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The Truth About Thorium and Nuclear Power

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posted on Oct, 23 2010 @ 01:12 PM
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Originally posted by Hellmutt
reply to post by Iamonlyhuman
 


Not China. I made a thread about this a while back.


The current thorium mineral reserve estimates (in tons)[1]:

* 360,000 India
* 300,000 Australia
* 170,000 Norway
* 160,000 United States
* 100,000 Canada
* 35,000 South Africa
* 16,000 Brazil
* 95,000 Others


I was talking about rare earths in general.



I should probably investigate Thorium. It could have changed since your thread too.

ETA: While the U.S. may have 160,000 metric tons on reserve (I assumed your number was right), none has been produced in the U.S. since 1994.

minerals.usgs.gov...

Production
Domestic mine production data for thorium-bearing minerals were developed by the U.S. Geological Survey from a voluntary canvass of U.S. thorium operations. The one mine to which a canvass form was sent responded. Although thorium was not produced in the United States in 2006, the mine that
had previously produced thorium-bearing monazite continued to produce titanium and zirconium minerals and maintained its monazite capacity on standby. Production of monazite in Florida was expected to resume in 2006; Iluka Resources Limited planned to reprocess tailings mainly for the zircon
content. Monazite was last produced in the United States in 1994.


I'm not knocking Thorium, just trying to get the stats right.
edit on 23/10/2010 by Iamonlyhuman because: (no reason given)
edit on 23/10/2010 by Iamonlyhuman because: (no reason given)




posted on Oct, 23 2010 @ 03:59 PM
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reply to post by Iamonlyhuman
 





I should probably investigate Thorium. It could have changed since your thread too.


That would be appreciated, any information you can find would be great.

Thanks for posting.



posted on Oct, 23 2010 @ 09:09 PM
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I've got tons of thorium ore on my miner toon in warcraft, willing to sell it at a reasonable price



posted on Oct, 23 2010 @ 10:32 PM
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ETA: While the U.S. may have 160,000 metric tons on reserve (I assumed your number was right), none has been produced in the U.S. since 1994.

In 2008 the United States produced 4369099 GWh of electricity, or an average of 498 gigawatts. A LFTR needs around 650 kilograms of Thorium per gigawatt-year, hence the United States has 500 years worth of fuel in the form of Thorium in that reserve. We already have 3200 tonnes of Thorium Nitrate buried in the Nevada desert, enough to power the US for around 10 years.
edit on 23/10/10 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 24 2010 @ 04:42 AM
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Originally posted by Aquarius1

There seems to be a lot of controversy on how long the waste lasts, hard to know what is truth,



you will have to distinguish between fission products and transuranic isotopes, which are either fissile (like plutonium 239) or can absorb to become fissile, albeit at the expense of neutrons, which are typically scarce, partly due to absorbing materials (boron, gadolinium) used in reactivity control rather than breeding material like Thorium.

the obvious advantage of Thorium / U233 wrt waste production is that you need many more absorptions to reach the transuranic region (7 from 232 rather than 1, up from 238), which becomes increasingly unlikely and any U235 generated is very fissile, thereby sharply reducing amount of material available for breeding transuranics.


the following decay&fission chart will explain it in more detail:

en.wikipedia.org...

long lived isotopes won't just go away, of course, but once they reach an equilibrium concentration, production and fission balance out, which means you'd get a constant amount of nasties per unit rather than one increasing with time. to fully dispose of these isotopes, fast neutron reactors are needed, though, which the French have already used for purposes of waste disposal., see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phénix (C&P the link please, it won't parse)

you'd still have to extract the fission products, of course, which is why some people embrace liquid fuels, typically molten salts, combined with online fuel processing which undoubtedly have their own issues but have also been demonstrated, on a megawatt scale, in the 1960s.

en.wikipedia.org...

all of these designs are highly experimental, but it imho remains clear that the best way to deal with residual fuel is to burn it while minimizing the production of more. long lived fission products can be exposed to neutron flux for transmutation like fuel, again at the expense of neutrons. en.wikipedia.org...

ok, i hope you'll forgive my use of all-wiki references.
edit on 2010.10.24 by Long Lance because: URL parser failed



posted on Feb, 16 2013 @ 07:57 PM
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Originally posted by Aquarius1
There seems to be a lot of controversy on how long the waste lasts, hard to know what is truth, if you remember they wanted to store Nuclear waste a few years ago at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, the State and people were up in arms over that, the big concern was leakage in the future from an earthquake or natural earth movement. I can understand that, wouldn't want it stored in my back yard.


There shouldn't be. As Long Lance points out, there are three components of spent fuel waste: the unburned fuel remaining, the fission products, and the transuranics. As far as Yucca Mountain went, the main problem seems to be that Nevadans resent being used as a dump for the nation's problem (without sufficient compensation, at any rate).

The unburned fuel is the 97+% of the original fuel in the rods which is poisoned for use by some of the fission products. In a well-working world, these would be removed from the waste and reused, but current economics is such that it is cheaper to simply "throw" it away (with some complications on what "throw" means) and use completely newly refined materials for the new rods. The reprocessing that this incurs is messy and somewhat dangerous, which is to say we haven't spent the money and time to iron the processes out.

Most all of the fission products, the short term really nasty effects of fission, have half-lives of 30 years or less, excepting just a few. After ten half-lives (300 years), these wi
ll all be decayed down to at least 1 thousandth of their original radioactive intensity The exceptions, 99Tc, 93Zr , and 135Cs represent perhaps 10% of the fission products, and there are commercial and medical needs for several of these, making them possibly commercially viable for extraction.

Finally, the transuranics are created by the capture of neutrons by the fuel rather than fissioning; in this way, 239Pu is created from U238 fuel, for example. Many of these are very long lived and rather nasty for waste considerations.

In a liquid thorium reactor (as others here have pointed out), much more of the fuel is burned than in solid fuel reactor, eliminating fuel component of the waste, and reducing the waste bulk easily by 90%. A lot of the transuranics are likewise burned, willy nilly, as will other "waste" fuel liquified as a fluoride and added to the thorium fuel. Mostly the waste will be the fission products in rough proportion to the energy produced. It would be extracted (in the LFTR) more or less continuously from the liquid fuel.



posted on Feb, 17 2013 @ 09:09 PM
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@Aquarius1


We were very lucky with the melt down at Three Mile Island.


Galen Winsor, who was one of a team that inspected TMI, both the hardware and all the operational logs, says it did not melt down. Here is an mp3 audio file, about 45 minutes, where Mr Winsor explained a lot of stuff that people should be familiar with. It's not a religious lecture despite the opening couple of minutes.
www.sheldonemrylibrary.com...
A couple of links with a little more honest info on Fukushima, and radiation in general:
Fukushima's “Radiation Leaks”
www.hiroshimasyndrome.com...
A Rational Environmentalist‘s Guide to Nuclear Power
-or-
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Glow

www.scribd.com...



posted on Feb, 18 2013 @ 04:49 AM
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Not many people realise this, but the primary purpose of nuclear power plants isn't to produce electricity. That's just a useful side-effect. The primary purpose is the production of plutonium, for nuclear warheads.

This is why thorium, or any other plutonium-less source, will never be taken up by the powers that be.



posted on Feb, 18 2013 @ 08:15 AM
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reply to post by wildespace
 


Nonsense.

No commercial civilian nuclear power station has ever been used to create plutonium for nuclear weapons. The operating cycles are far too long to create the preferred isotropic mix of plutonium, which means while it might be possible to make nuclear weapons, it is not ideal. If I recall, the unwanted isotopes are at much higher concentrations, which produces much more heat and spontaneously fissions at a greater rate, which complicate weapons desiign.

Instead of using nuclear power reactors, purpose built reactors are used, typically graphite moderated, with online refuelling. Such reactors were found at Hanford, Mayak, and Sellafield. These reactors, if I recall correctly, did produce electricity as a side effect, but most if not all are now out of operation.

In addition, there are over 400 nuclear power reactors worldwide, all of which create reactor grade plutonium. This is massively in excess of the plutonium requirements of even the largest of nuclear arsenals. The only way civilian nuclear power reactors create material for nuclear weapons, is in the production of tritium, but there are only a handful of plants that actually do this. Of >400.

The bottom line is that civilian nuclear power is not being used to create nuclear weapons. In the United States, former soviet weapons containing Uranium are being downblended. So far that amounts to about 20,000 nuclear weapons eliminated by turning them into fuel. A new MOX site at Savannah River is under construction (and if I recall delayed significantly) that, if it goes to plan, will create MOX fuel from Plutonium from existing nuclear weapons.

The problem with existing nuclear power reactors is that possibility that the spent nuclear fuel may be diverted to nefarious purposes. Once again reactor grade plutonium is not ideal for nuclear weapons, but I cannot say how likely or easy it would be used to make nuclear weapons. I am not knowledgeable enough for that and I have seen plenty of debates on the issue. Uranium enrichment facilities could be used for weapons, and perhaps there is some overlap in the skill set. I am not sure of the latter. Reprocessing facilities could also be used for weapons, but only a small amount of nuclear power worldwide uses reprocessing.

In any case, you simply heard something that was made up about nuclear power or you made it up yourself. And in any case, lies can be made about Thorium power too.

Actually thorium reactors will contain Uranium-232 within them, the idea is that this decays into another isotope that is extremely hot, thus precludes its use in nuclear weapons. Uranium-233 will also be found in Thorium reactors, which can be made into nuclear weapons however. So the argument that thorium reactors cannot make nukes because it is contaminated with Uranium-232 is actually similar in many ways to reactor grade plutonium. Both are contaminated with unwanted isotopes.
edit on 18/2/13 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 19 2013 @ 12:11 AM
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Originally posted by GaryN
@Aquarius1


We were very lucky with the melt down at Three Mile Island.


Galen Winsor, who was one of a team that inspected TMI, both the hardware and all the operational logs, says it did not melt down. Here is an mp3 audio file, about 45 minutes, where Mr Winsor explained a lot of stuff that people should be familiar with. It's not a religious lecture despite the opening couple of minutes.
www.sheldonemrylibrary.com...


Several things occur to me:

This lecture was apparently delivered in 1986, shortly after the Chernobyl accident. The cleanup of the TMI reactor started in 1979, but didn't end until 1993. Videos available on the net of the later part of the cleanup show explicitly, and without a doubt, that large portions of the core of the reactor did melt down, slagging to the floor of the reactor vessel. Now, the papers he says he studied may not have indicated that, but short of a really big CT on the AEC's part, it did melt down. The evidence was physical.

Secondly, the CP-1 pile built by Fermi in Chicago in 1942, didn't have tubes of aluminum within it for the fuel; the fuel, uranium oxide, was left in interstices in the blocks; it was pelletized. There is no way the pile could have been rebuilt as described by Mr. Winsor. The pile went critical in December 1942 (not October), and was dismantled in March 1943; the journals kept by the science staff carry no mention of Mr Winsor's incident.

Incidentally, there was a bizarre occurrence in early piles which did just what he described; the pile would shut itself down; this turned out to be caused by the generation of Xenon gas as a fission product, which "poisoned" the pile by absorbing neutrons. The "fix" was to run the pile hotter, driving off the gas. In went unnoticed in CP-1, probably because it was so open the gas merely wafted away, and the pile wasn't run at very high rates, enough to create significant gas.

There is, of course, no substantiated mention anywhere I can find which accuses Roosevelt and other high admin officials of sending secrets abroad - not to the USSR, not even to England.

The Chernobyl account is wrong on many minor and at least one majpr point: there is one plant with 4 reactors, not 4 plants; each fuel channel in the reactor was not a reactor in itself; steam is not supposed to occur within the reactor vessel (it is pressurized for that reason alone). Steam occurring in the vessel was indeed the crux of the problem. Then he started into "someone slipped the Soviets a mickey", referring to the aforementioned high level information Roosevelt (and later presidents?) passed being wrong. This was not a new reactor design for the Russians; several other plants were working with it, but the combination of design defects and operator errors finally came to roost, and the reactor suffered a steam explosion.

At this point I stopped listening. It is plain that Mr Winsor was not anything like the expert he claimed to be; his misuse of the terms of reactor engineering say that plainly enough. He is plainly a conspiracy theorist; he practically defines the type of behaviors that characterize them. Sorry, but it is so.


A couple of links with a little more honest info on Fukushima, and radiation in general:
Fukushima's “Radiation Leaks”
www.hiroshimasyndrome.com...


I read this; it is fairly good, and there are no really showstopping errors in it, but some simplifications which might be argued by a nit picker.


A Rational Environmentalist‘s Guide to Nuclear Power
-or-
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Glow

www.scribd.com...


This one is excellent - not scholarly, but with a lot of meaty references and data included, A very nice read, and one I'll want to go back and study again at length. Thanks for that.



posted on Feb, 19 2013 @ 12:20 AM
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Originally posted by wildespace
Not many people realise this, but the primary purpose of nuclear power plants isn't to produce electricity. That's just a useful side-effect. The primary purpose is the production of plutonium, for nuclear warheads.

This is why thorium, or any other plutonium-less source, will never be taken up by the powers that be.


No; as cobzz says, you're totally out to lunch. Up through today, the military requirements for bomb components were easily filled by the AEC using the reactors at Hanford which were custom made for the purpose of creating plutonium in hundred pound lots. England may have run that little spoof at Sellafield, but we never had to do it here in America; doing plutonium for the military was apple pie for congress. There was never any need of raiding any other sources of plutonium.

Indeed, that's why we have such a waste problem today; there was no grandaddy willing to take over the waste for the commercial plants and "make it disappear".



posted on Feb, 20 2013 @ 12:14 AM
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The misinformation on thorium is highly promoted by the nuclear industry and various companies that want investment dollars for thorium reactors and fuel. One myth is that thorium is safe.The fact is that our world is highly effected by these chemicals and the result is global warming.



posted on Feb, 20 2013 @ 02:05 AM
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Originally posted by AdamJack
The misinformation on thorium is highly promoted by the nuclear industry and various companies that want investment dollars for thorium reactors and fuel.


Dropping the pejorative "mis-", well, naturally. FLiBe is promoting it for obvious reasons, but one wouldn't mistake FLiBe with GE on this account. For that matter, with Massey Energy in WV, or ConAgra in the heartland. Other than a few small companies like FLiBe, the British Weinberg Institute and a charged-up group of technically oriented people concerned about energy, almost no one speaks for thorium, though. There is hardly promotion coming from the nuclear industry; liquid reactors totally ruin their business model.


One myth is that thorium is safe.


Is thorium safe? Not on any absolute scale, but then neither is teh sun, wind power, hydro, geothermal, or oak logs in the wood stove. It is safer than current nuclear technology, especially when mated with liquid fuel technologies. It creates less waste, runs at much lower pressure, and can be incapacitated (i.e., shutdown in a permanent self-cooled mode) in minutes with no requirement for backup power, and be brought back on line in a few hours.

Ah-ah, but then you go entirely off the reservation:


The fact is that our world is highly effected by these chemicals and the result is global warming.


I'll want to see some scholarly engineering backup for that statement. These chemicals aren't from a foreign planet; they're mined right here on Earth. While you may think that fluorides of metals as strange, they are stable, not very radioactive, and not very poisonous. Their spillage won't ruin the Earth, they don't sink into the ground to China, they solidify as they cool to room temperature. As long as they've been handled as such a reactor requires (that is, the fuel has been periodically swept for fission products) they require little in cleanup. A complete reactor explosion akin to Chernobyl would require cleanup, but it wouldn't be anything like the problem caused in the Ukraine.

But global warming? In what way? No greenhouse gases are produced in such a reactor; in fact, it is the absence of such which marks them as climate-friendly. The only thing that I can see here is you trying out some sort of rhetorical judo move, and you've got some evidence to show before I'll swallow it.
edit on 20-2-2013 by puncheex because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 20 2013 @ 12:47 PM
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reply to post by puncheex
 


Yes, that poster was clueless.

The problem with thorium reactors is not the thorium.

The problem is that there's a very hot liquid. As in very hot in temperature, and intensely radioactive (death in minutes radioactive). There will be leaks, there will be explosions, there will be failures. In the liquid salt designs every single reactor has to be a radioactive chemical engineering reprocessing plant. Which no human can enter after it turns on.

Historically all the worst radioactive contamination (other than chernobyl) was from liquid processing of radioactive waste. It's a guaranteeed superfund site. Usually this takes place only in a very small number of sites, but with the proposed molten salt designs every single reactor will be a reprocessor. Do Not Want!

In current reactors, the very radioactive spent fuel is encased in zirconium steel and stays solid, and removed as a solid. That's a very good idea. If you crack anything open it should only be done in a very small # of reprocessing sites which are NOT privately owned (profit motive = problem from less maintenance).

The issue isn't thorium vs uranium, it's solid fuel vs dissolved actinides & waste in liquid. What happens if there is a breach, and then there's (shocking) a flood or it rains? Complete disaster, either metallic sodium is explosive in contact with water or the salts are very soluble, and the waste melts into the water. You can contaminate an entire watershed for decades. Do not want!

Even in Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters the majority of the waste/core stayed in place and did not enter the environment. What if that weren't true?
edit on 20-2-2013 by mbkennel because: (no reason given)
edit on 20-2-2013 by mbkennel because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 20 2013 @ 04:34 PM
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Originally posted by AdamJack
The misinformation on thorium is highly promoted by the nuclear industry and various companies that want investment dollars for thorium reactors and fuel. One myth is that thorium is safe.The fact is that our world is highly effected by these chemicals and the result is global warming.


What a total non-sequitur!

Unless you care to parse that post i will simply assume that this message was posted by an automated response bot. Throw in global warming and it's viable, right? not so, not by a long shot, in any case that mention makes the post all the more bizarre.

Back on topic: any nuclear breeder that can reach capacity factors in excess of 85% or so that can be built at a worldly price compared to the alternatives is The Solution (tm) for energy scarcity and i have no doubt it will happen, because the stakes are too high and too many people know about the general concept and several countries will have the opportunity to develop it even if that meant risking sanctions, assassinations and war, one the cat is out of the bag, the whole energy racket will come to an end one way or the other.

Whether it's going to be a Thorium fuelled MSR or not doesn't matter in that context, although there are good reasons to expect such a design as the future defacto standard.


Originally posted by mbkennel

The problem with thorium reactors is not the thorium.

The problem is that there's a very hot liquid. As in very hot in temperature, and intensely radioactive (death in minutes radioactive). There will be leaks, there will be explosions, there will be failures. In the liquid salt designs every single reactor has to be a radioactive chemical engineering reprocessing plant. Which no human can enter after it turns on.

Historically all the worst radioactive contamination (other than chernobyl) was from liquid processing of radioactive waste. It's a guaranteeed superfund site. Usually this takes place only in a very small number of sites, but with the proposed molten salt designs every single reactor will be a reprocessor. Do Not Want!


I can see where you're coming from, the problem is that any form of fission product removal can be considered reprocessing and it is required for a breeding cycle anyway, having the functionality integrated removes the need for transportation of 'hot' fuel and NPPs will need security anyway.[
edit on 2013.2.20 by Long Lance because: compound post



posted on Feb, 21 2013 @ 07:08 PM
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reply to post by mbkennel
 


I agree with most of your statements of fact. What is missing from MSRs is the engineering experience which the solid fuel reactors have. To give a example I lived near the former Ft St Vrain nuclear plant, a bleeding edge 1 MWe HSGR plant which generated electricity for about 15 years. It had quite a few early adopter problems, but was getting better and approaching commercial rates when PSCO shut it down in an economic downturn. It was completely decommissioned and converted to gas turbines in two years. With this sort of experience under its belt, liquid processing would be much more viable, problems would be much more quantifiable. "There will be leaks, there will be explosions, there will be failures" doesn't have to be the epitaph.

I meant to also say that while liquid fluorides are hot, so are high pressure water reactors. What they are not is high pressure, and the pressure is the killer factor in current reactor technology. Industry works with a lot of high temperature processes routinely, from metal refining and casting to said high pressure boiler technology. Perhaps, like the AEC's plowshare technology, it won't pan out. But if we never try we'll never know.
edit on 21-2-2013 by puncheex because: (no reason given)





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