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Thorium Disadvantages

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we’ve tried to identify ways to design solid-fuel
reactors to utilize thorium effectively and it’s very challenging
their capabilities look in terms of fuel utilization conversion ratio
look remarkably similar to light water reactors SINAP the Shanghai Institute of Applied Science
has a very aggressive program with Molten-Salt Reactors they’re
doing a two-pronged approach where they build solid-fuel
test reactors with pebble fuel and also molten-salt dissolved Thorium Thorium? Huh?
Thorium. Yup, yeah, dissolved Thorium fuel
in the molten-salt similar to the (MSRE) Molten-Salt
Reactor Experiment in America Why aren’t we working on liquid fuel? well our lab is is specifically designed for
the PBFHR the pebble fuel variant and- I mean the United States in general?
Oh- Licensing. licensing a liquid fuel reactor commercially
especially in the U.S. right now is scary anything that’s different
that’s never been done before it seems like in the nuclear field-
everybody wants to be number two this is one of the flaws that has impeded innovation
in the nuclear energy technology area this is a first mover barrier
because quite obviously once the answer comes out as to how
the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) will manage that sort of question
(regulation of liquid-fuel reactors) everybody knows what that answer is
and and everybody else can free-ride in 2010 some of you may remember President
Obama in the State of The Union Address we need more production
more efficiency more incentives and that means building a new generation of
safe clean nuclear power plants in this country [applause] and both sides of the aisle,
Republicans and Democrats stood up like he just talked about motherhood
and apple pie or saluted the military we’re all at Oak Ridge and the
morning that we showed up one of the Oak Ridge guys
came in with an announcement from the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS):
we are gonna do this we’re gonna own the I.P.
(Intellectual Property) so you would think someone
in our government would say maybe you shouldn’t keep
giving away this information coming back to what will be built,
again, it’s Light-Water Reactors I don’t understand, what’s going on here? Why are we spending money to build
reactors based on the same concept we have been building ever
since World War 2? I believe that the Light-Water Reactors,
for the foreseeable future, will be a bridge between the industry of
today and an industry of tomorrow what we’ve got is not a bridge to tomorrow
but a but a protection of the status quo the current system
incentivizes reactor designers to develop their first projects
outside of the United States and in fact
this has already happened NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
regulations specifically spell out prohibitions against
fluid-fueled reactors you cannot operate fluid-fueled reactor more than 1 megawatt without
an expensive license process we’d like the demonstration facility
to generate meaningful results for a full size plant on the
order of 20 megawatts thermal any smaller than that and it really- it becomes a different machine-
yes just for the thermal hydraulics
would be so different that it wouldn’t really be
a valid comparison Canada has a fundamentally different
regulatory environment for nuclear power which is I would say very progressive we
do feel that we have a competitive advantage by pursuing this
technology in Canada specifically we don’t do big science anymore
here in the United States China is
India is The Czech Republic is. Jan Uhl’r. He’s got a
great budget, and he bought an obscene amount of FLiBe, for pennies on the dollar,
from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, because he’s doing big science over there.
And we basically gave it away. currently there is no way for us
to build a prototype facility or move beyond the laboratory
scale work that we’re currently doing we want more than anything
to do this in the United States but we’ve been forced to keep an
open mind with respect to the- the other pathways we could take my constituents are always
asking me about this- does thorium have a place
in our nuclear future? I see no compelling reason
to move towards a thorium cycle there was a recent report done by the
Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the OECD on thorium systems-
Can you make them work? Yes, you can make them work is there an advantage to doing it?
I haven’t seen it does the OECD report
evaluate Alvin Weinberg’s concept of the molten salt breeder
and identify technical challenges which may impede development? of those 11 (Molten Salt) pages in a 133 page
(Solid Fuel + Molten Salt) report 1 sentence does so:
this one gigawatt design was a thermal reactor
with graphite moderated core that required heavy
chemical fuel salt treatment with a removal time
of approximately 30 days for soluble fission products a drawback that could
potentially be eliminated by using a fast-spectrum instead
(instead of thermal-spectrum) in a fast-spectrum reactor
uranium and thorium perform the same in a solid fuel reactor
uranium is a superior choice it is only in Weinberg’s thermal-spectrum
Molten-Salt Breeder Reactor that thorium’s advantages become clear let’s reword it for clarity:
this 1 gigawatt design was a thermal-reactor with
graphite-moderated core that avoided the drawbacks of fast-spectrum
by removing soluble fission products through the use of
chemical fuel salt treatment the successful breeder
will be the one that can deal with the spent fuel
most rationally either by achieving extremely long burn-up or by greatly
simplifying the entire recycle step this is kind of like a kidney for the nuclear reactor
this is how long it takes our spent fuel to reach the same radioactivity as
natural uranium it’s about 300,000 years if you can keep all the actinides
out of the waste stream you can really shorten that
to about 300 years it’s where Thorium is positioned on the
periodic table it goes down the chain into different elements but if you
start a couple of steps to the left along the periodic table, inherently you
take out most of the nasties in the waste if you use thorium with this kind of efficiency
something really amazing becomes possible every cubic meter of the earth has got
a certain amount of uranium and thorium in it’s about two cubic
centimeters of thorium and half a cubic centimeter of uranium if you can use
thorium to the kind of efficiencies that we’re talking about today this has the energy equivalent
of more than 30 cubic meters of the finest crude oil
or anthracite coal so this is like taking
worthless piece of dirt anywhere in the world and turning it into multiple of the finest
chemical energy resources we have I mean that’s absolutely amazing now good news is- we don’t have to mine average
continental crust for thorium you can see that uranium-235 is like
on-par with silver and platinum can you imagine
burning platinum for energy? and that’s what we’re doing with our
nuclear energy sources today we’re burning this extremely
rare stuff and not thorium as the natural resource the appeal
of thorium over uranium is that thorium has zero environmental
cost to acquire we can power our civilization on thorium without opening a single thorium mine
thorium is already a plentiful byproduct of existing mining operations leached by water, uranium compounds were
widely dispersed, scattered far and wide Uranium compounds today are found
as complex dilute deposits containing tetra, penta,
and hexavalent uranium unlike uranium, tetravalent thorium-
and is constantly tetravalent- resists weathering
thorium thus remained concentrated wherever it first wound up
within easy reach when your deposit has 8% Rare Earths
it may have 14% Thorium 1 rare earth atom
and usually 1 thorium atom there’s so much Rare Earths that
we’re throwing away because of Thorium Rare Earth materials are used
to make high-tech products like advanced batteries that power everything
from hybrid cars to cell phones we want our companies building those
products right here in America but to do that American manufacturers
need to have access to Rare Earth materials
which China supplies so I have a friend who’s trying to
start a Rare Earth mine in Missouri and all he wants the government
to do is to just let him put the thorium aside for future use so I asked him, Jim, how much Thorium
do you think you’ll pull up a year? he goes:
I think about 5,000 tons, is that a lot? there was 60 people sitting on
the other side of the podium going: do you think there’s a stable supply? 5,000 tons of thorium would supply
the planet with all of its energy for a year so you’re 1 mine would
bring up enough thorium, without even trying,
to power the entire planet it’s found in (mining) tailings piles
it’s found in (coal) ash piles and he goes: there’s like a
zillion other places on Earth that are just like my mine it’s a nice mine
but it’s not unique it’s not like this is the one
place on Earth where this is found we could use thorium about
200 times more efficiently than we’re using uranium now
this reduces the waste generated over uranium by
factors of hundreds and by factors of millions
over fossil fuels almost all of the nuclear power we use on
Earth today uses water as a basic coolant Heavy Water Reactors will use
about 0.7 % of the uranium energy value the Light Water Reactor will
use about half of 1 percent they both do terrible (remember when) you went
camping and you built a fire? stuff on the edge isn’t getting burned very good?
the same principle they’ll take out a third of the fuel and
reshuffle used fuel out to the periphery the solid fuel will
begin to swell and crack this is actually a gap in the fuel when the
fuel swells the clad can’t hold it anymore it’s time to remove
the fuel from the reactor at this point only a small amount
of the energy has been consumed when we first load nuclear fuel it is entirely uranium and most of that
is Uranium-238 as it burns down a year 2 years and then 3 years you see
those are the fission products and then these transuranic the hatch at the
bottom gives away the fact that the only fraction that has been truly burned is
the fraction in those light pastel colors in Light Water Reactors, if you allow
fuel to be uncovered and heat up the zirconium cladding will
react with steam to form hydrogen so they have a series of emergency systems
designed to keep the core covered with water we saw the failure of this
at Fukushima Daiichi they had multiple backup
diesel generators and each one probably had a
very high probability of turning on the tsunami came and
knocked them all out Anna what is the latest in relation
to the third nuclear explosion? how worried are people? the news said:
we’ve had a nuclear explosion no we didn’t, it wasn’t a nuclear explosion,
it was a hydrogen gas explosion the oxygen has a covalent bond
with 2 hydrogens a gamma or a neutron knock the
hydrogens clean off (of the oxygen) let me diss on water
a few more times at normal pressure, water will boil
at 100 degrees Celsius this isn’t nearly hot enough to
generate electricity effectively so water-cooled reactors run at
over 70 atmospheres of pressure you have to build a water-cooled reactor
as a pressure vessel the number one accident people
worry about with this kind of reactor all of a sudden…
pressure is lost in the reactor water that’s being held
at 300 Celsius flashes to steam it’s volume increases roughly
by a factor of a thousand this building is the size it is
and it’s the way it is precisely to accommodate this event when you put water
under extreme pressure like anything else it wants to
get out of that extreme pressure physical mechanisms-
dispersion terms- yeah that can mobilize
caesium and iodine almost all of the aspects of our nuclear
reactors today that we find challenging can be traced back to the
need to have pressurized water as long as the reactor was as small
as the submarine intermediate reactor, which was only 60 megawatts, the
containment shell was absolute. it was safe. but when you went to 1,000 megawatt
reactors you could not guarantee this Weinberg was the original inventor
of the Pressurized Water Reactor got his patent for it in 1947- a tricky thing
to have the inventor of Light Water Reactor advocating for something
very very very different molten salt breeder was one thing that
he had a feeling in his heart for molten salt was one of the
best decisions I made I think high temperatures are
easier than high pressure he didn’t like the fact that it (PWR)
had to run at really high pressure in some very remote situation conceive
of the containment being breached making enough of a stink congressional
leader named Chet Holifield told Alvin Weinberg if you’re so concerned
about the safety of nuclear energy it might be time for you to leave the
nuclear business, and Weinberg was really kind of horrified that they would
have this response to him because he wasn’t questioning the value or
the importance of nuclear energy he was questioning:
had the right path been taken? the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE)
was one of the most important and I must say brilliant achievements
of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory you nuclear engineers are probably
going to think those are a fuel rods they’re not, they’re graphite
the fuel was a liquid that flowed through channels
in this graphite instead of solid fuel in a liquid moderator,
it is liquid fuel in a solid moderator one of the hardest
things to get around is the large heavy pressure vessel that’s required
when using Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) water is really good from
a heat transfer perspective it’s good at carrying heat
per unit volume salts are just as good at carrying heat
per unit volume but salts don’t
have to be pressurized and that- if you remember nothing else of what I
say tonight remember that one fact once they melt they have a thousand
degrees C (Celsius) of liquid range science allows you to look
at everyday objects for what they really are
chemically and physically and it really makes you look twice
at the world around you your table salt is frozen that’s a really strange thing to think about your
table salt on your kitchen table: it’s frozen a nuclear reactor is a rough
place for normal matter the nice thing about a salt is- it is formed from
a positive ion, and a negative ion like sodium positively charged
and chlorine is negatively charged they go: we’re not really gonna bond we’re just
gonna kind of associate one with another you know?
and that’s what’s called an ionic bond yeah you’re kind of friends, you know your-
Facebook friends! Facebook friends, alright well it turns out this is a
really good thing for a reactor because the reactor is going to take those guys
and just smack them all over the place with gammas and neutrons and everything the good news is they don’t really care
who they are particularly are next to as long as there’s an equal number
of positive ions and negative ions the big picture is happy a salt is composed of the stuff
that’s in this column: the halogens and the stuff that’s in these columns:
the alkalis and the alkaniners fluorINE is so reactive with everything,
but once it’s made a salt: a fluorIDE then it’s incredibly chemically
stable and nonreactive sodium chloride, table salt, or potassium iodide-
they have really high melting points and we like the lower
melting points of fluoride salts liquid fluoride reactors with
their low pressure operation are particularly suitable
to modular construction sometimes people go you’re working
on liquid fluorine reactors- No! I am NOT working
on liquid fluorine reactors! we’re talking about fluorIDE reactors and
there’s a big difference between those two one is going to explode,
the other one is super-duper stable in the chemical conditions that you
have with water, highly oxidized conditions, cesium and iodine are very volatile-
whereas in a Salt Reactor? there’s nothing caesium loves more than
fluorine, it will compete with anything else to grab ahold of fluorine, and cesium fluoride
is very low volatility and very high solubility in salt so no aerosols safety is one of the most important reasons
to consider very seriously Molten Salt Reactors because of the clever implementation demonstrated
in the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) of the Freeze Plug
and the Drain Tank this is something that perhaps was not getting
enough attention in the early 1970s now we know that if we want to have the
public accept nuclear reactor technology it has got to be very safe- and it has got to be something
that is easily explained to people now I’ve explained the safety basis of the
Molten Salt Reactor to people, many times and I haven’t had anyone
who’s unable to get it the frozen plug?
that’s it a flattened pipe with electrical
heat resistance heat on that one So you invented the Frozen Plug then? a small port in the bottom of the reactor
and to keep the port plugged they had a blower that
would blow cool gas over it so there’s a little plug of frozen salt
there, well if the power went out the blower turned off and the heat would
melt the frozen plug, and guess what? everything would drain out of the
reactor into this drain tank and the difference between the drain tank and
the reactor vessel was the reactor vessel was not meant to lose any thermal
energy the only place you wanted to lose thermal energy was to give it up
in the primary heat exchanger the drain tank,
on the other hand, is designed to maximize the rejection
of thermal energy to the environment and one of the hard things
about designing nuclear reactor is design it to not lose any heat
while you’re running it but then to turn around and try to
keep it cool if something goes wrong so there are two
conflicting things the great thing about
liquid fluoride reactors is you can design them completely separately you can say:
here’s my reactor, and it’s designed to make heat and here’s my drain tank and
it’s designed to cool in all situations if something happens where that fuel
drains away from that graphite criticality is no longer possible the
reactors subcritical: fission stops and there’s no way to restart it without
reloading the fuel back into the core this is such a remarkable feature and it
really is unique to having this liquid fuel form and to having something that can
operate at standard pressure you can’t do
this with solid fuel you do this in solid fuel?
that’s called a meltdown making solid nuclear fuel is a
complicated and expensive process people recycle cans they recycle papers,
why not candles? I say we put a bin out, let people bring back
their old drippings at their convenience it’s like those bags that say:
I used to be a plastic bottle we could have a bin that says:
I used to be another candle by weight, a paraffin candle stick, and gasoline
contain about the same amount of energy why don’t cars run on paraffin wax? because the inside of your car might
need to look like this, or like this what process do we run chemically
based on solids? we don’t everything we do
we use as liquids or gases because we can mix them completely
you can take a liquid you can fully mix it you can take a gas
you can fully mix it you can’t take a solid and fully mix it,
unless you turn it into a liquid or a gas I shall never forget my wonderment, as I
stood next to the unshielded steel cans only a few days earlier had been mixed
with millions of Curies (Ci) of radioactivity we were particularly proud of this,
because that tiny chemical plant was large enough to decontaminate the
core of a 1 gigawatt molten salt breeder thorium does not have
a volatile hexafluoride you can fluorinate it and fluorinate
and fluorinate all you want and it will not change chemical state-
it will stay thorium tetrafluoride uranium, on the other hand,
does have a volatile hexafluoride and this is why many of us feel that
the uranium/thorium fuel cycle is a perfect fit with the Molten-Salt Reactor
this same trick doesn’t work, by the way, in uranium/plutonium fuels:
they both have volatile hexafluoride and so you can’t undergo a separation using
the simple technique of fluoride volatility there really were 3 options for nuclear
energy at the dawn of the nuclear era only one of the materials in nature is
naturally fissile, that’s Uranium-235 which is a very small amount of
natural uranium, about 0.7% this was the form of uranium that could
be utilized directly in a nuclear reactor most of the uranium was Uranium-238,
this had to be transformed into another nuclear fuel
called plutonium before it could be used and then there was thorium and in a similar manner to Uranium-238
it also had to be transformed into another nuclear fuel, Uranium-233,
before it could be used in a reactor this is the fast region, this is the thermal
region, squiggly lines, blah blah blah you could probably tell the entire history
of the development of nuclear energy in this one graph and I’ll tell you why how much energy did the neutron have
that you smacked the nuclear fuel with? okay how much energy did it have? and then how many neutrons did you kick
out when you smacked it through fission? 2 is a very significant number in
breeder reactors: you need 2 neutrons you’ve got to have 1 to keep your process going,
and you have to have another one to convert fertile material into fissile okay look at plutonium yeah
it’s that dip below 2 right there that’s what makes it so you
can NOT burn up Uranium-238 in a thermal-spectrum reactor like a
water-cooled reactor, you just can’t do it the physics are against you, and the
reality is that you do lose some neutrons you can’t build a perfect reactor
that doesn’t lose any neutrons so they looked at this and said: man, we just can’t burn Uranium-238 in a
thermal reactor it just can’t be done well you know these guys were undeterred,
they said well here’s what we’ll do: we’ll just build a fast reactor because look
how good it gets in the fast-region, Wow! it gets above 2, it gets to 3,
wow this is really good! well there’s a powerful disincentive
to doing it this way and it has to do with what are called cross-sections,
these are a way of describing how likely it is that a nuclear
reaction will proceed look how much bigger the cross-sections
are in thermal than they are in fast how many little dots are we going to need
to add up to this size? we’re gonna need a lot so this is why it was a big deal to be able to
have performance in this region of the curve those little bitty dots they’re
up here in this part of the curve ok? this is the fast region,
this is the thermal region thorium is more abundant than uranium:
all we are consuming now… is that very very very small
sliver of natural uranium but this is NOT the big deal,
no, it’s not a big deal that natural thorium is hundreds of times more abundant
than the very small sliver of fissile uranium the big deal about thorium is that
we can consume it in a thermal spectrum that’s the big deal of thorium: it can be
consumed in a thermal-spectrum reactor when you’re talking about a
thermal-spectrum reactor of any kind you have to have fuel and
you have to have moderator and they’re both essential to
the operation of the reactor the moderator is
slowing down the neutrons and when the neutrons have been slowed down
we call them thermal neutrons or a thermal-spectrum in a water-cooled reactor we use water,
specifically the hydrogen in the water, to slow down the neutrons through collisions the graphite in the Molten-Salt Reactor
is a moderator? yes that is the moderator in the reactor, same idea,
except we use graphite as the moderator instead of water. neutrons go into the graphite
hit the carbon atoms they lose energy they slow down.
now why slow it down? that is the difference between you
going from that little bitty dot, to the big dot that’s why you want to slow down, you want
the big dot, not the little bitty dot a thermal-spectrum
Molten-Salt Reactor has to have the graphite moderator of
the core in order to sustain criticality if the vessel ruptures re-criticality
is fundamentally impossible the drain tank does NOT
have any graphite in it if something happens where that fuel
drains away from that graphite criticality is no longer possible, the
reactors is subcritical, fission stops and there’s no way to restart it
without reloading the fuel back into the core now in a fast-reactor on the other hand,
you don’t depend on moderator you put enough fuel in the reactor so that
criticality is possible even without moderator in those scenarios if there’s a drain or a
spill or something you need to be careful about what geometries that could
get into because re-criticality is not- from first principles- impossible, it may
be impossible in the design you designed but that becomes design specific,
whereas in thermal reactor it is just impossible outside of the lattice of moderator
you can’t have a criticality set up in the thermal region look who’s doing
the best, look at Uranium-233, look at that okay, look at plutonium, uhhh yeah,
it’s that dip below two right there you just can’t do it the physics are against you,
but Uranium-233 on the other hand, okay yeah it gets a little better in the fast, but dang,
it’s still pretty good right here in the thermal big targets, a lot easier this fact was not well known probably until about the 70s- there was
some data that indicated it but there was enough uncertainty, even as late as
1969 that the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) did not feel like it was
a safe bet to go with thorium everybody who was
pushing thorium said: we like thermal!
this is the kind of reactor we want to build! everybody who was pushing Plutonium said:
No no no no! we want a fast reactor! that’s the only way to do it! and so what happened is,
they put resources into the plutonium breeder reactor almost
from the get-go, they built the Experimental Breeder Reactor One
(EBR-I) in 1951 this was the first
reactor that made electricity 4 little light bulbs here this is a mock-up of the core this size was giving off
2 megawatts of thermal energy how tall is this, how many meters? 8 inches.
this is actual size? yeah-
no, that’s scaled down NO, that’s full size! EBR-1! EBR-1 was a breeder reactor, it was
designed to convert plutonium into energy while making new plutonium!
it was NOT a lightwater reactor- this predated the Light Water Reactor by years!
a fast breeder, this is 1951, no kidding! Enrico Fermi and Eugene Wigner
saw the future quite a bit differently Fermi believed that we should really
focus our efforts on the fast breeder reactor it could have a substantial breeding gain in other words it could make more
fissile material than it was consuming Eugene Wigner on the other hand looked
at these same pieces of information and reached a different conclusion which was
that thorium was a superior fuel and that it should be realized in a thermal
spectrum and a thermal breeder reactor and this opened up a number of possibilities
with coolants and reactor configurations but thorium in another way
was a rather unforgiving fuel it did NOT have a great breeding gain like
plutonium had in the fast-spectrum you had to make sure that you were very
careful and conserving of your neutrons you couldn’t waste a lot on
losing neutrons to structural materials or losing them to leaks out of the
reactor or or losing them to absorptions in the daughter products of fission and
the thorium also had another challenge it took about 30 days, once it absorbed
a neutron, to turn into Uranium-233 there was a time delay there, between when it
absorbed a neutron and when it became new fuel Fermi wondered how it would be
that thorium would overcome this problem of the delay from when it absorbed a
neutron to when it became new fuel and Wigner had already seen a possible path forward
which was to do something rather revolutionary build a nuclear reactor out of liquid fuels,
rather than out of solid fuels now both Thorium and Uranium-238 can
become nuclear fuels by absorbing a neutron now there’s a few steps Thorium
goes through on this way it first absorbs a neutron
it becomes Thorium-233 going from Th-232 to Th-233 and
then that Thorium-233 will decay over a period of about a half-an-hour
into another element, Protactinium-233 and Protactinium-233 has
a half-life of about 30 days in terms of reactors that’s pretty long and
it drives a lot of what I’m gonna talk about with the chemical processing, but
ultimately it will decay to Uranium-233, as long as it DOES NOT absorb a neutron,
and it has a very quality fission 91% of the time it’s going
to fission rather than absorb and that makes U-233
the best fuel in the thermal spectrum it outperforms everything else it’s one of the reasons
we’d really get a kick out of thorium the process by which we would
use Thorium in the reactor involves introducing thorium into an
outer region of the reactor called the blanket and in the blanket,
the thorium would absorb the neutron it would take that first step
from Th-232 to Th-233 it’s going to absorb a neutron
and it’s going to begin the process of becoming Uranium-233 now as it takes those steps of decay, turning into other elements:
protactinium and then uranium we can employ a chemical separation to remove those new materials
from the blanket, and then introduce them into the salt that
is going to go in the reactor core and that’s the place where the
fission reaction is going to take place the place where it’s going
to generate additional energy this is the machine that we would like to design, this
is the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) LFTR has a reactor vessel
made of Hastelloy and we know that we
have to protect this material from the difficult environment it’s
going to encounter inside the reactor and so that’s why the overwhelming
majority of the interior of the reactor is composed of
graphite structures graphite structures that separate the fuel
that flows through these recursive tubes from the blanket and the blanket fluid
surrounds the entire core of the reactor it’s hard to see the boundary
between the blanket and the core but that blanket protects the metallic
structures from the radiation damage it protects from neutron flux,
it basically keeps that nuclear reaction bottled up in a region of the reactor where it’s not going to cause nearly the damage
to materials that it would otherwise cause for instance in a one-fluid reactor
where you could have fission occurring right up to the very
edge of the metallic structure in a 2-fluid reactor there’s a lot of thorium
containing fluid between the edge of the core and the reactor wall that absorbs
neutrons, gammas and radiation flux and prevent it from
damaging the material because we know that metal
does have some severe issues when it’s close to the nuclear reaction but once this fuel leaves the
reactor structure: fission stops, so there’s not an appreciable neutron
or radiation flux outside the reactor to nearly the degree that
there is inside the reactor so graphite is a very important
structural material in this design it has two different fluids primary fuel salt is highly depleted lithium fluoride,
beryllium fluoride and uranium tetrafluoride the blanket fluid is highly depleted
lithium beryllium and thorium tetrafluoride and that’s where nuclear absorption of neutrons
takes place in the formation of new fuel the coolant salt is
highly depleted lithium beryllium I simply call it Bare Flibe, and that
coolant salt then is very chemically compatible in the event that there’s ever an in-leakage
into the fuel or into the blanket because it’s essentially the same solvent
of which the blanket and the fuel are composed this is an overall view of the LFTR facility there’s the reactor vessel, drain tank,
pump, primary heat exchanger, the gas heater, it heats carbon dioxide,
there’s the carbon dioxide gas turbine these are chemical processing facilities
for the fuel salt and the blanket salt and then these are off-gas processing facilities for the Xenon and Krypton to come
out of the fuel salt during operation this is kind of like a kidney
for the nuclear reactor you know, if you imagine that
these fluids are like blood… your body does very complicated
chemical processes all the time, in order to keep you alive.
it’s changing the pH of your blood, it’s adding glucose,
it’s taking out waste products. High-efficiency power conversion- enabled by the high operating
temperature of molten salt. Complete burn-up of nuclear fuel enabled by
a combination of homogeneous liquid fuel, online chemistry, and thermal breeding… such as Alvin Weinberg and the team
at ORNL (Oak Ridge National Labs) intended to build, until the Molten-Salt
breeder program was suddenly terminated. Shaw says: stop that MSRE reactor
experiment, fire everybody, just tell them to clean out their desk and go home,
and send me the money for fast breeders. This is the “Thorium Reactor” Can you tell me what the
thinking is on thorium as a fuel? What the advantages are,
what the disadvantages are? What the pros and cons are of thorium? the first commercial reactor operated
in this country at Shippingport was based on thorium fuel. My constituents are
always asking me about this, does thorium have a place
in our nuclear future? Can you make them work?
Yes, you can make them work. Is there an advantage to doing it?
I haven’t seen it. There’s 4 times more thorium
on Earth than there is uranium. But, at the moment, uranium is cheap
enough that that simply doesn’t matter. It’s, I think one, of these
sort of technological cults. An atom of thorium, and an atom of uranium, both
contain the same amazing million fold improvement in energy density over coal.
It isn’t that an atom of thorium contains any more energy
than an atom of uranium, or that natural thorium is much
more common than natural uranium, but we don’t consume natural
uranium in today’s reactors. “There is about 4 times more thorium
on Earth and there is uranium” Thorium is 400 times
as common as Uranium-235. We can’t harness the full power of natural uranium
with the thorium breeder, that’s a bigger challenge. Just like today’s reactors, any one
piece of fuel will eventually become too used up to sustain fission, before its
energy potential has been fully realized. it is the semi-fissioned fuel which then
must be reprocessed into new fuel, or treated as waste.
The elimination of fuel fabrication, and the elimination of fuel reprocessing
as a distinct step are essential, if you want to harvest the
smallest amount of natural resources and produce the smallest
amount of nuclear waste Because, the economics of nuclear
power don’t favor reprocessing fuel. It will always be cheaper
to simply dig up more uranium- rather than using every
atom you’ve already mined. The most environmentally friendly way
to operate the thorium breeder… is the only way to operate
the thorium breeder. if you stop the chemical kidney,
then fission slowly grinds to a halt. The chemical kidney lets us
continually remove used fuel, and keep adding fresh fuel. It is how our thorium fuel can be completely
converted into energy and fission products. Why nuclear energy?
Why Molten-Salt Reactor? And why thorium? And, last but not at least, why is China
the first one to eat the crab? That’s a Chinese saying. Chinese Academy of Sciences has begun
an effort to develop what they call T-MSR: Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor.
It’s along these same lines, and they are well funded and well staffed. We used to have a dream,
if we can produce a clean electricity then we can drive our electrical car.
However, as of today, it’s all gasoline cars. So it makes our job even impossible.
We need a revolutionary something happen. It’s very compelling work.
Chinese are definitely in the lead right now. Why thorium? Why MSR?
MSR low pressure here more safety. We also end up with the high temperature.
We need high temperature. Then we can convert the CO2,
which is not the waste at all… it is a raw material
for our chemicals, in fact. But we need the energy to convert
them, we need the high temperature. China exports. A lot of energy here in China
is not for consumption, is for production. We saw the other day, how electrical power
was used to make steel from recycled materials. We load scrap into large tall-truck and they
back up to this bucket and dump scrap inside. [Bill Gates] A lot of energy consumption- is largely industrial processes,
unbelievably optimized processes. There’s not the
room for improvement. The nature of this waste heat doesn’t
lend itself to conventional Rankine cycles. We probably captured 90%
of what’s to be captured. Chasing the last 10%
is pretty expensive. Those operations couldn’t proceed if they
thought in 2 hours they might not have power. They would not be able to make steel that way,
they have to have reliable energy sources. So you’ve been able to drop
your power consumption, per tonne, almost about a third it looks like? Probably since the mid-early 80s. So, besides your scrap material input,
what’s your next largest cost on production? Electricity.
Electricity. This is a recycling facility. An electric arc furnace
turns scrap metal into steel alloy, for automobiles,
consumer products, and infrastructure,
such as pipes and bridges. This is a sorting facility. We are all familiar with sorting as we
put bottles aside for funding drives. Do not mistake sorting for recycling. Sorting is labor-intensive.
Recycling is energy intensive. This steel recycling plant runs 24/7. Without reliable and clean energy,
a closed-loop society becomes impossible. Most people don’t understand,
everything you look at, touch, feel… anything that is tangible,
there’s energy behind it. A lot of it. That was one things always attracted
me about the notion of exploring space I’m an aerospace engineer by training, I went
to Georgia Tech, got my master’s degree there. I spent 10 years working at NASA.
This is the kind of community I was thinking of… if you were gonna live on the Moon or Mars
there was no pit over here and pit over there every atom of nitrogen or oxygen or hydrogen became precious to you
and when I would tell people why were we doing NASA, that was the most effective
thing, was the whole idea of recycling. What we would learn
from exploring space? And what prevents us from
doing that right now on Earth? I mean why do we have to go to space
to learn how to be really good recyclers? Why don’t we recycle like that on Earth?
It is energy. Energy has to be really cheap,
or the penalty has to be really bad. In space the penalty was really bad. if you didn’t recycle,
you ran out of air and water. But on the ground, you need
to have really cheap energy. I worked a lot of my career
in solar power systems. It’s just that-
I’m a lot more aware of their limitations. The moon orbits the Earth once a month. For 2 weeks, the sun goes down and
your solar panels don’t make any energy. It’s easy to forget about that
in our world here on Earth because we’re so abstracted
from our energy sources. Food is at the grocery store. We flush the toilet and the waste goes somewhere
where somebody takes care of them. And we don’t really think about the flow
of energy that makes all this possible. With the energy generated
we can actually recycle all of the air, water and waste
products within the lunar community. In fact, doing so would be an
absolute requirement for success. We could grow the crops needed to
feed the members of the community even during the two-week lunar night
using light and power from the reactor. It kind of was this microcosm that made it
easier for me to understand the bigger picture that we do have going on here on Earth, and how we can make that
that bigger picture better. How we can enhance our
quality of life on Earth. we’re still going to need liquid fuels
for vehicles and machinery we could generate
hydrogen by splitting water and combining it with carbon
harvested from CO2 in the atmosphere making fuels like
methanol, ammonia, and dimethyl ether- which could be
a direct replacement for diesel fuels. Imagine carbon-neutral
gasoline and diesel. Sustainable and self-produced. What Molten-Salt Reactors
offer, is what even cutting-edge water-cooled
reactors like AP1000 can’t- Molten Salt Reactors produce
more than just electricity. Molten Salt Reactors
can be used in 2 ways: They can be used as a form of electricity
generation, where it’s attached to the grid. And there are no constraints as to where
you can site it, you don’t need to be near water, which is often the constraint with existing reactors.
So you can put it anywhere. If there’s a coal-fired power station
that’s running down, put your Molten-Salt Reactor at that point
and there’s already the grid connection. So you’re just swapping out the source
of electricity the grids already there. I think that’s a perfectly viable way for it to go. But also there’s heat for industrial uses. You might actually see
that come forward first, these reactors being sited at
industrial complexes to provide heat. Because there aren’t that many
sources of low carbon, cheap heat. Ammonia, making ammonia with the Haber-Bosch process, fractional distillation of crude oil, and
catalytic cracking of of those hydrocarbons. Those 3 things require
temperatures above 450 Celsius, and those 3 industries are
worth 2 trillion dollars a year. Every time mankind has been able
to access a new source of energy it has led to profound societal implications. The Industrial Revolution, and the ability to use
chemical fuels, was what finally did in slavery. Human beings had slaves for
thousands and thousands of years. And when we learned how to
make carbon our slave, instead of other human beings, we started to
learn how to be able to be civilized people. We live much better lives today because
we have learned how to use carbon. What about thorium? Thorium has a million times
the energy density of a carbon-hydrogen bond. What could that mean for human civilization… going out thousands,
tens of thousands of years into the future? Because we’re not going to run out of this stuff.
Once we’ve learned how to use it at this kind of efficiency, we will never run out.
It is simply too common. The last operational Molten Salt Reactor
shutdown in the United States in 1969. It ran in a remote location. Research
documents were kept in a walk-in closet. For 3 decades, we didn’t even
know this was an option. Than in 2002 ORNL’s Molten Salt
documentation is scanned into PDF and made accessible
to some NASA employees 2004 Kirk Sorensen delivers CD-ROMS
full of ORNL Molten-Salt research to national labs and universities.
Dr. Per Peterson receives a copy. 2006 Kirk moves the scanned
research on to his website. 2008 Molten-Salt Reactor
lectures begin at Googleplex and are posted on
Google’s YouTube channel. 2009 The very first thorium
conference is held. Wired magazine runs a
feature story on thorium. 2010 American Scientist
runs a feature on thorium. International thorium conferences begin. Server logs show Chinese students downloading
Molten-Salt Reactor PDFs from Kirk’s website. 2011 China announces their intention to build T-MSR, a Thorium
Molten-Salt Reactor In the U.S. Flibe Energy is founded.
Transatomic Power is founded. 2012 Baroness Bryony Worthington tours
ORNL’s historic Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment which has never been
made open to the public. Kun Chen visits Berkeley California,
telling us that 300 Chinese are working
full-time on Molten-Salt Reactors. 2013 Terrestrial Energy is founded. 2014 ThorCon is founded.
Moltex is founded. Seaborg Technologies are founded.
Copenhagen Atomics are founded 2015 India reveals their new facility for
molten-salt preparation and purification. A flood of technical details and technology
assessments are released by molten-salt startups. Including LFTR EPRI,
a collaboration between Flibe Energy and Southern Company,
to assess technological readiness of Flibe Energy’s molten-salt breeder design,
the LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor). China announces that now 700 engineers are
working on their molten-salt reactor program. Peter Thiel, an investor in the
molten-salt startup Transatomic Power contributes over a million dollars to Donald
Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign Myriam Tonelotto releases a feature-length
documentary about Molten-Salt Reactors called: “Thorium: The Far Side of Nuclear Power” Dr. James Hansen
tells Rolling Stone magazine that we should develop Molten-Salt
Reactors powered by thorium. Oak Ridge discovers actual film footage of the
Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) itself. Produced in 1969 it was forgotten
in storage for over 45 years. It offers up our first and only glimpse
of an operating Molten-Salt Reactor. 2017 To propel this new era
of American Energy Dominance, first we will begin to
revive and expand our nuclear energy sector which produces clean,
renewable and emissions free energy. President Donald Trump
observes nuclear power is both a renewable resource, and an
emissions free source of energy. A complete review of U.S. nuclear
energy policy will help us find new ways to revitalize this crucial energy resource.
And I know you’re very excited about that, Rick. H.R. 590 Advanced Nuclear Technology
Development Act is passed through House. Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act
BECAME LAW in January 2019. Flibe energy reveals LFTR49,
a new 2-fluid reactor design, to turn thorium into
life-saving medical isotopes. Just like original LFTR (now A.K.A. LFTR23),
it is a machine that recycles wasted material such as mine tailings, coal ash and now used
fuel rods into enormous amounts of energy. Back in the 60s, Alvin Weinberg saw
the Molten-Salt Reactor as a means of addressing energy pollution,
and the need for clean water. Power centers would co-locate energy intensive
manufacturing and small modular reactors. Surplus power would be sold
to nearby communities. He knew that ENERGY was
the ultimate raw material. The more energy you have, the easier it is to recycle
and use virgin materials more efficiently. Given enough power, we can pull carbon
right out of the atmosphere or ocean. China announced their plans to develop
thorium reactors way back in 2011. I’d finally like a President
of the United States to know: WHAT Molten-Salt Reactors are,
and WHY they are.

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43 thoughts on “Thorium Disadvantages”

  1. woobilicious. says:

    The fact that this video is almost all that one guy talking about thorium, and repeating the same things feels like this is a propaganda video and not genuine advocacy.

  2. Murad Beybalaev says:

    I applaud the covert social engineering behind this video.

  3. Christopher Marsh says:

    If it's illegal in the USA what about a Native American reservation?

  4. Nicola Rivarossa says:

    nuclear energy enthusiasts need to be making better videos. a video this confused needs to be shorter

  5. Daryl Younger says:

    Yeah let me guess , the Westinghouse group right…..it’s always about money and not solutions. It’s time we do something for the world as a whole and not to make more American fat cats……there’s enough of those fat bastards already.

  6. falfield says:

    Content good – presentation appalling. What made you think that cutting to a different view every few seconds was a good idea to help people hold onto the information presented?

  7. Sagacious Rex says:

    With reliable clean and ubiquitous fuelled power generation, society becomes incredibly prosperous at EVERY level and personal freedoms maximise. Every process imaginable requires energy. Innovations become essentially unlimited. There are diabolical globalist influences reeking out of the current nuclear power bias. Another example of globalist cabal control of the most important resources for humanity. They have made TRILLIONS by forcing the current dirty nuclear process to prevail.

  8. Fingers Crossed says:

    the by products of this cannot be used to make weapons, that's why it's no good according to a lot of critics

  9. longshorts3 says:

    Thorium molten salt reactors are by design, safe, efficient, and the chosen means to produce power for the future. We do not need plutonium, or uranium fast breeder reactors because they are inherently dangerous ( as we ave seen at Three Mile. Island, Chernobyl, and the worst : Fukishima) and we do not need these reactors to produce any more bomb material – we have far more than enough to destroy the Earth many times over. Time for a change!!!

  10. Richard Shapiro says:

    short answer is US regulations crippling innovation. we built one already and it worked great, in 50's. all we need is political willpower to get this going.

  11. Sininen Blue says:

    I thought this was discussing the disadvantages of the thorium mod for Terraria

  12. Aussie Pom says:

    Going by the graph at 9:34 Australia was 489,000tons of thorium which it's government won't touch because it's in love with the black gold or coal. They'll sell it to other countries but not use it to power Australia. Australia also has vast reserves of uranium but that is sold to other countries and there are no nuclear power stations in Australia and the politicians won't even consider it as a source of power. Even China won't consider thorium for if they were then why are there another 100 coal fired power plants they intend building. Where does some of the coal for those new power plants and existing power plants come from, Australia of course which explains why the Australian government is so in love with the black gold.

  13. aluisious says:

    What kind of drugs were you on when you edited this?

  14. OwlNation Legal says:

    Thw problem with thorium reactors is we'd all end up with Back To The Future Cars, bumping around planets and warped time and we'd probably spread the 6th mass extinction all around the universe. Humans are a disease.

  15. bimmjim says:

    COST ..
    .
    .
    .
    . COST
    cost benefit analysis

  16. Ludmila Marešová says:

    Is this a clickbait?

  17. Dennis W says:

    For anyone wondering where the actual "disadvantages" are, here's a TL;DR of what wikipedia is saying:
    Around 28:00 the guy is explaining the process of turning fertile thorium-232 into fissile uranium-233. He very tangentially mentions that this takes about a month to happen. The problem is that the intermediate stage, protactinium-233, is a neutron poison, meaning it eats a neutron and does not split. On top of dampening the reaction, this turns it into the unusable 234-isotope, so it also removes reactor fuel. This is why they keep talking about the "chemical kidney": They need a way to sequester the protactinium as soon as it is created and take it out of the neutron crossfire until it to turns into uranium. Now the amount of protactinium involved in even a large scale reactor is annoyingly small. We're talking sub-ppm trace concentrations of it in the thorium solution. This is very hard to isolate from the bulk liquid and the process to do this efficiently is the major area of research. It probably doesn't help that the bulk thorium salt is molten fluoride, making most organic chelation agents unsuitable without an energy intensive process (cooling, dissolving, separation, boiling off the solvent and reheating all while the reactor is running).

    This is actually a simple exercise in engineering and organo-metal complex chemistry though and the research won't even really involve much radioactivity, so I still don't understand why they're not just throwing some dollars at it until it goes away, I mean we're talking maybe a few million to make the technology feasible..

    Edit: The diagram in his presentation mentions fluoride volatility. Uranium hexafluoride evaporates at less than the boiling point of water, so the idea is the uranium will simply boil out of the molten salt. It sounds like this would require a lot of thorium to just sit there gassing out for several months and you'd have to keep it molten during that time.. I guess it's possible though.

  18. Grostart says:

    Unfortunately we can't solve complex problems if we can't solve less complex problems first.

  19. Electron Resonator says:

    geothermal is our future energy, the Earth has been producing heat for more than 4 billion years, and even after that long so many humans have tasted how deadly that heat is from volcano eruption, so if you assume that the heat will dissipate just by observing a hot spring, then you only need to dig even deeper to the Earth's core, at some point you will be burned alive, that is what you deserve for underestimating such source of heat

  20. ElementTDG says:

    I'm still stunned why we haven't gotten thorium reactors. Or why no private company were to produce a blueprint and patent it and build one.

  21. C17H25N says:

    There is no "free lunch", you still need uranium to irradiate the thorium. You're just generating twice the amount of nuclear trash.

  22. MaxB6852 says:

    There should have been water tanks on the hills behind the Fukushima reactor allowing gravity to feed back up water if the diesel motors failed to drive the water pumps, that would have saved the reactors.

  23. Kevin Ward says:

    4150 holy shit thats that good shit. star trek here we come

  24. Kevin Ward says:

    synthetic ammonia fertilizers are the number cause of global warming though. don't like their endorsing it in this video, other than that amazing.

  25. John Komoll says:

    This guy is an absolute madman. All those video edits with his face inserted right up close onto the screen next to the data as he speaks? The scene starting at 23:00 where he starts explaining about nuclear reactors on a public bus?!

    This feels almost like a Tim & Eric sketch

  26. paul snor says:

    This Dirk Thorensen really vomits more numerals than a sensible person can wipe aside. He might be right, but he sounds too much like an all american second hand car dealer. Sorry, I don’t buy.

  27. paul snor says:

    Oh, and, Dirk, wearing such a cheap toupet doesn’t make you any more trustworthy.

  28. Sam tron says:

    Did anyone else notice Angry Bird on the public transport? 24mins 26sec. Giving him the dirty eye for filming loudly in public.

    I think she's anti nuclear

  29. William Giersdorf says:

    https://youtu.be/k6BXvw6mxtw

  30. William Giersdorf says:

    How do you know the reason they are having problems with creating one of these reactors is due to fossil fuel moguls paying them off to NOT do it? Thorium energy is safer than Plutonium and more stable. It just doesn't produce weapon grade nuclear material.

  31. ETC Flyers says:

    To bad this video put Mr anti-intelligence trump in it. Ruined all credibility

  32. Mark vonGermeten says:

    These are the disadvantages of using Thorium in SOLID FUEL reactors. All the advantages that come from Thorium as a fuel come from dissolving it in a liquid medium.

  33. Spiro Gyra says:

    Bryony Worthington has never studied science, has no scientific knowledge or understanding of scientific methods. Why she is in this video is beyond comprehension. She is also a Marxist that campaigns for the de – industrialisation of the West that includes restrictions on energy use by individuals and the abolition of aviation and private cars. In short, she wants you dead so that her and her elitist chums can consume all they want.

  34. IamtheFleecer says:

    Why the hell aren't we implementing this technology?

  35. Rob says:

    As a layman I have one innocent question. The molten salt in the Flibe liquid fuel includes berylium. This is toxic and there is no cure for berylium poisoning. Could this be a significant impedement to the licensing of the fuel, its production and use? This reminds me of the old story of the nuclear fuel transport operative who escaped radiation poisoning only to get lead poisoning from the shielding. The lead being the solution to the main concern masking the secondary concern of its own use.

  36. David Sandell says:

    Obama said a lot of things. He did nothing good.

  37. Dave B says:

    So we are chasing fusion when we have an almost limitless supply of thorium? That's like trying to build solar panels over an oil field and getting 0.1% of the energy in that same space

  38. smashu2 says:

    From what I recall early on it was decided to not go thorium because the politics and military industrial complex wanted nuclear bomb and thorium would not produce what was needed.

  39. Niles Normore says:

    Why was India pressured to not use Thorium? I wonder.

  40. CptCrypto says:

    Title is sarcasm?

  41. François says:

    Thorium only 4 TWe in 2100, Uranium breeder reactor 18 TWe possible :

    https://www.sauvonsleclimat.org/images/articles/pdf_files/art_sel/IJGEI400103_Berger%20et%20al.pdf
    Plutonium wins !

  42. ZandarKoad says:

    @0:45 Why are convicts asking questions about Thorium reactors?

  43. ZandarKoad says:

    Best clickbait ever.

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