Jump to content
House Price Crash Forum
interestrateripoff

Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With A Nuclear Dash For Thorium - Aep

Recommended Posts

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/7970619/Obama-could-kill-fossil-fuels-overnight-with-a-nuclear-dash-for-thorium.html

We could then stop arguing about wind mills, deepwater drilling, IPCC hockey sticks, or strategic reliance on the Kremlin. History will move on fast.

Muddling on with the status quo is not a grown-up policy. The International Energy Agency says the world must invest $26 trillion (£16.7 trillion) over the next 20 years to avert an energy shock. The scramble for scarce fuel is already leading to friction between China, India, and the West.

There is no certain bet in nuclear physics but work by Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) on the use of thorium as a cheap, clean and safe alternative to uranium in reactors may be the magic bullet we have all been hoping for, though we have barely begun to crack the potential of solar power.

Dr Rubbia says a tonne of the silvery metal – named after the Norse god of thunder, who also gave us Thor’s day or Thursday - produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal. A mere fistful would light London for a week.

Thorium eats its own hazardous waste. It can even scavenge the plutonium left by uranium reactors, acting as an eco-cleaner. "It’s the Big One," said Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA rocket engineer and now chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown Engineering.

"Once you start looking more closely, it blows your mind away. You can run civilisation on thorium for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s essentially free. You don’t have to deal with uranium cartels," he said.

Thorium is so common that miners treat it as a nuisance, a radioactive by-product if they try to dig up rare earth metals. The US and Australia are full of the stuff. So are the granite rocks of Cornwall. You do not need much: all is potentially usable as fuel, compared to just 0.7pc for uranium.

After the Manhattan Project, US physicists in the late 1940s were tempted by thorium for use in civil reactors. It has a higher neutron yield per neutron absorbed. It does not require isotope separation, a big cost saving. But by then America needed the plutonium residue from uranium to build bombs.

"They were really going after the weapons," said Professor Egil Lillestol, a world authority on the thorium fuel-cycle at CERN. "It is almost impossible make nuclear weapons out of thorium because it is too difficult to handle. It wouldn’t be worth trying." It emits too many high gamma rays.

You might have thought that thorium reactors were the answer to every dream but when CERN went to the European Commission for development funds in 1999-2000, they were rebuffed.

Brussels turned to its technical experts, who happened to be French because the French dominate the EU’s nuclear industry. "They didn’t want competition because they had made a huge investment in the old technology," he said.

Wow science is so easy, we are all saved.

Can any physicists here on how "easy" using this "free" energy would be?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/7970619/Obama-could-kill-fossil-fuels-overnight-with-a-nuclear-dash-for-thorium.html

Wow science is so easy, we are all saved.

Can any physicists here on how "easy" using this "free" energy would be?

He pinpoints the problem in his own article:

"It is almost impossible make nuclear weapons out of thorium because it is too difficult to handle. It wouldn’t be worth trying." It emits too many high gamma rays.

Thorium is indeed ubiquitous, abundant, and doesn't have the knife edge control problems of Uranium. It is trivially easy to design a thorium reactor that has no criticality problems.

Unfortunately, if you go anywhere near it it fries you to death with gamma rays. So you would need to build a system with extraordinary levels of both automation and reliability, and still cocoon it in metres of lead.

The Indians are likely to be the leaders on this, they have lots of thorium, and little else in energy sources. They also have lots of very bright engineers and less stringent health and safety law as well as more tolerance of safety problems when faced with strategic energy shortages.

If you live in the west and have the education and understanding, you wouldn't go anywhere near the stuff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you live in the west and have the education and understanding, you wouldn't go anywhere near the stuff.

Thought there would be a catch. "Doh! Why didn't we use Thorium! "

We could put the thorium reactors in Scotland though :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, if you go anywhere near it it fries you to death with gamma rays. So you would need to build a system with extraordinary levels of both automation and reliability, and still cocoon it in metres of lead.

Hulk SMASH! Hold on isn't conventional Uranium nuclear power supposed to be shielded with thick thick layers of concrete and lead anyway?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hulk SMASH! Hold on isn't conventional Uranium nuclear power supposed to be shielded with thick thick layers of concrete and lead anyway?

Worth noting Carlo Rubbia won the Nobel prize in physics so he is not an idiot. Seems unlikely (though not impossible) to me he overlooked some obvious issue like this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Worth noting Carlo Rubbia won the Nobel prize in physics so he is not an idiot. Seems unlikely (though not impossible) to me he overlooked some obvious issue like this.

Weren't some Nobbles handed out for financial innovation too?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thorium already has quiet a widespread usage. Heck even my old tilley mantles have thorium on them.

Regards its use for overtaking existing nuclear traditional reactors, its a two part problem. Part one as described is making fissionable material for bombs. Part two is now there is an already existing market for the traditional reactors, so they would have to break into that same market.

Money would probably be better invested looking at Renewables options. We have barely scratched the surface of renewable energy and to be honest considering the huge amounts the main energy suppliers are pumping into research now it wont be long before some substaintial breakthroughs are made. The power companies know that without renewables they are going to struggle more and more politically each year, the deep water disaster brought that to a head years before it was due to happen anyway. As much as it was a disaster in the area, for the greenies you couldnt have asked for a better political launching point to push the message home that fossil fuels are already dead.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There was a thread on this about a year ago.

india is indeed looking into thorium, and is building prototype pebble-bed reactors that use it. Germany had an earlier version which it shelved after they buggered their reactor (that great german technical expertise again)

Thorium 232 won't gamma fry your ass, it's halflife is in the order of billions of years which sounds nasty, but it's perfectly safe. That's because the time it takes for the material to fire out its radioactivity is much beyond the human lifespan, it ain't going to matter to you. Its much more dangerous to be in the presence of material that blows its load in days/weeks/months.

Apart from anything else, gamma radiation needs more cloaking and has effects at a greater distance because it doesn't interact with matter readily. You don't need shielding from alpha and beta sources metres away because they've already shot their load on whatever is next to them. If that's shielding, good, if it's your internal organs, oh dear... ingested alpha sources are the big baddy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow. That's Cornwall off my list of places to visit.

When I lived there, there were always stories of highly carcinogenic, excess granite gases found seeping into houses - they prob. keep quiet now coz it would "upset the property market sellers" in the local papers!

Just imagine the gas build-ups with unaeriated houses, only lived in at the weekends etc and with modern 'sealed' double glazing!!

Ever noticed your 'originals' pasty - glows in the dark!

Edited by erranta

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thorium already has quiet a widespread usage. Heck even my old tilley mantles have thorium on them.

Regards its use for overtaking existing nuclear traditional reactors, its a two part problem. Part one as described is making fissionable material for bombs. Part two is now there is an already existing market for the traditional reactors, so they would have to break into that same market.

Money would probably be better invested looking at Renewables options. We have barely scratched the surface of renewable energy and to be honest considering the huge amounts the main energy suppliers are pumping into research now it wont be long before some substaintial breakthroughs are made. The power companies know that without renewables they are going to struggle more and more politically each year, the deep water disaster brought that to a head years before it was due to happen anyway. As much as it was a disaster in the area, for the greenies you couldnt have asked for a better political launching point to push the message home that fossil fuels are already dead.

Great bit of proper-gander!

The largest spill ever 'effects' are minimal & the spill was due to company director level cost cutting and not replacing/servicing faulty machinery!

The USA coastguards then toppled the rig and cracked the legs - by pumping billions of gallons of sea water onto it!

Like it was all set up & 'guaranteed to fail' ON PURPOSE for the purpose below!

Those Billionaires around the World, can't wait to force you all into buying their 'Green' machinery which needs completely replacing every 25 years re wind driven!

Edited by erranta

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/7970619/Obama-could-kill-fossil-fuels-overnight-with-a-nuclear-dash-for-thorium.html

Wow science is so easy, we are all saved.

Can any physicists here on how "easy" using this "free" energy would be?

Not trying to be a smart ass here but as I work in the "clean up" industry here in the US I have a handle on what's going on. Here it is NATURAL GAS. Don't believe all the otherb BS like the article. They are drilling like there is no tomorrow (hence the lowest price for 10 years). New York already runs its taxis on the stuff and I have seen a couple of gas stations being converted from petrol. That's it folks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thorium is indeed good news.

You don't have to refine the fuel, so no mucking about with separation of U238 (most of it) and U235 (very little of it, and the bit you want). This is why it is so much more efficient than Uranium - with Uranium you spend a lot of effort mining the stuff, then you throw 99% of it away.

Thorium is a breeder, not a fuel. Thorium is not fissionable - but it will absorb a slow neutron and turn into Uranium 233, which is fissionable. If you surround a conventional reactor core with Thorium, you get loads of U233 - effectively a breeder reactor. This is why the Thorium cycle was not developed first - you need a uranium cycle to drive it.

Uranium cycle fast breeders are pretty much an engineering impossibility - it's been done (Sellafield...) but they don't run for long, and keeping liquid Sodium in check is a nightmare.

Thorium reactors run very hot (efficient) and have negative power coefficients - as they generate more power, they get hotter, and the liquid fuel becomes less dense - thus reducing the power generated.

Pebble bed thorium designs are interesting - but a proliferation nightmare because you can run off fuel without shutting down the reactor. In contrast, with a PWR you can see from a satellite when it is shut down for refuelling, and you can send the inspectors in. Hence PWRs are exported. Molten Salt fuel is probably going to be where the action is on Thorium.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hulk SMASH! Hold on isn't conventional Uranium nuclear power supposed to be shielded with thick thick layers of concrete and lead anyway?

Yes - the reactors are. But the fuel handling isn't; uranium fuel modules are hand-made, and can be manually handled for delivery and inspection at the power plant.

The plant at Sellafield was designed to extract plutonium (which is a nasty 100,000 year waste product) from waste (which without plutonium is 'only' a 500 year problem), and use it as a fuel (extracting more energy, while dealing with the waste at the same time). The problem was the high cost of extracting the plutonium, and the high cost of handling it and making fuel from it. Mixed plutonium-uranium fuel is sufficiently radioactive that workers cannot work close to it for any significant period of time - so a degree of automation is required, but human intervention is still possible in case of problems (being directly exposed to it for 5 minutes in a year, won't do any real harm) - but you can't be exposed on a regular basis. While mixed fuel is used in France, it is significantly more expensive than simply using uranium fuel - but the cost is tolerated as it reduces the waste disposal problem.

Thorium poses a similar problem. Thorium is not a fuel. However, it can be converted into nuclear fuel. If you expose thorium to radiation in a reactor, it gets converted into a substance called protactinium. If you then remove the protactinium from the reactor and then allow it to mature in a safe place for a few months, it will convert into Uranium 233. U233 is a fantastic nuclear fuel - very potent, very stable, and produces essentially no plutonium. But, both the protactinium and U233 are viciously radioactive (many thousands of times worse than plutonium). This means that no human contact with the fuel at any stage of its use is possible - it must be handled only by robots behind several feet of concrete. So, you have to totally automate a fuel handling system far more complex than any in use today.

There are proposals to make a thorium reactor that uses a liquid fuel. The thorium is dissolved in molten salt at 1000 C. There are a number of very interesting features - notably, the fuel can't 'melt down' because it's molten under normal conditions, and that the reactor can't overheat because as the fuel expands with increasing temperature, less actual weight of fuel can fit into the reactor core, causing the reaction to stop - no intervention from safety systems, cooling systems, etc. is necessary to keep the reactor safe. So, very interesting but probably a good 30 years of work needed to develop the technology to the point where it is prototypeable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't believe I am potentially getting into a nuclear physics pissing match on HPC... <_<:D ....but:

U233 is a fantastic nuclear fuel - very potent, very stable, and produces essentially no plutonium. But, both the protactinium and U233 are viciously radioactive (many thousands of times worse than plutonium).

You can't have something that is "viciously radioactive" and also "stable". If something has a very long half life, in that it is kicking around for hundreds of thousands of years, then by definition, it isn't very radioactive. Substances with short half-lives, that decay quickly, are highly radioactive. Uranium 233 is not very radioactive at all: it has a half life of 160K years. It is, however, a lot more active than Uranium 235 (conventional fuel) which has a half life of 700 million years.

Pa 233 which is the intermediate product of Thorium neutron absorption has a half life of 27 days - so it is indeed very radioactive, but this is also an advantage, because you can get U233 used in situ - without external reprocessing, as long as you have a technology that allows you to have high levels of fuel burn up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I lived there, there were always stories of highly carcinogenic, excess granite gases found seeping into houses - they prob. keep quiet now coz it would "upset the property market sellers" in the local papers!

No, quite the contrary

The issue is just as big and is now relevant in more places than Cornwall. In many, many parts of the UK radon gets flagged as a potential issue on house purchase surveys. It popped up (but was easy to dismiss) when we sold our last house in Berkshire; here (on the Welsh borders) it can be a problem.

Just imagine the gas build-ups with unaeriated houses, only lived in at the weekends etc and with modern 'sealed' double glazing!!

Indeed so. Modern "sealed" houses are the problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem with thorium reactors is that they're a long, long way from a commercial design

Even a bog-standard off-the-shelf PWR uranium fission reactor takes a decade or more to complete; going all thorium over a useful timescale would need a huge injection of government resource. Maybe that'll happen; I'm not holding my breath.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I can't believe I am potentially getting into a nuclear physics pissing match on HPC... <_<:D

Oh come on now, that's the kind of thing we're all here for ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I lived there, there were always stories of highly carcinogenic, excess granite gases found seeping into houses - they prob. keep quiet now coz it would "upset the property market sellers" in the local papers!

Just imagine the gas build-ups with unaeriated houses, only lived in at the weekends etc and with modern 'sealed' double glazing!!

The UK radon site publishes maps of the areas at the highest risk. The BGS also carry a lot of data.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • 140 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.