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The Nuclear Green Revolution

Nuclear Power PlantThe original title of my pro-nuclear blog was Nuclear Green. The primary interest was in Molten Salt and Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. As I began to explore the potential of this technology, I came to see more and more possibilities. This technology could not only replace fossil fuel energy sources in advanced industrial nations, but could also revolutionize energy in developing economies. It was quite possible that Molten Salt Reactors could compete with light water reactors in fields such as base load electrical power because the costs of Molten Salt Reactors was potentially less than the costs of light water reactors.

At the same time, the LFTR was capable of providing for the energy needs of human society over periods extending for millions of years to come. The LFTR matched Renewables in terms of fuel availability and far exceeded them in terms of reliability. Because the LFTR made such efficient use of its’ fuel, far fewer resources were required to build LFTR generation facilities, energy storage and transmission lines. LFTRs are capable of producing stored energy that can be used during peak demand, but at a lower price and far more predictably than wind or solar generators.

The Indian economy can be powered by India’s abundant supply of Thorium. China also has an abundant supply. The Chinese are following Kirk Sorensen’s advice by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in LFTR research. Kirk did not offer this advice directly to the Chinese, but the Chinese were apparently listening in to conversations that Kirk was having and liked what they heard.

The word “revolution” suggest the turning of a wheel. I have argued on Nuclear Green that the wheel turns back to its beginning as far as energy is concerned through the use of Molten Salt and Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. It moves on and on offering us a new human beginning. One which is free of carbon dioxide; one which potentially makes poor nations rich. One which potentially will allow everyone on earth, all humans, a comfortable life. One which will help us turn the wheel back on energy related environmental problems. This is the Nuclear Green Revolution.

Content Discussion

Paul O's picture
Paul O on February 11, 2013

Hello Charles,

Good to hear from you again, you have many well wishers and I count myself as one of them.

Charles, every time I think (deeply) about our energy needs and energy future, I am aghast at the huge "fail" of our U.S. government, and am nearly just as incensed by the self righteously irrational hate/fear mongering of the environmentalist crowd in this country (USA).

I have come to the same conclusions that you did that it will be the Chinese who will eventually bring LFTR to the World, and this is extremely unfortunate for us. 

To think that we (please see  Alvin. M. Weinberg at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_M._Weinberg), invented the solution to our, and the world's energy problems some 50+(?) years ago, and we have thrown it away, suppressed it, demagogued it, and in the end we have left it to China for them to benefit and profit from, this is astonishingly disheartening.

It seems that The United States govt. has simply stopped researching and developing  better, more advanced AND safer modes of nuclear power, and we've become locked into the current solid state/heterogeneous nuclear fuel modes along with pressurised water/steam coolant modes that Alvin Weinberg warned against.

On top of this, the NRC has been baked into a regulatory mode that makes it pretty darn near impossible for private business to design and build safer generation 4 nuclear reactors, and companies that do build nuclear reactors are dis-incentivized by the ridiculously high cost involved in innovating the future of nuclear power, partly because of regulation.

Anyway Charles, keep up the good work and may good/better health be yours....  

 

 

Robert Hargraves's picture
Robert Hargraves on February 11, 2013

Charles, glad you're up n atom again.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on February 11, 2013

"...aghast at the huge "fail" of our U.S. government...

I don't blame the government, our "leaders" do whatever their constituents/supporters ask (otherwise they won't win many elections).  Compared to Germany, we are doing great.

However, I do blame the mainstream environment movement and the news media.  America depends on both groups to keep us on track, and both failed catastrophically on the nuclear question (i.e. they took anti-science stances to the detriment of the environment).  Apparently, they decided to cash-in on the visceral popularity of hate-mongering against a defenseless scapegoat.  Now they are so far down the path that they have no need for science or critical thinking regarding energy.

But Paul, the US nuclear enterprise is not completely dead.  The light-water based SMRs probably will make it to market (mainly for export), maybe ahead of the foreign competition.  Molten-salt cooled reactor research is continuing at the university level.  And the sodium-cooled fast reactor technology is sitting on a shelf, ready to be retrieved at such time that the political winds change.

Most encouraging, nuclear still has some grass roots support, and an active blogger community with leaders like Charles who are keeping the flame alive and speaking the truth to a new generation.


Jessee McBroom's picture
Jessee McBroom on February 12, 2013

Thanks for the post Charles. I have argued  the merits of both of these techiques  with myself trying to decide which one is a better approach. The near eternal LFTR is awfully tempting and wins this decision by virtue of its' lengthy life. Clean energy for next to forever as long as no catastrophic geological event of any kind occurs. Good; but not foolproof in the safety category. The WAMSR technology would make quick work of depleting the energy in spent fuel rod stockpiles. This could be a good thing ; but what a waste of energetic material. I don't think I will miss the material though.Less plutonium lying about just begging to be put on the black market is not a good thing. I won't start bemoaning the loss of all that plutonium; because there is a new ray of hope shining on the ever so close to making it Plasma Fusion Reactor Technology The now all too familiar TOKAMAK reactor with its' hydrogen recycling process gives us another ray of hope for a waste free nuclear fusion process.You can read about this in the article Mystery Surrounding The Harnessing Of Fusion Energy Unlocked in the Science Daily Magazine online at http://www.sciencedaily.com/  This model actually looks like it has the potential to deliver the long promised Clean Nuclear Energy.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on February 15, 2013

LFTR and IFR are soooo much safer and better than water cooled reactors, however, is there "ANY" way for nasty material to be dispersed into the environment due to pissed off people (and their robotic counterparts?) from any of these fission sources? If not, then go full force towards demeaning all other energy sources (except machine made solar) and promote that best fission source.

If so, go full force for machine made solar, wind and batteries (and safe extraction machinery, etc).

Also, I would think that molten metals and salt could be used as utility scale batteries for WAY cheaper than current utility scale proposals.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on February 17, 2013

Modern Light Water Reactors (LWRs)are so much safer than fossil fuel power plants that for most applications, the additional safety promised by LFTRs or IFRs should not be a big factor.  The main advantage for LFTRs and IFR is the inexhaustible fuel supply, and lack of off-site fissile material handling. If you want safety, replace fossil fuel with nuclear power, as quickly as possible.

The molten metal and salt battery idea is an interesting one.  Here is a link to a company that is trying to commercialize one: http://www.ambri.com/ (formerly known as Liquid Metal Battery Corp).  Their battery, which operates at high temperature, uses a liquid antimony (Sb) electrode separated from an  electrode of liquid aluminum (or a proprietary alloy) by a molten salt electrolyte.

I'd say they have a pretty good shot at beating lead-acid batteries as the low cost leader for (stationary) battery technology.  However, that would still leave them far too expensive for major utility scale use (i.e. we will never see >1% of our electricity passing through these batteries, though the company may succeed based on the much smaller frequency regulation market for renewable-rich grids).  In Sandia National Lab's report Sand2003-2783, they estimate that a utility scale system with 8 hours of storage, assuming it bought off-peak electricity for $0.05/kWh, would have to sell it for $0.45/kWh using lead acid batteries, and $0.16/kWh using pumped hydro.

ralpph allen's picture
ralpph allen on February 16, 2013

 

 The government is the only entity that can make sure that LFTR gets developed here in the US.  It will require a few billion to get the working production model built.   I propose at least 3 entities be partially funded to get these going.  Competition will help to keep these large corporations form milking the project and it can result in a workable design even if one design turns out not viable. 

 

The cost of one aircraft carrier could fund the development of three designs and the eventual building of two where at least one could be deployed. 

The NRC should be given a sharp kick by appointing a new mdirector and sidelining anyone who is dead wood and or unable to change.  Most government organizations fossilize after a period of time and the NRC is one of them.  This is not the time for half measures we need an Apollo or Manhattan type effort.  It will ensure the US dominance in reactor technologies and it will allow the US to stay competitive in the world with cheap energy.   That is not to mention the Climate warming abatement that could be achieved.   If we do not China will and they will dominate the world of energy.  The US goes to second class status since the Oil/Coal industry will make sure that nothing will happen to change their dominate position with the 27 trillion in underground assets. .