Nuclear Waste. Imagine where Pakistan, Iran and North Korea would be if this technology had been pursued back in the 1960's when it was first proposed.
3) safer and more stable since they don't reach high enough temperatures for meltdown
and therefore do not require expensive containment or high pressure water.
4) provide a means for third world countries to improve their economies by replacing
high carbon emission methods with far cleaner technology and cheaper than coal plants.
5) are much more difficult or nearly impossible to produce nuclear weapons
6) are less expensive than traditional reactors because the byproducts are far less toxic and do not require expensive containment.
7) Thorium is abundant and stockpiles are already stored so very little if any mining is required
8) Robert Hargraves makes a convincing argument that it will lower the worlds population.
energy=industry=jobs=education=birth control=population control
9) LFTR's can potentially assist in Hydrogen Production, heat buildings,
help in the desalination process.
10) will produce far more energy than wind or solar power ever could

The story stretches back to the days when Italian Physicist and Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi came to America during Mussolini's anti Jewish campaign. Fermi's wife was jewish. Eugene Tigener and Alvin Weinberg, both chemists, were also part of Fermi's team and worked together to create the first nuclear chain reaction. The team eventually split in different directions. Fermi went to Argonne National Laboratory and Tigener and Weinberg went to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The MSR was first concieved by Eugene Tigener when working with Fermi. Later when the idea of a nuclear powered plane was proposed the MSR took shape as a prototype for flight. It never was completed but the reactor plans lived on after 1960 as pet projects of Tigener and Alvin Weinberg. Called the "chemists reactor" Weinberg led the field of Nuclear Power and Molten Salt Reactors were a favorite design of both Tigener and Weinberg.

Why were they able to make them smaller?

Biggest fears about Nuclear Power no longer an issue with proposed MSR (Molten Salt Reactors) LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor)

Old Way: Radiation Leak or Meltdown New Way: Meltdown is not possible since it is already contained under no pressure in a molten state below dangerous temperatures

Old Way: Used to create Nuclear Weapons New Way: Thorium makes it very difficult to produce nuclear weapons

Old Way: Disposal is hazardous New Way: Not hazardous anymore. LFTR Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors can use waste Uranium and Plutonium to create energy so it will eliminate existing nuclear waste

Old Way: Too expensive New Way: Many engineers feel that low cost reactors are totally possible and they can be made cheaper than coal plants.

Read more about thorium at Kirk Sorenson's Forum or Charles Bartons Blog

Hansen's letter to Obama had influence of Kirk Sorensen

The Aim High lecture and book by the same title by Robert Hargraves is also a fascinating look at the LFTR solution. Segment from Aim High Lecture