16 comments on “You might like this Kickstarter project

  1. It is a pity that Alvin Weinberg is dead. He would have been an interesting interviewee even if he was a bit of a prat.

    But there are two large foundations set up to support exactly this sort of film – The Weinberg Foundation in the UK (named after the afore-mentioned Alvin) and the Thorium Energy Alliance in the US.

    Am I just getting old because I did not notice their names anywhere?

  2. Thorium and shale gas could give the UK abundant cheap energy and independence from foreign despots. Together they make the perfect solution, which is why the politicians are against them. The department of energy refuses to consider thorium in its long term plans and is raising endless objections to shale gas.

  3. The thorium energy dream is generations old, and no one has ever come close to getting it to work. Don’t believe it til you see it.

  4. Gamecock – “The thorium energy dream is generations old, and no one has ever come close to getting it to work.”

    Someone tell Alvin Weinberg and the Oak Ridge National Lab:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten-Salt_Reactor_Experiment

    It works.

    4John Fembup – “Just Thorium? Not Thallium or Thulium?”

    That is beginning to sound like a sequel to John Carter. Maybe the porn version.

  5. So Much For Subtlety // Jun 18, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Gamecock – “The thorium energy dream is generations old, and no one has ever come close to getting it to work.”

    Someone tell Alvin Weinberg and the Oak Ridge National Lab:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten-Salt_Reactor_Experiment

    It works.

    ================================

    630 kg of U-233 was produced from thorium at the Savannah River Plant in a high neutron flux reactor. The U-233 was derived by separations. That is what was used in the Oak Ridge reactor.

    The thorium dream is to convert thorium to fissionable U-233 INSIDE a going reactor, such that the converted thorium contributes to reactor production. That was NOT demonstrated at Oak Ridge.

  6. The Laughing Cavalier // Jun 19, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    If Thorium is unworkable, how come the Chinese are building reactors?

    ================================

    Ask the Chinese.

    I didn’t say thorium is unworkable. I say it has never been demonstrated. Ipso facto, “Don

  7. **** posting error ****

    ’t believe it til you see it.”

    The alchemy of converting thorium to U-233 has been demonstrated. At Savannah River and at Shippingport. But the dream of in situ fission of the created U-233 has not. Indeed, fission of U-233 dispersed in a thorium target may never be developed. My bet is it won’t. It might be. People are working on it. Until they achieve the breakthrough, it is purely speculative.

  8. Gamecock – “The thorium dream is to convert thorium to fissionable U-233 INSIDE a going reactor, such that the converted thorium contributes to reactor production. That was NOT demonstrated at Oak Ridge.”

    No, the thorium dream requires the in-situ breeding of U-233. As you point out this was not deomonstrated at Oak Ridge. But that is a pathetic quibble. A working thorium reactor ran. It works. It has no obvious technical problems that might prevent a proper breeding reactor from being built – although in the nature of things some problems are bound to come up.

    Your claim was strong and at best your language was misleading. Thorium reactors do work. So does thorium breeding. The rest is detail.

    Gamecock – “The alchemy of converting thorium to U-233 has been demonstrated. At Savannah River and at Shippingport.”

    So we can run a thorium reactor. We can also breed U-233 in a reactor. There are no technical problems with either. The only problem that stands in the way is economic – can it be made to pay. All that is left is plumbing.

    “But the dream of in situ fission of the created U-233 has not. Indeed, fission of U-233 dispersed in a thorium target may never be developed. My bet is it won-t. It might be. People are working on it. Until they achieve the breakthrough, it is purely speculative.”

    Why is your bet that it won-t? It is hardly speculative given the physics – fairly well understood physics. We can breed and have bred U-233 in a reactor. We can burn and have burnt that U-233 in a reactor. All that remains is the funding and a suitable arrangement of piping. It is a plumbing problem, not a physics problem. One for the engineers, not the scientists.

    Now it may be possible that the plumbing is too complex or some other problem turns up that defeats the engineers. But it is rather unlikely. Hence the presumption must be that it will work. But we should build one to see.

  9. “But we should build one to see.”

    No, “we” shouldn’t. If speculators and China want to try, that’s fine. But public money should not be involved.

    Other than that, I think we agree. I certainly don’t care if the Chinese try to get it to work.

    But also consider this: what is the point? One can spend billions to build a nuclear reactor. You fuel it up and start making electricity. The Thorium to U-233 Dream is to fuel up the reactor with maybe 75% fuel, then make electricity and some U-233. At today’s costs of making reactors, and the cost of purchasing fissionable fuel, using a commercial reactor to make U-233 is a serious bad business decision. It is far better to fuel it up 100% and make all the electricity you can.

  10. Gamecock

    No, “we” shouldn’t. If speculators and China want to try, that’s fine. But public money should not be involved.

    I did not say that public money should be involved and so it seems you agree with me.

    But also consider this: what is the point? One can spend billions to build a nuclear reactor. You fuel it up and start making electricity. The Thorium to U-233 Dream is to fuel up the reactor with maybe 75% fuel, then make electricity and some U-233. At today’s costs of making reactors, and the cost of purchasing fissionable fuel, using a commercial reactor to make U-233 is a serious bad business decision. It is far better to fuel it up 100% and make all the electricity you can.

    Actually the plan would be to fuel it up 100% and then add some extra thorium salts in a breeding blanket and then run it. The neutrons do not significantly detract from the breeder’s ability to produce electricity. On the contrary, one using a liquid metal coolant is a lot more thermally efficient and so produces more and cheaper electricity. However all of this misses the real point which is a thorium breeder is likely to be a radically different type of reactor. A molten salt one ideally. As such it will run hotter and so perhaps be as efficient as a gas turbine. But it will also have a different cost profile because of things like on-line fuelling and a great reduction in long-term wastes. So it is hard to compare costs.

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