Archive for the ‘Thorium’ Category

An Email from Stichting Thorium MSR — The Industry Push to Force Nuclear Power in Australia

June 21, 2020

Why is the Majority Report of the Australian Senate here: https://www.aph.gov.au/-/media/02_Parliamentary_Business/24_Committees/243_Reps_Committees/EnvironmentEnergy/Nuclear_energy/Full_Report.pdf?la=en&hash=2826513C078551487B8265502776DAD5D23EB71D so full of misinformation and a totally false set of technical assertions???

via An Email from Stichting Thorium MSR — The Industry Push to Force Nuclear Power in Australia

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NuclearHistory” exposes the unpleasant facts about liquid fluoride thorium nuclear reactors

June 21, 2020

Some people believe that liquid fluoride thorium reactors, which would use a high temperature liquid fuel made of molten salt, would be significantly safer than current generation reactors. However, such reactors have major flaws. There are serious safety issues associated with the retention of fission products in the fuel, and it is not clear these problems can be effectively resolved. Such reactors also present proliferation and nuclear terrorism risks because they involve the continuous separation, or “reprocessing,” of the fuel to remove fission products and to efficiently produce U-233, which is a nuclear weapon-usable material. Moreover, disposal of theused fuel has turned out to be a major challenge. Stabilization and disposal of the
remains of the very small “Molten Salt Reactor Experiment” that operated at Oak
Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s has turned into the most technically challenging cleanup problem that Oak Ridge has faced, and the site has still not been cleaned up. Last updated March 14, 2019″ Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, at https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power/thorium-reactors-statement.pdf I wonder who is correct, The Union of Scientists or Mr. O’Brien and ScoMo?

The Industry Push to Force Nuclear Power in Australia, Part 1 of A Study of the “Report of the inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia” Australian Parliamentary Committee 2020.by nuclearhistory, February 29, 2020, “………Nuclear power enables the great powers to project power. It is a crucial geo-political influencer. If the committee has it’s way, we will be working with Russia and China and others on reactors they want to develop, that their own people have not had a say in, that are all based upon reactor designs first thought of in the 1950s, and where actual examples were built at that time, turned out to be unsafe failures which continue to present cost and risk at their sites to this day.

The committee’s first recommendation to government includes the following two sub parts:

“b. developing Australia’s own national sovereign capability in nuclear energy over time; and

c. procuring next-of-a-kind nuclear reactors only, not first-of-a- kind.” end quote.

If Australia becomes a nuclear powered nation, it will become subject to the directives of the IAEA in regard to the standards of those nuclear reactors and the procedures and actions which must take place in regard to them. Australia will also become subject to IAEA directives in regard to the standards and specifications of the Australian national energy grid. Further, the ICRP and other bodies will have an enhanced ability to direct and advise Australia and its people. Further international non proliferation requirements will dictate Australian actions regarding “special nuclear substances.” These requirements including control of information – security provisions – regarding the use of and production of “special nuclear substances”. As is true all over the world, nuclear industries are alone in that they do not, indeed cannot, fully disclose operational matters to share holders. This hardly renders Australia and Australians in control of its own sovereign nuclear technology.
Collaborator nations can be expected to demand certain requirements from Australia in return for their help. In the case of China, which wishes to produce small, light reactors of new types partially to provide a means by which it can quickly transform its navy into a nuclear one, in particular, there may well be special requirements placed upon Australia in return for Chinese collaboration. Who knows what Putin will demand in return for Russian collaboration . America might want many things in return. And so on. No nation which might help Australia would want Australia to benefit to the point where we might gain too much control and power over nuclear facilities located in this country.

“procuring next-of-a-kind nuclear reactors only, not first-of-a- kind” How refreshing that the Committee does not want the first gen iv type reactors – the Fermi 1 and Monju type for example. Those dangerous failures that sit like wounded Albatross in the US and Japan and continue to demand taxpayer funds. The failure of Monju, which has long been foreseen by many, renders the original basis for the Japanese nuclear industry subject to severe doubt. As result of vastly improved safety standards, fuel reprocessing in Japan is in doubt, its future course uncertain, and the nature of high level waste management has been an even more pressing issue.

In any event, it is my view that  the new  types of reactor China is experimenting with are dual use.  That is, they have both military and civilian uses in China. There is little overt opposition to either in China as protest in that nation is dangerous, costly and often lethal. I do not see it in Australia’s national interest to collaborate with Chinese nuclear reactor experimental development. Our contribution will probably speed the ascendancy of a Chinese nuclear navy, and the contribution to be made to Australia by a Chinese/Australian Gen IV is highly suspect, both in the short and long term, both in tactical and strategic terms. And if we are not to buy “first of a kind” reactors but “next of a kind” ones, does this mean we wont buy unproven experimental units but will buy unproven Mk1 production units which have not yet been used to supply power to a grid and which have proven that they fulfil the promises this Parliamentary Committee is making? No such reactors exist with a track record in service providing economic power to any nation grid. None have existed in such deployment and there is no service life span in commercial use for any of these “new” reactor types. 10 years would be the bare minimum to test such a unit over. Anything less is not satisfactory (more…)

“NuclearHistory” exposes the unpleasant facts about liquid fluoride thorium nuclear reactors

March 10, 2020

Some people believe that liquid fluoride thorium reactors, which would use a high temperature liquid fuel made of molten salt, would be significantly safer than current generation reactors. However, such reactors have major flaws. There are serious safety issues associated with the retention of fission products in the fuel, and it is not clear these problems can be effectively resolved. Such reactors also present proliferation and nuclear terrorism risks because they involve the continuous separation, or “reprocessing,” of the fuel to remove fission products and to efficiently produce U-233, which is a nuclear weapon-usable material. Moreover, disposal of theused fuel has turned out to be a major challenge. Stabilization and disposal of the remains of the very small “Molten Salt Reactor Experiment” that operated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s has turned into the most technically challenging cleanup problem that Oak Ridge has faced, and the site has still not been cleaned up. Last updated March 14, 2019″ Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, at https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power/thorium-reactors-statement.pdf I wonder who is correct, The Union of Scientists or Mr. O’Brien and ScoMo?

The Industry Push to Force Nuclear Power in Australia, Part 1 of A Study of the “Report of the inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia” Australian Parliamentary Committee 2020.by nuclearhistory, February 29, 2020, “………Nuclear power enables the great powers to project power. It is a crucial geo-political influencer. If the committee has it’s way, we will be working with Russia and China and others on reactors they want to develop, that their own people have not had a say in, that are all based upon reactor designs first thought of in the 1950s, and where actual examples were built at that time, turned out to be unsafe failures which continue to present cost and risk at their sites to this day.

The committee’s first recommendation to government includes the following two sub parts:

“b. developing Australia’s own national sovereign capability in nuclear energy over time; and

c. procuring next-of-a-kind nuclear reactors only, not first-of-a- kind.” end quote.

If Australia becomes a nuclear powered nation, it will become subject to the directives of the IAEA in regard to the standards of those nuclear reactors and the procedures and actions which must take place in regard to them. Australia will also become subject to IAEA directives in regard to the standards and specifications of the Australian national energy grid. Further, the ICRP and other bodies will have an enhanced ability to direct and advise Australia and its people. Further international non proliferation requirements will dictate Australian actions regarding “special nuclear substances.” These requirements including control of information – security provisions – regarding the use of and production of “special nuclear substances”. As is true all over the world, nuclear industries are alone in that they do not, indeed cannot, fully disclose operational matters to share holders. This hardly renders Australia and Australians in control of its own sovereign nuclear technology.
Collaborator nations can be expected to demand certain requirements from Australia in return for their help. In the case of China, which wishes to produce small, light reactors of new types partially to provide a means by which it can quickly transform its navy into a nuclear one, in particular, there may well be special requirements placed upon Australia in return for Chinese collaboration. Who knows what Putin will demand in return for Russian collaboration . America might want many things in return. And so on. No nation which might help Australia would want Australia to benefit to the point where we might gain too much control and power over nuclear facilities located in this country.

“procuring next-of-a-kind nuclear reactors only, not first-of-a- kind” How refreshing that the Committee does not want the first gen iv type reactors – the Fermi 1 and Monju type for example. Those dangerous failures that sit like wounded Albatross in the US and Japan and continue to demand taxpayer funds. The failure of Monju, which has long been foreseen by many, renders the original basis for the Japanese nuclear industry subject to severe doubt. As result of vastly improved safety standards, fuel reprocessing in Japan is in doubt, its future course uncertain, and the nature of high level waste management has been an even more pressing issue.

In any event, it is my view that  the new  types of reactor China is experimenting with are dual use.  That is, they have both military and civilian uses in China. There is little overt opposition to either in China as protest in that nation is dangerous, costly and often lethal. I do not see it in Australia’s national interest to collaborate with Chinese nuclear reactor experimental development. Our contribution will probably speed the ascendancy of a Chinese nuclear navy, and the contribution to be made to Australia by a Chinese/Australian Gen IV is highly suspect, both in the short and long term, both in tactical and strategic terms. And if we are not to buy “first of a kind” reactors but “next of a kind” ones, does this mean we wont buy unproven experimental units but will buy unproven Mk1 production units which have not yet been used to supply power to a grid and which have proven that they fulfil the promises this Parliamentary Committee is making? No such reactors exist with a track record in service providing economic power to any nation grid. None have existed in such deployment and there is no service life span in commercial use for any of these “new” reactor types. 10 years would be the bare minimum to test such a unit over. Anything less is not satisfactory
Alvin M. Weinberg was the Nikola Tesla of Gen IV reactor design. “Weinberg replaced Wigner as Director of Research at ORNL in 1948, and became director of the laboratory in 1955. Under his direction it worked on the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion program, and pioneered many innovative reactor designs, including the pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and boiling water reactors (BWRs), which have since become the dominant reactor types in commercial nuclear power plants, and Aqueous Homogeneous Reactor designs.” (Source: Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_M._Weinberg) “ORNL successfully built and operated a prototype of an aircraft reactor power plant by creating the world’s first molten salt fueled and cooled reactor called the Aircraft Reactor Experiment (ARE) in 1954, which set a record high temperature of operation of 1,600 °F (870 °C). Due to the radiation hazard posed to aircrew, and people on the ground in the event of a crash, new developments in ballistic missile technology, aerial refueling and longer range jet bombers, President Kennedy canceled the program in June 1961.[30][31]” Source: ibid.
There’s not much that is new under the sun, says the Bible, and that’s probably very generally true. If we get the vision of a flying nuclear reactor out of heads for a minute, it seems as first glance that the Weinberg molten fuel reactor had something going for it. If it didn’t leak, it couldn’t do what a “normal” is capable of doing – over heating zirconium fuel rods, and melting steel to enable the overheated fuel to escape into the biosphere. So how does the molten fuel reactor work? How come it can work without melting its containment? Well, Wikipedia explains it like this: “The Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) set a record for continuous operation and was the first to use uranium-233 as fuel. It also used plutonium-239 and the standard, naturally occurring uranium-235. The MSR was known as the “chemist’s reactor” because it was proposed mainly by chemists (ORNL’s Ray Briant and Ed Bettis (an engineer) and NEPA’s Vince Calkins),[34] and because it used a chemical solution of melted salts containing the actinides (uranium, thorium, and/or plutonium) in a carrier salt, most often composed of beryllium (BeF2) and lithium (LiF) (isotopically depleted in Lithium-6 to prevent excessive neutron capture or tritium production) – FLiBe.[36] The MSR also afforded the opportunity to change the chemistry of the molten salt while the reactor was operating to remove fission products and add new fuel or change the fuel, all of which is called “online processing”.[37]” Source: ibid. As we can see, though the piece does not explain the materials used to construct the reactor – which must have been very tolerant of very high temperatures – the piece is clear that this reactor did produce high level nuclear waste. The fission products. These substances comprise high level nuclear waste. While this reactor type might consume weapons plutonium and fission it into high level waste, the reactor as described does NOT solve the high level waste problem. In an era in which the major nuclear powers have torn up nuclear weapon limitation treaties, it is moot as to whether either the USA or Russia would contemplate feeding their stockpiled bomb fuel into an MSR. The MSR does not solve the fission product waste inventory which is growing on planet earth. The wikipedia article does not describe whether or not the MSR reactor releases radioactive gases to the atmosphere as conventional reactor do at refuelling time.
There is no doubt that Wigner was a brilliant person. Many people view him as a visionary with a singular focus on reactor safety and on new ways of doing things in the 1950s and 1960s. Wikipedia also states the following: “In the 1960s Weinberg also pursued new missions for ORNL, such as using nuclear energy to desalinate seawater. ” Source Ibid. So know you know where the accountant and former politician Cory Bernardi got his idea about desalination via any old reactor from. Genius research Cory. Solar panels can make hydrogen and oxygen and turn sea water into fresh too. It can recharge electric cars, power a macbook and power the natural world. Fancy that. Apparently some people prefer molten salt reactors, proclaimed as new, when actually they date from the 1950s. Wow. I wonder why they didn’t take off. Excuse the pun.
Before I complete this post, let’s delve a little deeper into the MSR, by consulting some actual technical papers. Do try and keep up, Mr. Bernardi and Mr. O’Brien.

A technical report on the original trial run of the reactor is here (we won’t be getting this one, it’s first of type): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.13182/NT8-2-118 “Experience with the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment.” Paul N. Haubenreich and J.R.Engel, 1970.

What the fate of the material removed from the fuel ? That is, where is the nuclear waste now and how much has it cost to mind? The Union of Concerned Scientists inform us that: “

Some people believe that liquid fluoride thorium reactors, which would use a high temperature liquid fuel made of molten salt, would be significantly safer than current generation reactors. However, such reactors have major flaws. There are serious safety issues associated with the retention of fission products in the fuel, and it is not clear these problems can be effectively resolved. Such reactors also present proliferation and nuclear terrorism risks because they involve the continuous separation, or “reprocessing,” of the fuel to remove fission products and to efficiently produce U-233, which is a nuclear weapon-usable material. Moreover, disposal of theused fuel has turned out to be a major challenge. Stabilization and disposal of the
remains of the very small “Molten Salt Reactor Experiment” that operated at Oak
Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s has turned into the most technically challenging cleanup problem that Oak Ridge has faced, and the site has still not been cleaned up. Last updated March 14, 2019″ Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, at https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power/thorium-reactors-statement.pdf I wonder who is correct, The Union of Scientists or Mr. O’Brien and ScoMo?

The end.

If the nuclear waste problem did not exist, those front and back yards would not now be resident in drums at Woomera Rocket Range. If waste did not have to take up residence somewhere, waste would not be a problem. Because there would not be any to store. Australia does not have nuclear power. But we have plenty of ancient and modern nuclear waste. People who do not want nuclear waste or nuclear emissions are called by governments and the industry “NIMBY’s” (Not In My Backyard). I remind the Australian government here and now who have to removed contaminated back yards from Australian homes in the 1970s. It was the Australian Government. What hypocrites you all are!!! To be continued …..  https://nonuclearpowerinaustralia.wordpress.com/2020/02/29/part-1-of-a-study-of-the-report-of-the-inquiry-into-the-prerequisites-for-nuclear-energy-in-australia-australian-parliamentary-committee-2020/

Australian public unaware of the dangers of small nuclear reactors

March 10, 2020

Thorium advocates say that thorium reactors produce little radioactive waste, however, they simply produce a different spectrum of waste from traditional reactors, including many dangerous isotopes with extremely long half-lives. Technetium 99 has a half-life of 300,000 years and iodine 129 a half-life of 15.7 million years. 

 

Thorium nuclear reactors – expensive, dangerous and leave dangerous radioactive isotopes with long half-lives

February 13, 2020

New nuclear power proposal needs public  debate   https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/new-nuclear-power-proposal-needs-public-discussion,13071   By Helen Caldicott | 4 September 2019  The prospect of thorium being introduced into Australia’s energy arrangements should be subjected to significant scrutiny, writes Helen Caldicott.

AS AUSTRALIA is grappling with the notion of introducing nuclear powerinto the country, it seems imperative the general public understand the intricacies of these technologies so they can make informed decisions. Thorium reactors are amongst those being suggested at this time.

The U.S. tried for 50 years to create thorium reactors, without success. Four commercial thorium reactors were constructed, all of which failed. And because of the complexity of problems listed below, thorium reactors are far more expensive than uranium fueled reactors.

The longstanding effort to produce these reactors cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, while billions more dollars are still required to dispose of the highly toxic waste emanating from these failed trials.

The truth is, thorium is not a naturally fissionable material. It is therefore necessary to mix thorium with either enriched uranium 235 (up to 20% enrichment) or with plutonium – both of which are innately fissionable – to get the process going.

While uranium enrichment is very expensive, the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from uranium powered reactors is enormously expensive and very dangerous to the workers who are exposed to toxic radioactive isotopes during the process. Reprocessing spent fuel requires chopping up radioactive fuel rods by remote control, dissolving them in concentrated nitric acid from which plutonium is precipitated out by complex chemical means.

Vast quantities of highly acidic, highly radioactive liquid waste then remain to be disposed of. (Only is 6 kilograms of plutonium 239 can fuel a nuclear weapon, while each reactor makes 250 kilos of plutonium per year. One millionth of a gram of plutonium if inhaled is carcinogenic.)

So there is an extraordinarily complex, dangerous and expensive preliminary process to kick-start a fission process in a thorium reactor.

When non-fissionable thorium is mixed with either fissionable plutonium or uranium 235, it captures a neutron and converts to uranium 233, which itself is fissionable. Naturally it takes some time for enough uranium 233 to accumulate to make this particular fission process spontaneously ongoing.

Later, the radioactive fuel would be removed from the reactor and reprocessed to separate out the uranium 233 from the contaminating fission products, and the uranium 233 then will then be mixed with more thorium to be placed in another thorium reactor.

But uranium 233 is also very efficient fuel for nuclear weapons. It takes about the same amount of uranium 233 as plutonium 239 – six kilos – to fuel a nuclear weapon. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has already, to its disgrace, ‘lost track’ of 96 kilograms of uranium 233.

A total of two tons of uranium 233 were manufactured in the United States. This material naturally requires similar stringent security measures used for plutonium storage for obvious reasons. It is estimated that it will take over one million dollars per kilogram to dispose of the seriously deadly material.

An Energy Department safety investigation recently found a national repository for uranium 233 in a building constructed in 1943 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

It was in poor condition. Investigators reported an environmental release from many of the 1,100 containers could

‘… be expected to occur within the next five years because some of the packages are approaching 30 years of age and have not been regularly inspected.’

The DOE determined that this building had:

Deteriorated beyond cost-effective repair and significant annual costs would be incurred to satisfy both current DOE storage standards, and to provide continued protection against potential nuclear criticality accidents or theft of the material.

The DOE Office of Environmental Management now considers the disposal of this uranium 233 to be ‘an unfunded mandate’.

Thorium reactors also produce uranium 232, which decays to an extremely potent high-energy gamma emitter that can penetrate through one metre of concrete, making the handling of this spent nuclear fuel extraordinarily dangerous.

Although thorium advocates say that thorium reactors produce little radioactive waste, they simply produce a different spectrum of waste to those from uranium-235. This still includes many dangerous alpha and beta emitters, and isotopes with extremely long half-lives, including iodine 129 (half-life of 15.7 million years).

No wonder the U.S. nuclear industry gave up on thorium reactors in the 1980s. It was an unmitigated disaster, as are many other nuclear enterprises undertaken by the nuclear priesthood and the U.S. government.

India’s nuclear power programme unlikely to progress. Ocean energy is a better way.

August 18, 2019

The problem is apparently nervousness about handling liquid Sodium, used as a coolant. If Sodium comes in contact with water it will explode; and the PFBR is being built on the humid coast of Tamil Nadu. The PFBR has always been a project that would go on stream “next year”. The PFBR has to come online, then more FBRs would need to be built, they should then operate for 30-40 years, and only then would begin the coveted ‘Thorium cycle’!

Why nuclear when India has an ‘ocean’ of energy,  https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/why-nuclear-when-india-has-an-ocean-of-energy/article28230036.ece

M. Ramesh – 30 June 19 Though the ‘highly harmful’ source is regarded as saviour on certain counts, the country has a better option under the seas

If it is right that nothing can stop an idea whose time has come, it must be true the other way too — nothing can hold back an idea whose time has passed.

Just blow the dust off, you’ll see the writing on the wall: nuclear energy is fast running out of sand, at least in India. And there is something that is waiting to take its place.

India’s 6,780 MW of nuclear power plants contributed to less than 3% of the country’s electricity generation, which will come down as other sources will generate more.

Perhaps India lost its nuclear game in 1970, when it refused to sign – even if with the best of reasons – the Non Proliferation Treaty, which left the country to bootstrap itself into nuclear energy. Only there never was enough strap in the boot to do so.

In the 1950s, the legendary physicist Dr. Homi Bhabha gave the country a roadmap for the development of nuclear energy.

Three-stage programme

In the now-famous ‘three-stage nuclear programme’, the roadmap laid out what needs to be done to eventually use the country’s almost inexhaustible Thorium resources. The first stage would see the creation of a fleet of ‘pressurised heavy water reactors’, which use scarce Uranium to produce some Plutonium. The second stage would see the setting up of several ‘fast breeder reactors’ (FBRs). These FBRs would use a mixture of Plutonium and the reprocessed ‘spent Uranium from the first stage, to produce energy and more Plutonium (hence ‘breeder’), because the Uranium would transmute into Plutonium. Alongside, the reactors would convert some of the Thorium into Uranium-233, which can also be used to produce energy. After 3-4 decades of operation, the FBRs would have produced enough Plutonium for use in the ‘third stage’. In this stage, Uranium-233 would be used in specially-designed reactors to produce energy and convert more Thorium into Uranium-233 —you can keep adding Thorium endlessly.

Seventy years down the line, India is still stuck in the first stage. For the second stage, you need the fast breeder reactors. A Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) of 500 MW capacity, construction of which began way back in 2004, is yet to come on stream.

The problem is apparently nervousness about handling liquid Sodium, used as a coolant. If Sodium comes in contact with water it will explode; and the PFBR is being built on the humid coast of Tamil Nadu. The PFBR has always been a project that would go on stream “next year”. The PFBR has to come online, then more FBRs would need to be built, they should then operate for 30-40 years, and only then would begin the coveted ‘Thorium cycle’! Nor is much capacity coming under the current, ‘first stage’. The 6,700 MW of plants under construction would, some day, add to the existing nuclear capacity of 6,780 MW. The government has sanctioned another 9,000 MW and there is no knowing when work on them will begin. These are the home-grown plants. Of course, thanks to the famous 2005 ‘Indo-U.S. nuclear deal’, there are plans for more projects with imported reactors, but a 2010 Indian ‘nuclear liability’ legislation has scared the foreigners away. With all this, it is difficult to see India’s nuclear capacity going beyond 20,000 MW over the next two decades.

Now, the question is, is nuclear energy worth it all?

There have been three arguments in favour of nuclear enFor Fergy: clean, cheap and can provide electricity 24×7 (base load). Clean it is, assuming that you could take care of the ticklish issue of putting away the highly harmful spent fuel.

But cheap, it no longer is. The average cost of electricity produced by the existing 22 reactors in the country is around ₹2.80 a kWhr, but the new plants, which cost ₹15-20 crore per MW to set up, will produce energy that cannot be sold commercially below at least ₹7 a unit. Nuclear power is pricing itself out of the market. A nuclear power plant takes a decade to come up, who knows where the cost will end up when it begins generation of electricity?

Nuclear plants can provide the ‘base load’ — they give a steady stream of electricity day and night, just like coal or gas plants. Wind and solar power plants produce energy much cheaper, but their power supply is irregular. With gas not available and coal on its way out due to reasons of cost and global warming concerns, nuclear is sometimes regarded as the saviour. But we don’t need that saviour any more; there is a now a better option.

Ocean energy

The seas are literally throbbing with energy. There are at least several sources of energy in the seas. One is the bobbing motion of the waters, or ocean swells — you can place a flat surface on the waters, with a mechanical arm attached to it, and it becomes a pump that can be used to drive water or compressed air through a turbine to produce electricity. Another is by tapping into tides, which flow during one part of the day and ebb in another. You can generate electricity by channelling the tide and place a series of turbines in its path. One more way is to keep turbines on the sea bed at places where there is a current — a river within the sea. Yet another way is to get the waves dash against pistons in, say, a pipe, so as to compress air at the other end. Sea water is dense and heavy, when it moves it can punch hard — and, it never stops moving.

All these methods have been tried in pilot plants in several parts of the world—Brazil, Denmark, U.K., Korea. There are only two commercial plants in the world—in France and Korea—but then ocean energy has engaged the world’s attention.

For sure, ocean energy is costly today.

India’s Gujarat State Power Corporation had a tie-up with U.K.’s Atlantic Resources for a 50 MW tidal project in the Gulf of Kutch, but the project was given up after they discovered they could sell the electricity only at ₹13 a kWhr. But then, even solar cost ₹18 a unit in 2009! When technology improves and scale-effect kicks-in, ocean energy will look real friendly.

Initially, ocean energy would need to be incentivised, as solar was. Where do you find the money for the incentives? By paring allocations to the Department of Atomic Energy, which got ₹13,971 crore for 2019-20.

Also, wind and solar now stand on their own legs and those subsidies could now be given to ocean energy.

Thorium Molten Salt Nuclear reactor (MSR) No Better Than Uranium Process

November 3, 2018

The safety issue is also not resolved, as stated above: pressurized water leaking from the steam generator into the hot, radioactive molten salt will explosively turn to steam and cause incredible damage.  The chances are great that the radioactive molten salt would be discharged out of the reactor system and create more than havoc.  Finally, controlling the reaction and power output, finding materials that last safely for 3 or 4 decades, and consuming vast quantities of cooling water are all serious problems.  

The greatest problem, though, is likely the scale-up by a factor of 500 to 1, from the tiny project at ORNL to a full-scale commercial plant with 3500 MWth output.   Perhaps these technical problems can be overcome, but why would anyone bother to try, knowing in advance that the MSR plant will be uneconomic due to huge construction costs and operating costs, plus will explode and rain radioactive molten salt when (not if) the steam generator tubes leak.

The Truth About Nuclear Power – Part 28, Sowells Law Blog , 14 July 2014 Thorium MSR No Better Than Uranium Process, 

Preface   This article, number 28 in the series, discusses nuclear power via a thorium molten-salt reactor (MSR) process.   (Note, this is also sometimes referred to as LFTR, for Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor)   The thorium MSR is frequently trotted out by nuclear power advocates, whenever the numerous drawbacks to uranium fission reactors are mentioned.   To this point in the TANP series, uranium fission, via PWR or BWR, has been the focus.  Some critics of TANP have already stated that thorium solves all of those problems and therefore should be vigorously pursued.  Some of the critics have stated that Sowell obviously has never heard of thorium reactors.   Quite the contrary, I am familiar with the process and have serious reservations about the numerous problems with thorium MSR.

It is interesting, though, that nuclear advocates must bring up the MSR process.  If the uranium fission process was any good at all, there would be no need for research and development of any other type of process, such as MSR and fusion. (more…)

Thorium nuclear reactors and their ability to produce nuclear weapons material

October 9, 2018

The half-lives of the protactinium isotopes work in the favor of potential proliferators. Because protactinium 232 decays faster than protactinium 233, the isotopic purity of protactinium 233 increases as time passes. If it is separated from its uranium decay products a second time, this protactinium will decay to equally pure uranium 233 over the next few months. With careful attention to the relevant radiochemistry, separation of protactinium from the uranium in spent thorium fuel has the potential to generate uranium 233 with very low concentrations of uranium 232—a product suitable for making nuclear weapons. 

Thorium power has a protactinium problem https://thebulletin.org/2018/08/thorium-power-has-a-protactinium-problem/ By Eva C. Uribe, August 6, 2018  In 1980, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) observed that protactinium, a chemical element generated in thorium reactors, could be separated and allowed to decay to isotopically pure uranium 233—suitable material for making nuclear weapons. The IAEA report, titled “Advanced Fuel Cycle and Reactor Concepts,” concluded that the proliferation resistance of thorium fuel cycles “would be equivalent to” the uranium/plutonium fuel cycles of conventional civilian nuclear reactors, assuming both included spent fuel reprocessing to isolate fissile material.

Decades later, the story changed. “Th[orium]-based fuels and fuel cycles have intrinsic proliferation resistance,” according to the IAEA in 2005. Mainstream media have repeated this view ever since, often without caveat. Several scholars have recognized the inherent proliferation risk of protactinium separations in the thorium fuel cycle, but the perception that thorium reactors cannot be used to make weapons persists. While technology has advanced, the fundamental radiochemistry that governs nuclear fuel reprocessing remains unchanged. Thus, this shift in perspective is puzzling and reflects a failure to recognize the importance of protactinium radiochemistry in thorium fuel cycles. 

Protactinium turns 100. The importance of protactinium chemistry for obtaining highly attractive fissile material from thorium has been recognized since the 1940s. However, the story really begins 100 years ago during the earliest research on natural radioactivity. In 1918, Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner and German chemist Otto Hahn were on a quest to discover the long-lived isotope of “eka-tantalum” predicted to lie between thorium and uranium in the periodic table. The isotope they sought would decay to actinium, which was always found with uranium but was known to be the parent of an unknown natural radioactive decay chain distinct from that of uranium 238, the most common isotope of uranium found in nature.

Meitner and Hahn discovered that treating pitchblende with nitric acid yielded an insoluble fraction of silica that associated with tantalum and eka-tantalum. After many years, they purified enough eka-tantalum for identification and measured its properties. As discoverers of eka-tantalum’s longest-lived isotope, Meitner and Hahn named this new element protactinium. They had isolated protactinium 231, a member of the uranium 235 decay chain. In 1938, they discovered that protactinium 233 could be produced by neutron irradiation of thorium 232, the most abundant isotope in naturally occurring thorium.

For the next several decades, protactinium was shrouded in “mystery and witchcraft” due to its scarcity in nature and its perplexing chemical properties. We now know that protactinium’s peculiar chemistry is due to its position in the periodic table, which lends the element vastly different chemical properties than its neighbors. Protactinium behaves so differently from thorium and uranium that, under many conditions, their separation is inevitable.
Scientists did not investigate the macroscopic chemistry of protactinium until the Manhattan Project. In 1942, Glenn T. Seaborg, John W. Gofman, and R. W. Stoughton discovered uranium 233 and observed its propensity to fission. Compared with naturally occurring uranium 235, uranium 233 has a lower critical mass, which means that less material can be used to build a weapon. And compared with weapons-grade plutonium 239, uranium 233 has a much lower spontaneous fission rate, enabling simpler weapons that are more easily constructed. A 1951 report by the Manhattan Project Technical Section describes extensive efforts devoted to the production of uranium 233 via neutron irradiation of thorium 232. Because the initial thorium feed material was often contaminated with natural uranium 238, the scientists obtained pure uranium 233 by using a variety of methods for separating the intermediate protactinium 233.

By this time, advances in technology and projections of uranium shortages stimulated interest in developing a breeder reactor, which produces more fissile material than it consumes. In the late 1960s, a team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory designed a Molten Salt Breeder Reactor fueled by thorium and uranium dissolved in fluoride salts, but it could only breed uranium 233 by continuously removing impurities—including protactinium 233—from the reactor core. To improve breeding ratios, the researchers investigated methodsfor removing protactinium from the molten fluoride salts.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter banned commercial reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, citing concerns with the proliferation of technology that could be used to make nuclear weapons. And with the high startup costs of developing new reactors, there would be no place for the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor in the energy market. With the end of research on thorium reactors came the end of ambitious research on protactinium separations. Over time, the role of protactinium in obtaining weaponizable uranium 233 from thorium was largely forgotten or dismissed by the thorium community.

Thorium reactors born again. Fast forward to 2018. Several nations have explored thorium power for their nuclear energy portfolios. Foremost among these is India. Plagued by perennial uranium shortages, but possessing abundant thorium resources, India is highly motivated to develop thorium reactors that can breed uranium 233. India now operates the only reactor fueled by uranium 233, the Kalpakkam Mini reactor (better known as KAMINI).

Thorium reactors have other potential advantages. They could produce fewer long-lived radioactive isotopes than conventional nuclear reactors, simplifying the disposal of nuclear waste. Molten salt reactors offer potential improvements in reactor safety. Additionally, there is the persistent perception that thorium reactors are intrinsically proliferation-resistant.

The uranium 233 produced in thorium reactors is contaminated with uranium 232, which is produced through several different neutron absorption pathways. Uranium 232 has a half-life of 68.9 years, and its daughter radionuclides emit intense, highly penetrating gamma rays that make the material difficult to handle. A person standing 0.5 meters from 5 kilograms of uranium 233 containing 500 parts per million of uranium 232, one year after it has been separated from the daughters of uranium 232, would receive a dose that exceeds the annual regulatory limits for radiological workers in less than an hour. Therefore, uranium 233 generated in thorium reactors is “self-protected,” as long as uranium 232 levels are high enough. However, the extent to which uranium 232 provides adequate protection against diversion of uranium 233 is debatable. Uranium 232 does not compromise the favorable fissile material properties of uranium 233, which is categorized as “highly attractive” even in the presence of high levels of uranium 232. Uranium 233 becomes even more attractive if uranium 232 can be decreased or eliminated altogether. This is where the chemistry of protactinium becomes important.

Protactinium in the thorium fuel cycle. There are three isotopes of protactinium produced when thorium 232 is irradiated. Protactinium 231, 232, and 233 are produced either through thermal or fast neutron absorption reactions with various thorium, protactinium, and uranium isotopes. Protactinium 231, 232, and 233 are intermediates in the reactions that eventually form uranium 232 and uranium 233. Protactinium 232 decays to uranium 232 with a half-life of 1.3 days. Protactinium 233 decays to uranium 233 with a half-life of 27 days. Protactinium 231 is a special case: It does not directly decay to uranium, but in the presence of neutrons it can absorb a neutron and become protactinium 232.

Neutron absorption reactions only occur in the presence of a neutron flux, inside or immediately surrounding the reactor core. Radioactive decay occurs whether or not neutrons are present. For irradiated thorium, the real concern lies in separating protactinium from uranium, which may already have significant levels of uranium 232. Production of protactinium 232 ceases as soon as protactinium is removed from the neutron flux, but protactinium 232 and 233 continue to decay to uranium 232 and 233, respectively.

The half-lives of the protactinium isotopes work in the favor of potential proliferators. Because protactinium 232 decays faster than protactinium 233, the isotopic purity of protactinium 233 increases as time passes. If it is separated from its uranium decay products a second time, this protactinium will decay to equally pure uranium 233 over the next few months. With careful attention to the relevant radiochemistry, separation of protactinium from the uranium in spent thorium fuel has the potential to generate uranium 233 with very low concentrations of uranium 232—a product suitable for making nuclear weapons.
Scenarios for proliferation. Although thorium is commonly associated with molten salt reactors, it can be used in any reactor. Several types of fuel cycles enable feasible, rapid reprocessing to extract protactinium. One is aqueous reprocessing of thorium oxide “blankets” irradiated outside the core of a heavy water reactor. Many heavy water reactors include on-power fueling, which means that irradiated thorium can be removed quickly and often, without shutting the reactor down. As very little fission would occur in the blanket material, its radioactivity would be lower than that of spent fuel from the core, and it could be reprocessed immediately.

Myriad possibilities exist for the aqueous separation of protactinium from thorium and uranium oxides, including the commonly proposed thorium uranium extraction (THOREX) process. Alternatively, once dissolved in acid, protactinium can simply be adsorbed onto glass or silica beads, exploiting the same chemical mechanism used by Meitner and Hahn to isolate protactinium from natural uranium a century ago.

Another scenario is continuous reprocessing of molten salt fuel to remove protactinium and uranium from thorium. Researchers at Oak Ridge explored the feasibility of online protactinium removal in the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor program. Uranium can then be separated from the protactinium in a second step.

Sensible safeguards. Protactinium separations provide a pathway for obtaining highly attractive weapons-grade uranium 233 from thorium fuel cycles. The difficulties of safeguarding commercial spent fuel reprocessing are significant for any type of fuel cycle, and thorium is no exception. Reprocessing creates unique safeguard challenges, particularly in India, which is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

There is little to be gained by calling thorium fuel cycles intrinsically proliferation-resistant. The best way to realize nuclear power from thorium fuel cycles is to acknowledge their unique proliferation vulnerabilities, and to adequately safeguard them against theft and misuse.

Thorium nuclear power – not so great, really

October 9, 2018

Today, advocates of thorium typically point to a variety of advantages over uranium. These include fail-safe reactor operation, because most thorium reactor designs are incapable of an explosion or meltdown, as was seen at Chernobyl or Fukushima. Another is resistance to weapons proliferation, because thorium reactors create byproducts that make the fuel unsuitable for use in nuclear weapons.Other advantages include greater abundance of natural reserves of thorium, less radioactive waste and higher utilisation of fuel in thorium reactors. Thorium is often cast as “good nuclear”, while uranium gets to carry the can as “bad nuclear”.

Not so different

While compelling at first glance, the details reveal a somewhat more murky picture. The molten salt architecture which gives certain thorium reactors high intrinsic safety equally applies to proposed fourth-generation designs using uranium. It is also true that nuclear physics technicalities make thorium much less attractive for weapons production, but it is by no means impossible; the USA and USSR each tested a thorium-based atomic bomb in 1955.

Other perceived advantages similarly diminish under scrutiny. There is plenty of uranium ore in the world and hence the fourfold abundance advantage of thorium is a moot point. Producing less long-lived radioactive waste is certainly beneficial, but the vexed question remains of how to deal with it.

Stating that thorium is more efficiently consumed is the most mischievous of the claimed benefits. Fast-breeder uranium reactors have much the same fuel efficiency as thorium reactors. However, they weren’t economic as the price of uranium turned out to rather low.

Disadvantages of thorium reactors

October 9, 2018

High start-up costs: Huge investments are needed for thorium nuclear power reactor, as it requires significant amount of testing, analysis and licensing work. Also, there is uncertainty over returns on the investments in these reactors. For utilities, this factor can weigh on the decisions to go ahead with plans to deploy the reactors. The reactors also involve high fuel fabrication and reprocessing costs.

High melting point of thorium oxide: As melting point of thorium oxide is much higher compared to that of uranium oxide, high temperatures are needed to make high density ThO2 and ThO2–based mixed oxide fuels. The fuel in nuclear fission reactors is usually based on the metal oxide.

Emission of gamma rays: Presence of Uranium-232 in irradiated thorium or thorium based fuels in large amounts is one of the major disadvantages of thorium nuclear power reactors. It can result in significant emissions of gamma rays. http://www.compelo.com/energy/news/newsmajor-pros-and-cons-of-thorium-nuclear-power-reactor-6058445/