What is Thorium?

Any proper website about thorium power should start out by explaining what thorium is…

Thorium is an element, made at the creation of the universe, number 90 on the periodic table.  It is metallic and is as common as lead.  It is also very dense like lead and can be transmuted into uranium 233 in a nuclear reactor.  That ability is called “fertile”.  Uranium 233 can be split in a chain reaction in a nuclear reactor and release tremendous energy.  This is called fission.

There are a lot more geeky facts to do with thorium and molten salt reactors, and I will get to those in due course, but these are the basics of why thorium can be the energy of our future.

A Woman’s Perspective

Editors note:I asked my adult daughter to write about her experiences in the Amazon, particularly about not having electricity.  bwr

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Amazon Lodge without Electricity

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Dwelling on the Edge of the Amazon River

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Drying clothes the old fashioned way

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Village “Home”

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Yanamono II Village Gathering

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Potable Water Supply for Yanamono II Village

As a woman who grew up with electricity, I know very well that it is hard, no almost impossible, to live day-to-day without the use of electricity. Living in one of the richest countries in the world, I think that we sometimes take for granted of the power of electricity in our lives. We are constantly on the move and living life on fast forward so we don’t recognize the luxury of electricity.

I start my mornings off everyday with a blaring alarm clock, electricity BAM!  I unplug my phone from my charger, electricity BAM! Quickly, I use the blender to mix up my breakfast shake, and I’m out the door. My morning alone required significant use of electricity. Without electricity, billions of people would not be able to function and get the things done that they need to, in order to make it through the day.

I talk about the use of electricity and how important it is in our lives, because I have experienced living without electricity, and man was it rough! I had the opportunity to travel to a small village in Peru along the Amazon River to do humanitarian work. When I think of the Amazon River, I think of natives living in trees and boiling water to drink, and guess what… that is exactly what I found. There was literally no electricity use whatsoever among the people that lived there.

Except for the 1 hour of electricity I was able to have once a day for light at night in the cabin I was staying at, deep in the jungle, there was no electric power.  This was not anything like we have in the United States. I’m talking about one light bulb to light an entire room. I had one fan for one hour to dry my hand-washed clothes. There was no luxury of washing clothes in a washing machine or a clothes dryer. You better believe I had to hand wash everything I owned! Oh, and did I mention living off of warm, bottled water? Forget about a fridge. There was not one anywhere in sight! No ice cold water. No fresh, cold orange juice or icy, cold milk to drink in the morning with breakfast. Keep on dreaming!

I didn’t realize how spoiled I was growing up and living in the United States! Man, we have it all! Living in the Amazon jungle at 100 degrees with 90 percent humidity, without AC or ice cold water, definitely made me appreciate and realize that although it was bearable to live without electricity for a short time in the jungle, there is no way I could survive without electricity back home.

Because we are such a rich country with great technology and amazing advances in the use of electricity, we can do just about anything! Perform surgeries, flip on a light switch in a dark room, and use all our many forms of communication. We need, no we can’t survive, without electricity!

If you think differently, you better pack your bags and go visit a third world country where there is limited use of electricity or no electricity at all and then come tell me how it went! We are spoiled living in this country. Thorium power is the clean and safe way we can produce use electricity for the future!

 

 

Top 10 Benefits of Thorium Molten Salt Reactors

Energy From Thorium

Top 10 Attributes

(I stole this in toto from www.energyfromthorium.com – bwr)

Here is a resource paper/technology summary on the top ten basic attributes/reasons why LFTRs (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors) should be pursued. This is a very easy to use resource to have handy when you are talking to a legislator or talking to a friend, neighbor, or family member. While Thorium’s use in a LFTR has many benefits we feel these top ten are the easiest to convey to someone knowing little about the technology in order to peak their interest.

THORIUM AND LFTR TOP TEN ATTRIBUTES

The abundance of the element thorium throughout the Earth’s crust promises widespread energy independence through Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) technology. A mere 6,600 tonnes of thorium could provide the energy equivalent of the combined global consumption of 5 billion tonnes of coal, 31 billion barrels of oil, 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, and 65,000 tonnes of uranium. With LFTR, a handful of thorium can supply an individual’s lifetime energy needs; a grain silo full could power North America for a year; and known thorium reserves could power advanced society for many thousands of years.

LFTR is based on demonstrated technology with sound operational fundamentals proven by 20,000 hours of reactor operation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the late 1960′s. Despite recognized, compelling advantages, LFTR development stalled when political and financial capital were concentrated instead on fast-spectrum plutonium breeding reactors.

LFTR operates at low pressure, is chemically and operationally stable, and passively shuts down without human intervention. Low pressures eliminate the need for massive and costly pressure containment vessels and alleviate safety concerns about high-pressure releases to the atmosphere. LFTR offers significant gains in safety, cost and efficiency with greatly reduced environmental impact relative to existing light-water reactors (LWRs).

LFTR is more efficient, using 99% of the thorium-derived fuel and extracting significantly more energy from abundant, inexpensive thorium than other reactors can from more scarce and costly uranium. LWRs burn scarce fissile reserves as a one-time consumable; LFTR consumes fertile thorium, using fissile reserves only to start the thorium fuel-cycle.

LFTR can use a range of nuclear starter fuels and can consume plutonium and other actinides from legacy spent nuclear fuel stockpiles. Molten salt reactors were started on all three fuel options and once operational, LFTR can continue operation with just thorium.

LFTR produces safe, sustainable, carbon-free electricity and a range of radioisotopes useful for medical imaging, cancer therapy, industrial applications and space exploration. LFTR waste heat can be used to desalinate sea water and high primary heat can drive ammonia production for agriculture and fuels or synthesis of liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

Most LFTR byproducts stabilize within a decade and have commercial value; the minor remainder has a half-life of less than 30 years, stabilizing within hundreds rather than tens of thousands of years. LFTR waste is primarily fission products and does not include unspent fuel, fuel cladding, or long-lived transuranics typical of legacy spent nuclear fuel.

LFTRs can be mass-produced in a factory and delivered and reclaimed from utility sites as modular units. Modular LFTR production offers reduced capital costs and shorter build times. Modular installation near the point of need also eliminates long transmission lines. Higher temperatures and turbine efficiencies enable air-cooling away from water bodies.

LFTR and thorium are proliferation resistant. Thorium and its derivative fuel, uranium-233, are impractical and undesirable for weaponization efforts relative to well-known uranium enrichment and plutonium breeding pathways. Thus, despite 60 years of thorium research, none of the world’s tens-of-thousands of warheads are based on the thorium fuel-cycle.

Liquid salt fuels cannot fail or meltdown. The liquid salt fuels have a thousand-degree liquid range, eliminating the possibility of fuel failure scenarios from overheating or meltdown like at Fukushima. The liquid fuel form is a key differentiator from conventional solid-fueled LWRs with LFTR’s liquid salts serving as both a fuel carrier and coolant. The salts are not reactive with water or the atmosphere like some existing fuels and coolants. Fuel can be added to the salts and byproducts removed while the reactor remains online.

Learn more at www.energyfromthorium.com

Why Nuclear?

Why Nuclear?  This is the question I will answer, and I hope that it will be convincing for you.

Check this out:  A piece of thorium the size of this rock in my hand can provide all your energy needs for your entire lifetime.

That’s right, energy for your entire lifetime; transportation, domestic heating and cooling, domestic hot water, lighting and electricity from a piece of thorium the size of this rock.  Compare that with the truckloads and truckloads and truckloads of coal, oil and gas you will need for a lifetime using current energy technologies

By the way, Thorium is a fairly abundant element, as common as lead and it can be burned in a molten salt reactor.

How is this possible?  It’s the physics!  The combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, & gas) releases chemical energy from the electrons of the carbon and hydrogen when it combines with oxygen from the air.  This energy is measured in electron volts per reaction and has served humanity pretty well.

However, when certain heavy elements are split (fissioned) in a nuclear reactor, energy from the nucleus is released, and it is measured in millions of electron volts per reaction – millions of times more energy is released per pound as compared with burning fossil fuels.  This is why a small amount of thorium, that I can hold in my hand, can provide energy for my entire lifetime.

As billions of people in Asia and Africa improve their lives and start using lots of fossil fuel, the price of gas and oil will rise world-wide.  If the Peak Oil folks are right about us running out of oil, we need to deploy molten salt nuclear reactors to provide us energy for the future.

You can learn more about thorium molten salt reactors here.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Dear Readers,

The following is a letter I wrote to the NRC back in June.  I have not received an answer to my letter.

 

3 June 2013

Brigham City, Utah 84302

 

Allison M. Macfarlane, Chairman

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Mail Stop O-16G4

Washington, DC 20555-0001

Dear Chairman Macfarlane,

In 2009, I first learned about molten salt nuclear reactors from an article in Wired magazine (http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/ff_new_nukes/).  Over the last few years, I have become interested in the demonstrated promise of molten salt reactors.  Even though I have a background in engineering, I did not know about fluid-fueled reactors.  Since then I have done significant study about this type of reactor and its benefits.

As I have told friends and colleagues about the advantages of this reactor, they would always ask me, “Why don’t we have this type of reactor now?”  Or in other words, if molten salt reactors are so great, how come there aren’t any?  That is very good question.  And I have answered a number of different ways, none of which were very satisfactory to my friends or to me.

Glen Seaborg, who was chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission from 1961 to 1971, declared that his graduate student, John Gofman had made “a fifty-quadrillion dollar discovery” when Gofman figured out that thorium would turn into uranium-233 and fission, and also had certain other properties.  The Oak Ridge National Laboratories later constructed and ran a fluid-fueled, thorium reactor from 1965 to 1969.  That was the last time someone tried to tap into this “fifty-quadrillion dollar discovery”.

Additionally, the NRC is legally charged with:

1.      Increasing the productivity of the national economy

2.      Strengthening its position in regard to international trade

3.      Making the Nation self-sufficient in energy

4.      Improving the general welfare

5.      Increasing the standard of living

6.      Strengthening free competition in private enterprise

7.      Restoring, protecting, and advancing environmental quality

It seems to me like all of these mandates could be accomplished with molten salt thorium reactors. Why hasn’t the NRC complied with these Congressional mandates?  Perhaps the NRC could help me give a better answer to my friends and colleagues when they ask why we don’t have molten salt thorium reactors today?

Sincerely,

bwr

Super Fuel

I recently read this book on the past and future opportunities for thorium molten salt reactors. I enjoyed the history of the development of nuclear power, especially the parts that describe how we missed implementing thorium power the first time.

Basically there are three reasons why thorium power did not pan out when I was a kid:
1. The thorium cycle did not lead to or include nuclear weapons.
2. Admiral Rickover wanted power for his submarines in the most expeditious form, which was uranium light water reactors.
3. It was believed that uranium was very scarce and could not be diverted to start thorium molten salt reactors and had to be bred into plutonium for ever more bombs.

Number three turned out to be not true.  Number two was a poor reactor choice for civilian use (sub-servient to the military, pun intended), and America’s greatest generation chose to make bombs for short-term military gain, instead of developing boundless energy for humanity that would be needed by everyone on the planet including us for all time.

Let’s be smarter this time.

bwr
PS. I don’t expect my readers to go get this book and read it.  I will be summarizing the benefits of thorium molten salt reactors for you.

After Peak Oil

Welcome to Utah Thorium Energy!

This site is about nuclear energy.  It is PRO nuclear.  Make no mistake about it!

These four points (which I stole from Dr. Gary North) are the reason for the website:

1. Oil is a nonrenewable resource.
2. The price of oil will rise in comparison to other energy sources.
3. At some price, oil will get too expensive to use in our cars and other tools.
4. We will switch to something else.

I want the “something else” to be thorium/uranium molten salt fission reactors. I hope to persuade enough people in Utah that “nuclear” is something not to be feared and maybe when #4 comes, nuclear will have a chance at powering our modern and growing economy (with emphasis on growing and modern).  This website is intended to educate, persuade and inform my fellow Utahns about what I believe are the overwhelming benefits of molten salt thorium/uranium reactors.

As time allows, I will be adding material covering a number of subjects; basic nuclear physics, the linear no-threshold hypothesis (LNT), what is radiation, safety, nuclear proliferation, reactor basics, nuclear history, benefits of nuclear power, etc.

Why Utah?  I have deep roots in Utah.  I live with my family in Utah.  I have children and hope to have grandchildren.  I am concerned for their future.  I want the future to be bright (pun intended) and prosperous.  And just maybe, we can all benefit from what Glenn Seaborg called the $50 qaudrillion discovery that I will tell you about in a future post.

bwr