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Nuclear power has long been a contentious topic. It generates huge amounts of electricity with zero carbon emissions, and thus is held up as a solution to global energy woes. But it also entails several risks, including weapons development, meltdown, and the hazards of disposing of its waste products.

But those risks and benefits all pertain to a very specific kind of nuclear energy: nuclear fission of uranium or plutonium isotopes. There’s another kind of nuclear energy that’s been waiting in the wings for decades – and it may just demand a recalibration of our thoughts on nuclear power.

Nuclear fission using thorium is easily within our reach, and, compared with conventional nuclear energy, the risks are considerably lower.

Thorium’s Story

Ideas for using thorium have been around since the 1960s, and by 1973 there were proposals for serious, concerted research in the US. But that program fizzled to a halt only a few years later. Why? The answer is nuclear weapons. The 1960s and ’70s were the height of the Cold War and weaponization was the driving force for all nuclear research. Any nuclear research that did not support the US nuclear arsenal was simply not given priority.

Conventional nuclear power using a fuel cycle involving uranium-235 and/or plutonium-239 was seen as killing two birds with one stone: reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil, and creating the fuel needed for nuclear bombs. Thorium power, on the other hand, didn’t have military potential. And by decreasing the need for conventional nuclear power, a potentially successful thorium program would have actually been seen as threatening to U.S. interests in the Cold War environment.

Today, however, the situation is very different. Rather than wanting to make weapons, many global leaders are worried about proliferating nuclear technology. And that has led several nations to take a closer look at thorium power generation.

How Thorium Reactors Work

The isotope of thorium that’s being studied for power is called Th-232. Like uranium, Th-232 comes from rocks in the ground.

A thorium reactor would work like this: Th-232 is placed in a reactor, where it is bombarded with a beam of neutrons. In accepting a neutron from the beam, Th-232 becomes Th-233, but this heavier isotope doesn’t last very long. The Th-233 decays to protactinium-233, which further decays into U-233. The U-233 remains in the reactor and, similar to current nuclear power plants, the fission of the uranium generates intense heat that can be converted to electricity.

To keep the process going, the U-233 must be created continuously by keeping the neutron-generating accelerator turned on. By contrast the neutrons that trigger U-235 fission in a conventional reactor are generated from the fuel itself. The process continues in a chain reaction and can be controlled or stopped only by inserting rods of neutron-absorbing material into the reactor core. But these control rods aren’t foolproof: their operation can be affected during a reactor malfunction. This is the reason that a conventional fission reactor has the potential to start heating out of control and cause an accident. A thorium fuel cycle, by contrast, can be immediately shut down by turning off the supply of neutrons. Shutting down the fuel cycle means preventing the breeding of Th-232 into U-233. This doesn’t stop the heating in the reactor immediately, but it stops it from getting worse.

The increased safety of thorium power does not end there. Unlike the U-235 and plutonium fuel cycles, the thorium reactors can be designed to operate in a liquid state. While a conventional reactor heading to meltdown has no way to jettison the fuel to stop the fission reactions, a thorium reactor design called LFTR features a plug at the bottom of the reactor that will melt if the temperature of the reacting fuel climbs too high. If that happens the hot liquid would all drain out and the reaction would stop.

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Thorium power has other attractions, too. Its production of nuclear waste would be orders of magnitude lower than conventional nuclear power, though experts disagree about exactly how much: Chinese researchers claim it’s three orders of magnitude (a thousandth the amount of waste or less), while U.S. researchers say a hundredth the amount of waste.

Thorium would be easier to obtain than uranium. While uranium mines are enclosed underground and thus very dangerous for the miners, thorium is taken from open pits, and is estimated to be roughly three times as abundant as uranium in the Earth’s crust.

But perhaps the most salient benefit of thorium power, in our geopolitically dicey world, is that the fuel is much harder to turn into a bomb. Thorium itself isn’t fissile. The thorium fuel cycle does produce fissile material, U-233, which theoretically could be used in a bomb. But thorium would not be a very practical route to making a weapon, especially with LFTR technology. Not only would the proliferator have to steal the fissile U-233 as hot liquid from inside the reactor; they’d also be exposed to an extremely dangerous isotope, U-232, unless they had a robot to carry out the task.

Future Fuel

China has announced that its researchers will produce a fully functional thorium reactor within the next 10 years. India, with one of the largest thorium reserves on the planet but not much uranium, is also charging ahead. Indian researchers are planning to have a prototype thorium reactor operational early next year, though the reactor’s output will be only about a quarter of the output of a typical new nuclear plant in the west. Norway is currently in the midst of a four-year test of using thorium fuel rods in existing nuclear reactors.

Other nations with active thorium research programs include the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Israel.

There are some drawbacks to thorium fuel cycles, but they are highly technical. For instance, thorium reactors have been criticized as potentially having more neutron leak compared with conventional reactors. More neutron leak means more shielding and other protection is needed for workers at the power plant. And as in most types of alternative energy, thorium power faces a lack of funding for research and of financial incentives for power companies to switch over.

In recent decades, stories about safe, green nuclear power in popular media have tended to focus on the quest for nuclear fusion. Certainly, we can expect, and should hope, for continued progress toward that type of power. But while that happens, the investments by China, India, and other countries suggest that thorium is en route to contribute to the grid in the near term – and to dramatically improve the world’s energy sustainability in the process.


Top image by Martin Lisner / Shutterstock

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  • Bearpants112

    I expect this is where China/India/etc leap past the western nations in power production. The western environmentalists would rather we continue burning coal and building windmills than talk about real solutions.

    • GRLCowan

      I don’t think western environmentalists are paid by the coal interests. The coal interests don’t have enough money.

      What we see in typical prescriptions from commercial environmentalists, for example Greenpeace’s “Energy [R]evolution”, is continuing rapid increase in the use of natural gas throughout the foreseeable future — the next 30 years, as I recall — and then, oh happy, and happily distant, day, it is phased out.

      Most places, natural gas costs a lot more, and so pays government a lot more, per joule than coal.

      • Van Snyder

        Sure, they’re not paid by the coal interests, but they’re so in love with nutty schemes that don’t work, and so opposed to the ones that do work (i.e., nuclear), that the only alternative left is coal — until fracking decreased the price of natural gas below coal. But, then, they hate fracking too.

    • DDupuis

      Why would you make a comment like this? I’m an enviro-lover and think this is a great idea. Producing clean energy that cannot be weaponized, has little by-product, doesn’t pump carbon into the air, and is in abundance globally is a fantastic idea. It’s exactly what we have been trying to implement using wind and sun. It’s been your side that pushes back on new technologies to produce energy, not the enviro-side. Maybe this is finally something we can agree on, so let’s not drive a wedge by misrepresenting what we are really trying to accomplish. We like wind and sun because no other energy production offers clean, abundant energy. If we can accomplish this using other technologies, I’m all in. No enviro-conscious individual would consider this bad news.

      • Dennis Ray Williams

        Molten salt is used instead of water in the reactor making it much safer, salt cools and solidifies instead of leaking into the sea as in Japan right now (and no way to stop it).

        Also the thorium is very abundant, much much more than 3X uranium, cheap and easy to acquire.

        Uranium is only about 1/2% efficient(TERRIBLE), thorium is much more efficient.

        Very low waste…ZERO CO2 emissions.

        This is not a new idea, goes back to the 50’s but the plug was pulled on R&D about 1973 by NoNots politicians. JFK was very interested in Molten Salt Thorium Reactors and pushed development but lesser brains cancelled it later after he was assassinated.

        • DDupuis

          Very cool Dennis . I didn’t know this. Why aren’t we hearing more about this technology? In all the discussions about clean energy, I’ve never once heard of using thorium-based reactors. I’m definitely going to learn more about this as it sounds like the most common sense approach available to us right now. Very exciting stuff.

          • Ike Bottema

            It is! But really the exciting part is the MSR. Yes Thorium is exciting too because there’s so much of it around. However thorium itself is not fissile and must be converted to Uranium-233.

            In any case, an MSR can burn all types of fissile matter! Naturally-occuring uranium can also be used as a fuel. So can any plutonium remaining from nuclear weapons. Also all that spent nuclear fuel that some wanted to bury at Yucca mountain can be burned in an MSR. All types of fuel used would be burned much more completely leaving radioactive waste that would a) be rendered harmless within centuries rather than the current millennia and b) far less in quantity.

            All this, while being much safer. Today’s reactors have to be engineered so as to meet stringent safety criteria whereas an MSR is inherently safe. By that, I mean that should an accident occur, the physics are such that fission will cease, no high-pressure release of radioactive materials is possible, and any additional heat would be dispersed passively (i.e. no pumped coolant required). In addition, the fuel is water insoluble thus could not be dispersed by ground-water for example.

          • Bongstar420

            I believe a dirty MSR must be Thorium based if you wish to actually make better than break even on power output. But ya, you can burn so many radionucleotides, it makes current nuclear debate about “waste” seem entirely asinine.

          • Ike Bottema

            I’m not sure what you mean. Dirty meaning more long-live products left behind? One does not follow from the other. Actually when the 233U fissions, 2.3 neutrons are produced on average, more than enough to maintain better than break-even on power output.

          • Bongstar420

            Dirty…Like actual dirt thown into the reactor. Uranium cycles require very high refinement of feed stocks and become poisoned quickly (impurities stop operation).

            Some Thorium is burnable as unrefined sand, though not most efficiently.

            Thorium burns (fissions) with much more crap floating around at a lower concentration..Probably due to its neuron yield like you mentioned.

            Dirty= un/low-refined feedstock

          • Ike Bottema

            Ah. Well Thorium does have to be converted to 233U before fusion occurs. Besides that, I expect it would be “cleansed” of other “dirty” minerals because those could for example absorb neutrons, thus impeding the fusion process.

            Uranium does require refinement in the typical LWR but not in a heavy-water CANDU. In an MSR, uranium would need a “starter” fuel load that’s enriched but not to the degree required in a LWR, and once fusion begins, natural uranium can be added to fuel further fusion.

          • Michael Mann

            Did you mean Fission not fusion?

          • Ike Bottema

            Yes of course I meant fission, sorry. Just my “wish it were here already” voice. Did I really say that out loud? :)

          • Byron Liveoak

            To be pedantic, you typed it to the internet. Unless you read it out-loud at some point, in which case, yes, yes, you did.

          • Ike Bottema

            OK then, you got me on my rather feeble attempt to cover my mistake with some humour. :)

          • AuldLochinvar

            Ike, I’m sorry I can’t give you a “haha” piky for that reply. It deserves one.

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            both Thorium, Uranium and Plutonium to be used in any reactors can’t be impure. Perhaps you’re talking about enrichment, which is about isotope selection instead of foreign atoms mixed in.

          • Van Snyder

            Nonsense. Thorium-232 is not fissionable. The reactor needs to breed uranium-233. It has to have sufficient fissionables, meaning U-233, U-235, or Pu-239. Neutron yield is less for thorium than for uranium, so breeding is about 1% rather than 5% for uranium, as was measured at EBR-II.

          • Glenn Heryford

            IKE you need to research a little more MSR referres to “molten salt reactor” the MOLTEN SALT is the coolant NOT the active ingredient like U233 or U235 If Japan had been using Thorium based nuclear power the plant would have just shut off, no explosion no gas leak. a MSR Must have a fuel besides Molten salt. Thorium can be converted by even waste U235 spent fuel rods but an MSR MUST HAVE A NUCLEAR FUEL.

          • Ike Bottema

            MSR refers to “molten salt reactor” the MOLTEN SALT is the coolant NOT the active ingredient like U233 or U235

            Actually there are different forms of MSR reactors.

            For example the Thorcon and IMSR reactors have the U dissolved with the salts and the let is circulated from the graphite moderated part of the reactor where criticality is achieved, thru a heat exchanger which transfers heat to a second salt loop which is not radioactive.

            The Moltex design however has the U dissolved in a salt solution within a fuel pin, pins assembled into bundles and a number of bundles form a module, a number of which are lowered into a salt coolant solution where criticality is achieved without moderators i.e. a fast reactor.

            All this to say that there are different ways to make an MSR. LFTR is yet another design that is intended to use a blanket salt with Th dissolved so as to breed U233 which is then introduced to the inner containment where fission criticality is achieved.

          • AuldLochinvar

            Strictly speaking, the entire molten fluid of actinide ions, fluoride ions, and alkali metal or beryllium ions is not just the coolant, it is both the fuel and the working fluid.

          • Van Snyder

            If Japan hadn’t left their diesel generators in the basement, which they were told to move eight years earlier, and if they hadn’t left their diesel fuel tanks on stilts on the beach, which they were told to move eight years earlier, they wouldn’t have had any problems with their fifty-year-old reactors.

          • Van Snyder

            The same degree of safety, based upon immutable laws of thermodynamics, physics, and materials — not clever engineering of complicated safety systems and software or heroic actions by operators — was demonstrated at EBR-II near Arco, Idaho in 1986.

          • Ike Bottema

            There is some amount of reticence towards the use of metallic sodium. The fear of leaks such that the sodium comes in contact with water is reasonable it seems to me. Leaks happen and in the case of sodium such a leak might not be pretty.

          • Van Snyder

            This fear is only rational if you believe (1) the engineers and scients at Argonne and INEEL are too stupid to have thought of it, or (2) they thought of it, but are too heartless to care. The reactor vessel at EBR-II had a double shell so the gap could be inspected for sodium leaks (none happened). All LMFBR designs have primary and secondary cooling loops, precisely to prevent the primary cooling loop from having an opportunity to come into contact with water. There was a small slow leak in the secondary loop at the Monju research reactor, which caused a slow air-fed sodium fire that didn’t actually do significant damage, except politically. Even if there were a leak from the secondary loop into the steam generator, or from the steam generator into the secondary loop, the secondary loop (and indeed the primary loop) could be shut down without consequence. This was demonstrated to an invited international audience at EBR-II in 1986.

            There seems to be no end to the invention of fabulous objections, none of which are physically credible. One should become knowledgeable before objecting to something about which one is ignorant.

          • Ike Bottema

            I’m getting that from experienced nuclear engineers. Their big concern is the difficulty of preventing leaks around components like pumps. Please don’t shot the messenger.

          • Pro-Thorium

            Alvin Wienburg run a Thorium Blanket Molten Salt Reactor at ORNL 1965-1969. U-233 Fuel in Molten Salt LFTR. Freeze plug allowed to melt on Fri. night & drained into Tank NOT with Thorium Blanket, criticality stopped & Elect. heaters turned on Monday mourning & pumped to Thorium lined tank & U-233 added for criticality for the week. Read Kirk Sorensons interview.

          • This Ain’t Kyle

            I’m quite certain there was no Thorium in the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment at ORNL – however that’s not necessarily a deal breaker for Thorium. The MSR experiment proved that the underlying base technology – the MSR – was a viable alternative to the Water-Cooled reactors. Sorry to correct but with a screen name called Pro-Thorium we want to make sure your information is impeccable. – From a fellow Pro-Thorium advocate

          • Pro-Thorium

            Thorium Blanket WAS used at ORNL LFTER !!! Please Educate yourself by Googling ORNL Molten Salt Reactor.!! Alvin Weinberg director of project.

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            Nope, there was no ORNL LFTR.

            Most of the MSRE ran on pure Uranium fuel, later in the test, Thorium was added to the fuel, but there was no blanket nor reprocessing (aka DMSR style usage of Thorium).

          • Pro-Thorium

            Thorium Blanket WAS used at ORNL LFTER !!! Please Educate yourself by Googling ORNL Molten Salt Reactor.!! Alvin Weinberg director of project.

          • Van Snyder

            UF6 is a gas that evolved from the fuel, getting into everything, making cleanup after the experiment was shut down more expensive than building and running the experiment. Others have disputed claims that corrosion problems were solved. Fluoride salts are terrible stuff.

          • Van Snyder

            It’s not quite “ready for us right now.” Molten-salt test reactors have been built and operated, but nothing approaching the scale of EBR-II (20 MWe), the prototype for IFR (see “Smarter use of nuclear power” in December 2005 Scientific American). If the patient is critical, and you’re doing triage and open the boxes, and find sutures, anesthetic, antibiotics, etc. in one box, and a tentative engineering drawing for something that might someday be better in the other, which box would you use first?

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            Except we can do simpler non breeder DMSRs that will achieve 4x LWR burnup and 6x energy per ton of mined Uranium without the regulatory challenges associated with Nuclear Fuel reprocessing, and without the risks associated with Sodium coolant.

            With infrequent reprocessing a DMSR would achieve 6x LWR burnup and 10x energy per ton of mined Uranium. And that’s without throwing Thorium into the mix (Uranium is actually easier).

            I’m actually for Uranium breeders, and I closely follow the Russian and Indian fast reactor efforts.

          • Van Snyder

            There’s “reprocessing” and there’s “reprocessing.” The present technology is an aqueous process that needs thousands of acres and miles of pipes to process about 100 tonnes per year. Why? Water is an excellent moderator, so if the concentration gets too high, you get criticality accidents. It also extracts only plutonium and uranium, leaving other actinides in the waste stream. The other actinides are what make waste a 300,000 year problem. Fission products, about 1 tonne per GWe-year, are a 300-year problem, easily solved with glass, concrete, and either deep places in the oceans, or depleted oil wells.

            The other technology, pioneered at Argonne West (now Idaho National Energy Laboratory) is a pyroelectric process. The primary device, the electrorefiner, is about the size of a dishwasher. Argonne has put forward a proposal for a pilot plant to process 100 tonnes per year. It would occupy 40 acres. This process provides a nearly-complete separation of fission products from actinides. If fission products were further separated, the requirement for special custody would be reduced to 200 kg/GWe-yr. An all-electric American energy economy would need about 1700 GW capacity, and would therefore produce about 340 tonnes of fission products needing special custody for more than 30 years. That’s one gram per American — about the weight of a dime.

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            Traditional reprocessing is an inefficient process for sure.

            When I talk about reprocessing, it usually means pyro reprocessing.

            But MSRs achieve much higher burnups per cycle than Sodium FBR due to the fuel being dissolved with the core coolant and fission gas sparging (online removal of Xe and Kr).

            MSRs intend to achieve uninterrupted operations for 4-8 year depending on designs cause there’s no need to shutdown to remove fuel for reprocessing in between. And if reprocessing is needed, the fuel is already fluorinated (pyro reprocessing uses fuel in Fluorinated form), and batches of fuel (with proportional doses of core fluid) can be removed and reprocessed without shutdown.

            In every respect MSRs are superior to Sodium FBRs, except for Sodium having more operational time. There are even fast and epithermal MSR designs tuned for higher plutonium and actinide burnup.

          • Van Snyder

            There has never been an MSR approaching the scale or degree of maturity of EBR-II. We need to do something quickly to eliminate CO2 emissions, and consume used LWR fuel and weapons-productions waste. If the patient is critical and you open two boxes and one contains bandages, antiseptics, antibiotics, sutures, hemostats, scalpels, … and the other contains some vague instructions, which box would you use first? Build MSRs if and when they’re proven on more than a laboratory-toy scale.

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            Then by all means get those reactors to market.

            Just like you said, certification is perhaps the biggest problems.

            That’s why I think DMSRs have a much better chance of getting to market because they avoid dozens of the complexities of both BWR/PWR and Sodium reactors. Reprocessing helps, but not mandatory. Passive safety. Fission products are stable (don’t boil). Cs and Sr oxides tend to boil if meltdown happens, Cs and Sr Fluorides have very high boiling temps.

            It’s not enough to prove the reactor is safe if containment helds, but rather proving the most extreme scenarios are still benign, and that’s where the sodium fire issue can’t be written off as can’t happen.

            The MSRE experiment ran for 6000 hours. Far less than EBR-II but it showed that the reactor won’t burn/explode with water/oxygen/hydrogen contact. Safety comes from basic principles such as chemical characterists of all materials involved. Negative temperature and negative void coefficients. No argon gas layer required for certification.

          • Van Snyder

            A small step toward certifying S-PRISM is the pilot-scale (100 tonnes/yr) pyroprocessing system that Argonne has proposed. Once it is proven that fission products can economically be separated from unused fuel, there will be incentive to build reactors that can use the fuel, rather than arguing it ought to be stored for 300,000 years.

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            The US govt isn’t interested in investing on revolutionary nuclear technology (they say they are, but their actions are 100% to the contrary).

            Argonne proposals don’t matter, since they won’t get funding.

          • Van Snyder

            Like the toxicity of oleander leaves, dangers of sodium fires are greatly exaggerated. Sodium does burn spontaneously in air, but only slowly, and nothing like the explosive reaction with water. During the last forty years, since Clinch River was canceled because of imaginary concerns about sodium, industry has learned to use liquid sodium in a great many processes, without significant safety problems.

            Safety of EBR-II also came from basic principles of thermodynamics, physics, and materials science, not from clever engineering of complex safety systems or computer control algorithms, dependence upon heroic actions by operators, or hefty containment structures. It was demonstrated to be passively safe, to an invited international audience, in 1986.

          • Van Snyder

            Pyroprocessing uses chlorine salts, not fluorine salts.

          • Van Snyder

            The pyroprocessor proper in the 100-tonne per year plant would be 2x2x4 yards. A bit bigger than a dishwasher, but still tiny compared to a PUREX or TRUEX plant (and far less costly to build and operate).

            If cesium and strontium were separated from other fission products, the stream needing special custody for 300 years would be 92 kg / GWe-yr, about 156 tonnes for a 1700 GWe all-electric American energy economy. At 4.5 tons per cubic yard, that’s four cement-mixer truck loads.

            47% of fission products are not radioactive. 43.6% would need custody for fewer than fifty years, which would mostly be at the plant.

          • Brian Donovan

            Because it’s sifi. the only prototype msr nearly exploded while being decommissioned. look it up.

            Nuclear power is short of uranium in just ten years, according to the IAEA and others.

            There’s half as much proven reserves of thorium. Thorium reactors also need uranium to start up even so often.

            Why? Solar, wind and renewable are cheaper, with infinite free distributed fuel.

        • Van Snyder

          The current designs of uranium reactors extract about 0.6% of the energy inherent in mined uranium, or about 5% of the energy in the enriched uranium put into them. The Integral Fast Reactor, described in “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste,” which appeared in December 2005 Scientific American, would extract over 99%, producing only fission products at the rate of about 5% the current production of “waste” per gigawatt-year. Only about 20% of fission products need special custody, and that for only 300 years, not 300,000. That makes it a simple 1%-as-large problem: mix it with concrete and dump it in the ocean. There are intact concrete dockworks at Caesarea in Isreal that were poured by the Romans 2000 years ago, so 300 years is not a problem.

          • Heimdall222

            “…poured by the Romans 2000 years ago….”

            That’s true. However, the Romans were excellent engineers. And they weren’t afflicted with the “Joisey Syndrome”.

            That is, the crime bosses require that any concrete contain

            at least 20% less cement than it should, so that they get their payday. Therefore, any concrete poured today will NOT last 2000 years. Try 20 years — if we’re lucky!

            How many buildings must collapse due to sub-standard concrete to prove that…?

          • Van Snyder

            Sounds like an argument against Yucca Mountain and WIPP. We’ve known how to manufacture, test, and inspect concrete for millennia. We could do better than New Joisey with fission products. After all, for a 1700 GWe-year per year energy economy, we’re talking about something like 340 tonnes of fission products — about one gram (the weight of a dime) per American per year. At 8.5 tonnes per cubic yard, that’s about 40 cubic yards. Even mixed 10-1 with high quality concrete, it would be fewer than 100 cement-mixer truck loads per year. I think we could get that right. Even if the fission products leach out of the concrete, an addition 340 tonnes per year in the oceans wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever. The oceans are estimated already to contain 4.5 billion tonnes of uranium. Far more than 340 tonnes of naturally radioactive uranium and radium wash into the oceans in river outflow every year.

          • Michael Mann

            Even if your assertion is correct, there is way too much oversight on a nuclear project, every inch of concrete and steel is inspected, tested and has a pedigree documenting its manufacture from the time it was mined to when it is installed. The steel is actually what supplies the structural support.

          • Jim Fox

            “The steel is actually what supplies the structural support”– not quite–

            Reinforcement steel [‘rebar’] provides the tensile

            & shear strength, and concrete most of the compressive strength in reinforced concrete design. The bond between the two is critically important and the rebar/concrete ‘balance’ determines the ultimate load-carrying capacity.

          • Michael Mann

            True, my bad; I’m used to discussing containment domes which are designed for tensile strength, specifically to contain the around 60 psi created if there is a double ended shear of the primary coolant loop, design bases event, without rupturing the stainless steel liner.

          • Jim Fox

            Hate it when my picky demon takes over!

          • Cranios

            Plus they require at least some dead bodies in the concrete, too.

          • schwortz

            Do not dispose it into the ocean keep it at your back yard if you like it so much

          • Van Snyder

            Sounds like a snark from an innumerate know-nothing who has been convinced by an irrationally hysterical movie starring irrationally hysterical nuclear opponents (Jack Lemmon, Mike Douglas, Jane Fonda) that he should be irrationally fearful as well.

            340 tonnes, encased in concrete that would not degrade significantly for more than 3000 years (100 half lives), would still safely contain the remaining 2.7 X 10^{-22} grams (1.4 atoms) of radioactive material. Even if it were instantaneously to dissolve after 3000 years, 1.4 atoms would not be noticeable or even measurable in 1.4 X 10^{18} tonnes (1.4 billion billion tonnes, or 4.68 X 10^{46} molecules) of ocean. If you could sort molecules in the ocean at the rate of one per Planck time (about 10^{34} per second), it would take 4.68 X 10^{12} seconds, or 148,000 years (4933 half lives), to find that atom, at which time there is a chance of one in 10^{-1485} that it still exists. Be afraid. Be very afraid. But please don’t vote.

          • Byron Liveoak

            The fear of nuclear radiation does seem to trigger some hysteria, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for a different reason: 1. Concrete as currently produced produces a LOT of CO2 and 2. the ocean is not, in-fact, a giant trash-can, and we need to stop thinking of it as one. Put it in our backyards, by all means, if it’s really that safe. It’s not like it’d be harmful if you’re right.

          • Van Snyder

            Encasing 340 tonnes of fission products in concrete would result in producing far far far less CO2 than pouring the foundation for ONE giant windmill. If the concrete degrades in 3,000 years (unlikely), there is a chance of one part in about 10^1000 that even one radioactive atom remains. Compare the 340 tonnes of finite-lifetime fission products that would be produced in one year by an all-nuclear all-electric American economy to the 100,000,000 tonnes of eternal toxic waste produced by the coal-fired power plants that produce only half of our electricity, and therefore only 1/6 of our total energy. You can be sure that more than 340 tonnes of that eternal waste is leaching into the oceans every year.

          • Cranios

            You are talking way over schwortz’s head. He only wants to hear Hollywood dummies spouting nonsense.

          • Stoli89

            THe IFR is certainly an improvement over GEN 1 and 2 designs…but it uses liquid Sodium (OK…lead could also be used but was discarded due to a host of good reasons). The US Navy tried using liquid Sodium coolant within the USS Seawolf’s primary…it was a proverbial nightmare. Aside from the fact that its explosive when in contact with oxygen…it can’t be left to cool in the pipes either. It’s got great heat capacity and transfer properties, low reactivity with other materials and doesn’t significantly slow down neutrons in a fast flux design…but its explosive reaction to Oxygen (in air or water) is a big negative…no?

          • Van Snyder

            We’ve learned a lot about handling liquid sodium during the last fifty years. It’s now used in many industrial processes. It was never a problem at EBR-II. It doesn’t react “explosively” with air. It burns rather slowly. Sodium has much lower density and viscosity than lead (and therefore less energy lost to pumping), and no neutron activation products (unlike lead or lead/bismuth eutectate).

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            Throw a 100 gram brick of Sodium into water and watch it explode…

            Look up Thunderf00t and Kirk Sorensen tests with Sodium fires on youtube. It doesn’t quite look like what you claim.

            Still, I prefer Sodium reactors over current water cooled ones, but I’m sure the US NRC would create a boatload of unreasonable issues because they have no experience with large Sodium reactors in operation in the US.

            We can’t ignore the NRC. They are somewhat insane.

          • Van Snyder

            There is no water within the EBR or IFR or S-PRISM reactor vessel. Throw a brick of sodium into a tank of liquid sodium with ten feet of argon above it and watch it not explode.

          • Brian Donovan

            Without science fiction reactors and fuel cycles the IAEA says “”As we look to the future, presently known resources

            fall short of demand.”

            Thorium has half the proven reserves as we have uranium.

            The only fast breeder have 24 leaks of liquid sodium, and 14 fire. It’s vastly more expensive that commercial nuclear which is already 4 times solar and wind, which have infinite free fuel.

            So why would we do it?

          • Van Snyder

            Thorium has four times the proven reserves of uranium, not half, but that’s irrelevant because we already have enough fissionable or fertile fuel above ground, mined, milled, refined, in the form of used LWR fuel and weapons production waste, to power our entire energy economy for over 300 years, or provide all the electricity we currently use per year for 1240 years, or to fuel fast reactors to replace our current LWR capacity for 6200 years.

            In more than 30 years’ service, the EBR-II at INEL never had any sodium leaks or fires. There was only ever one sodium fire at any reactor, at Monju, but that was in the steam generator room’s secondary cooling loop, not in the reactor’s primary cooling loop. Many industrial processes use liquid sodium routinely with no problems. We’ve learned how to handle it well since the hysteria surrounding Clinch River fifty years ago.

            Why should we do it? To use up the 95% of fuel that’s not used up by today’s reactors. That component, unused actinides, is what makes used fuel dangerously radiotoxic for 300,000 years. Burn the actinides in fast reactors, and nothing else is a significant problem. Solar panels and windmills can’t do that.

            The average coal-fired plant emits four tonnes of uranium and 15 tonnes of thorium into the environment every year. Somehow, that’s not a significant radiotoxicity problem?

            1 GWe-yr of nuclear electric production creates a tonne of fission products. 66% of fission products are stable or have half lives less than a year. 99Tc and 129I (6%) can be transmuted in reactors to very short-lived isotopes (15 seconds and 12 hours). 93Zr (5%) can be reused in fuel pin alloys or cladding, where its radioactivity is irrelevant. 126Sn, 79Se, 135Cs and 107Pd are produced in such small amounts, and have such low specific activity (cal/kg), that they’re irrelevant. The only significant (and dangerous) ones are 90Sr and 137Cs (about 1 kmol/GWe-yr), which have half lives of about 30 yr. After 10 half-lives, or 300 years, they’re less radiotoxic than uranium ore. After 100 half lives, or 3000 years (which we can handle with glassification or concrete), there are 2^{-100} X 1 kmol X avogadro’s number, or only 0.0005 radioactive atoms, per GWe-yr left.

            Concrete degrades because of neutron absorption. Fission products don’t emit neutrons. They ALL have only beta decay modes, i.e., electrons, which can be stopped by a sheet of paper. Their radiotoxicity comes primarily from gamma rays associated with beta decay, but these can be stopped by a few inches of dirt, glass, or concrete. The real problem for the first 30-60 years is heat. but this can be addressed by diluting them with concrete or glass.

          • atomikrabbit

            “Fission products don’t emit neutrons. They ALL have only beta decay modes, i.e., electrons”

            Your overall thesis is entirely correct, but I want to point out one important category of fission products that does release neutrons, albeit briefly, as part of their decay chain – the “delayed neutron precursors”.

            A few dozen of these isotopes are, for convenience, sorted into six groups depending upon their half lives. At power, they constitute 0.64% of the neutron population of thermal U235 fission, and 0.21% of Pu239. Although small in number, because of their much longer average neutron release time (12.5 sec for delayed vs 10E-4 sec for prompt neutrons) they are an extremely important contributor to inherent reactor stability. Their neutrons are also released at a slightly lower energy, averaging about 0.5 MeV.

            The longest lived of these delayed neutron precursors is Br87, which has a half-life of 56 seconds – so after 10 minutes (10 half-lives) it is essentially gone,. The remaining small amount of flux is through several mechanisms of intrinsic neutron generation, including spontaneous fission of the various U and Pu isotopes present.

          • Van Snyder

            Interesting. I hadn’t known that. Of course, with a 56 second half life, they’re irrelevant to the waste-disposal problem.

          • JimTheScot

            wow! And how did we ever get where we are with all that negative troublesome data? And the IAEA, (a committee of human scholars, businessmen, scientists, or politicos?) is an authority on what???

          • Brian Donovan

            Nuclear power and fuels. duh. Incredible, you don’t even know what the IAEA is, do you? But you promote nuclear. wow.

          • Be

            Van just repeat the false meme that solar needs anything but the very same reserve peak and load following generators that nuclear needs.

            Solar doesn’t need battery. Period.

            Nuclear is inflexible it can’t balance the grid, it can’t backup anything. Nuclear needs pumped hydro storage which was mostly built for it, and reserve generators. Stop pretending it doesn’t.

            Solar and wind will use the very same reserve generators for seasonal storage, and pumped hydro for short term storage.

            Gosh, that so hard to imagine, huh?

            Wind should be about the same as solar, so volcanoes wouldn’t wipe us out. Hydrocarbon from wastes, can also supply about 40% of our energy needs in emergencies. Long enough to dig up some fossils if we really need to.

            No technical problems to going 100% renewable, cheaper, 1000’s of times cleaner, 1000s of times less mining, and good for a billion years, no wars needed.

          • Van Snyder

            BN-600 is irrelevant to safety anywhere else. The Soviet Union, and now Russia, had and still has no safety culture and no licensing criteria. EBR-II had no sodium leaks whatsoever.

            We would do nuclear instead of solar and wind because we can’t afford the storage necessary to provide firm power. Look for “Grid-Scale Storage of Renewable Energy: The Impossible Dream” by Euan Means. Using data for the entire year 2016, with 30-minute resolution, for England and Scotland, he calculated that 390 watt-hours of storage would be needed for each watt of desired average capacity. Nevada or Australia would need less, but not 90% less. The Big South Australian Battery provides 0.129 MWh storage and cost about $50 million. Batteries only last about five years. A 1,700 GWe all-electric American energy economy would about 2.6 times total US 2016 GDP for batteries alone. And Means’s data didn’t encompass 1816, the “year without a summer,” because there weren’t any solar panels or windmills back them. If humanity comes to depend entirely upon wind and solar, with “only” 390 watt-hours storage per average watt capacity, and Tambor erupts again (which it or some other giant Indonesian or Philippine volcano surely will), will humanity survive?

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            Terrestrial Energy IMSR produces 6x the kWh of electricity per ton of mined Uranium.

            The “big” 300MWe reactor can run on 2% U235 enrichment, with a 7 year operating cycle. During the 7 year period no fuel comes out of the reactor, only little top offs. This means that around 4x Pu239 is produced vs PWR/BWR and a heck of a lot of that Pu gets fissioned.

            By doing pyro reprocessing every 7 years and recyling the fuel, mined uranium achieves 10x electricity production vs PWR/BWR. With reprocessing fuel only gets added, never removed from the reactor, so all Pu/Am/Cu/Np eventually fissions.

            MSR reactors can use Plutonium as its startup charge, so they could pair up an S-PRISM or a BN800 in maximum breeding mode to feed. CANDU reactors can run on natural Uranium for shorter burnup cycles, that produces a lot of Pu, which is rich enough to directly run IMSRs (remove the cladding, fluorinate, run through reprocessing).

          • Van Snyder

            IFR would run on unenriched uranium, and can transmute depleted uranium to plutonium. The design has been certified. GE says they and build PRISM reactors for $2/watt. Any system that doesn’t consume all the actinides is a non-starter because the unused ones need custody for 300,000 years.

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            The top off is unenriched uranium, but the startup has enough fissile to startup at least 5x GWe worth of many MSRs.

            Terrestrial Energy IMSR is estimated to cost $ 0.65/Watt !

          • Van Snyder

            I’ve been interested in molten salt reactors because the fission products are already in the salt. That makes the electrorefining step a bit more efficient. I’ve had extensive correspondence with the designers of IFR. They tell me that the corrosion problems were never solved at MSTR. Has Terrestrial Energy solved the corrosion problems? The design of EBR-II, and therefore of PRISM, was certified by the NRC. Has any MSR been certified by NRC?

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            The last living ORNL personnel that worked on the MSRE says the 5MWt test reactor worked beautifully.

            I don’t think there will be a corrosion problem with new MSR designs, but perhaps noble metal fission products plating at the heat exchangers (very slowly).

            For instance IMSR will begin with a 7 year operating life, swapping the core every 7 years.

            Core salt will mostly touch only graphite which will act as a moderator/piping/first layer of neutron shielding.

            On one hand you’re likely to say, what, a reactor core that last just 7 years, different yeah, at the same time, its a 7 year burnup, which exposes all fissile/fertile to something like 3x more neutrons. Even if the reactor operator/nation decides to go once through, minor actinide production is far lower since they get a whole lot more chances to fission.

            An MSR can indeed consume all the actinites in LWR fuel, its just slower than a fast reactor. The key here is they don’t have a problem with too much Am/Cu/Np/bad Pu isotopes that prevent safe operation, unlike PWR/BWR.

            I predict reprocessing for IMSR will be Pyro, aka, all fissile/fertile gets recycled indefinitely, the difference is on IFR, there’s no shortage of fissile (at least iso breeding), while on IMSR make up fuel will need to either contain around 3% fissile (which could be U233/U235/Pu239/Pu241/fissile Am/fissile Cu).

            No MSR has been certified by the NRC. That’s the problem… NRC prescriptive certification assumes the NRC will first learn about MSRs, make up their mind of what they’ll demand an MSR outta have, and invalidate just about every design out there ! The CNSC uses a performance model, which means designers have to prove compliance with all safety directives, but are free to achieve that in any valid way, just having to convince their design does it, without negative side effects.

          • Van Snyder

            It sounds like both designs ought to be built, when they’re ready. GE/Hitachi are ready to go with PRISM, as soon as they get a buyer. If NRC ever certifies MSR, Terrestrial Energy can compete with GE/Hitachi in the marketplace. A realistic prototype (say, 380 MWe) of one or the other or both ought to be built using funds from the Nuclear Waste Disposal Fund, which currently contains $25 billion, that utilities have been fruitlessly putting into it for decades. A realistic demonstration pyroelectric refiner (about 40 T/yr) ought to be built right away. Argonne has proposed this, but it’s being sat upon by somebody.

            So far, there hasn’t been anything approaching the 30 year 30 MWe experience of EBR-II with any MSR.

            Maybe MSR + pyro will eventually be determined to be a better system, but for now I don’t see any point to delay IFR because MSR might someday be certified, and might someday be better.

            For now, I don’t see the point of mining thorium for a MSR breeder blanket, because the 70,000 Tonnes of 5%-used fuel we already have is enough to provide all of America’s current energy needs for 300 years, or all of America’s current electricity for 1200 years. Using fresh actinides just delays getting rid of the stuff. This just fives fodder to the professional anti-nuclear fear mongers, who have nothing real to complain about but used fuel.

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            I sure hope S-PRISM comes to fruition. I however believe it won’t, cause GE is making way too much money with wind turbines and fossil plant gear. S-PRISM is a distant plan C if the world magically fall in love with nuclear again.

            People working on MSRs don’t have a plan B or C. Its MSR or MSR. So I believe in MSR.

            Oh, there’s even fast MSR designs… But I file those under “perhaps 30 years from now category”.

          • Van Snyder

            GE has (finally!) applied for an S-PRISM license.

          • Van Snyder

            With a 7-year core life and capital cost of $0.65/watt, assuming 100% capacity factor, the amortized capital cost is 1.05 cents/kwh. If GE can build S-PRISM for $2/watt, with 50-year lifetime, the amortized capital cost is 0.45 cents/kwh. Fuel costs for both are essentially zero (“too cheap to meter.”) The delivered cost will be largely determined by operating costs — labor, insurance, legal fees, taxes….

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            The world today is very different from the 60s/70s. The world today want short term returns.

            The highest problem with new nuclear projects today isn’t long term costs, but for how long billions have to be invested before the plant begins to produce power.

            IMSR has a 600C secondary loop outlet. IFR is hundreds of C cooler.

            IMSR produces good enough steam to do many industrial processes that no PWR/BWR/S-PRISM can’t.

            In the very first interview from the Terrestrial guys, before the company was up and running concretely, they mentioned their most prospective investors were Canadian Oil/Gas production interests. Natural gas in Canada is dirty cheap. But delivered to Japan or Europe its quite valuable.

            After the first IMSR (the demonstration one), the next ones likely wont have an electricity turbine at all. They will be built in Alberta betumen oil (tar sands) sites to produce CO2 free steam to reduce the cost and reduce the emissions of that exploration, while freeing natural gas to be exported to Japan.

            Next we could see a cluster of 3 or 4 IMSRs built near Toronto to mass produce steam for district heating, with the reactors built inside large factories that burn lots of NG for process heat (shared industrial/district heating application).

            That’s actually a smarter application of IMSR since Canada already has lots of big hydro electricity, is installing solar PV by the truck loads and already have a large CANDU fleet that can’t product process heat.

            AFAIK, S-PRISM has higher temperature outlet vs PWR/BWR but its still fairly cold, like 350C.

            And we should recognized the fact that nuclear is mostly a nationalistic thing. Few large countries freely import foreign reactors, due to a demand for technological dependence concern.

            If IMSR catches on at large scale (which I think S-PRISM won’t), Terrestrial likely will have a Canadian, a USA and an European factory (I’m considering China a no-go since China forbids foreign companies from owning their own factories in China, and Terrestrial likely wouldn’t want to give up their know how to Chinese to then build knock offs).

          • Van Snyder

            Process heat and district heat is a very good idea. I asked Eric Loewen, the PRISM lead at GE, about this just last week. I haven’t heard back from him, bit I didn’t expect to get a reply during the

            Christmas season. Another possible application is desalinization. Which requires more energy: direct distillation, or turning nuclear heat into electricity and then pumping seawater through reverse-osmosis membranes?

          • yournameplease.

            So by those high-standards, a “typical” light water reactor we know about today is considered a non-starter then – since not all the actinides are burnt up – ever. Correct?

          • Van Snyder

            We shouldn’t start new light-water reactors, but we shouldn’t shut down existing ones either. They’re far safer than anything else. We can eventually consume the higher actinides the light-water reactors produce in fast-neutron reactors.

        • Pro-Thorium

          Alvin Wienburg was the Director of ORNL at Oak Ridge labs during Molten Salt Reactor testing 1965-1969. Fliber energy digitized the Research from the Molten Salt Thorium Reactor (LFTR) .

        • nik

          Surely you haven’t swallowed the CO2 propaganda myth?

          • Byron Liveoak

            Ignoring the CO2 from coal, there’s also wonderful things like mercury getting into the atomosphere and then into people. Seriously, coal is nasty, nasty stuff. Even mining it can be pretty hazardous. Cutting down on burning sounds like a wonderful idea to me.

          • nik

            Its actually a terrible waste to burn coal, it can be converted into much more valuable things than heat, and heat can be produced by much better ways than burning coal.

            The CO2 output is irrelevant, because it is so infinitesimal, in fact some extra CO2 in the atmosphere would improve crop yields worldwide. A lot of large greenhouse ‘food factories’ have to pump CO2 into their greenhouses to facilitate crop growth.

            Mining has always been very hazardous, regardless of the product.

            Burning coal can be done cleanly, in the same way that vehicle exhausts have been cleaned up, all it needs is the legislation and the monitoring to make it happen,

            Thorium would seem to be the ideal solution.

            However, the real problem with Thorium, is that you cant make weapons grade plutonium from it. Hence Iran’s insistence on using uranium in its ‘peaceful’ nuclear program, when thorium would be a significantly better solution.

        • George Lerner

          Dennis Ray Williams: You are mixing up the benefits of molten salt coolant, with the benefits of thorium.

          Uranium-235 and Thorium (breeds to Uranium-233 in the reactor) and Plutonium-239 (bred in the reactor from U-238) in the same reactor will fission about the same amount, and will have similar fission products.

          In a solid fueled reactor e.g. LWR, fuel is used about 2%. In a molten fueled reactor, depending on how well the fission products are processed, the fuel is used over 99%. In LWR the fission products are trapped in the fuel pellets, blocking fission and damaging the pellets. In Molten Salt Reactors, the most fission-blocking elements are very easily removed and stored, fission continues.

        • William Linnell

          In business school, they teach you to do the cheapest thing first. So why risk more precious resources on this technology that is theoretically only slightly better, when cheaper alternatives are working all over the world , and are completely better? The strategy you propose only benefits the nuclear industry.

          • William Ashbless

            The article is about the thorium fuel cycle which is an alternative to the uranium-235 fuel cycle. It’s an entirely new dimension to nuclear power which is, as yet, unexplored. What makes you think there are cheaper alternatives? Or am I right in thinking you’re called for an end to R&D? because nearly every prototype device is, initially, more expensive than that it will eventually replace!

          • William Linnell

            Cheaper alternatives are up and running all over the world.

            I’m not willing to let one more nickel of my taxes go to nuclear plants, and here’s one reason why:

            I’ve got a 97 GMC truck that has more equity in it than 82 US nuclear plants combined, which have about $ 43 Billion in unfunded decommissioning costs.

          • Mike Carey

            William – re “unfunded decommissioning costs”:

            Actually, US nuclear operators fund the eventual decommissioning process during the life of the plant. Like the untapped Price Anderson Act funds for potential accidents, the industry as a whole is responsible for the safety and decommissioning of their plants.

            Some anti-nuclear activists like to have it both ways – they’ve fought to close perfectly safe plants, and cushion the economic hit to their region from lost jobs by benefiting from the local expenditure of those funds during decommissioning. The closure of the Connecticut Yankee plant is a good example.


          • William Linnell

            The unfunded decommissioning costs of $43 Billion comes from NRC filings, as reported in the BloombergBusiness article by Isaac Arnsdorf, May 3, 2015. Pretty straightforward to me.

            The existence of the Price-Anderson act is proof of the free market’s objective assessment of the safety of nuclear plants. The insurance industry has always been the expert evaluators of risk in this country, and the world. They won’t issue a policy to insure any nuclear plant for any price. Never have, never will.

            Don’t talk to me about losing jobs at nuclear plants. Nuclear workers are known as “sponges” in the industry, due to the radiation they absorb. If they lose their jobs, it’s a good thing. And a lot of jobs are lost when a nuclear plant has a meltdown.

          • Mike Carey

            Come on, William, don’t be silly.

            Decommissioning costs are no more “unfunded” than your mortgage is until its paid off – the funding stream from your income was evaluated when the loan was approved, and decommissioning costs are funded the same way during the operational life of the nuclear plants. Germany is going to have a really big bill to pay since they decided to close their nukes prematurely.

            You might want to find out how many other large projects use loan guarantees, like hydro dams, for instance. Even TMI didn’t cost the taxpayer a dime; the shut down was all funded by the industry, under provisions of the Price Anderson Act. Commercial insurance is not needed for large hydro or nuclear projects.

            That’s a nice scary description of nuclear workers as “sponges”, William. And of course its completely untrue, since they all have dosimeters on the job and their health is monitored more thoroughly than any other profession. Just think of the thousands of US Navy sailors on nuclear ships who live every day in closer proximity to the reactor than any commercial nuclear plant worker. NONE of them have shown any higher risks from their service. Put up a reliable reference to this canard, or it will be seen as just another attempt to spread FUD among the uninformed.

            Take care.

          • William Linnell

            Bunk. The decommissioning numbers come from Bloomberg Business article dated 5.3.15 by Isaac Arnsdorf. Look it up. It’s a fact, Jack.

            The sponge thing is true, I got that from nuclear plant workers. They go from plant to plant, until they soak up so much radiation that they have to take time off. Nuclear plants only keep medical records for five years, so if the sponge gets cancer after that, well, they don’t keep records.

            The Navy is a different story. They have a different mission. The Thresher notwithstanding, they have a much better record than commercial nukes. But they aren’t trying to compete with lower cost competitors.

          • Mike Carey

            So, William, did you read the whole article? It’s not that long, in which it says, I quote:

            “The plants are on track to meet their required funding levels, said Michael Dusaniwskyj, an NRC economist. It’s fine to have less money now

            because the funds will grow through investments, he said. Both Jennifer Young, a FirstEnergy spokeswoman, and Jerry Nappi, an Entergy spokesman, said there’s enough time for their decommissioning funds to increase to meet costs.”

            Sounds just like my analogy to mortgages, doesn’t it?

            And, hey, did you hear the one about the guy who was abducted by aliens? I’m sure you did. I heard it from a guy, who heard it from a guy taking a leak at a ball game.

            So, just so you have another story to tell – I’ve known a friend who worked for GE Nuclear until he retired after 20 years. He’s still in their health system, and there’s no problems with his health records. (He’s not he guy who was abducted, by the way.)


          • William Linnell

            How does that work if, heaven forbid, the plants shut down early? Or worse, the utilities invest in nuclear? I’m guessing they won’t.

          • Van Snyder

            In “Nuclear power learning and deployment rates: disruption and global benefits forgone,” Peter Lang from the Australian National University Crawford School of Public Policy’s Center for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis displays the “Moore’s Law” curve for nuclear power. Costs decreased exponentially, as one expects from Moore’s Law, from $8/watt (in 2010 dollars) at the outset to just under $1/watt when the world’s installed capacity reached about 32 GWe, in the mid 1970’s. Then it increased exponentially, back to $8/watt. What happened? Irrational hysteria created intentionally by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, … so their members (and Al Bore) would get speaking fees for going around the world to shout at us.

          • George Lerner

            Well of course the cheaper alternative is Coal, the fastest-growing energy worldwide.

            Solar and wind are inherently intermittent; when you add the costs of energy storage systems for weeks of bad weather, or the costs of adding wave, tide, off-shore wind, then solar + wind = 10x the cost of Molten Salt Reactors. That’s not even counting the costs of upgrading our long-distance power grid.

            MSR has No risk of “loss of coolant accident”, no risk of pressure explosion or chemical explosions (and no nuclear reactor ever has any chance of nuclear explosion), no steam containment or high pressure pipes (no water at all), ship fully assembled to where electricity, desalinated water or vehicle fuel is needed.

            The right types of nuclear power reactor are far Less expensive than the total cost of solar + wind, and even cheaper than the total costs of coal (notice how coal constantly ignores the medical and environmental costs?)

          • William Linnell

            George, As I’m sure you know, nuclear has been more than intermittent. Although they often provide big amounts of baseload power, nukes tend to shut down for six weeks or more every 18 months or so for refueling. And I forget the exact number, but something like 20 US reactors have had problems such that they have shut down for periods of a year or more. Never heard of the wind not blowing that long or the sun not shining for a year or more. So lets forget the “what are you going to do when it’s raining?” strategy.

          • Van Snyder

            The average nuclear power plant has a capacity factor of 90%. — same as the average coal- or gas-fired plant. The average hydro plant has a capacity factor of 33%. The average wind farm has a capacity factor of 21%. The average solar PV installation has a capacity factor of 15%. Outliers such as San Onofre, which had problems in a steam generator, not its reactors, do not make for good examples of an entire industry.

          • William Linnell

            Yeah, that’s why China has more solar capacity now than nuclear, and 5 times more wind power than nuclear.

          • Byron Liveoak

            Different forms of power work better in different places. China is pretty big, and I don’t know it’s geography enough to know what’s best there. I’m guessing that ratio has more to do with the meltdown issue than anything else though. This doesn’t go into meltdown. That makes it quite a bit more viable.

          • Van Snyder

            Intermittent sources need 390 watt-hours of storage per watt of installed capacity to provide firm power, at least in England and Scotland, for a year like 2016. See “Grid-Scale Storage of Renewable Energy: The Impossible Dream.” Nevada or Australia would need less, but not 90% less. The Big South Australian Battery provides 0.129 GWh storage and cost $50 million. An all-electric 1,700 GWe American energy economy would need to spend 2.8 times total 2016 US GDP for batteries alone, every year. If humanity comes to depend entirely upon wind and solar, and installs “only” 390 watt-hours storage per watt of average capacity, and Tambor erupts again, which it or another giant Indonesian or Philippine volcano surely will, and we have another “year without a summer,” as 1816 was, how many will survive?

          • Van Snyder

            We can’t afford storage for solar and wind, at all, if we want firm power. In “Grid-Scale Storage of Renewable Energy: The Impossible Dream” Euan Means used data for all of 2016, with 30-minute resolution, for all grid-connected solar and wind, in England and Scotland, to compute that 390 watt-hours of storage are needed for every watt of average capacity, to provide firm power at the installed capacity’s average rate. The Big South Australian Battery provides 0.129 GWh storage. It cost $50 million. Batteries last only five years or so. An all-electric 1,700 GWe American Energy economy would spend 2.8 times total 2016 US GDP for batteries alone. Means’s data was only for 2016. It didn’t include 1816, the “year without a summer,” caused by the eruption of Tambor. If humanity becomes entirely dependent upon wind and solar, and then Tambor or some other giant Indonesian or Philippine volcano erupts, which will surely happen, and humanity has “only” 390 watt-hours storage per average watt of capacity, how many of us will survive?

          • Van Snyder

            When you compare the true direct cost of nuclear with the true direct cost of wind or solar, leaving out subsidies or indirect costs due to interminable delays or frequent regulatory revisions, nuclear, especially IFR or S-PRISM, wins. Diablo Canyon, an aging LWR, provides the lowest-cost electricity in California. In ten of twelve countries surveyed, nuclear was the lowest-cost electricity producer (US and South Korea were the exceptions).

          • Byron Liveoak

            …Please give an example of ‘completely better’, because I’d love to hear it. Can’t be coal, since this produces far less CO2, and thus is not ‘completely’ better. Also, business education in the US is not something I’m confident in, given how short-sighted companies tend to be these days. Unless you weren’t educated in the US, in which case, nevermind.

          • Cranios

            I sure hope you are not thinking that wind or solar are “cheaper”

          • William Linnell

            That’s exactly what I’m thinking. Nuclear is the most expensive form of new power generation there is. Solar and wind are cheaper and safer. But it doesn’t matter what I think- the market is choosing renewables –hands down–today.

          • Cranios

            “The market is choosing renewables, hands down”


            Some people will believe anything they’re told!

          • William Linnell

            Coal is relatively cheap, like nuclear seemed to be, IF you don’t factor in the costs of the evironmental nightmares associated with each.

            But let’s not get caught up in the nuke industry’s favorite scenario, where nukes are only compared with coal. We have many other, renewable options. It is NOT either coal or nuclear power. We have many other choices.

          • Cranios

            For base load power, we have coal, natural gas, hydroelectric (which is limited to mountainous areas mostly), and nuclear. That’s it.

            There is zero chance of a “nightmare” happening with a fourth generation nuke plant. Zero.

          • Van Snyder

            The DOE web site that lists energy subsidies, which you obviously have not read, contradicts your unsupportable opinion. In eight of ten countries that have nuclear electricity, it’s the lowest cost, not the highest cost. US and Korea are the exceptions. The lowest cost electricity in California comes from the Diablo Canyon reactor. Until it was shut down, the second lowest cost supplier was San Onofre. Then Barbara Boxer was surprised and angry when Southern California Edison Company asked the Public Utilities Commission for an 18% rate increase — because its largest nuclear reactor (2.3 GWe) — its lowest-cost source of electricity — was no longer in operation.

        • Adrian Easton

          can you link an article about using molten salt instead of water?

        • Ej Baarsa

          wow thanks i was searching for a future nuclear plan for my science fair..YESS got it

        • Marcelo Pacheco

          Uranium isn’t low efficiency. Its not really efficiency, its highly wasteful. You’re not releasing the energy and then loosing it. Solid fuel reactors require enrichment which right off the bat wastes 225 tons out of each 250 tons. That results in 35 tons in LEU fuel. PWR/BWR can fission just 1 ton of U235/U238 in that fuel in the first pass. A second pass is only possible with enrichment. With a second and third pass another ton worth of fission can take place.

          Still that’s less than 1% usage of fuel with 3 passes.

          An MSR reactor doesn’t guarantee high nuclear material usage. Without integrated reprocessing you might double energy release in the first pass and with reprocessing and a 2nd+3rd pass you can double it. We’re still at just 2% usage. Then an MSR achieves higher temperature which can be used to increase thermal efficiency from 25% to 50%, twice. You’re still releasing just 1 or 2% of mass that gets fissioned, but it produces electricity much better. Thats with Uranium.

          What does the leap forward is a Thorium breeder reactor. Usually called LFTR (a Thorium MSR breeder). A Thorium MSR without breeding/reprocessing won’t be able to achieve ultra high fuel utilization nirvana.

          There are solid fuel reactors designs that can do the same. They use reduced moderation to increase U233 production (ABWR). Its expected that each recycling process would still have the same U233 content, just removing fission products and adding more Th232. The advantage of MSR breeders is reprocessing can be online, without shutdowns.

          But that online reprocessing is seen by the US NRC and US DOE as a proliferation hazard. I wouldn’t bet a LFTR will be built at least in the US until the NRC/DOE proliferation paranoia ends. In fact the US is quite hostile to any type of reprocessing. They do allow it, but nobody does it. I imagine how expensive doing it will be after all NRC/DOE paranoia is satisfied.

          That’s my warning about hoping for LFTR. Until the NRC is reformed, I see zero hope of that happening in the USA. Reprocessing should be recommended and promoted. UK/France/China/Japan do it.

        • AuldLochinvar

          LWR uranium is only about 0.5% efficient. Fast reactor uranium is just as good as MSR thorium and uranium. The neat fact about thorium is the granddaughter product of neutron absorption, which actually IS uranium, U-233. Its chief virtue is that at thermal neutron energies, it uses them efficiently in that the probability it will simply capture one and keep it, instead of transmuting to U-234, is better than the other two popular fissile isotopes, U-235 and especially Pu-239

        • Van Snyder

          The way uranium is used in light-water reactors is 0.6% efficient. We’ve known in principle for sixty years how to use it with 99+% efficiency (Enrico Fermi described it) — and reduce waste volumes by a factor of 200, and custody duration by a factor of 1000. An operating example, IFR, based upon EBR-II, showed how to do it in practice, until the Clinton administration shut it down in 1994. LFTR research should continue, but LMFBR is ready now, and indeed in service in Russia, soon to be in service in China, and under development in India (precisely to use thorium). A South Korean company claims it will have a 500 MWe LMFBR ready for sale on the international market in two years. GE has (finally!) applied for a license for S-PRISM. Don’t push that aside because LFTR might be wonderful after another half century of research.

      • Van Snyder

        Be careful that you don’t couple your environmentalist credentials with support for nuclear power. After all, the cofounder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, was kicked out for supporting nuclear power.

        • DDupuis

          I don’t belong to any organization so I’m ok. I’m for finding clean abundant affordable energy. If that comes from a wire attched to 2 potatoes, I’m balls deep!

          • Van Snyder

            So you are eager to repeat fictions….

          • DDupuis

            I know I’m talking like an idiot, but I needed you to understand.

          • Van Snyder

            How do I benefit by understanding an idiot, or at least understanding what somebody who’s talking like one says?

          • DDupuis

            read it again, you’ll get it.

      • Heimdall222

        “I’m an enviro-lover….”

        What is your preferred tree to hug?

        Also, do you participate in feeding the spotted owls? If not, shame on you!

        • Eric Lipps

          Was sarcastic name-calling really necessary? It’s clear from context that Dupuis simply favors environmental preservation, which isn’t automatically the same as being a zealot about it.

      • David Warmflash

        Well said!..I’m an environmentalist too; that’s why I wrote this. I think a lot of greenish people will look take thorium seriously once they know about it

        • Sparafucile

          Now all you have to do is convince the Sierra Club types, who oppose nuclear power for a wholly-Luddite reason — because it would enable “energy over-use and excessive economic growth”.

          If you doubt me, read their Charter.

          Of course, environmentalists oppose nuclear power, en masse, because they also tend to be innumerate.

          • Andrew Kiener

            Those environmentalists who oppose nuclear power tend to do so due to the potential severity of the unlikely accident, rather than any lack of understanding of the odds.

          • Sparafucile

            They not only lack understanding of the odds, they lack understanding of the history (especially concerning deaths, compared to oil, gas, coal, and even wind).

          • DDupuis

            Andrew I think it’s more like the Pitbull controversy – We understand that poodles account for way more dog bites then any other species. BUT when a Pitbull does bite, the outcomes are less than favourable. That is how we see nuke power. It’s not the frequency that scares us…

          • Sparafucile

            The number of deaths from radiation from well-regulated commercial nuclear power, thus far, is *ZERO*.

            Even if you include something that falls well outside that spectrum — Chernobyl –, you’re still talking *orders of magnitude* fewer deaths per GW generated than for wind power. And a few orders of magnitude more before you get to oil & gas & coal. Nuclear is even safer than hydro.

            To suggest otherwise is rank innumeracy.

            [Who’s “Andrew”?]

          • DDupuis

            Yes but I’d much rather a wind turbine or solar panel fall on my neighbours house during an earthquake then a nuke cooling tower.

            All along I’ve said that nuke power makes a ton of sense for a lot of reasons. A facility that prohibits weaponizing, and can be turned off on demand, and uses more abundant materials, is even more attractive. But to suggest nuke power is without risk certainly is rank innumeracy.

            Andrew is who I thought I was replying to. Sorry bout that….

          • Sparafucile

            Well, nobody builds steam towers next to dwellings. Even so, none has ever “collapsed”. (You know nothing radioactive comes anywhere near those towers, don’t you?) And even half-way decent regulatory oversight can prevent “weaponizing”.

            To consider the risk disproportionately high (especially for modern designs, which are incapable of “going critical”) is innumerate, on par with the innumerate assessment of costs, the innumerate embracing of the benefits of “renewables”, and the innumerate estimates of “full-cycle CO2”, fuel supplies, waste, and death toll.

          • DDupuis

            Holy literal Batman….

          • Egadsno

            Keep in mind that photovoltaic cells are made by doping silicon with rare earth heavy metals, in nature you find those along side other heavy metals like lead and mercury. The vast majority of photovoltaic comes from china, where the lead and mercury is shot out of smokestacks- it ends up poisoning billions of people and contaminates global food markets. You might be surprised how much fish in US groceries come from waters near china. Wind requires 10,000 times the steel and concrete, those come with environmental and efficiency issues as well.

          • George Lerner

            Let’s clarify a bit: “nuke cooling tower” = Light Water Reactor.

            “Prohibits weaponizing” = LWR, MSR, most other; you need specialty reactors to make weapons-grade material. The only way nuclear power makes weaponizing easier is by giving a superficially more plausible excuse for getting equipment e.g. centrifuges used by both.

            No “nuke power” or any other power is without risk, and LWR has a better track record (even if we include Fukushima) in the USA than any other power source, by amount of energy generated; Molten Salt Reactors eliminate all the water-based risks of LWR, and better contain radioactive fission products (strongly chemically bound to the salt) than LWR.

          • Van Snyder

            Nuclear power, notwithstanding Chernobyl and Fukushima, is still the safest way to make electricity, by far. The UN Chernobyl Forum says Chernobyl caused 57 deaths. UNSCEAR says 63. WHO says there’s no evidence of ongoing increased risk of cancer in Eastern Europe as a result of Chernobyl. Neither Three Mile Island nor Fukushima killed anybody. Three Mile Island didn’t injure anybody, and so far there’s only one injury attributable to Fukushima — a plant worker whose foot was burned by contaminated water. There are 140 deaths per GWe-yr of coal-electric production in the United States alone, and far more in China. Look for more numbers at the Paul Scherer Institut in Switzerland. Either IFR or MSR would be even safer than LWR’s perfect domestic safety record.

          • William Linnell

            Sure, and I suppose the Holocaust never existed, and we never really went to the Moon?

          • Van Snyder

            Do you have any data or published reports to contradict the conclusions of the UN Chernobyl Forum, the UN Special Commission on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the World Health Organization, or the Paul Scherrer Institut, or is your apparent opposition to nuclear power an emotional knee-jerk reaction? (Scherrer is the European Commission’s “go to” organization for all issues related to safety.)

          • Van Snyder

            With the Integral Fast Reactor, no centrifuges would ever be needed again.

          • William Linnell

            Probably no schools, neighborhoods, etc would be needed again near the plants, either.

          • Van Snyder

            If the remark implies a concern about radiation, perhaps no schools, neighborhoods, etc should be in the Denver area, and certainly not near Breckenridge or Vail. Or anywhere near a coal-fired plant. Or within about 1/3 mile of a windmill (an accident in Britain threw a windmill blade that far).

            If it implies a concern about safety, consider that nobody has ever been injured by an accident at an American nuclear power plant, and that the design of the Integral Fast Reactor was proven to an international audience in 1986 not allow the kinds of incidents that occurred at other facilities.

            Suggesting that the incident at Chernobyl implies all nuclear reactors are unsafe is equivalent to insisting that the Hindenberg fire proves all modern airliners are unsafe.

          • William Linnell

            I don’t believe for a minute that no one was ever hurt at a US nuclear plant. Do you really believe that??

          • William Stucke

            Well, yes, someone was. A construction worker fell off a ladder back in the 1970’s.

            That’s “One of the facts the nuclear industry doesn’t want you to know”, don’t you know?

          • Byron Liveoak

            I wouldn’t say it’s QUITE equalvalent. The Hindenberg was a blimp, not a plane. Then again, modern designs for reactors are VERY different, so maybe it works fine. I dunno, that plane-blimp part just feels…off…sorry.

          • Van Snyder

            Even old designs for reactors everywhere but in the Soviet Union were different from the eleven RBMK reactors the Russians stupidly deployed. There has never been a death attributable to the “nuclear” part of nuclear power in any OECD country. According to the 35,000 or so accident logs at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Basel, Switzerland (the EC’s “go to” contractor for all things related to safety), there’s only been one industrial accident in a US nuclear power plant — a worker fell off a ladder in the 1970’s.

          • atomikrabbit

            Just to be accurate: a couple of plant workers were killed by secondary side steam at Surry in the 1980s due to an improper equipment tagout, and a contract worker was killed at ANO a few years ago when a temporary crane lifting the main generator stator collapsed.

            However unfortunate, these are generic industrial accidents that can happen wherever steam or cranes are in use. Overall, nuclear has a far better safety record than other industries.

          • Sparafucile

            Same with the decades-old CANDU design…

          • Van Snyder

            Speaking of rank innumeracy… studies by the Paul Scherrer Institut (the European Commission’s “go go” organization for all issues related to safety) conclude that nuclear power is by a very wide margin the safest-ever way to make electricity. In the entire history of its use, 57 people have died because of it (according to the UN Chernobyl Commission), or 63 if you accept the UN Special Commission’s estimate of six delayed deaths from thyroid cancer after the Chernobyl fire.

          • DDupuis

            How many different ways do you want me to agree with you Van Snippy? Given a choice, I’d rather produce electricity with wind or solar mirrors, but since that’s not practical, nukes are the best bet. But I’d much rather live near wind towers than reactors…why this is so difficult to comprehend mystifies me. If you feel living within a par 5 of reactor, knock yourself out.

          • Van Snyder

            A nuke cooling tower is exactly the same size as one at a gas- or coal-fired plant of the same capacity.

            You made up the part about innumeracy, right? There have been only 64 deaths caused by nuclear power in the entire history of its use, worldwide, all caused by the Chernobyl fire. Look for the reports by the UN Chernobyl Forum, the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, and the WHO report on Chernobyl after-effects.

            Scientific American and Discover Magazine independently estimated that 30,000 Americans die earlier deaths than they would otherwise, every year, as a consequence of burning coal. Safety figures from the Paul Scherrer Institut (the EC “go to” contractor for all issues related to safety) concerning US electric power production 2003-2012:

            Nuclear: 7,900,000 GWh without a loss of life

            Hydro: 463,200 GWh/life lost

            Gas: 51,800 GWh/life lost

            Wind: 21,600 GWh/life lost

            Solar: 2,500 GWh/life lost

            Coal: 140 GWh/life lost

            From a different study, also from Scherrer:

            Deaths per TWh by energy source:

            Nuclear: 0.04

            Hydro: 1.4

            Gas: 4.0

            Biofuel: 12.0

            Peat: 12.0

            Oil: 34.0

            Coal: 161.0

          • d-dectiri

            OTC, after Chernobyl, as well as after Fukushima, and to a lesser extent after TMI, there were severe spikes in death rates for infants and hospital cases (mostly elderly) in the regions surrounding the event… that’s TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DEATHS PER DISASTER… innocent infants… (not counting the early deaths of those directly exposed on site at chernobyl, and now at Fukushima… those working on cleanup have tested when they sought help as having DNA damage in spite of the precautions instituted on their operations… cancel the zero, directly due to disasters…….

          • Sparafucile

            This propaganda you’ve cited, has been roundly and thoroughly debunked as junk science. Unless you have a NEW, CREDIBLE, and PEER-REVIEWED study you can cite……

          • d-dectiri

            ‘Debunking’ by nuke propagandists does not hold water… we saw the evidence of the DNA damage in fukushima workers…

          • Sparafucile

            Oh, unlike Helen Caldicott’s “sciency” proclamations? WHERE’S YOUR CREDIBLE SOURCE??

          • d-dectiri

            Like I said, I saw the DNA damage in the clinics of Dr Yanagisawa and the research papers of the Japan Defense Force group (aka military to you and done before fukushima daichi disaster).. go take your punching-dummy Caldicott, whoever she is, and dump your trash on her pages……

          • Sparafucile

            No ACTUAL source, eh? Thought so. Take your conspiracy theories and junk science over to the anti-vaccine camp.

          • d-dectiri

            Apparently you have a reading problem, since I clearly designated the Japanese sources… both medical and military… with your refusal to trace a lead that challenges your propaganda-broadcasting, you won’t ever find the medical and military solution that emerged…. go back under your rock, troll……..

          • Sparafucile

            No, you didn’t . You did some handwaving, claiming there were some sources, and then named a (WHOLE) country.

            Here’s how this works: when you make an outrageous claim, either you run away knowing you can’t back it up, or you provide a link.

          • d-dectiri

            Definitely you have a reading problem… the Japan Defense Forces laboratory is not a ‘whole’ country, nor is Dr Yanagisawa…. try that terribly hard google…..

          • Sparafucile

            So, then, you still don’t have an actual citation to offer……..

          • Sparafucile

            I see that you’ve done just what I predicted — you’ve run away because the data you claimed existed actually does not.

          • Sparafucile

            Dr Yanagisawa, the quack equivalent of Dr Oz? The guy who is trying to make millions scaring people about radiation that doesn’t exist, so he can sell them megadoses of Vitamin C? That Dr Yanagisawa?

          • d-dectiri

            Oh my, it took you 2 months to come up with that koolaid-attack?

            Yanagisawa has excellent credentials and with the internet we all saw the evidence in workers’ health status testing.

            Curious you don’t favor the idea of smearing the Japan Defense Forces laboratory report.

            Clearly you are a personal-attack coward, judging by your favoring instead the Oz controversy that upsets pharmaceutical interests majorly.

            Rather the same as when Dr Sanjay Gupta reversed his public support and now advocates for medical marijuana because he found out the cigarette-quality research that put marijuana on the schedule-1-level dangerous drug list as having no medical use while simultaneously the Health and Human Services owns 2 (two) patents on medical use of marijuana… rotfl.. your precious science is being exposed for the corrupt industrial and tyrannical fraud that it has become with the universities on the corrupt enterprise payroll… ttyna

          • Sparafucile

            “the Japan Defense Forces laboratory report” was too vague a description to find. I already told you — when you cite obscure or ambiguous sources, provide a link.

            Otherwise, your defense of universal medical quackery is hilarious. You’re anti-vaccine and anti-GMO, too, no doubt…

          • Byron Liveoak

            I’m anti-Monsanto and stupidly designed GMO, thank you very much. ‘Oh hey, let’s give plants resistance to really, REALLY nasty chemicals so that farmers can spray plants with enormous amounts of them. This totally won’t backfire when the weeds the chemicals are supposed to kill gain this resistance via either cross-pollination or bacteria!’

          • Sparafucile

            Your statement is rather humorous, as it, altogether, states that you’re afraid of GMO botany/biology, followed by a clear demonstration that you don’t understand the first thing about the subject. Sadly, without an explanation (the labor to produce an expansive one, I’m not inclined to offer), you probably don’t even know how you demonstrated your ignorance.

          • William Linnell

            Dr. Helen Caldicott, MD, a former professor at Harvard University, is a credible source. So is (was) Dr. Jon Gofman, who helped build the atomic bomb, and had many conclusions about the dangerous effects of nuclear power. He was about as credible as anyone in the world.

          • Sparafucile

            Gofman – the voice in the wilderness? Why weren’t his conclusions shared by other expert colleagues? (Your trying to prop up Caldicott is laughable.)

          • William Linnell

            You’re dismissing a man of Jon Gofman’s stature as “a voice in the wilderness”? LIke Dr. Caldicott, Gofman was a medical doctor who challenged the uninformed pro-nuclear establishment on health and safety issues. Gofman was a scientist with few peers, up until the moment when he stood up to what was becoming the pro-nuclear government.

            His views on the problems with nuclear power were generally shared by colleagues such as Dr. Daniel Ford, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and later, Amory Lovins, PhD, et al.

          • Sparafucile

            Thanks for the UCS reference — showing how quickly your argument devolves into citing a propaganda organization pursuing de-industrialization policy objectives, instead of any fair-minded and thorough scientific body or researchers.

          • William Linnell

            You insult or attempt to marginalize as propagandists or fools everybody that disagrees with you, no matter their prominence. And the industry that is the focus of your life’s work is suffering a decades – long collapse. It must be frustrating.

          • Sparafucile

            Everything UCS claims is propaganda. Absolutely everything. Any “scientist” who belongs to the organization doesn’t have noteworthy scientific credentials, or is too stupid to see the organization for what it (rather admittedly) is, or is already aligned with their stated agenda platforms.

            They should be “marginalized as propagandists”, since that’s precisely what they are.

          • Van Snyder

            Caldicott’s and Gofman’s observations about reactors designed 60 years ago are, of course, as irrelevant to modern reactor designs as are assessments of the safety of modern airliners that are based upon extrapolations from the Hindenburg crash.

          • William Linnell

            Disinformation. Isotopes are still isotopes. Radiation still affects the human body the same as it did then.

          • Van Snyder

            Most elements have several nonradioactive isotopes. Are they dangerous too? And every radioactive isotope has different radiotoxicity depending upon whether it emits alpha, beta, or gamma radiation, and the energy of the emissions. Some radioactive isotopes, such as Sm-147, have such low energy emission, and such long half lives (seven times the age of the universe), that their radioactivity is irrelevant.

          • Byron Liveoak

            Um…Maybe not that second one. Being involved in something that uses nuclear radiation to kill people can cause some observer bias, and understandibly so. Seriously, were I involved in that project, I’d be feeling some pretty major guilt and might not be the most unbiased observer.

          • William Linnell

            The entire commercial nuclear industry is “involved in something that uses nuclear radiation to kill something”, though it is an unintended consequence.

            Gofman, a Jew, I believe, was part of our nation’s effort to stop Hitler, so I don’t think he lost too much sleep over his contribution to the war effort.

            After the war, the industry thought enough of Gofman’s education, expertise and judgment to hire him to study the health effects of radiation. It was only when he discovered the dangerous health effects of radiation–and had the integrity to say so– that the Atomic Energy Commission tried to silence him.

            Furthermore, Gofman had an international reputation for his research work as a medical doctor, completely aside from his work on the bomb.

          • Van Snyder

            “Evidence of DNA damage in Fukushima workers” is nonsense propaganda. Read the careful reports by the United Nations Special Committee for the Effects of Atomic Radiation. They explicitly say the opposite of this.

          • Van Snyder

            Anecdotes don’t compare well to detailed careful studies. Read the reports of the UN Special Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Their conclusions don’t match yours.

          • d-dectiri

            The UN study is ‘global’ and ignores the reality of how radioactive fallout moves after a disaster… check this reality: “radiation plumes, like pollution plumes and ash plumes, do not disperse uniformly with distance, contrary to the equations used by all atmospheric computer modelers. To the contrary, actual observations of radiation dispersal after Chernobyl, or volcanic dispersal after any notable eruption, including the recent Icelandic eruptions, always show that the particles disperse in unpredictable and quite concentrated plumes which touch down occasionally and with high concentration at great distances from the source.”

            from a more extensive look at the original concept done by CounterPunch… global is a whitewash……… ttyl

          • Van Snyder

            So you didn’t read it, but you’re eager to criticize it.

          • d-dectiri

            If you do your background work better, you’ll see in their FAQs that their big ‘understanding’ of the behaviour of radiation and fallout is precisely the ‘theory of sound’ model which is thoroughly discredited…. ttyl

          • Van Snyder

            I read most of the UNSCEAR reports on Chernobyl and Fukushima. The term “theory of sound” does not appear. The DATA in both reports contradict the assertion of “severe spikes in death rates.” Both reports also say repeatedly “several models,” and are careful to point out that models were used only in cases where no data were available.

            Anyway, this discussion is as relevant to inherently safe reactors as would be a discussion of the Hindenburg crash to the safety of the 747.

          • d-dectiri

            Actually the more I think about that annoying FAQ statement, the more I think it was ‘light’ which I find it hard to believe is decently honest to the public. So I just wanted to clarify that they had made the public and media think that the radiation hazard dissipated with distance reliable like ‘light’ which as those who measure plumes will tell you is thoroughly unreliable.

            Once I find that a source is flimflamming the public and media, I think the public have the right to conclude that the methodology is being misrepresented for a reason that will harm people who trusted those sources.. Don’t you mistrust the sources whom you catch misinforming the less informed public?

            Hence I’d back the thorium molten salt because it doesn’t have the INHERENT disaster potential to any degree, long before I think people should ever trust the UNSCEAR misinforming sources as well as those who profit from the industry they represent……. ttyl

          • Byron Liveoak

            Which is why Thorium reactors are a good idea, since they shouldn’t meltdown. Not unless someone designs them to, which I’m gonna say very few people will do, if any. Even then, the effects would be far more limited. This is a reaction, not a chain-reaction. There’s a big difference.

          • atomikrabbit

            Please don’t conflate the fuel, thorium (actually, U233), with the reactor design, in this case I believe you mean Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs).

            MSRs can operate on uranium (like the Terrestrial Energy design), or any other fissile/fertile combination. You can also have solid fuel thorium designs (as at Thor Energy in Norway), which theoretically could melt under severe accident conditions, although ThO2 has a higher melting point than UO2,

          • William Linnell

            I respectfully think that you are the innumerate one. You must be just reading the industry literature.

            In college, I learned to read competing theories, to try to determine the best – supported conclusions.

            I have consistently found the best arguments on nuclear energy from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and Public Citizen.

            I am an environmentalist, and my education and conclusions are no less valid than yours.

            As George C. Scott, in the movie “Patton”, shouting rhetorically (and victoriously) across the desert at a retreating Rommel, “I read your goddamn book!”

          • Sparafucile

            Well, then, you’re a fool, as the UCS is nothing other than a propagandist/activist group that took on a “sciency” name to promote itself and give itself an air of (otherwise bogus) credibility.

          • William Linnell

            You must be pretty smart. What degrees do you hold and where are they from?

          • Sparafucile

            Your smug sarcasm wouldn’t let you accepts the facts, even if you were presented them on paper in front of your nose, I suspect. Am I wrong?

          • William Linnell

            To use a sports analogy, in basketball, I don’t mind a little trash talking from someone who can hit an NBA three.

            You have been talking trash, calling people “innumerate ” and a “fool” and otherwise insulting them as others have pointed out.

            So I’m just looking for some credibility. What school did you go to and what degrees do you have?

          • Sparafucile

            I’ve completed an undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees, from major East Coast and West Coast universities, each top-ten for the fields I studied. Those degrees are in solid-state physics, quantum physics, and business economics. I’ve more than 25 years in R&D, and have presented research (not development) publications at industry fora. Et tu?

          • William Linnell

            OK, I see where you get your swag.

            I graduated from Colby College with a degree in American Studies. Began studying nuclear waste issues in 1985, when the DOE, in their well-educated, expert opinion, attempted to site what is becoming the Yucca Mountain high level waste dump at Sebago Lake, the drinking supply for greater Portland, Maine.

            Then I was downwind in Russia the day Chernobyl melted down. Became the spokesperson for the Maine Nuclear Referendum Committee, which

            morphed into Cheaper Safer Power. I was criticized by the industry for not having any nuclear credentials, but then predicted, several times, the cracking of more and more steam generator tubes at the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Plant. Each time, the plant vehemently disagreed with my predictions, and each time, I was proved to be right.

            As spokesperson for CSP, I led the successful fight to shut down the Maine Yankee nuclear plant twelve years early, in 1996.

          • Mike Carey

            How many more people died prematurely from the toxic pollutants of the fossil fuels that replace the Maine Yankee plant?

            James Hansen has published some specific peer reviewed analysis of these effects.

            Do you sleep peacefully knowing what the consequences were?


          • Van Snyder

            Since you began your nuclear studies about twenty years after Leonard Koch, Charles Till, George Stanford, Bill Hannum, Gerry Marsh, Joon Jiang… designed the inherently-safe Integral Fast Reactor, and only one year before it was demonstrated by Pete Planchon not to melt down when either coolant circulation or heat sink was lost, it seems there are some gaps in your education.

          • William Linnell

            I love it when the nuclear industry calls itself “inherently safe”

          • Van Snyder

            Perhaps you should understand the distinction between the Hindenburg and the 747.

          • William Linnell

            Ok, you claim to know a lot, tell us about your education and qualifications – why should anyone listen to you?

          • Van Snyder

            I’m not a lobster fisherman.

          • William Linnell

            You need to do better than that. That’s obvious -If you were a fisherman, you’d have some skin in the game, and wouldn’t be so quick to risk polluting the Gulf of Maine with radiation.

          • Van Snyder

            OK. I’m a rocket scientist with 52 years of experience in my discipline. 1600 SAT. 953 GRE. Adjunct Associate Professor. On the editorial board of a professional journal. Member of three international committees, two chartered by ISO and one by UNESCO. Devoted my entire career to quantitative investigation, not emotional hand-waving.

          • William Linnell

            Thank you.

          • Sparafucile

            So, basically, you got a degree in nothing of value, and immersed yourself in a set of fact-deficient activist propaganda, in a process you laughably call “studying”.

            Your only legitimate credential, it seems, is being an enemy of the public good.

          • William Linnell

            Ha ha, good one!

          • Byron Liveoak

            …The first chairman of the UCS was a Nobel Laureate. In particle phsyics. I think he knew what the hell he was talking about.

          • Sparafucile


            Nothing you (correctly) assert has any bearing on their nature, their goals, or their current staff.

          • Van Snyder

            Try reading the reports from the United Nations Special Committee for the Effects of Atomic Radiation. They have real data from real studies, not irrationally hysterical conjecture.

          • Van Snyder

            It’s not the frequency, it’s the imagined consequence. Nobody was injured or killed by Three Mile Island or Fukushima, except during the hysterical and poorly-organized evacuation. UNSCEAR says Chernobyl killed 64, of whom 34 were plant workers and 14 were firemen. Not bad for a 60-year industry. Even with that, nobody proposes to build a 3 GWth reactor out of graphite, without even a containment shed, so Chernobyl and Windscale are straw men. Modern designs of reactors have already been proven to be inherently safe. Read about IFR and MSR.

          • William Linnell

            Just like, odds are, there will always be another airplane crash, there will always be another nuclear meltdown. The problem with nukes is magnified, because in addition to the human tragedy, an area the size of Pennsylvania or many European countries can be made uninhabitable for eternity.

          • Ike Bottema

            OK so how many die in a plane crash? How many plane crashes have there been? Now how many melt-downs have there been? How many died?

            BTW eternity is an awfully long time. Especially when one considers that people are living in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, that there was no need to evacuate so many at Fukishima.

            News flash! We live on a radioactive planet. People live in naturally-high radioactive areas with no ill effects – some might say those people are even healthier for living in those places!

          • William Linnell

            High radiation is in the background, but it’s not necessarily “natural”. I’ll take my chances with natural, but not add to it.

            I don’t believe the official government / nuke industry claims of no deaths from these meltdowns, and neither does the world- wide insurance industry.

          • Ike Bottema

            No one disputes that there were deaths at Chernobyl but you also raised the very real possibility of plane crashes. So how many have died as a result? Perhaps more than have died from nuclear accidents? Is anyone suggesting we ground planes because of those deaths? Please have some perspective.

            As for “natural” radiation how is it any different from “man-made” radiation?

            Indeed the LNT policy, based on an unproven theory yet supported because it *may* prevent harm has many ramifications that, when viewed in the light of more-recent research, has actually led to great harm.

          • William Linnell

            Here’s my perspective: I know that there will be more plane crashes, but I still fly, in fact I have soloed. The difference is twofold: First, a nuclear meltdown is forever: a meltdown can contaminate an area the size of Pennsylvania for eternity. I live on the coast of Maine. There is only one coast of Maine, and that’s too big a gamble for me.

            Secondly, aviation is much safer than nuclear plants. Indeed, of about 100 nuclear plants in the U.S., two percent (TMI and Fermi) have melted down. Of about 400 nukes in the world, one percent (TMI, Fermi, Chernobyl and Fukushima) have melted down. Would you fly if one or two out of every one hundred planes crashed?

            Not me.

          • greenthinker2012

            If those plane crashes resulted in no deaths or injuries yes I would keep flying.

          • William Linnell

            Ok, lets do the math. The meltdown rate of US nuclear plants is about 2 % (two out of about 100 reactors). Two percent of about 7,200 commercial aircraft would be 144. So if 144 out of 7,200 US airliners crashed, sooner or later, you wouldn’t hesitate to fly on them? And you think 144 planes would crash without any deaths or injuries?

          • greenthinker2012

            Yes, correct. If by “crash” you mean “consequence free event resulting in no injuries”

            That is what a meltdown is.

            So using that definition there have been at least 144 airline “crashes” in the history of US aviation.

            In fact if we examine the death rate for both industries, nuclear power is safer than flying.

            But I know you lack perspective.

            I know in your mind the idea of a “meltdown” is some super scary thing that is not understandable and that poses unlimited risk, but that is simply not true.

          • William Linnell

            No. I don’t have numbers for how many airplanes there have been in the history of US aviation. I just took the approx. number of planes flying in a recent year. Two percent of all planes in the history of American Aviation would be much a much higher number.

            My opinion of the risk of a meltdown is not what’s really important, it’s the well-considered, sixty-year history of the free-market, (a) nowhere in the world is private risk capital interested in investing in what you’re selling, and (b) the world-wide insurance industry’s assessment is unambiguous: insurance for a nuclear accident is unavailable at any price.

          • greenthinker2012

            Well….there we go then….if private insurance won’t insure nuclear power we should just stop moving forward. Who cares that the planet is dying, private capital and the insurance industry have spoken.

          • William Linnell

            Oh, please. I’m all for moving forward, as renewable, sustainable energy is the way forward, as the insurance industry, Wall Street, and investors all over the world recognize. Nuclear power is the way backward: The same old promises, the same waste piles, the same old hyperbole: the nuclear industry has historically and consistently underestimated construction costs (by 209% to almost 400%), yet they keep promising a new generation of cheaper plants. I’m not buying it.

          • Van Snyder

            “The same waste piles” would result from “the same old reactors.” A different design, proven to be inherently save in 1986, would reduce the “waste piles” by a factor of 100, and reduce the duration of special custody by a factor of 1000. Existing “waste piles” are 95% unused fuel.

            Engineers estimate the correct direct construction costs. Then anti-nuclear activists step in and successfully accomplish their explicitly-stated goal: to drive up indirect costs such as interest and laswuits. 50-75% of the total cost of a nuclear power plant is indirect costs intentionally imposed by anti-nuclear activists.

          • greenthinker2012

            Show me where an only renewables strategy has worked.

            The numbers show it is not possible to rely solely on renewables to displace fossil fuels.

          • Ike Bottema

            Interesting way of looking at it. The difference of course is that the number of people that have provably died in a plane crashes far exceeds the number of deaths in the nuclear accidents that have occurred. Yes I consider aviation to be safe as well …. even with all the deaths that have occurred.

            You keep using the word “eternity”, which of course isn’t accurate. Except for a few hotspots, Chernobyl is inhabitable as is Fukushima. I fear that you are afraid of a nuclear boogyman that simply does not exist. Yes there are risks with nuclear as with any other energy source however when comparing deaths per kW guess which energy source is the safest.

          • William Linnell

            Jesus was around 2000 years ago. The radiation is deadly for 500,000 years. That’s close enough to eternity for me.

            You want to live near Chernobyl or eat fish caught near Fukushima, knock yourself out. Not me.

          • Van Snyder

            The radiation from transuranic actinides is more dangerously radiotoxic than mined uranium ore for 300,000 years. But… transuranic actinides are fuel, and can be turned into electricity, thereby destroying them. Read “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” in December 2005 Scientific American (or online).

            There are only two fission products that need special custody for 300 years: Cesium 137 and strontium 90. Zirconium 93 is long-lived but the activity is so low that it is not a problem. On the other hand, zirconium is used in fuel pins, so recycling it into them would be a harmless use for it. Technetium 99 and iodine 127 can be transmuted by neutron absorption in the reactor to very short-lived isotopes (15.46 seconds and 12.36 hours). The residual requiring special custody amounts to 200 kg per GWe-year. An all-nuclear-electric American energy economy would consume about 1,700 GWe-yr/yr, thereby producing 340 tonnes of fission products. At an average density of 8 tonnes per cubic yard, that would occupy 43 cubic yards, or fewer than five cement-mixer trucks. If converted to glass and encased in concrete it could be safely disposed at sea.

          • Van Snyder

            Transuranic actinides are more dangerously radiotoxic than mined uranium ore for 300,000 years, but they’re fuel that could be turned into electricity in a properly-designed reactor, thereby destroying them. Read “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” in December 2005 Scientific American (or online).

            Producing 1 GWe-yr of electricity in a nuclear reactor requires turning one tonne of heavy metal into fission products. Only 20% of fission products (137 Cs and 90 Sr) require special custody for 300 years. Converted to glass and encased in concrete it could be safely disposed at sea. Far more than 340 tonnes of uranium and radium wash into the sea from rivers every year.

            The remaining fission products are either stable or is less radiotoxic than mined uranium after ten years.

          • Van Snyder

            Unlike the pile of waste from a coal-fired power plant, a nuclear meltdown is **NOT** eternal. And hysteria about the risk of it is irrelevant to a discussion of reactor designs for which it has already been proven to be impossible.

          • Van Snyder

            How about the United Nations Special Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation? How about the UN Chernobyl Forum? How about the World Health Organization? How about the Paul Scherrer Institute (the EC “go to” contractor for all things safety-related)?

          • Sparafucile

            That’s about as moronic as saying “I’ll take my chances drinking stream water, but I won’t drink any that’s produced by the combustion of hydrogen and oxygen.”

          • Van Snyder

            There might or might not be another meltdown in the current generation of pressurized light-water reactors, but why build any more of them? Different designs, in particular IFR and MSR have already been proven not to melt down.

            Lead and arsenic from coal-fired power plants are eternal. Fission products and even transuranic actinides have finite duration of dangerous radiotoxicity. The report of the United Nations Special Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation shows that the area around Fukushima is essentially already habitable, if the residents were willing to accept about half the yearly dose that people living at high altitude already get.

          • Van Snyder

            What severity of what potential unlikely accident, especially involving reactor designs that have already been proven to be walk-away safe (i.e., what potential severity of what impossible accident)?

            Nobody has been killed by the “nuclear” in a civilian nuclear-electric power plant within the OECD. The UN Chernobyl Forum attributed 56 deaths to that fire (UNSCEAR said 63). That averages to only one death per year, worldwide — and nobody will ever build as nutty a design as RBMK again.

            There were 88 deaths in Britain alone attributed to wind power plants in 2014. Check the reports at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Basel, Switzerland — the EC’s “go to” contractor for all things related to safety.

          • Chrmngblly

            Did you really have to throw in your pet whipping-boy, socialism, and thereby taint all of your more sane remarks? It is clearer that totalitarian governments are the more likely culprits in your case-in-point, large scale civilian deaths, anyway. Western nations, with all their different mixed economies, find certain functions of society are best handled through socialistic means, typically health care, retirement and military service. If we could eliminate yours’ and others’ irrationality and hysteria we could make the logical choice you advocate and choose Thorium-based Nuclear power to replace old LWRs.

          • Chrmngblly

            Could you not talk if you are going to just bash everyone but yourself? However bright you may be, you are not smart enough to see how unhelpful name-calling can be in these kind of conversations. Feel free to call me anything you want, but it pisses other people we would like on the team off.

          • Sparafucile

            Innumeracy is not a trait that can be fixed, if that’s what you’re suggesting. No amount of education is likely to bring the innumerate to the side of promoting nuclear power.

            As for the Sierra Club (whose membership, despite your suggestion, I did not insult) — I’d suspect most members don’t understand or know what the true aims of the Club are. If they did (which they’d learn by reading the charter), they’d have a clearer understanding of why the Club makes many of the recommendations and policy choices it does.

          • Chrmngblly

            You heard me. Lack of respect and a derisive attitude have never persuaded a single soul of anything in the history of the world. You know this. Never, ever create visceral enemies when you can avoid it. You could ease up a bit.

          • Sparafucile

            The innumerate environmentalist *IS* an enemy. Their idiocy needs to be starkly and harshly exposed for what it is. Discussions with them are not the places for nuance and gentle persuasion. Your lawyerly scolding is noted, and rejected. Nobody is ever persuaded by statements gently decrying “misrepresentations” and “inaccuracies” coming from lying propagandists. The persuasion is for those who are open to hearing and evaluating all sides of an issue, with lies and the lying liars who tell them being called-out with strong language, hard statistics, and rock-solid science. The innumerate are already lost.

          • Chrmngblly

            Well, ok then. You don’t know what you are talking about. You should get out a little more and read more widely. If you did you would see that all you are doing is making the uneducated dig their heels in. Emotional believers, as the anti-science crowd surely is, will just set all your unfriendly, humorless assaults aside in the belief that they have the right to think whatever bullshit they want to. Tell me a growing crowd isn’t doing that very illogical thing in this country every day.

            Why you need to construct a straw man argument to demolish against me I will never know. I never advised any of the things you rail against. Please, friend, you can be right every day of the week and still not be wise. That is all I say.

          • Sparafucile

            Well, given that the ONLY insults I made were directed at the innumerate, it makes no sense that you now are claiming that my “Innumerate Environmentalist” is now a Straw Man.

            So, either you were complaining about insults I never levied, or you are now trying to wriggle out of being justifiably rebuked. Which is it?

          • Chrmngblly

            “…the places for nuance and gentle persuasion. …. Nobody is ever persuaded by statements gently decrying “misrepresentations” and “inaccuracies”

            These are your words, not mine. In any case, I don’t want to play this game with you. Learn something or don’t. Start subtracting your ego and try to serve the causes you believe in.

            I am done.

          • Sparafucile

            Your complaint started before that statement of mine. Your point is either missing, mis-stated, or false. Bye.

          • Van Snyder

            Patrick Moore, cofounder of Greenpeace, wrote that nuclear power is “the energy source that can save the planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change…. Nuclear energy is the only large-scale cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions [of CO2] while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power….”

            For his honesty, Greenpeace has kicked him out.

        • George Lerner

          The “environmentalists who oppose nuclear power” have been taught by the coal/oil companies that LWR is the Only type of nuclear power. Of course, LWR is just the type of nuclear power that coal/oil pushed through Congress, against the recommendations by physicists, engineers, the Atomic Energy Commission. Weinberg, the patent holder on the Pressurized Water Reactor (LWR is one) ran Oak Ridge National Laboratories and was in charge of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, fired by Congress for pointing out LWR could have loss of coolant accidents and too much long-term waste (Congress lobbied by coal/oil).

      • Michael Mann

        Please name a mainstream environmental group who supports the development of this technology other than “The Breakthrough Institute”. Many of us pro-nuclear people consider ourselves “environmentalists”, it’s one of the major reasons I became pro-nuclear.

        • DDupuis

          Again, I don’t belong to any enviro groups. And in every post, Ive said a safe, non-weaponizable (not a real word I know), ability to turn off, less toxic waste, nuclear power facility is a good thing…can you please tell me how to agree with you properly so I quit getting nonsensical rebuttals? We do not have many options left. The planet is cooking. Nuke power is our best “current” solution worth the risk as coal and natural gas are not safe choices any longer. I am very anti-coal, anti-oil, anti-methane, anti-carbon in the atmosphere…what is it about my comments that make you people reply to me? Do you lose all your arguments at work? Is your wife abusive and you can’t talk back? I don’t get it….

          Now if I missed the context of your reply, disregard every comment above.

          • Michael Mann

            Sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear, I am agreeing with your view, most pro-nuclear people consider themselves “environmentalists” but are shunned from “enviro-groups” The point is, those groups call themselves “environmental groups” when in reality they do not represent the environment or most true thinking environmentalists. Nuclear power is just as “green” as wind and solar power, yet those enviro-groups try to lump it in with fossil fuel use for purely superficial reasons.

          • DDupuis

            I thought it might be a context issue…:). I get so many bonehead replies its sometimes hard to recognize those being sincere..:). My apologies…

      • Jared Nelson

        Well said…I’ve never understood why people continue to lump anyone who they disagree with into a “catch phrase category”. Then proceed to speak for how stupid that group is. Walk a mile…people.

        • William Stucke

          Easy. Goebbels’ First Law of Propaganda.

          Label the enemy. Dehumanise him. Make him “Other”. Then you can safely ignore his opinions.

      • Cranios

        You may be the exception, but many enviros are excited about solar and wind, which are both space-consuming and can never provide base load power. Thus they are not “real solutions.”

      • Marcelo Pacheco

        Sure, the US NRC cares much more about public perception than real safety.

        Current NRC requirements are filled with insane, overboard requirements, mixed of a lot of sensible ones.

        And most countries in the world closely copy USA regulations, so the USA nuclear safety insanity gets copied worldwide.

        In essence, Three Mile Island did teach the nuclear industry a lot of essential safety lessons, almost every safety initiative adopted between TMI and Chernobyl was sensible and reasonable. Chernobyl couldn’t happen with any developed world reactor with post TMI safety standards, Chernobyl taught the developed world almost no essential safety lessons, but still, the NRC had to address public perception, and came up with a new layer of mostly non essential safety requirements (a few were good ideas, but just very few). After Fukushima the insanity got even worse.

        In a nutshell, that’s the nuclear problem.

        Nuclear IS safe, it’s just soo damn expensive to follow US NRC requirements.

        China is building new reactors at 1/3 of the cost and in half the time as the USA. If the issue were labour costs, then why they can do it in half the time ? I don’t trust Chinese safety anyhow, but the Indians and South Koreans are also building new reactors at similar costs and schedules.

        Finally DMSR reactors are way simpler than current nuclear reactors, so it should be possible to build DMSRs (denatured MSRs) on schedules similar to baseload natural gas plants.

      • Glenn Heryford

        @ DDupuis, though I am nOT an environmentalist I am for CLEAN energy at least as clean as we can get. On this we agree. With Thorium we find way shorted hafl life for the waste, we have cheap energy, we have NO POLLUTION(other than the wast material which is not as hot as u235. Wind is unsightly and deadly to birds, coal is dirtyas is U235 nuclear power which is BOTH. Thorium is the answer.

      • AuldLochinvar

        “We like wind and sun because no other energy production offers clean, abundant energy” — well, no, it’s a delusion. The Industrial Revolution occurred because the solar energy resources were NOT abundant enough, and we cut down whole forests in Britain because the weather isn’t warm enough at night or in winter. London used to have famous “pea soup” fogs because of domestic coal fires.

      • Van Snyder

        Wind and solar are fiddling at the edges. If you want firm power, you need 390 watt-hours storage per average watt of installed power — based upon 2016 data for all of England and Scotland, with 30-minute resolution. Look for Euan Means’s article “Grid-Scale Storage of Renewable Energy: The Impossible Dream.” Nevada and Australia might need less, but not 90% less. The Big South Australian Battery provides 0.129 GWe-hr storage, and cost $50 million. Batteries only last for five years or so. For a 1,700 GWe American economy, we’d be spending 2.8 times the total 2016 US GDP for batteries alone.

    • Eric Lipps

      Ah, I see. So when it comes to getting away from CO2 emissions, it’s nuclear or nothing?

      Apparently you’re one of those who think (or hopes?) non-nuclear alternative energy will never, ever be worthwhile. Fortunately, the facts say otherwise.

      Just to clear the air, I’m not anti-nuclear, but I happen to think nuclear will always be a limited part of our energy infrastructure. For one thing, it isn’t actually carbon-free, if one counts the fuels used in mining and transporting uranium (or thorium); for another, it has always needed heavy subsidization to remain economically viable. The Price-Anderson Act, for example, limits liability even in the worst nuclear accidents imaginable to two billion dollars, a figure set in 1958 and never raised since. As Fukushima demonstrates, a worst-case nuclear accident could end up doing a lot more than two billion dollars’ worth of damage. Imagine having to permanently evacuate New York City such an event had occurred at the–now closing–Indian Point facility. Or are you also one of those who think the USA would be better off without NYC (where I happen to live)?

      • greenthinker2012

        Imagine a discussion about nuclear power that was factual.

        Your fantasies about how much your imagined nuclear disaster would cost are nothing more than fear-mongering speculation.

        • Chrmngblly

          There are enough general facts around for the casual observer to see that this is slightly different technology with different waste bi-products and better safety margins theoretically. For my money, we need to build a few burner reactors just to start disposing of nuclear waste that has long been piling up around our ears from all sources: existing reactors, medical waste and aging decommissioned nuclear weapons. It is time that we joined with other like-minded nations (and possibly talked Iran into joining us as well) in moving to this safer technology altogether. Let’s be responsible and chose a better source for base-load power generation.

          • greenthinker2012


            There is a general misconception that the nuclear power we have had to date is the only option available. We are less than a century into the discovery of nuclear power and for the most part have not innovated much past the first designs.

            There are so many options available we just need to figure out what our priorities are. The Thorium-based Molten Salt Reactors are a vast improvement over Light Water Reactors in many ways.

            Molten salt reactors as a class are able to burn the nuclear waste we now have. We could run the world for centuries on just this waste.

            The one thing that struck me as significant was the reduction in waste volume. A city of a million people would produce about a tonne of waste per year. That is approx a basketball sized lump.

            These lumps would need to be stored for 500 years so the total storage needed for forever would be 500 basketballs. When the facility was full the oldest waste could be removed to make room for the new.

          • Chrmngblly

            I also think we are missing the boat by not styling LFTRs as replacement reactors for old water reactors that need to be decommissioned. If the application could occupy the existing footprint and also use the stored, spent fuel rods from the water reactor as fuel, it would seem like an easy sell to the public. I wonder if it could be done?

          • greenthinker2012

            I hope it can be done.

            It is amazing how many options are available.

            I love the LFTRs for sure but also like the Integral Fast Reactor with onsite pyroprocessing of the used fuel into new fuel, I even like the LWRs like the new AP1000, then we have the many Small Modular Reactors like the PRISM reactor.

            There are so many solutions for each country’s unique needs.

          • Ike Bottema

            Interesting idea. I think though that most existing plants have building layouts that are incompatible with the new SMR approach. That plus designs using high-efficiency turbines means that even the heat to electrical conversion portion will use radically different layouts.

          • Michael Mann

            The existing footprint for current nuclear power plants have a lot of unused space, has been zoned for nuclear energy and has existing access to the grid. In addition the usual decommissioning plan removes everything but the once used fuel and support systems. Now if zoning approval was relaxed (since they are inherently safe) it would be even more practical (except for the possible re-use of the fuel) to use SMRs to replace old. dirty, coal fired plants.

          • Chrmngblly

            True, but now you are making too much sense. I was just observing that in the case of most laymen nuclear is nuclear and the anti-nuclear hysteria factor could be mitigated because replacing the old car with a new car is so easily accepted.

          • Pro-Thorium

            LFTR Reactors Burn 97% of Uranium,LWR Burn only 7% of the Uranium.LFTR Reactors can use spent Fuel Rods for Fuel Burning the 93% of unused Uranium.The half-life reduced from 10,000 years to 300.

          • Ike Bottema

            Good points! Even though the reactor itself might have to be demolished, there’s a lot of infrastructure considerations that would be eased by using an existing site.

          • Van Snyder

            I suggested installing IFR in the San Onofre buildings. I explicitly explained this would destroy the waste from operation of the previously-installed light-water reactors. Southern California Edison replied “Huh?”

          • Chrmngblly

            Who did you contact?

          • Van Snyder

            I proposed that Southern California Edison ought to install a “nuclear waste destruction facility” (i.e., IFR) at San Onofre. They said “Huh?”

          • William Linnell

            You seem interested in other options, but only as long as they are nuclear.

            “Greenthinker”? Please…….

          • greenthinker2012

            I am interested in solutions to eliminating fossil fuels that can work. I am not interested in solutions that simply make me feel good but have no chance of achieving the goal of solving climate change.

            For example I hear people proposing an all-solar future when the numbers simply do not work.

            Nuclear is a proven method for decarbonization.

            France emits 1/10th the CO2 than does Germany because France uses nuclear power.

            Likewise Ontario, Canada has low CO2 emissions because of nuclear and they managed to close every single one of their polluting coal plants as well.

            I am not ideologically opposed to nuclear power and I am not afraid of nuclear power.

            In your eyes does that mean I must turn in my environmentalist membership?

          • William Linnell

            In a vacuum, you can make a case, radiation pollution and safety concerns aside, that nuclear is a good method for decarbonization. BUT when you consider the opportunity cost, nuclear is dead in the water because renewable energy is kicking the crap out of nuclear in free markets all over the planet. If you really want to displace fossil fuels, just let renewables continue to take over. They are up and running, and even more new renewable assets can be proposed, built, running, and ready for their third or fourth overhaul before you can even get a nuclear plant built.

            We should do the cheapest thing first, with the fastest, most positive impact on the environment. And nuclear doesn’t fit ANY of these criteria. Just let renewables take over.

          • greenthinker2012

            The case is not made in a vacuum. In the real world

            nuclear power is safer than even wind and solar power on a deaths per terra watt basis. That is fact.

            As for cost, nuclear is in the same ballpark as wind power if you do not include wind’s costs of storage or back up power or extra transmission line requirements.

            Here is a paper from the US Energy Information Administration.

            You are a good example of someone who has a belief that is not borne out by the facts.

          • greenthinker2012

            The case is not made in a vacuum. In the real world

            nuclear power is safer than even wind and solar power on a deaths per terra watt basis. That is fact.

            As for cost, nuclear is in the same ballpark as wind power if you do not include wind’s costs of storage or back up power or extra transmission line requirements.

            Here is a paper from the US Energy Information Administration.


            You are a good example of someone who has a belief that is not borne out by the facts.

          • Van Snyder

            The markets aren’t free. Subsidies for solar and wind are enormous. Have you ever noticed that none of the shops selling solar actually have it themselves? Why not? Because they (or more likely their landlords) don’t get the homeowner subsidy. Just because it’s (intentionally) invisibly hidden in your tax burden doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

          • William Linnell

            Taxpayer subsidies for nuclear are bigger. Renewables get subsidies because they are cheaper and safer and better for the planet. Nukes get subsidies because they can’t compete without them.

          • Van Snyder

            This is simply false. It’s contradicted by Department of Energy reports. Please don’t lie just because the lies support your preconceived notions.

          • Van Snyder

            The situation is exactly the opposite, both on true, direct, unsubsidized cost, and safety. Both can be verified by data from the Paul Scherer Institute and the US Department of Energy.

          • William Linnell

            With all due respect, you are exactly wrong. It is no secret that the DOE is biased, and is a promoter of nuclear power. Never heard of the other guy, but will look him up later. I

          • Van Snyder

            How much nuclear waste is destroyed by a solar panel, windmill, or corn field? The appropriate design of reactor can do this, and nothing else can. Or should we just store it for 300,000 years and hope our descendants 12,000 generations from now can read the signs?

          • William Linnell

            The notion that reprocessing or “recycling” nuclear waste is viable has proven to be more fantasy than fact. The French government, which owns and controls their nukes, has published a report stating that reprocessing doesn’t reduce the waste stream and is not

            economic: the Chardin Report.

            The “appropriate reactor design” is little more than that, a “design”. Given the nuclear industry’s track record of cost overruns, wilful distortion of facts, and design problems, I don’t think the public will buy it.

          • Van Snyder

            The French experience is irrelevant, since their reactor design cannot recycle fuel more than three times without separating actinide species and isotopes. Three times is not enough. When fuel is 5% used it must be removed from the reactor because fission products poison the reaction, and the fission products separated from the actinides. The IFR design has a neutron temperature spectrum that can fission all odd-numbered actinides above U-233, and transmute the even-numbered ones to fissionable odd-numbered ones. French reactors cannot do this.

            The appropriate reactor design is not just a design. It was in service with a power output of 20 MWe for thirty years. It provided all the power for Argonne West (now the Idaho National

            Engineering Laboratory), and sold the excess to the city of Arco, Idaho. Molten salt reactors are still just designs and laboratory toys, but the Integral Fast Reactor is very real — or it was until the

            Clinton administration, in full-blown pandering mode, pandering to liars and ignorami, shut it down.

          • William Linnell

            The French fiasco IS relevant, as for years the nuclear industry has pointed to the French as an example of all things holy in nuclear power. Now the French can’t build a new nuclear plant, now we find that reprocessing is not economic, it doesn’t reduce the waste stream, and you say to forget what your industry has been saying for years; you want us to believe your latest calculations. Sorry, your credibility is shot to hell.

          • Van Snyder

            You point at the French “fiasco,” and I’ll point at EBR-II, which had exactly ZERO problems in thirty years. The French are trying to reprocess oxide fuel, which is enormously more expensive to reprocess than metallic fuel. I’m not advocating to copy the antique French system, so how does that relate to my credibility?

          • William Linnell

            You said that the French experience is “irrelevant”. I’d say you are dismissing their failures too quickly. Pro-nukers love to point to the French as successful with reprocessing and nuclear plants in general. But they have big problems, and I question the credibility of anyone who glosses over those problems so easily.

          • Van Snyder

            The French experience is irrelevant to IFR and EBR-II, for which the GE/Hitachi proposal is called S-PRISM. Why copy the French if they have problems?

          • William Linnell

            Exactly. Let’s not copy the French. And let’s be wary of the rest of the nuclear industry, as there are plenty of other “experts” that have made similarly foolish decisions.

          • Van Snyder

            The EBR-II experiment had, as far as I know, no foolish decisions. The intention from the start was to solve every known problem. As far as I can tell, they succeeded. You can drag a red herring through that if you want to, but try to stick to facts.

          • Sparafucile

            Bill has never “tried to stick to facts”.

          • atomikrabbit

            Natural radioactive decay is an amazing thing – after 300,000 years you could hang a spent fuel assembly in a museum behind a piece of ordinary glass and show it to the kids on their field trips. They would be in greater danger riding in their school hoverbusses.

          • Van Snyder

            Indeed. But the long-lived part of reactor “waste” is unused fuel, which constitutes 95% of the “waste.” With the appropriate reactor design, e.g. the Integral Fast Reactor, this too can be fissioned. 20% of fission products (5% of waste) are dangerously radiotoxic for 300 years, and the rest is either not radiotoxic at all, or is not dangerous after 30 years.

          • Van Snyder

            How much nuclear waste is destroyed by a windmill or solar cell? LFTR and IFR can both destroy it.

        • William Linnell

          Nuclear disaster is not imagined. I was downwind, in Russia, on April 26, 1986. And I’m pretty sure that I did not imagine the Chernobyl meltdown. Further, I resent the nuclear industry’s bullying tactic to suggest that those who oppose nuclear power out of a genuine concern for safety are just a bunch of sissies, driven by fear.

          Just like there will always be another plane crash, there will always be another nuclear meltdown. And just as the airplane manufacturers ALWAYS say “pilot error” caused the crash, the government-backed nuclear industry will always minimize the death, injury and contamination from nuclear disasters.

          • greenthinker2012

            I think it would be more accurate to say that those who oppose nuclear power are often misinformed. And funny that you mention resenting bullying because I find that when misinformed people spread falsehoods that create stress and fear in others that is something I resent.

          • William Linnell

            Yeah, all those misinformed scientists like Amory Lovins, Jon Gofman, and their ilk st the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and Public Citizen.

          • greenthinker2012

            Yes exactly.

            Like the NON scientist Amory Lovins. (Did he even finish any degree? I don’t believe so.)

            Gofman’s views on radiation are not shared by the majority of the scientists worldwide.

            The UCS has an anti nuclear bias and doesn’t even require members to be scientists.

            I prefer peer reviewed science over advocacy groups.

          • William Linnell

            Apparently you also prefer lost causes, because your favorite industry has been going downhill for years. And those that you are trying to discredit are being validated on a daily basis.

          • greenthinker2012

            Like I said William, I am not interested in ideology.

            You should go argue with someone else.

          • William Linnell

            Ok, I’ll just read about those idealogues. on Wall Street that won’t invest a nickel of private risk capital in nuclear power.

            Good luck .

          • greenthinker2012

            It is because of people like you spreading irrational fear that investors are nervous.

            It is shocking that with climate change threatening our one and only planet, you are committed to your untrue “facts”.

            You seem gullible and very committed to remaining irrational so I have no hope of changing your mind.

            Good luck to us all.

            I hope for our children that we can start making rational choices.

          • William Linnell

            Sure. All those Wall Street guys are hanging on my every irrational word. Not the fact that we’ve had two melt downs (Fermi and TMI) out of 100 or so plants in the USA, and a total of 4 meltdowns (adding Chernobyl and Fukushima ) for a meltdown percentage of one per cent or more globally, and two per cent in US nuke plants.

          • greenthinker2012

            Those wall street guys understand that politicians DO listen to your irrational words.

            Chernobyl is a red herring when talking about using nuclear power to stop climate change. Nobody is suggesting we build that style of reactor, nor like Chernobyl, that we neglect to build a containment building around the reactor.

            Excluding Chernobyl, how many people have died from all the commercial reactor meltdowns in the history of nuclear power?

            None. Zero. That is the number from actual scientists.

            Compare that to the hundreds of millions of people that are expected to die from climate change.

            Nuclear power is an effective, proven tool in helping eliminate our CO2 emissions.

          • William Linnell

            I guess I can see how many people believe the industry line that no one has been killed by a nuclear accident. But the back story is that when the Atomic Energy Commission’s (AEC) own scientists have reported deaths from nuclear material, the AEC discredited and fired them–I believe it was AEC’s own Daniel Ford who produced a study on excess infant deaths in Idaho or Utah, and his bosses didn’t like it. They brought in another employee, Jon Gofman, and asked him to discredit the story. Gofman said he’d look at it. When Gofman, a man of unimpeachable integrity, concluded that the study was valid, the AEC turned on him as they did Ford.

            So I don’t take anything that the nuclear industry says about health at face value. Neither should anyone else.

          • greenthinker2012

            The topic is “civilian nuclear power” which except for the corrupt Soviet regime’s anomaly of Chernobyl, has not killed anyone.

            Let’s put things in perspective…..

            One one hand we have a global emergency that is threatening our one and only planet. We need to act as quickly as possible using ALL resources at hand. IF we do this and try our hardest it is not clear we will be able to decarbonize quickly enough to avoid disaster. We are looking at the deaths of hundreds of millions of people and the displacement of a billion or more people and the misery associated with such chaos.

            On the other hand we have people like you who, even if they combine military accidents, R&D accidents., medical accidents, and everything else with the word “nuclear” in it, can tally a death toll less than that caused by automobile accidents.

            That is why I label your anti-nuclearism as ideology. It lacks perspective.

            We need to use ALL tools at our disposal to tackle climate change, this includes nuclear power. Nuclear power is not perfect but it is definitely better than our future will be if we limit our tools based on ideology.

          • William Linnell

            I think your attachment to nuclear, despite all the better outcomes from renewables, is tantamount to an ideology or religion. A mix of many tools is in order, but it doesn’t make sense to put the lion’s share of resources into the option that eats up the most capital, is at risk of the most problems, is uninsurable, is by far the slowest to build and therefore make a difference, and may tie up billions of dollars for decades with zero guarantee of breaking even.

            Renewables can save zillions of units of carbon before any nuclear plants can even get completed.

            In fact, if I were advising someone on investments, I would never advise adding the most expensive yet worst performer to the portfolio. It’s good to have a mix of investments, but you cull the worst performers out, not borrow money to buy more.

          • greenthinker2012

            Your argument is theoretical because reality has shown otherwise.

            Can you name a single country/region that has reduced its CO2 emissions significantly using only wind and solar?


            Can you name countries/regions that have reduced their CO2 emissions significantly by including nuclear power?


            France is a good example, Ontario Canada is another good example. Both of these regions have reduced their CO2 emissions by over 80% by using nuclear power.

            Your comment is based on a false dichotomy.

            To illustrate, here is a simple question for you…

            Which is the fastest way to decarbonize…?

            1) Only renewables

            2) Only nuclear

            3) Using both where they are most appropriate.

          • William Linnell

            1. The fastest way to decarbonize is by letting renewables continue displacing nuclear and fossil fuels.

            The fastest way to slow this process down would be to take huge chunks of capital and tie it up trying to build nuclear plants, as the French are learning- after spending about $8 billion on their Flamanville project, the plant is 5 years behind schedule, 300 percent over budget, and they’ve discovered expensive mistakes which will likely end the whole project. The $8 billion is likely gone forever. Think of all the renewables that would have been up and running with that $8 billion.

            Your dichotomy is the false one. Yes, France has had a lot of nuclear. But moving forward, you not going to displace carbon by telling stories about the good old days in France.

            Renewables are the horses that are winning this race in all countries. Bet on the crippled old nuclear horse if you want, but not with my tax dollars. That old nag hasn’t won a race in years.

          • greenthinker2012

            So which regions have managed to reduce their CO2 emissions using renewables?

          • William Linnell

            All regions that use, or have used renewables, reduce their CO2 emissions as compared to using coal or oil. The question now is which strategy do we use going forward?

            -We can pick nuclear, if we want to have dramatically less impact due to higher cost, if we don’t mind waiting ten to twenty years for construction to be completed, if we ignore the warnings of AEC scientists like Jon Gofman concerning elevated cancers from the daily radioactive emissions from operating plants, if we are happy with the $43 billion trend in unfunded decommissioning costs thus far, and if we are happy with the one to two percent ratio of meltdowns per nuclear plant.

            -We can pick renewables, which are already taking over globally, and can be increased far more cheaply, safely, and with little financial risk.

            -To use a military analogy, I vote for the lowest risk, ‘renewable strategy’, which is already working, which will receive private sector, free-market funding, and can reasonably be expected to put far more boots on the ground, much more quickly, and safely than nuclear.

            I don’t see any benefits in using the nuclear option.

          • Sparafucile

            Apart from your pisspoor attempts to change the subject, perhaps you’d like to explain how your “all regions that use, or have used renewables, reduce their CO2 emissions” applies to, let’s say, California.

            They embarked on a statewide mandate to increase “renewables” deployment, and their CO2 emissions from electricy generation have gone UP in the last few years.

            Or maybe you’d like to talk about Germany….

          • William Linnell

            As much as I love it when you talk dirty, I got to build a few lobster traps before mummy gets home. Why do you think it is?

          • William Linnell

            What do you mean ” attempting to change the subject?”

          • Van Snyder

            One of the reasons California CO2 emissions went up is that the 2.3 GWe San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) was closed. Senator Barbara Boxer nearly broke her arm patting herself on the back. Then she had a hissy fit when Southern California Edison (SCE) asked for an 18% rate increase. SONGS had provided the second-least-expensive electricity in California, right behind Diablo Canyon (the other nuclear station in California). Now SCE has built numerous gas-fired plants, and buys even more electricity from (coal-fired) Four Corners. They also laid off 12,000 employees, and quit doing any energy-related research.

          • greenthinker2012

            Wouldn’t it be great if that were true.

            We must reduce our CO2 emissions by over 80% to avoid climate catastrophe. Unfortunately CO2 emissions are rising in all countries including Germany that has spent untold billions of dollars on renewables.

            The only places that have shown significant reduction are those places that deployed ALL low carbon energy sources available including nuclear power.

            That is reality.

            From your past answers I know you will simply ignore this fact and keep repeating your talking points.

          • William Linnell

            Right back at ya. You wish that was reality, but it is not. That was Goebbel’s strategy, right? Tell a huge lie and keep repeating it?

            As if the most dangerous technology on the face of the earth could save the environment. Even if the Nukes didn’t pollute the earth with deadly radiation, but they do- Even if the cost of nuclear construction alone weren’t higher than the costs of building and operating any other form of power, but it is. It would take so long- like 20 years or more- to get a few nukes on line, that the climate would already be toast. And it would take another fifty years to get enough nukes built to make a dent in climate change. By then we’d be finished. The green – sounding moniker is a nice touch, though: if you’re not a shill for the nuclear industry, you should be.

          • greenthinker2012

            Right back at you.

            Explain how civilian nuclear power is “the most dangerous technology on the face of the earth”

            More hyperbole from you.

            Considering that burning fossil fuels is actually killing our planet I would say coal is more dangerous than nuclear.

          • atomikrabbit

            You are probably already aware that the single worst energy infrastructure accident, causing the most casualties, was that of the series of dam failures starting at Banqiao in China in Aigust 1975, killing 170,000. RE advocates like to claim hydro when they want to increase their generation numbers, but not when the environmental and safety impacts are brought up.

            We should ask ourselves: why has practically no one heard of Banquio, yet everyone has heard of Three Mile Island four years later, harming not a single person?

          • greenthinker2012

            Nuclear is sexy and sells papers.

            It’s as if drowning to death in a dam collapse is hum drum and falling from a roof while installing solar panels is boring and not worth mentioning.

            I am sure the dead people would disagree but their opinions don’t count.

          • atomikrabbit

            I am convinced that a good portion of the media disparity in treatment of nuclear “disasters” (even if not a single person is harmed), compared with far worse calamities caused by other energy sources, is that nuclear has never seen fit to “invest” in spending advertising dollars with them.

            No matter how biased or outraged the reporter, the media corporate business managers will hold the reportage in check if it looks like it will go too far in harming a major corporate (usually fossil fuel) sponsor. Thus practically no coverage of the post-tsunami Chiba oil refinery disaster, which released tons of chemical toxins into the air, but 24/7 screaming radiophobic alerts about the Fukushima plants, which released a few Kg of widely dispersed (but all-too-easily detectable) radionuclides. /end soapbox

          • Michael Mann

            Goebbel’s strategy, right? Tell a huge lie and keep repeating it? That nuclear is the most dangerous technology is the biggest lie I have heard in a long time repeated again and again.. William seems to practice the art of propaganda well, but I think it’s a mistake to point out where he learned it in the same paragraph that he tells the lie again…

          • Van Snyder

            In his diary, George Goebbels said he learned all his propaganda skills from Woodrow Wilson.

          • Sam Gilman

            You’re simply displaying the incoherence of your radical right-wing position.

            Global warming is the result of a market failure. To then talk as if the free market is the answer to a market failure makes no sense at all.

            Substantial decarbonisation anywhere – everywhere – only happens through state intervention, whether that is through subsidies, state planning, or market regulation and various forms of price fixing. To hold the free market as the arbiter of environmental truth is the worst kind of right-wing libertarian nonsense.

          • William Linnell

            Hold on. I never said or meant that. I’m just saying that nuclear power has failed in the free market, in response to the industry’s false claims that it is safe or cheap.

          • Van Snyder

            Nuclear power has failed in some markets because of the explicitly-stated goal of anti-nuclear activists to drive up the total cost by augmenting the real cost with indirect costs, such as interest expense and lawsuits. They have achieved their goal: the total cost to construct a nuclear power plant is about four times the real cost. 3/4 of the cost is indirect costs intentionally imposed by activists.

            Notwithstanding that, Diablo Canyon provides the lowest-cost electricity in California — and that includes capital investment amortization, waste custody, operations, pensions, fuel….

          • Sam Gilman

            “I never said or meant that”

            And then you say it again!

            Look, if you’re not a right-wing free-market libertarian, then you’re putting forward arguments you don’t believe in.

            Just as you’d probably be someone who’d go on about the importance of scientific consensus on climate change – not because you believe in mainstream science (you plainly don’t if you’re citing a fringe figure like Gofman), but because it just happens to suit your ideological agenda at the time.

            If you were genuinely interested in combatting climate change, you’d insist on the best quality evidence. But you’re not. You’re just the flipside of the climate change denial lobby.

          • William Linnell

            P.S. What state do you live in? I know it’s not Maine because we shut down our nuclear plant 12 years early and sent the industry carpet baggers packing.

          • Sam Gilman

            I live in Japan, William. Which is how I know all about the anti-nuclear movement, and how it seeks to spread junk science.

            You may think you’re the good guys, but when people like you are spreading lies about the chances of my and other people’s children getting cancer – and many of you literally profiting from selling that trash science, let me tell you, you’re not.

          • Michael Mann

            The anti-nuclear industry profits from increased fear and they don’t seem to care who they hurt to achieve their goals.

          • Sam Gilman

            That was what was striking about them: when one tried to reason with these people at the time of the Fukushima crisis, to get them to see the dangers of fearmongering (and boy were they selling incredible stories of mass death), they were absolutely indifferent. A standard response was – in various turns of phrase – to tell me and my children to get cancer and die for disagreeing with them.

            Lovely people.

          • William Linnell

            I think you’re another nuclear industry blogger who is trying to advance the ludicrous argument that nuclear power is the savior of the environment. The late John Gofman, the discoverer of uranium 233, remains one of the world’s foremost authorities on the deadly health effects of nuclear power. Hired by the AEC, he had the courage to tell the truth about nuclear power. Even after his death, he is exploding the nuke industry’s fairy tale that nukes are harmless. People should Google him, and read his book, “Poisoned Power”.

          • Sam Gilman

            No one says nuclear power is harmless.

            When you tell people that John Gofman’s views on radiation represents mainstream science, you’re simply passing on a straightforward lie. Maybe you don’t know it’s a lie, maybe you do.

            I have no ties to any energy industry in any way whatsoever, but thank you for demonstrating that you are a conspiracy theorist who believes anyone who disagrees with you just be in the pay of some dark forces.

            All I do is cite mainstream science. Do you have a problem with that?

          • William Linnell

            I would say mainstream only in nuclear industry circles. Nothing mainstream about nukes around here.

            That’s all for tonight, need to sleep, (which is easy when you don’t have a nuclear plant close by.)

          • Sam Gilman

            Ok – what are John Gofman’s estimates for all future deaths from Chernobyl?


            What are the World Health Organisation’s?


            (Cue the anti-nuclear conspiracy theory that thousands of radiation researchers in thousands of universities across dozens of countries are in the control of the nuclear industry.)

          • William Linnell

            Ok, and what is the refrain from all of the nuclear industry? Zero, right? And is there criticism of some omissions in the WHO study? Yes- look it up.

            And what do the pseudo scientists in the nuclear industry do when faced with competing theories? Cash their paychecks, discredit the challengers, admit nothing.

            And what do thousands of auto insurance companies across the country say to do if you’re in an accident? -Admit nothing.

          • Sam Gilman

            Do tell me, what are the criticisms of the WHO that you’re referring to?

            Perhaps you can share them with everyone and we can see if they have any validity, rather than asking me to do your homework for you.

            As for the rest of your meandering about this industry or that industry, it’s irrelevant, as I’m not talking about industry sources, but the opinion of the mainstream scientific community.

          • William Linnell

            This is from Wikipedia:

            Three months after the Chernobyl disaster, Gofman predicted that Chernobyl would cause “475,000 fatal cancers plus about an equal number of additional non-fatal cases, occurring over time both inside and outside the ex-Soviet Union”.[17] In contrast, even some 19 years later in September 2005, an official UN IAEA report claimed 4,000 deaths as the final estimated toll from Chernobyl.[18] In their 2006 book Alexey V. Yablokov and other Russian and East European researchers estimated that Chernobyl caused a million deaths through 2004, nearly 170,000 of them in North America. The book’s English translation Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment was published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009. The book cites “5,000 mainly Slavic-language scientific papers the IAEA overlooked”, notwithstanding the fact that 13 of the authors of the Chernobyl Forum were from Ukraine, Russia or Belarus.[19][20] M. I. Balonov criticized the methodology of the book.[20] M. I. Balonov criticized the methodology of the book’s estimation of Chernobyl’s excess deaths and radiation-induced health effects and claimed the numbers were exaggerations which “could lead quite unnecessarily to a panic reaction”.[21] Rosalie Bertell has asserted the above estimates of Gofman (1986) and Yablokov (2006) are too conservative.[18]

          • Sam Gilman

            Oh, hard luck, William. You said you knew about criticisms of the WHO. Instead you ran to cut and paste a mixed up paragraph from Wikipedia, which means you were probably misleading readers. Naughty you.

            It gets worse. Yablokov’s book, as everyone who cites it should know, was withdrawn and repudiated by the publishers (NYAS) who made it clear it had not been peer-reviewed by anyone and should not be considered valid scientific opinion. The Wikipedia article doesn’t mention that, but that. That’s the danger of bluffing, William.

            (Yablokov’s book had basically been snuck past all review procedures by a couple of anti-nuclear activists in NYAS, hence the withdrawal from publication once an internal review took place)

          • William Linnell

            Give it up. I’m saying that there are differing opinions of the health effects of nuclear power in the scientific community. You may note in the Wikipedia article that no less than Dr. Rosalie Bertell says that she believes Gofman’s numbers to be conservative. (Would that count towards peer review?)

            I’m not bluffing. I did my research back in the day, and spoke with both Gofman and Bertell on the phone.

            And, for someone who says he has “no ties to the energy industry in any way”, you sure came up with some talking points quickly…..

          • Sam Gilman

            No, I will not give up pointing out how you are promoting junk science, but your desire to stifle evidence-based criticism of your sources is noted.

            Now, you mentioned Rosalie Bertell. Is that Rosalie Bertell the chemtrails/9-11/ earthquakes/HAARP conspiracy theorist or another plainly less mad “expert”?

          • Sam Gilman

            Oh, and about the talking points thing: It’s been four years since you people without any regard or care for the consequences of your actions tried to scare the absolute crap out of everyone here in Japan with your junk science. I’ve had time to do reading. I had to spend a lot of time helping others less experienced at dealing with quacks and cranks and how they operate helping them understand that they didn’t have to tear their livelihoods and families apart if they were living in Tokyo or Sendai or Osaka or wherever by fleeing the country.

            I got my experience of dealing with cranks dealing with climate change deniers. The similarity between them and people like you is really striking. Instead of actually backing up what they say, they tell me I must be in the pay of Al Gore. You tell me I must be in the pay of the nuclear industry. They rely on fake experts and cranks and conspiracy theorists, and so do you. They have more money than your lot, but there are still a fair few of your lot coining it in.

            It’s my belief in the importance of tackling climate change that it’s important to speak out about people like you who would rather see our planet burn up because you can’t be bothered to do your science properly.

          • William Linnell

            And, for someone who says he has “no ties to the energy industry in any way”, you sure came up with some talking points quickly…..

            So please explain how you can answer fairly sophisticated, technical nuclear industry type questions soooo quickly, without any ties to the energy industry.

            And outside of nuclear industry apologists, I’ve never heard of anyone calling renowned scientists such as John Gofman, Rosalie Bertell, and the Union of Concerned Scientists “junk scientists”. What standing do you have to make that strenuous a judgment about them? What training, experience, or employment would give you that level of experience?

          • Sparafucile

            Here — I will (as a credentialed and published scientist) will call the Union of Concerned Scientists Junk Scientists, as they are a propagandist organization (admittedly!), with policy objectives, and are staffed by rejects from noted eco-terrorist group “Environmental Defense Fund”.

            You are a fool, an imbecile, or both for not taking the UCS at its word when it, itself, self-identifies as an activist organization, not as one endeavoring in unbiased scientific inquiry.

          • William Linnell

            What have you published?

          • Sam Gilman

            Hi William,

            I note that once again you don’t counter anything I say, you just try to smear me.

            Now, let’s look at the context again of your question about why I might have read a few things about radiation and health prior to our interaction. (Your hostility to someone with a lil’ book-learnin’ is noted: you are not doing the reputation of the Great State of Maine any good.)

            I live in Japan. I have young children. Four years ago when one of them was in utero we had an accident at a nuclear plant on the island where I live. You might have heard of it. It was in the news a bit. So guess what – I read about the potential dangers because it mattered, and because there were people spreading all kinds of apocalyptic stories that I needed to assess.

            See? It’s not such a mystery. Perhaps you would have done nothing to educate yourself as a parent. Perhaps you would have panicked and fled without checking anything. That’s your choice, and I’m not going to criticise you for that. Everyone behaves differently in a crisis. I will, however criticise you for trying to smear me for caring about my family and the people around me by educating myself and helping others to understand science. Remember what I said about asking yourself if you’re really one of the good guys, William?

            And to repeat the other half of this apparently incomprehensible puzzle: I am also very concerned about global warming. I had been from way before 2011, and had spent time educating myself on the topic and arguing with climate change deniers. It’s my contribution, if you like, to the good fight. If you don’t believe me, go back and check my Disqus feed where you can find me explaining in great detail how the greenhouse effect works, how climate change deniers fix stats and so on.

            The thing is, if you’d spent your time actually writing on real environmental issues like climate change, you’d know what it is to get drawn into the fascinating web of science denial: of who is funding whom, and how each grand claim always seems to come down to the same small bunch of people, of how plainly false memes and junk works get passed around the Internet walled gardens of the science denialosphere. It’s quite addictive. I’ve done similar things with the anti-vaccination crowd too, though nowhere near as much.

            Because guess what – during the Fukushima crisis, my eyes and the eyes of others were opened to how the anti-nuclear movement is incredibly similar to the climate change denial movement. Indeed, what the anti-nuclear movement has inadvertently done through its indifference to scientific evidence and its willingness to spin all kinds of false stories is turn science-minded environmentalists who like me have learnt to distinguish junk from good science, into reexamining nuclear power in a more positive light. It became clear once the spotlight was on them that the group of people that provided a steady flow of horrible scare stories that made us feel very queasy about nuclear were making pretty much all of it up – something scientists in the field had known for years.. Not that nuclear power is perfectly safe, but what you lot were selling? Nah. It’s junk. And it’s junk in a number of harmful ways.

            Here’s how distinguishing good science from bad works:

            Proper science is done in scientific publications with the oversight of other scientists and with the aim of persuading scientists to change their minds. Scientists should be free of financial interest in their results, preferably working at universities where their income is tied to the quality of their work, not the conclusions that they reach. Scientific disagreements exist, of course, which is why the best thing to do for a non-scientist is to go to the meta-analyses, the summary studies, the peak science organisations. In climate change, this is the IPCC. In radiation and health, this is organisations like the WHO, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, and the International Commission on Radiological Protection. When you think I’ve got a suspicious amount of knowledge, all it is is that I’ve read what they say, and I’ve read what other appropriately credentialled scientists say in proper and appropriate scientific journals on the topic of what radiation does to humans and other living organisms. For some reason you seem to have a problem with this. You find people going and looking stuff up suspicious.

            On the other hand, junk science is largely done in popular publications without the oversight of other scientists and with the aim of confusing the public about what scientific opinion actually is. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt are the general objectives. The leaders of Junk Science movements generally derive a large part of their income from organisations whose conclusions on the topic are preordained. James Hansen, whom you approvingly cited earlier has stated publicly that leaders of environmental organisations have revealed to him in private conversation that they dare not abandon anti-nuclearism because it would hurt their funding. They’re sucked into the gravy train.

            Then there are the various front groups (eg astroturfing, “concerned citizen” organisations) with grand sounding names give a veneer of scientific authority to what is said. A classic example is the European Committee on Radiation Risk – which your friend Rosalie Bertell was involved in, or the “Nuclear Information Resource Service”. Much like the Heartland Institute and the American Enterprise Institute produce reports denying climate change, these organisations, put up websites, produce reports, try hard to give the impression of eminence and expertise, what is crucially missing is interaction in quality scientific forums trying to persuade other scientists.

            Other key markers of junk science include

            – the promotion of “maverick” scientists over mainstream consensus aka the Galileo strategy (Why believe Gofman against the thousands of other scientists who disagree with him? There simply is no reason to, unless you’re intellectually corrupted. I don’t need qualifications to judge Gofman, I let the weight of scientific opinion guide me.)

            – grand conspiracy theories (such as the one where the IAEA controls the WHO – the NIRS promotes that one) that seek to undermine trust in mainstream science and medicine. Some of the ones about Japan get really delightfully racist, and a fair few are anti-semitic too. (And I’m not talking about fringe anti-nuclearists, but people enjoying central attention in the movement).

            – support for people who are blatantly crazy (where there is Christopher Monckton for the climate change deniers, there is Helen Caldicott for the anti-nuclearists. And Rosalie Bertell too – chemtrails, 9/11, HAARP… Again, I don’t need to be a scientists to recognise that Bertell was a fruitloop, in addition to her standing clearly outside the scientific mainstream on radiation and health)

            – support for the blatantly corrupt , such as Chris Busby (he of the ECRR), who was caught trying to sell useless mineral pills to parents of children in Fukushima prefecture at four times the market price.

            – the endless recycling of clear junk claims . You want to know how I know all about Yablokov and how the book was repudiated? Sweetheart, I don’t want to break your heart, but you’re not the first person in the past four years to mention him. There have been others before you. I’ve actually read the damn book, and gone over the footnotes in certain chapters in detail to show others exactly how much junk it is, in addition to pointing to the repudiation by the publishers and the expert reviews that trash the book. See also any published work by Joseph Mangano or Chris Busby.

            The total indifference to whether or not their claims are junk . For example, the WHO-IAEA conspiracy theory rests on claiming that there’s an agreement that gives the IAEA control and power of censorship over the WHO’s reporting on health. The agreement actually says the absolute opposite, but not once when someone has made the conspiracy claim, and I’ve given them the text showing the exact opposite of they claimed, have they ever said “Oh, I was wrong” or “oh, Helen Caldicott was wrong” or “sorry”, or any recognition. The same goes for people who suddenly become right-wing free market evangeliststs when it suits them, William, like you. You’re not a market fundamentalist, but you were happy to be one if you thought it was anti-nuclear.

            I don’t take any pleasure in the fact that this science denialism has infected so many purported “environmental” groups. Just when we need leadership on how to decarbonise, so many of these groups are playing down the seriousness of the problem, making wild claims about how easy it is all to solve,because it’s more important to shut out nuclear than to shut out carbon. It’s a weird, collective kind of insanity.

          • William Linnell


            From your narrative, I gather that you have been studying nuclear power for about four years, in response to the meltdown, because you wanted to arm your self with information about nuclear power out of concern for your family. You also “self-taught” yourself about climate issues for some time before that.

            I have been studying nuclear power for thirty years, a quarter century before you seem to have focused on it, since the Department of Energy wanted to site a high-level waste dump in Maine. I don’t say that to try to “smear” you , it’s just that I have read the papers, met many of the big players, and studied the local nuclear plant in “real time” as it went from ostensibly operating as one of the better nuclear plants in the country to going belly up.

            A couple of things I learned: Nuclear plant representatives often don’t know the whole story as their experts don’t always tell them the truth. Other times, they know the truth and lie or mislead the public anyway.

            Nuclear plants give off radiation on a daily basis. But if you pick up a middle school science textbook from the 80’s or 90’s, you will read that nuclear plants don’t give off any radiation at all. They lie. They also tend to underreport the amount of radiation that is discharged into the air and water.

            I gathered all kinds of information, asked all the questions I could. I was Maine’s delegate to the National League of Cities’ Committee on Energy and the Environment.

            I testified before the NRC in Washington. I attended a nuclear industry convention.

            And I accurately predicted, as the media in Maine well knows, the cracking of thousands of steam generator tubes in the local nuke, as the plant continued to deny it. The “experts” were wrong, hands down.

            They repaired many of the tubes, but the plant never restarted, as the reactor itself was also toast, needing replacement, but the public in Maine still doesn’t know that, because it was a well-kept secret.

            I’m not into the conspiracy theories. But I have observed that so much money is invested in to nuclear plants up front, that there are a lot of interests that speak in concert to minimize the public’s knowledge of problems in the plants.

            I also note that scientists like John Gofman have amazing credentials, and were not criticized until their employers like the Atomic Energy Commission discovered that they wouldn’t lie about what their scientific findings.

            I studied and learned a lot about the negative impact of radiation on health. I need to get going now, but would advise you to move your family out of Japan at your earliest convenience. Surely you are not still on the same island as the meltdown?

            Radiation bio-accumulates as it moves up the food chain. And because children’s bodies are growing, they are even more susceptible to radiation present in the biosphere. You’ll never hear about that from the industry, you have to dig deep to find it. Yes, some of those that deliver the message about the dangers of nukes are a bit excitable, but it would be a mistake to write them off without making serious notes on their content.

            I wouldn’t live in Japan now for love or money. The biosphere there is contaminated forever. I urge you to get your family the heck out of there.

          • Sam Gilman

            Hi William

            You say:

            I’m not into the conspiracy theories

            So why do you champion Rosalie Bertell? She was a full-on conspiracy theorist.

            – She thought that global warming is the result of a secret US-Soviet treaty in the 1970s

            – She thought that the cause of the American obesity epidemic has been hushed up – it’s apparently iodine from bomb tests

            – She thought that earthquakes are caused by the HAARP project

            – She thought the WHO is covering up deaths from Chernobyl

            She wasn’t a world expert. I looked for her scientific papers. She had almost none. She published through fringe organisations like Chris Busby’s Green Audit and ECRR, or glossy magazines with little or no scientific editorial staff, or social science journals with reputations for really really poor peer review. She was a crank.

            You say:

            I have been studying nuclear power for thirty years,

            No, no, seriously, you haven’t. You’ve spent thirty years trying merely to confirm your prejudices – a human failing you share with the anti-vaccine movement and scientology. You shut out everything that doesn’t fit your prejudices, to the point of being caught like a rabbit in headlights when presented with an alternative view (you really never knew that people see Gofman as fringe and Bertell a conspiracy theorist? Wow). If you had seriously spent thirty years studying the topic, why, when asked for evidence, would you need to clumsily cut and paste from Wikipedia? Wouldn’t someone so steeped in the literature have a better response than that?

            Why, if you’re such a fine expert, is your immediate and mostly sole response to anyone challenging you to accuse them of being a paid liar? Why can’t you marshall evidence? You seem shocked that someone like me remembers stuff that I read and can quote it back at you. You find it so suspicious you think I’m some kind of paid stooge. I’m not. You can go back into my Disqus feed and see me hold forth on topics like the anti-vaccine movement, Japanese nationalism and identity, colonialism. I read stuff William. I read stuff that I think is important. I happen to think climate change is more important than anything else for me to speak out upon, but you can see that I’m just someone who reads and takes things in and tries to be right, changing my view when I should, rather than walling myself up in a prison of my own prejudices for three decades.

            Can’t you see that something is very wrong with the picture you’re trying to paint of yourself and others?

            Here’s a challenge for you: in 2020, the Olympics are going to be held in Tokyo. The world is going to descend on Japan, broadcasting live, unedited.

            If these people don’t find the mass death and destruction you predict, will you change your mind?

            Will you, William?

            P.S. It’s your loss if you don’t visit Japan. It’s a lovely place.

          • William Linnell

            I think you’re protesting too much. My idea of living on a Pacific Island would not be Fukushima, but stay there if you want to. As long as you keep telling yourself that John Gofman was a “junk scientist”, I guess you can live there. But you are aware that, in addition to being an M.D. and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at University of California at Berkeley?

            According to Wikipedia, “Gofman pioneered the field of clinical lipidology, and was honoured with the title of “Father of Clinical Lipidology” by the Journal of Clinical Lipidology in 2007.[2] With Frank T. Lindgren and other research associates, Gofman discovered and described three major classes of plasma lipoproteins, fat molecules that carry cholesterol in the blood. The team he led at the Donner Laboratory went on to demonstrate the role of lipoproteins in the causation of heart disease.

            Gofman’s earliest research was in nuclear physics and chemistry, in close connection to the Manhattan Project. He co-discovered several radioisotopes, notably uranium-233 and its fissionability ; he was the third person ever to work with plutonium, and, having devised an early process for separating plutonium from fission products at J. Robert Oppenheimer’s request,[3] he was the first chemist ever to try and isolate milligram quantities of plutonium.[4]

            In 1963, Gofman established the Biomedical Research Division for the Livermore National Laboratory, where he was on the cutting edge of research into the connection between chromosomal abnormalities and cancer.

            Later in life, Gofman took on a role as an advocate warning of dangers involved with nuclear power.”

            Do any of your pro-nuclear friends have as impressive a resume? No, not even if you added them all together.

          • Sam Gilman

            What you’ve done there is fail to show he was respected as an expert in radiation and health.

            So here’s a name that’s better than yours:

            Gerry Thomas, Head of the Chernobyl Tissue Bank.

            That kind of blows Gofman out of the water.

          • William Linnell

            No. What’s your point? Are you going to leave your home at Fukushima and retire to Chernobyl cause it’s so nice there?

          • Sam Gilman

            William, you challenged me to name for someone more qualified than Gofman on this issue who was pro-nuclear and I gave you one. Someone who is at the heart of research into the effects of the worst nuclear disaster.

            You’re going back on yourself, and that’s dishonest, William. I expect better from someone of your age.

            I notice you’re not taking my Olympic challenge. I’m not surprised.

          • William Linnell

            I’ll look him up- thank you. Of course nothing against him, he’s studying some things that Gofman discovered.

            Re the Olympic Challenge, it can take 5 to 50 years for a cancer to develop from exposure to ionizing radiation. I don’t expect scores of Olympians to step off the plane and keel over. Radiation is much more subtle. But folks in your neighborhood will likely experience a spike in various cancers, thyroid problems, acute lymphocytic leukemia, and whatnot, depending on what isotopes are around. It’s hard to prove in court.

            It’s not as easy as a ballistics test.

            If you look at cancers listed in the national cancer registry by zip code , you’ll see elevated cancers downwind of nuclear facilities. Those illnesses are linked to radiation. Linked, not easily proven- that’s how the industry keeps rolling along, and can say “no one died”, etc.

          • Van Snyder

            William, you’ve been studying sixty-year-old nuclear technology for thirty years. The graphite and light-water reactors to which you object were invented sixty years ago. There has been much progress in other directions.

          • Michael Mann

            Thank you for such a well written response,

          • Van Snyder

            Thanks for the discussion. Concerning global warming, it’s easy to calculate what CO2, methane, water vapor, and other gases do to a dry cloudless atmosphere. Clouds (and aerosols) are an enormously difficult and intractable problem. Nobody knows what cloud feedbacks will do. Take a look at the full radiative-transfer (RT) equation, with scattering. That only covers radiative transfer. Nobody even knows why or how clouds form, so the monster RT equation, if it could be used in all its glory with finite computing resources, would only address half the problem.

            That said, we still ought to do what is possible, and preferably most economical, to reduce CO2 emissions. Nuclear is by far the most economical and safest. The only other one that can do the job is solar. Nothing else can come close. Wind comes closest at about 12% of current energy use. Solar cannot destroy nuclear “waste,” a substance of which we are desperately eager to be rid. MSR and IFR, with concurrent reprocessing, can reduce the volume by a factor of 100, and reduce the duration of special custody by a factor of 1000. Nothing else can.

          • Sam Gilman

            I don’t see the logic of trying to find one option and settling on that. Wind is clearly expandable, and with good resources has shown it can do a lot, solar makes lots of sense where you can get things like concentrated solar working, and people are willing to pay for domestic solar out of their own pockets. Hydro is already powering a lot of countries, and even good storage options are geographically dependent. Nuclear has serious issues with peaking.

          • Van Snyder

            Wind is not indefinitely expandable. In my earlier message, I should have made it clear that several calculations (not handwaving) have shown that land-based wind cannot supply more than about 12% of current US electricity needs, or about 3% of current total energy needs. It’s around 3.4% now, so it can be expanded. While our energy needs will inevitably increase, wind won’t. Offshore wind would supply more than 12%, but collecting wind energy from any significant distance off shore would make for very expensive distribution.

            The only carbon-free energy sources that can go the distance are nuclear and solar.

            People are willing to pay out of their pockets for the fraction of solar costs that they see directly, and might or might not be willing to pay if they knew how much of their taxes were subsidizing it. Have you ever noticed that none of the outfits selling solar have it on their own shops? Why is that? Because they don’t get the homeowners’ subsidy, and without it, it’s generally too expensive to make sense where grid power is available. Sacramento Municipal Utility District found that their (unsubsidized) financial payback was 69 years — from panels guaranteed only for twenty years.

            Nothing is wrong with a mix, except for “irrational exuberance.” It doesn’t hurt anything, but putting too many of your eggs in the anything-but-nuclear basket will ultimately be a disappointment.

          • Sam Gilman

            Do you have those links on limits to wind?

            I’ve heard of calculations that suggest limits to wind (eg too many farms and you start stealing energy from other farms), but not demonstrations that this is happening.

            I wouldn’t sniff at 12% of energy needs.

          • Van Snyder

            Wind and solar have serious issues with variability. The same solutions would apply in both cases.

          • Sam Gilman

            I agree – the intermittency seems to be the biggest issue. Limits to wind and solar appear to be relative to overall systems, rather than absolute, with the exception of a few places where density of demand outstrips density of supply (such as in my adopted home of Japan).

            However, you cited a limit to wind in the US which seems much lower than I have read elsewhere; do you have a link to that? It’s just that wind’s higher capacity factor compared to solar seems to help it in practice make a bigger contribution, yet you’re plainly more enthusiastic about solar.

          • Van Snyder

            I posted the link



            in response to a previous post from Sam, but it looks like Crux didn’t approve it (they apparently moderate posts with links).

            I wouldn’t say “enthusiastic” about solar so much as “realistic.” I’d be more enthusiastic if the true direct construction, maintenance, and operation costs were not so much larger than for nuclear, if it didn’t need 70 times more land, and if a way could be found to deploy solar to destroy nuclear waste.

          • greenthinker2012

            …”no less than Dr. Rosalie Bertell”….

            OMG!…The chemtrail conspiracist?!?

            That is who you look to for your scientific opinion?


            There are so many scientists who are widely respected whom you could rely on for your opinions.

            Do you start with your conclusion and then search for people who will validate it?

            From your other comments I am guessing so.

          • William Linnell

            If you’re going to dis Dr. Rosalie Bertell, Amory Lovins , and John Gofman, you need to put up more credibility than just that you have a physics background and that you’re self employed. Who are you to trash talk them? Expand on the physics background a bit and on what kind of work you’ve been engaged in, please.

          • greenthinker2012

            No thanks William.

            We tried that once before remember?

            You can choose to believe whomever you wish.

            Chem trail conspiracists, “lone wolf” scientists…..whatever.

            All I wonder is….Why do you do so?

          • William Linnell

            Let’s try this: You said “There are so many scientists who are widely respected whom you could rely on for your opinions.”

            Ok, so can you name any that are on the non-nuclear side of this issue, or are the only widely respected scientists on the nuclear side of the issue?

          • greenthinker2012

            It depends on what issue you are talking about. However you will find that scientists examine reality and thus often come to consensus.

            If you need the answer to be that nuclear is “super dangerous” then you won’t find the scientific consensus on your side and you will be stuck quoting scientific outliers.

            The media always makes it seem like there is a “balance” of views when in many cases the science is settled and well understood.

            Nuclear power is one of these areas of firm understanding.

            Why not read what the international science committees have published?

            UNSCEAR is a good one to start with. They have published papers on Fukushima and Chernobyl that are comprehensive and understandable.

          • Van Snyder

            There are also differing opinions whether vaccines cause autism, whether power lines cause leukemia, whether the Apollo landings happened on the moon or at Area 51, whether cell phones cause brain cancer, whether freon causes ozone depletion, …. Differing opinions don’t automatically have equal value. Data, not opinions, are what decide.

          • Sparafucile

            I’ve concluded you got all your information on the effects of “radiation” from Godzilla, and all your knowledge of nuclear power from The Simpsons.

          • Van Snyder

            Even with “statistics,” Chernobyl is irrelevant, of course, to a discussion of MSR or IFR. Nobody plans to build a 3 GWth reactor with a positive temperature coefficient and a positive void coefficient out of charcoal, and surround it by a tinfoil containment shed. Equally, Windscale, Fermi, TMI, Fukushima, and Krasnoyarsk are irrelevant. Have you rushed off the the MH 370 blogs to proclaim that the Hindenburg fire proves the 777 is unsafe?

          • William Linnell

            I completely disagree with your assertion that discussion of Chernobyl is “irrelevant, of course” to future nuclear power plants due to financial, technical, human error, and Murphy’s Law reasons:

            The nuclear industry has consistently and grossly understated construction costs, often in the neighborhood of 200 to 400 percent. And EVERY time, they promise that somehow the next time will be miraculously different.

            Technically, we’re still talking about ionizing radiation. We’re still talking about nuclear contamination throughout the fuel cycle, from mining, processing, operation, and nuclear waste (perhaps less, but tons more than renewable energy).

            The industry says the new reactors are so safe, they won’t need containment. Maybe, but, of course, that was exactly what they thought would work at Chernobyl.

            The proposed new generation of reactors is just that: proposed. Theoretical. The swagger that the industry is displaying is hype. A great experiment for someone who works in a nuclear lab, but nothing I would want to spend my money on, when there are alternative, renewable energy sources growing everywhere, without the potential catastrophic outcome that a nuclear facility carries. You may say that’s unlikely, but you haven’t convinced the insurance industry, the experts on assessing risk, anywhere in the world. That is a powerful argument that remains. When the insurance industry genuinely is willing to insure a nuclear plant, without help from Price-Anderson, then you might have a better argument. I doubt that will ever happen. In the meantime, no thanks.

            Furthermore, safety at nuclear plants is predicated on the assumption that the plants follow NRC rules and regulations. There is ample evidence that they do not. That’s what happens when human beings are involved.

            I’m not willing to make the State of Maine a laboratory for the nuclear industry to try their next experiment. And, as a taxpayer, I certainly would not lend them the money to do it. And I’m not alone. Maine won’t allow another nuke plant without a statewide referendum.

            FInally, there’s Murphy’s law. Anyting that can go wrong will go wrong. Therefore, I’d rather invest in any other technology than nuclear. Of course there are risks in anything. Here’s a seagoing analogy- There are people that put gasoline engines below decks in power boats, but not most people. Gasoline is Ok for an outboard skiff, but gasoline vapors are heavier than air, and can settle in the bilge and blow the whole thing up. If diesel engines were as inexpensive as gasoline engines, hardly anyone would use them in boats. Yes, you can minimize risk with better ventilation and so on, but gas will still settle in the bilge if it can, and gas still blows up. Diesel can burn, but the vapor is inherently safer than gasoline vapor.

          • Sparafucile

            That’s a whole lot of stupid you put together into that tome.

            You should go live in a cave, it seems. Why don’t you? Oh! Oh! I know — RADON!

          • Van Snyder

            Discussion of a graphite-moderated ceramic-fuel reactor with a positive temperature coefficient and a positive void coefficient is not germane to discussion of either a molten-salt reactor or IFR.

            IFR is not theoretical. EBR-II operated at 20 MWe for decades.

            The nuclear industry has correctly estimated direct costs. Then anti-nuclear activists achieve their stated goal to magnify total costs by increasing indirect costs such as interest expense and lawsuit defense.

            Safety at IFR is not predicated on the assumption that plant operators will follow NRC rules. It was proven to an international audience to be walk-away-safe. Even if nobody was in the control room when either coolant circulation or heat sink were lost (the only two known ways to damage a reactor, short of a meteorite strike), the reactor would shut down gracefully without heroic intervention — and it did so twice in 1986.

            Murphy’s law says “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” It doesn’t say “anything that can’t possibly go wrong will go wrong anyway.”

          • William Linnell

            You can claim that “nothing can possibly go wrong”, but that’s what they said about the Titanic, which was “unsinkable” . . . until it most decidedly sank.

          • Van Snyder

            I didn’t claim that NOTHING can possibly go wrong, only that Murphy’s Law does not pertain to ANYTHING that cannot possibly go wrong, and has been proven so.

          • Van Snyder

            Paraphrasing Schopenhauer’s critique of Hegel:

            May Linnell’s philosophy of absolute nonsense continue to pass for unfathomable wisdom without anyone suggesting as an appropriate motto for his writings Shakespeare’s words: “Such stuff as madmen tongue and brain not,” or, as an emblematical vignette, the cuttle-fish with its ink-bag, creating a cloud of darkness around it to prevent people from seeing what it is, with the device: mea caligine tutus. May each day bring us, as hitherto, new systems adapted for anti-nuclear purposes, entirely made up of words and phrases and in a learned jargon besides, which allows people to talk whole days without saying anything; and may these delights never be disturbed by the Arabian proverb: “I hear the clappering of the mill, but I see no flour.” – For all this is in accordance with the age and must have its course.

          • William Linnell

            The Lady doth protest too much, methinks…….

          • Sparafucile

            The refrain, fool, is that the reactor at Chernobyl bears no similarity to anything ever operated for power in the West, and is worlds apart from any modern design. Your continual comparisons and references to Chernobyl, are (to put it kindly) inapt.

          • Van Snyder

            Kind of like using the Hindenburg fire to prove the 777 is unsafe.

          • Sparafucile

            Sorry, Sam — Junk Science and the Precautionary Principle are articles of faith for the Left, not the Right.

          • greenthinker2012

            Show me where your answer has been true.

            Show me an example.

          • William Linnell

            Where? Everywhere. -Of course there may be other factors that contribute to carbon emissions, but replacing oil or coal fired electrical plants with renewable energy will result in fewer greenhouse emissions in that application. If you believe otherwise, please explain:

          • greenthinker2012

            Wow! Everywhere!?! So according to you humanity has already reduced their CO2 output by 80%?


          • Van Snyder

            The only renewable that can do the job is solar. It’s currently 0.12% of US electricity production, or about 0.017% of total US energy consumption. At 5% growth per year, we can get all of our energy from solar in 968 years.

          • greenthinker2012

            Let’s double our efforts and do it in 480 years!


          • Sparafucile

            How, precisely, are you measuring “better outcomes”?

          • William Linnell

            Well, for starters, no daily radioactive emissions, or leaks, no spikes in acute lymphocytic leukemia, no clusters of cancer downwind, no highly radioactive spent fuel pools, no $43 billion dollar unfunded decommissioning costs, no catastrophic meltdowns, no high-level nuclear waste dumps, no seafood samples such as lobster with cobalt or other radioisotopes.

          • Sparafucile

            I see — “better” because it doesn’t aggravate your acute radiophobia.

          • Van Snyder

            None of which actually happens.

          • William Linnell

            False. If fuel rods didn’t leak, there wouldn’t be any “low-level” radioactive waste present at nuclear plants. Ask the folks in Barnwell, South Carolina where they get a lot of their nuclear waste. There are daily radioactive releases of this poison at nuclear plants. We had a toll-free number here in Maine that you could call and see how much they would admit to sending out on any given day. I would have thought that you’d be aware of that.

          • Van Snyder

            I did write “except for 5%-used fuel rods, which we’ve known for fifty years how to turn into electricity, effectively eliminating the problem.” Thanks to irrational hysteria, fueled by irrelevancies spewed by such as yourself, and Cliton administration pandering to it, we refuse to do it.

          • William Linnell

            You’re misleading the public. A ” 5% used fuel may sound innocuous, but you know and I know that it is HIGHLY radioactive by that time. It’s highly radioactive when it reaches 3% and 4% used, too. And those fuel rods develop pin holes before they get to 5%, so even if you take them out then, they’ve already leaked, haven’t they……

          • Van Snyder

            It doesn’t matter whether the fuel is 5%-used or 3%-used or 99%-used. The point is that we’ve known how to destroy all the long-lived transuranic actinides in 5%-used fuel rods for fifty years, and refused to do it. If we were to use all the fuel, all we’d have left is 5% as much fission products as we currently have “waste” (actually valuable 5%-used fuel), and only a fifth of that would need special custody, and for 0.1% as long as the “waste” we currently have.

            In IFR, if fuel rods leak it doesn’t much matter because they go into the electrorefiner as soon as they’re removed from the reactor core, not into a storage pond where they continue to leak for thirty or fifty years. Any fuel or fission products that leak are in the sodium pool, from which they can be (and were at EBR-II) easily removed. Leaks at EBR-II were very very rare because sodium does not corrode fuel pins. Water does, which is why LWR fuel rods develop pinholes.

            Why do you insist on seizing on irrelevancies that have to do only with half-century-old technology, especially in a discussion of proposals to replace the old technology with technologies that are vastly superior?

          • Michael Mann

            William Linnell Actually you don’t have a basic understanding of radiation, contamination and how current nuclear power plants work, so it’s difficult discus it with you. Radiation / radioactive material / poison are three very different things. Fuel does not have to leak for contamination or radiation to be released. When you don’t even understand the terms it’s very difficult to have an adult conversation about the details.

          • William Linnell

            Perhaps you could explain. I was under the impression that the radiation was contained in the fuel rods. How would strontium 90, cobalt, and other radiation get from the fuel rods out into the bay in the water or in the air, if not for leaking fuel rods?

          • Sparafucile

            Fluck climate change — just look at the number of people who die from coal mining & combustion, gas explosions, oil transportation, and the defense of oil fields.

          • greenthinker2012

            I agree there are many reasons to switch over to nuclear power.

            The problem is finding a compelling narrative to facilitate discussion.

          • Van Snyder

            You’re pretending that all new plants would be just as dangerous as the old ones. That’s like pretending that all 747’s are just as dangerous as the Hindenburg, and for the same reasons. Ridiculous. Can we discuss what’s being proposed to replace coal and LWR, not what was invented 60 years ago?

          • William Linnell

            You’re just interested I your own ideology.

          • greenthinker2012

            Yes, I am interested in the “ideology” of science and facts.

          • William Linnell

            My training is in analytical and critical thinking. I think you are confusing critical thinking with ideology. A nuclear scientist or engineer would study how to build a nuke, while a critical thinker would determine whether or not the plant should be built.

            I suspect you already know this, as you’ve adopt the “greenthinker” moniker. Who are you, really? Nuclear industry spokesperson/blogger/attorney? Who signs your paycheck? Without expecting you to be too specific in your answer, I think it’s a fair question.

          • Sparafucile

            Clearly your “training” omitted data analysis and statistics.

          • greenthinker2012

            I have a physics background and am self employed. I am an unpaid environmentalist. My concern is addressing the threats to the environment rationally.

            I am not afraid of nuclear power.

            I want us to use all resources at our disposal to address climate change.

            I want us to deploy each resource where it makes most sense.

            In some places solar is a good answer, in other places it might be wind and in other areas nuclear power is best.

          • William Linnell

            I see why you’re unpaid as an environmentalist.

          • greenthinker2012

            Recycled talking points that have been debunked and now personal insults is all you have to offer?


            Good work William.

          • William Linnell

            Like I said, I see why you’re unpaid as an environmentalist. No major environmental organization supports nuclear power. You have no tolerance for environmentalists who can make a strong case against nukes, and your tone is more than a little condescending towards us:

            You say my words are “irrational”. You refer to “people like you ” (me), saying that we “lack perspective” and use “recycled talking points”.

            Amory Lovins, a Don at Oxford University (comparable to a Dean at an American university) in his early twenties, who is possibly the world’s greatest energy expert, according to you is a “non-scientist” and you suggest that he didn’t “finish any degree”.

            Sorry if it offends you, but you seem to be a shill for the nuclear industry.

          • greenthinker2012

            Correct….i am saying that Lovins is not a scientist and did not finish any science degree.

            Sorry but those are facts.

            Will you check out these verifiable facts our will you simply change the subject again?

          • greenthinker2012

            To be clear I have no tolerance for people like you who exaggerate and make things up.

      • codejack

        Thorium reactors can’t meltdown like Fukushima; didn’t you read the article?

        Even then, solar kills more people per unit power produced than nuclear.

      • Pro-Thorium

        Thorium based Molten Salt Reactors are meltdown proof due to inherent physics of LFTR Reactors.

      • George Lerner

        Get clear whether you are talking about all types of nuclear power, or only the Light Water Reactor. LWR is expensive because of the high-pressure pipes and safety systems, the enormously expensive high-pressure steam containment building. LWR didn’t win the physicist/engineer design contest, it is the type of nuclear reactor Congress stuck us with based on coal/oil lobbying.

        Other types of nuclear reactor don’t have water coolant, so don’t require high-pressure equipment, can’t have steam pressure explosions, don’t need steam containment buildings.

        Other types of nuclear reactors, that we could be using, don’t waste 98% of the fuel like LWR does.

        Molten Salt Reactors are cooled by salts far below their boiling point, and the molten fuel is chemically bound strongly to the salt, so can’t have loss of coolant accidents, and the fuel can’t get hot enough to melt the reactor vessel. MSR uses over 99% of the fuel, and most of the fission products only have to be stored 10 years (and then are useful in several industries). Zero 100,000+ year waste.

        Fukushima, unlike other Japanese reactor sites managed by other companies: lacked adequate sea wall for a tsunami zone (TEPCO actually lowered the natural sea wall); had cooling system backup power in the basement at risk of being wiped out by flood; doesn’t have ground water diverted so is continually flowing through the reactor site. All other Japanese reactors are *undamaged*, because their management protected against all the problems TEPCO ignored despite warnings, including warnings of massive tsunamis hitting the area centuries ago. TEPCO did not apply simple fixes that all other nuclear power plant operators in the area applied.

        (And given the damage to the entire country by the earthquake, tsunami, natural gas fires, etc. etc., some other country should have flown in diesel generators, pumps, etc to keep the reactor cooling systems going! The ENTIRE Fukushima disaster was preventable!)

        Indian Point didn’t have anything close to those failures at basic safety precautions. Indian Point was Never at risk of anything close to a loss of coolant accident, or a core meltdown, or hydrogen explosion. (Even survived every single tsunami that hit it, right?)

        We were Not at risk of having to “permanently evacuate New York City”.

        Find out the Actual risks, at all power plants, and get those taken care of — coal ash piles sliding into rivers, oil trains exploding, natural gas pipelines exploding, oil pipelines bursting, refinery fires, oil wells leaking, oil well chemicals leaking into rivers, ships running aground spilling oil, etc.

        I think all types of power plant operators should be fined full actual cleanup and health costs and lost wages and environmental damages, plus punitive fines. We are paying the costs of energy company negligence.

    • Donk970

      Get of it. The only reason this isn’t being developed here is that there is no way to make huge profits on the fuel.

    • Patrick Thompson

      that’s pure BS, bear.

    • df NJ

      If a single Thorium molten salt reactor goes into production in China or India the price of a barrel of oil will instantly drop to $10 per barrel. Or, we will have another world war possibly with nuclear weapons.

    • Brian Donovan

      Only proven reserve of thorium for 1 years of the world’s energy demand.

      solar, wind and renewable are 8 times as much power produced as nuclear and cheaper and with an infinite power supply.

      Let’s stick to the real solutions and not the cargo cult nuclear science fiction stuff.

    • Brian Donovan

      Those countries that go renewable will have cheaper energy forever.

      Those that stay with nuclear and fossils,

      will freeze in the dark,

      when the fuel supplies hit the wall.

      Nuclear is short of fuels even at it’s pathetic 2% of our world energy in just 10 years.

      natural gas is long gone, with only fracked water killing gas left and already peaking.

      Even coal is peaking with reserve being reevaluated down 99% to 1% of the previous claimed reserves.

      Yet 88 people have been fooled into thinking fossils and nuclear are not running out.

      88 people don’t know that renewable is much cheaper, with infinite free fuel.

      Lazard energy version 8.

      IAEA Pub1104_scr.pdf

    • Hermen

      ……..or just shut everything down completely as the implacable nihilists and anarchists they are , who will accept no solution

    • safetynet2razorwire

      You (and 84 other duffii just bobble-headed their ‘uh huh’s) just accused ‘environmentalists’ of championing the burning of coal. Face-palm. Head a shake.

      • Michael Mann

        Yes, it is sad when anti-nuclear activists pose as environmentalists, when they would rather burn coal and natural gas than admit they were wrong about nuclear energy they are not environmentalists.

    • UVaGuyinNC

      It is not the environmentalist who want to burn coal! That’s Trump and his fellow luddites.Wind power is already an integral part Of the solution.

  • Buddy199

    The greens will try to kill that too, just as they are fanatically against Keystone, prefering the oil be shipped by more unsafe means and burned under far dirtier circumstances. It’s a religious conviction with them – and good luck trying to logically reason anyone out of their religious convictions.

    • Smarter than Your Average Bear

      Greens don’t want it shipped at all, but nice try at misinformation there.

      • disqus_RUOK

        Not misinformation at all.

        Greens block one thing without realizing that the process WILL move forward one way or another. Just because Keystone gets blocked does in no way means the production stops – it just moves to a different form of transportation. That is the reality in a business world.

        Greens have to realize that it will be shipped, transported and used. Keystone gave us the advantage rather than losing it’s potential in the market.

        • Smarter than Your Average Bear

          Complete misinformation – Keystone in the end would create fewer than 200 jobs in the US, contribute almost nothing to the US economy (all that oil will be exported) and greatly increase CO2 emissions both here in Canada (from the mining of it) as well as anywhere it is burned. Also, those of us who actually care about the environment are hard at work to also block the use of pipelines in Canada to move tar sands oil. In other words we want to put the tar sands out of business.

          • Jag_Levak

            Do you want to see dirty fossil fuels put out of business badly enough that you would be willing to accept nuclear power? My impression is that most Greens are opposed to it.

          • Scott Medwid

            Greens don’t do engineering very well and they have a cognative dissidence when it comes to energy infrastucture. France went nuclear full tilt in 1978 to counter OPEC oil shocks and the vulnerability the country had because they burned oil to make electricity. They built standarized nuclear power plants with a centralized fuel reprosessing system. Robert Stone’s documentary “Pandora’s Promise” goes into this in detail.

          • DCDuring

            “cognative dissidence” should be “cognitive dissonance”.

          • Ugly bag of mostly water

            No, The Greens are also against cognition.

          • Heimdall222

            “…Greens are also against cognition.”

            But they does luv to hug them trees. And them spotted owls!

          • Chrmngblly

            Easy boys. We need everyone onboard that we can get onboard. Personally, I find every camp has at least one loony locked up in an upstairs bedroom.

          • William Linnell

            France has screwed itself with nuclear power and waste. Look up the Flamanville Plant. You guys are all bending over backwards to rationalize nasty or unsafe, theoretical, unproven technology when renewable energy is already on the ground and running. Give it up! Put your zeal into the technologies that hold the most promise, are working now, with none of the catastrophic outcomes that nukes and fossil fuels can and do have.

          • Kurt Van Luven

            Apparadently, you don’t know we are using “word fusion” reactors to make brand new words!

          • Walter Duda

            Think outside the box, the real source of energy that is being overlooked is water power. With computers and hydraulics which did not exist when it was the major power source and the advent of the internal combustion engine the single greatest power source on the planet has been overlooked. Nuclear is clean except for spent rods and meltdowns, sun is great but not 24-7-365, coal and other hydrocarbons are polluters and the wind doesn’t blow 24-7. Major metropolises are built along streams and exist as they were the the only cheap source of transporting goods in the olden days. Dams destryed fish runs, sedimentation in rivers and floods and failures resulting in property loss and death when they burst.

            Turbines placed on the bottoms of major waterways next to cities and their advantages. No sub stations for hundreds of miles,gravity constant is the renewable power source. Located strategically water traffic is not affected and there is no limit to how many or how often they are located. Maintenance in seldom required and aquatic and fish life are unaffected , they swim right around or through them. A constant self renewing power source with no pollution located near the source of it’s benefactors, no cost for fuel, the benefits are limitless but one must think outside of the box.

            Our current love affair with wind nuclear and sun as a source is misguided by by all of the attention and publicity. As an added feature, they would not be an eye sore that environmentalists oppose.

          • Pro-Thorium

            Bay of Fundy in N.B. Canada has 60-80 foot tides that have Hydro potential to power entire East Coast of North America.

          • Van Snyder

            This nutty idea was abandoned fifty years ago because it would change the resonant frequency of the tidal basin from Fundy to Boston, with enormous undesirable environmental consequences.

          • Smarter than Your Average Bear

            I for one would however nukes are not at all necessary. There is sufficient geothermal energy in 100 sites in Canada alone to supply any conceivable amount of energy requirements for all of Canada and the US for the foreseeable future. Add in the geothermal potential in a lot of the US and you have all the electricity you’ll ever need and it is 24×7 . The new Enhanced Geothermal engineering allows for development of sites that would otherwise not be useful. Also the cost for geothermal is much less than nuclear, there are no deadly wastes involved, and construction time is far shorter and lifespan longer than a nuke.

          • WalterHorsting

            Did you know the major source of Geothermal Power in California puts out 200 times the radiation than a typical Nuclear Power Plant?

          • Smarter than Your Average Bear

            That is in standard regular geothermal (and also depends on the underlying rock formations). Enhanced geothermal is a closed system – it does not generate waste as the water is not directly exposed to the rock layer. see if you are interested

          • WalterHorsting

            I was referring to the Salton sea installation measured radiation output. By the way Thorium powers the the Earth’s nuclear core.

          • Tom Billings

            What you don’t seem to realize is that geothermal is also opposed by many in the Deep Ecology-dominated environmental movement. There is a project here in Oregon put back about a decade by now, through environmental lawsuits. The key is not really the safety of the process. The key is that the Deep Ecology Movement wants to shut down industrial society. Some of them aren’t happy with agrarian societies, either.

            Thus, there really is no reason to bend over to assuage the public concerns of these groups. When at a party where they think the lodge is tiled, the most vicious anti-industrial speech becomes the norm. I’ve been there and listened.

            Go with the LFTRs, and if any of the alternate fusions schemes work out, we will be still swimming in so much wealth we won’t notice the loss. Of course, that’s just what our opponents are afraid of. Remember “Cold Fusion”? When it was thought it might be viable for a short time, many of the leaders of the environmental movement were comparing it to “giving a child a machine gun”. This tells you a lot about how they view the rest of us.

          • Eric Lipps

            “Deep Ecology” does not dominate the environmental movement. It is, in fact, considered something of a fringe element.

          • Van Snyder

            Frank Shu, a professor at UCSD, has actually done some calculations instead of vague handwaving. See He estimates that worldwide availability of geothermal power is 0.4 TWe, but realistically only about 35% of that can be extracted (0.140 TWe). Worldwide energy consumption is currently around 15 TW, and will increase as India and other developing countries become more prosperous.

          • disqus_RUOK

            If its that good than why hasn’t some money-bags jumped all over it?

            Answer is simple – It is not that good.

          • Van Snyder

            Physics professors have calculated that geothermal can provide at most 0.4 TWe worldwide. That’s 2.7% of current consumption.

            How much nuclear waste does geothermal electricity destroy? LFTR and IFR would destroy it.

          • marque2

            First of all oil isn’t as dirty as you all make it out to be. Second Thoreum byproducts are much less radioactive than standard nuke plants. It would be a win win forneveryone, except for the scare mongering by eco groups. Eco groups goals are really no power of any kind for anyone.

          • Jag_Levak

            How clean oil is depends a lot on what you do with it. The most recent estimate I’ve seen is that pollution from oil-burning container ships cuts around 60,000 lives short in U.S. coastal regions each year.

            [Edit: the article I read was incorrect. That was actually a global death rate projection in the study they were citing.]

            We’ve gone to war over death tolls far smaller than that. (On the upside, the huge engines of container ships would be a good candidate for a drop-in nuke replacement.)

            But even if you process oil to burn as cleanly as possible in engines with advanced emissions controls, the inevitable product of burning it is CO2. If we developed non-fossil synth-fuel alternatives, there are a number of useful non-fuel products we could be making from oil, instead of just burning it up.

          • marque2

            The shortened life death figures are pretty bogus, since we started using more and more power, from gas and coal, we have actually increased our lifespans. The reason is we use the power to keep ourselves and our food and products more sanitary, free from spoilage, and keep our bodies within a more normal temperature range.

            Note those pollution studies also tend to use bogus statistics. They expose rats to X amount of some substance and determine that it will kill the rat in a week, multiply that by about 600 to account for human weight and then draw a graph from that amount 600X to zero and assume there is a linear relationship between the amount of X and the amount of people it kills. Of course this is false, because our bodies are designed to take care of small quantities of toxins all the time, many self produced. It is when our bodies are overwhelmed that it becomes harmful. So being exposed to 1/10million of the dose the rate was exposed to doesn’t necessarily correlate to 4000 deaths a year in the USA. You really need to do research at the much lower level to see if there is any effect at all. We get the same crap with diet science. If your Sys blood pressure is lowered from 300 to 280, it will extend your life somewhat. So using similar techniques, they draw the time and then assume lowering your pressure from 120 – 110 will have a similar lifesaving effect for 60,000 people, or something like that, therefore eat less salt. Again bogus. If your blood pressure is normal, your veins and heart can handle it. it is only when it is out of range that it is problematic. Eat the salt, unless your doctor says you have hypertension.

          • Jag_Levak

            I think we do have some direct evidence correlating human respiratory problems with poor air quality, but whatever the basis of the science, it was apparently convincing to the International Maritime Organisation which has mandated major changes in fuel formulation (including a 90% decrease in sulfur) by 2020.

            But it does appear I got hold of an article which mischaracterized the health findings of that study. The 60,000 deaths projection was for worldwide, not for the U.S.

          • marque2

            Much of it is junk science. Recently the EPA got involved in some illegal experiments having Asthmatics breath some of these substances, with no conclusive results. Unfortunately, there is a coverup about the actual dangerous illegal human experiments, but we have the results.

          • Kurt Van Luven

            CO2 is not a toxin. Ask a tree.

          • Jag_Levak

            Water is not a toxin either, for humans, it is even essential, and yet, we can fare badly when there is too much of it. Likewise, many forms of sea life need carbon for their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons, but too much CO2 turns the oceans acidic, which can impede shell formation or even dissolve shells. We haven’t pushed the oceans to catastrophic acidity yet, but that’s the trajectory we are on if we don’t curtail CO2 production and give sea life some time to catch up and recover.

          • Kurt Van Luven

            What about 4.5×10^8 years ago? We had much more CO2 in the atmosphere! I suppose that man’s fault?

          • Jag_Levak

            The question of fault for our situation seems irrelevant to me. I think the issue at hand is what is our best path forward.

            When we discovered burning wood and animal oils, our lives got a whole lot better. Then we figured out some incredibly useful things to do with fire energy, and life got better still–until we went overboard chopping down forests and killing whales. Then we hit upon fossil fuels, and our lives got even better, and some of the forests began to recover and several whale species were spared from extinction. But now our energy needs are growing faster than ever. The amount of energy it takes to extract fossil fuels keeps growing, and we are adding every kind of renewable we can think of and it isn’t even keeping up with demand growth. We are even once again chopping down forests and burning them for fuel (ironically, tree-huggers call this “green” energy), and it’s still not enough.

            But we now know we are sitting on a unimaginably vast repository of nuclear fuels. Everybody on the planet could have clean energy abundance indefinitely, and we can get it from rocks, sand and seawater without having to burn forests, or carpet living deserts with solar panels or chew up millions of acres of land.

            I don’t fault humanity for being in the situation it is. Each of the previous decisions that got us here made sense, and made life better for us. But now we have another opportunity to jump to the next tier of energy prosperity. Even setting aside considerations of global warming, ocean acidification, air pollution, and environmental degradation, why would anyone not want that?

          • Kurt Van Luven

            You sound so reasonable. But like every decades scare mongers, you are incorrect.

          • Van Snyder

            Who single-handedly saved the whales? John D. Rockefeller.

          • Pro-Thorium

            LFTR Reactors were to be used for the First Nuclear Sub.,until Adm.Rickover refused to do the R & D needed to implement a better Technology proposed by Alvin Wienburg.

          • disqus_RUOK

            If it created just 10 jobs it still wouldn’t matter for the debate.

            The oil WILL be delivered and used is the point. Whether it flows through the pipeline, regardless of the number of jobs created. In that context, the control as well as the profits might as well stay here in the US.

            Care about the environment, really? How does stopping the Keystone pipeline get anywhere near making a difference in how the fuel is consumed? It will still get consumed, just through different modes of transportation that is more risky and profits going to international markets.

            Makes no sense the way you green people think.

          • Chris Namelast

            The “problem” with energy consumption is that modern man uses energy…. Reduce the population would be one way to reduce energy consumption… I live very parsimoniously tightly regulating my energy usage at home. Driving (well…) one has to work where the job is located. Reduce population/ban the use of ALL fossil fuels!!! Live like stone age man! Sounds like a good plan. The earth has been here FAR longer than the human race and it will most likely be here after we are gone. The environment that supports life is complicated and has MANY (MANY!) intricacies that require study. The environment of Earth has a steward called man (unless there are other more powerful entities involved? lol conspiracies lol) Man will make mistakes along the way and the environment of earth may suffer. In the end a sustainable energy source needs to be found. Pollution of the air/ground and water needs to be a minimum. The shear size of the human population in itself has altered the environment and will. Earth changed over 2000 years ago (or longer) when man started developing higher tech and that will continue. Either eliminate man or live with humankind on the face of the planet.

          • disqus_RUOK

            Population only get reduced by disease, war and natural disasters – otherwise, full speed ahead with growth.

            Society in-itself demands usage of energy at every turn. Jobs, dwellings, transportation – demand only goes up, not down.

            Pollution, whatever we or any other developed Nation do in terms of “cleaning” up our act is instantly negated by those Nations that have no rules governing the matter. A single volcanic eruption equals nearly 25 years of carbon emissions by the “humans”.

            You live in a dream that has no real life solutions for our dilemma – that is the reality. Humans are here to stay as long as possible and move onto other planets as technology and our knowledge allows us.

          • Eric Lipps

            In other words, humans are here to stay while we develop the technology to flee the planet we’re busily trashing.

            Of course, there’s the little matter of where we’ll flee to, since there are no other habitable planets in our solar system. Not to mention that it would take an outright miracle to actually evacuate billions of people to anywhere. Even millions would be a stretch. But then, Mitt Romney didn’t go far enough; it’s 99.997 percent of people we should write off, right?

            You say, “Population only get reduced by disease, war and natural disasters – otherwise, full speed ahead with growth.” Well, if irresponsible “growth” continue, expect the rest.

            And don’t throw past failed predictions at me: that’s like the man who’s jumped off the top of the Empire State Building saying, as he whizzes by the tenth-floor windows, that there’s nothing to worry about because “I’ve fallen ninety stories and none of those predictions of doom have come true yet.”

            In other words, don’t count on technology and the magic of the marketplace to save us forever: technology will give us what it will, not necessarily what we hope it will, and in real life, “magic” is illusion.

          • disqus_RUOK

            You jump to your own conclusions a little too quickly.

            When we “flee” it doesn’t have to be as running away from our home planet. Somewhere along the way you have come to grips with this planet ending on its own terms regardless of any life activity on its surface. Not going to last forever.

            By the time we come around to inter-space travel, we will have also better conditions to plot numerous courses in many directions. As grows our technology so grows our knowledge of surrounding solar systems – no matter the distance.

            I didn’t say irresponsible growth, I said growth. Don’t turn me into a negative without first checking with me. Sensible but not overly restrictive growth provides faster turn around time for research as well as tangible end products. Balance can be kept.

            Falling from the Empire State Building thingy… If you know you are on a course from start to end (like the fall you describe) the end is already a known – no guessing needed to predict an outcome. Global warming crowd wants me to believe they can predict 100’s if not 1000’s of years into our own demise yet we lack the technology to accurately predict the weather tomorrow – seriously? Known recorded history is barely 4000 years old, yet we know everything there is to know about global changes – too much credit is given where it is not deserved.

            Lastly, technology gives us what we seek from it. We make it go in the direction we need it to. Accidental discoveries happen along the way but technology is not a crap-shoot of whatever happens. You are seriously misguided there.

          • Pro-Thorium

            Make use of Greenland Ice core Data & use hard science to show effect of CO2 levels for the last 100,000 years shown in ice core just like looking at tree rings. Science predict’s precisely the outcome.!!

          • disqus_RUOK

            In comparison to what? You are using data from a linear extraction. With no parallel data to offset your scientific “prediction” you logically have nothing to lock in your results. Much the same as us “predicting” path of a hurricane – numerous models predict various paths, some of which are completely off course to actual hurricane. We know hurricanes exist and have broad understanding of the mechanics, yet we are still guessing.

            You expect anyone to believe the scientific community with certainty when most of our science today is still under “theory” especially when it comes to global matters.

            Water and fools follow the path of least resistance. Science, as we understand it to be is still in its technological infancy – nothing is certain in its predictions.

          • greenthinker2012

            You are incorrect about your claim

            “A single volcanic eruption equals nearly 25 years of carbon emissions by the “humans”.

            Total world volcano emissions per year = between 65 and 300 million tonnes.

            Human CO2 emissions per year=

            30 Billion tonnes.

            You are wrong by a factor of between 100 to 500 times.per year X the 25 years = 2500 to 12500 times wrong.

          • Van Snyder

            Actually, population growth gets reduced by prosperity (and, to some degree by hopeless political systems). Italy and Russia are below replacement already. Western Europe barely breaks even.

          • Tom Billings

            “Reduce population/ban the use of ALL fossil fuels!!! Live like stone age man!”

            This was Timmy’s drivel in 1972, just before he went off to accept a job at the EPA. Timmy was the husband of my girlfriend’s sister. So, we talked a lot. He never did answer my questions about who would pick the ones that get to starve to death. He never did answer questions about how industrial medicine would be replaced, or if it would. He never did answer my questions about the return of cannibalism. (The anti-prion genes in the human genome went into genetic drift at the same time as the agricultural revolution. That means they were no longer needed to stop prion diseases spread almost entirely by cannibalism.) Take away the calories from agriculture, and cannibalism would return all too soon.

          • Van Snyder

            Reducing the population is the solution? You first.

          • Smarter than Your Average Bear

            We don’t want it developed or shipped by any method. We don’t want it used at all and here in Canada we are working hard to shut down every avenue of transport for it. You conservatives are one sided thinkers – all you think about is money and jobs right now – not vision for the future at all. An utterly selfish way of thinking.

          • marque2

            And what vision for the future is it to shut down all energy supplies, for relatively harmless substances? Your religion is strange.

          • Smarter than Your Average Bear

            And who said anything about all energy supplies – nice bit of BS there dude – you getting paid to spout that shit? I only mentioned oil to which I would add coal and gas – there are alternatives which if you bothered to do some basic research (no I’m not going to do it for you) you would know about. Start by looking up Enhanced Geothermal and go from there.

          • Pro-Thorium

            Iceland produces 90% of it’s Elect. from Geothermal as well as Heat for Homes.

          • Van Snyder

            There are no volcanoes in the Mississippi valley.

          • disqus_RUOK

            Funny that is exactly how I view all you tree huggers. Environmentalists are all one sided thinkers, all you think about is fictitiously saving something that you have no clue about. You do realize a single “small” volcanic eruption puts out more carbon emissions than 50 years of fossil fuel consumption – and how many volcanic eruption happen around the globe on an annual basis?

            Environmentalist like yourself like to cling to the past and keep it just that way with no vision of future or bettering society. Utterly selfish with self absorbed “theory” based agenda’s.

            Can’t predict the weather one day but able to predict 100’s of years global warming doom and gloom. Give me a break and grow up.

          • Kyle

            Dumbass denier said: “You do realize a single “small” volcanic eruption puts out more carbon emissions than 50 years of fossil fuel consumption.”

            BS. Human CO2 emissions are well over 100X that of all geologic sources combined (primarily volcanism).

            Stop trusting denial industry propaganda and consume a little science for a change, wingnut.

          • marque2

            Keystone would create 100,000 jobs minimum. I understand ignoring the construction work, because that is just temporary, but the economic advantage is much greater than just the few dozen needed to maintain the pipe. Secondary jobs would be created at the endpoints, refinery jobs would be created, companies getting cheaper fuel would be able to produce more. It would have a multiplicative effect on the whole economy. It would also allow more oil to be produced in North Dakota. Oil is a bit cheap right now, but that won’t last forever – right now because there is no way to move any more oil, many wells are just drilled and capped, waiting for more transportation.

          • Smarter than Your Average Bear

            Dude the oil is not going to be sold in the US it will be sold to asia. This has been known for a very long time. You haven’t been paying attention. Practically zero economic benefit to the US, but hey the Koch bros and their like who own the few refineries that can process this crap will make out quite well –

          • marque2

            It doesn’t matter where the oil is sold. But you must be mistaken since it is illegal to export oil from the US, the stuff will have to at least be refined before it goes. And more interesting, the great thing about trade is that it make both parties wealthier, so it doesn’t really matter where the oil end up we will still jave more money out of it, and more money leads to more investment and more investment to more jobs. You forgot to take Econ 101 and 102 in college I see.

          • Smarter than Your Average Bear

            It may be illegal to export oil at one time and technically still is but LOL you are so naive to think for a second that the traders etc have not found ways around it. In fact Obama even bragged about how much was being exported to the world in the SOTU last night.

            Trade makes both parties wealthier – LOFL – you are so naive. There are a lot of example of trade agreements that screwed one side r the other – hey NAFTA is a prime example and the TPP if it passes is another. I’ve forgotten more about economics than you ever knew.

          • marque2

            Obama brags about many things he hasn’t done. We export Diesel mostly to Europe, and Europe exports gasoline to us. We each have a surplus of one or the other, and would have to get rid of it at discount prices if it weren’t traded. We don’t trade oil, except in very limited quantities (I think a total of 50,000bbl per year)

            Secondly trade agreements is not trade. Trade makes both parties better off. You go to Target for instance, and trade green pieces of paper, that you can’t do much with, for say an ice cream bar which you can eat. Target is better off because they have the paper, and you are better off because you have the ice cream.

            Works with your job as well. I don’t know what you do outside your mother’s basement, but lets assume you are a plumber. You might have one stoppage in your home a month, and yet you could probably fix about 8 stoppages a day – so you have a gross surplus of plumbing skills in your household. What do you do, you export it. Yes that causes the cost of plumbing to go up in your household a bit – mom, might have to wait a bit longer for you to get to her toilet (but I am sure she is happy you are no longer playing dungeon games on the Internet) but the fact that you can service 159 other jobs over the month and bring in valuable money (at least at Target) makes the export worth it.

            There is no reason why an artificial border should cause trade like this to suddenly be bad. If you lived in Wisconsin, and went to a Target in Canada to buy your ice cream, the Canadian Target would still benefit, and you would still benefit. Say someone in Canada decided they will pay you twice as much, if you fixed a plumbing problem in Canada, and lived in Wisconsin, technically since there are fewer plumbing openings in Wisconsin, the price would go up in the USA, but you would bring in more money from Canada than you would doing a job in the USA, so overall you make the state of Wisconsin, and the USA richer, and of course you spend the money somewhere, or save it in a bank, you don’t hoard it under the mattress, so others share in your newfound extra wealth.

            Your thinking is a bit off, and you are trying to be to hostility political, which is what is probably causing your faulty logic.

            And we should allow free export of oil in any form the producers like. And we should allow Canada to bring oil into the US, where it will either get refined here, or shipped elsewhere, either way, it brings extra wealth to the United States, much more than just ‘200’ employees worth.

          • marque2

            By the way for me, my house has too many software development skills. If I didn’t export, I could probably write three decent apps a month for my wife, the price would be close to zero (not including computer expenses) say 1 cent per app. But I have chosen to export my skills for a pretty decent salary. I tell my wife to buy the apps from the appstore, so we end up paying 99X more (99 cents per app) – The cost of software went up almost 100 fold!!!!! and yet because I export the skills, we bring in about 30 times, the value of the increased cost in software. I think it is worth the price increase due to export in my home, first because the value I bring in has gone up more than 30X the cost, and the total value is about 9,000,000 times the value in little green pieces of paper, I would have by not exporting anything.

            And my employer, is probably earning 2 – 3 times what it pays me – so my employer is winning by importing my software skills as well.

            This is the ultimate example of trade benefiting both parties. Does this make sense to you? Exporting from your home for a fair trade in jobs skills, and importing green paper, is the same as exporting and importing from a country.

          • disqus_RUOK

            Read over your words couple of times trying to

            see your logic.

            If you have seriously forgotten more economics than others know, maybe it wasn’t economics that you knew. Sounds like you don’t know much about economics at all. If you have some sort of formal training with economics, you should ask for a refund as you missed the entire class.

            You don’t have to get insultingly hostile to make a point either – that just shows your mental state more than a point you are trying to make.

          • Kyle

            ” . . . it is illegal to export oil from the US” Tell that to all that Alaskan oil on tankers headed to Japan, nitwit.

          • Pro-Thorium

            LNG as well.

          • disqus_RUOK

            Wrong. Many economic benefits to US.

            Refining will be done here.

            Transportation logistics will be done here.

            Safety protocols will our responsibility – better control for handling all around.

            Just in logistics alone it will create jobs along the shipping/piping/sea port routes involved.

            It is going to be pumped, transported, consumed one way or another. Why would we not want the economic benefits to be with the US?

          • Smarter than Your Average Bear

            The latest estimate, from your own government, is 50 FTE jobs – good luck with the pollution from bursting pipelines ( the sand in the bitumen is far more corrosive, by orders of magnitude, than texas sweet crude., and the pipeline companies have shown a complete disregard for pipeline safety and maintenance) – I’m sure those 50 jobs will more than make up for it. I hope the kool-aid you’ve been drinking was tasty – amongst others the Koch brothers are laughing at you and yours for being so gullible. Meanwhile the pipeline will travel over some of your most precious and needed fresh water aquifers.

          • Van Snyder

            Far better to have the pollution from bursting BNSF cars than from bursting pipelines. That way, Warren Buffett gets even more fantastically wealthy (he owns all of BNSF).

          • Van Snyder

            Kind of like Tom Steyer, who spends 12 times as much on politics as the Koch brothers.

          • Sparafucile

            And drives a giant black Range Rover around town.

          • DCDuring

            You clearly don’t understand. All government programs have positive multiplier effects, even though taxes must eventually go up. Private sector cost reductions have no multiplier effects and are bad because they cause us to consume more of what is cheaper. At least that’s what the politicians (principally Democrats, Laborites, and Socialists) keep saying.

          • marque2

            Government generally has a lower multiplier effect because they just end up spending on random stuff to stimulate. Because the funds aren’t allocated efficiently, sometimes it can even be negative. (Eg government purchasing obsolete goods it doesn’t need – happens all the time)

            Private industry, tends to purchase things it needs and wants, and does this to make products which the consumers need and want, so the money is used efficiently, and promotes proper growth in areas where there is demand for the goods.

            I kinda caught you were trying to be sarcastic there, but wasn’t sure, hence the explanation.

          • DCDuring

            I guess it doesn’t pay to be sarcastic, unless you are really good at it like Stephen Colbert

          • marque2

            There are definitely government programs that have negative multiplier effects. Especially when they buy goods that are not needed, or take from producers to give to non-producers.

          • Van Snyder

            Government programs in the 50’s had positive multiplier effects of about 2.6. Currently, it’s more like 0.1. More of a sink than a source.

          • bwbeeman

            It doesn’t matter if Keystone creates 200 or 2000 jobs. Just because the oil flows through our country gives us primary control over what happens to it. So what if it is exported? Why not take the construction and other jobs and let people benefit. All the so-called threats to the environment are just speculation. We have thousands of miles of pipelines in the US, and some are old, and there are accidents and spills. All of these are well controlled, and the cleanup costs are mostly shouldered by the pipeline company. Keystone is not a big deal for the environment. It is just a political piece for ignorant greens.

          • Smarter than Your Average Bear

            boy the misinfo there is staggering – the pipelines are not well maintained and there are hundreds of pipeline spills every year (here’s one source and contrary to what you proclaim it is the taxpayers who pick up most of the cleanup costs. Keystone FYI is going to create at most 50 FTE jobs in the US and in exchange it is going to run over major aquifers. The company behind the pipeline is noted for it’s poor maintenance and shoddy workmanship. It will spill and the tar sand oil will carry is hundreds of times harder to clean up than Texas light crude. Keystone is a huge deal for the environment but what they hell keep spreading the misinformation. As many have shown before tell a lie often enough and the fools will believe it.

          • billyoblivion

            Canada has oil they are GOING to sell. It will either get piped down to refineries and ships in the US, brought down by rail, or be piped off to the west coast where it will be delivered to China.

            It’s *going* got get refined and used.

            It will help the US economy by keeping the cost of fuel down, and it will hurt the enemies of the US (the Middle East and Russia) by keeping the cost of fuel down.

            Frankly I’d much rather give the Canadians money than the Saudis. The Saudies want us to be Muslim, the worst the Canadians will do is make us watch Hockey.

          • JollyGreenChemist

            Agreed, but I like hockey.

          • Pro-Thorium

            Let the Canadian’s build the Pipeline over thier own Aquifers. Do not risk 10,000 year old water used to grow Food in Midwest for U.S.A. .

          • Van Snyder

            I think Keystone would be safer then BNSF.

          • Van Snyder

            Interesting position: Exports do not contribute to the US economy. Weird.

        • Van Snyder

          Oil that would have been transported by Keystone is being transported by rail, specifically BNSF, at about ten times the cost of Keystone. Who now owns all of BNSF? Warren Buffett. Who is most adamantly opposed to Keystone? Warren Buffett.

      • Buddy199

        Yeah, the Canadians will just sit on billions of barrels of oil, to please American crunchies.

        • Smarter than Your Average Bear

          We are certainly working to do that. You have a problem with that?

          • Dode

            wonder how many “greens” are just spouting whatever they can latch onto because they heard it from someone who overheard it from someone else…. look into the tar sands, its actually impressively efficient and clean. also going out on a limb here and guessing you are from the eastern side of the country, where they refuse to produce oil and gas, and accept (and worse expect) the western provinces to keep giving away the income from oil and gas production in the form of “equalization payments”. so you can be against it all you want, and be proud that your province is “green” but you still in fact are completely reliant on the fossil fuels that are being produced in this country. go ahead, boycott and block and protest all you want, you are just tying your own noose.

          • Smarter than Your Average Bear

            Your limb broke under all your false assumptions.

          • Kyle

            “look into the tar sands, its actually impressively efficient and clean”

            By what measure? Make your answer good; I’m an engineer.

            That “oil” isn’t even oil. After being cooked and washed out of the sand, the waxy substance has to be prerefined just to make “oil”. It uses vast amounts if energy to extract and convert to a for that conventional oil has when it flows out if the ground. It also is a strip mining process with vast tailings and huge lakes of the contaminated water that’s required in huge quantities.

            Make it good. I’m all ears.

    • DDupuis

      Not true – I’m all in for clean, abundant, safe, non-weaponizable energy. I find it comical that individuals on here act like the enviros are the ones against new technologies and the ones inflexible about new methods of energy production when it’s been us trying to push forward new clean abundant sources all along. I’m not married to wind or sun, it just happens to be the energy production with the least impacts. If there are other sources that meet that criteria, there are zero enviros that will push back.

      I have zero education on whether or not this type of nuclear production is as safe as this article puts forth, but if it really is much safer, we would be stupid not to consider it.

      • Van Snyder

        The only technologies that can produce all the energy we currently use, without emitting CO2, are solar and nuclear. Wind, geothermal, biofuels, tides, hydro, ocean currents… cannot do the job, either alone or in combination. See

        Solar cannot destroy nuclear “waste,” a substance of which we are desperately eager to be rid, but the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), described in “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste,” which appeared in December 2005 Scientific American, can. Without hefty subsidies, solar would cost up to ten times per kilowatt-hour more than nuclear, according to estimates by GE and Hitachi for the price they would want for IFR if only interminable greenie lawsuits did not increase costs by a factor of eight or so.

      • Van Snyder

        I guess that there are zero enviros who would push back against “meet the criteria” explains why Patrick Moore, a cofounder of Greenpeace, was kicked out after he advocated for nuclear power.

        • DDupuis

          Well I prefer to read papers from real scientists who have degrees and are not on the big oil payroll, before having an opinion on any new technology. Seems to me people on these sites often regergatate partisan ideals without having a scientific clue as to the benefits or dangers of the technologies being discussed. Well maybe “not having a clue” is a little harsh, but if they get their information from Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, 3 individuals who have never even graduated community college, I’m not to interested in hearing about their vast knowledge on nuclear fission.

          And when I hear terms like “greenies” or “enviros” like its some kind of insult, I giggle. I’m very proud to care about the future of the planet and its energy supply. I don’t deny climate change when basically 100% of the climate science field agrees we are causing the issue. I’m not smart enough to disagree, and neither are most on here. If republicans had their way, we’d be burning car tires and medical waste to heat our homes, so you should be thanking those of us that care. Some are over the top yes, but most are simply looking for the right solution.

          • Van Snyder

            “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste,” which appeared in December 2005 Scientific American, was written by Gerald Marsh, William Hannum, and the late George Stanford. Hardly as “clueless” as the author of the present article. But then, I gather from your post that if Beck or Hannity had been quoting from that article, you would have discounted it. After all, they can barely read, right? It’s also clear that you like to repeat scurrilous nonsense without checking whether it’s nonsense. Speaking of “regurgitating partisan ideals without having a clue,” did you get the “burning car tires and medical waste to heat our homes” quote from the same guy who made the commercial of Paul Ryan pushing granny over a cliff?

          • DDupuis

            When did I say the article in Scientific America was not accurate? Or the current article for that matter. All I’ve said over and over is that this seems like a good idea if the science is real. And that I’m not knowledgeable enough to have an opinion but that it sounds great if accurate. All you’ve done is reply with lame backhanded insults about me having to be careful I don’t get kicked out of tree hugging club, and continue to talk about 1 article you read a decade ago and how we should be building nuclear plants as a result.

            How many times do you need me to repeat that it seems like a good solution before you hear me? I’m agreeing with you but somehow that’s not good enough.

            The fact that I like to read peer reviewed non biased articles opposed to hearing it on Fox News is simply a commentary on how I formulate my opinions, and has zero to do with you. The fact you found it offensive is your issue, not mine.

            So quit replying to my messages as I really don’t care what you have to say.

    • Van Snyder

      Warren Buffett owns most of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which has the only long-distance rail lines that connect Canada to Louisiana. They are currently transporting the crude for about $40/bbl. Keystone would do it for under $10/bbl. That explains why the Democrats and Obama don’t want Keystone — because it would cut off $2 billion per year from one of their big funding sources.

      • disqus_RUOK

        always a numbers game

  • Jortiz3

    Contrary to popular belief, the reason light-enriched-uranium reactors are used, and not thorium or breeder reactors, is due to simple economics. To run breeder reactors and thorium reactors, the neutron density and heat density must be so great that high-temperature coolants must be used throughout the core. The systems used to manage these coolants are as exotic as the coolants are. This leads to increased costs, on the order of 20%. This 20% is enough that utilities simply choose light-enriched-uranium so that the reactor core can be cool enough that cooling with water is possible and savings can offset the cost of mining the ridiculous quantities of natural uranium required.

    • gilbert marks

      Actually the cost of molten salt reactors is a small fraction of LWR’s because of their simple structure, no need for containment, and high burnup rates. The higher temperature is not an issue.

      • Jortiz3

        There is an IAEA report from the eighties that states otherwise. It simply states repeatedly that coolant temperature (and thus coolant type) is a key cost factor, and that until the price of natural uranium reaches some critical value (say 150$/lb, 3x today’s), breeder and thorium reactors do not make economic sense due precisely to their use of exotic coolants and expensive cooling systems, never-mind the research gap.

        • gilbert marks

          The 80’s was a long time ago. Much has been learned since.

        • Robert

          Simply replace the “pot” every few years by use of overhead rail. Thorcon (and I’m sure, others) design on this very simple, basic approach. This requires reprocessing, which is good for the elimination of the time component of wastes. They don’t require thorium, either.

        • Rob Sanchez

          okay fair enough, can you point us in the direction of this report? is it available online?

          • Jortiz3

            It is the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation (1980) Working Group 8, Advanced Fuel Cycle and Reactor Concepts. For the life of me I cannot find an online copy.

        • Fanandala

          The cost of Uranium in a conventional LWR is apparently only a very small fraction of it’s operating cost. So trebling the price of Uranium would not matter much, like a few tenths of a cent per kWh.

          But the proponents of molten salt say that buildings, safeties, backups and waste disposal would be much cheaper and so bring the cost per W/h down. Another advantage would be while we at presently use less than 5 % of the energy in the fuel, with molten salt reactors we would be able to use 95%

          • Van Snyder

            IFR would also use about 99% of the energy in mined uranium, and wouldn’t need enrichment. IFR has the advantage over LFTR that it can destroy “waste” (actually valuable 5%-used fuel) from today’s light-water reactors — and there is no other proven technology that can.

        • grumpy

          There is no coolant more expensive than water once you count the cost of eight inch think piping, redundant high pressure pumps, and a containment dome that can withstand the steam explosion when all that water changes to steam due to a pressure leak. And the cost of the Gigantic turbines you need to try to get a bit of energy out of pathetic 300 degrees C water.

          Molten Salt reactors cut the price of the reactor 100 times. You can build MSR’s in any ship yard at the same speed as a super tanker, standardized on an assembly line, and ship them all over the world. A super tanker costs $80 million, and for the same price you could probably build 8 MSR reactors. A much smaller old fashioned nuclear reactor costs $8 billion- 800 times as much. That’s because of the steam explosion problem. Get the water out and everything gets better.

          • Jortiz3

            These figures are incredible. 800 times. 100 times. 10 million dollars a MSR. Seriously, if only it were true.

            The increased costs, according to Working Group 8, are associated with core temperature, chemical coolant reactivity, and nuclear coolant reactivity, not pressure. Pressure is relatively cheap to deal with, since carbon steel itself is relatively cheap, and apparently BWRs and PWRs compete economically. What is not cheap is having two coolant loops being completely stainless steel (>6x more expensive) to deal with to chemical reactivity of alkali metals, reprocessing gamma-emitting actinides, and dealing with an irradiated, radioactive coolant that itself emits gamma radiation. Even stainless breaks down, as the coolant leaches chromium and nickel.

            I’m only saying that there are real economics involved with the physics, that have been completely blown out of the water by people who need to take a step back and read international literature on reactor economics, nevermind the ridiculous barrier of the NRC.

          • Van Snyder

            EBR-II used sodium coolant. When it was decommissioned, even the chalk marks that the workers who built it had made on the vessel were still visible. There is no corrosion problem between stainless steel and sodium. Liquid sodium is safely and routinely handled by industry. Referring to the Monju sodium fire would be a red herring.

        • George Lerner

          Virtually nothing about solid-fueled reactors applies to molten-fueled reactors. When 1980s reports mention thorium at all, it was only in solid fuel, unless they clearly state Molten Salt Reactor. No matter what coolant was used, keeping solid fuel rods undamaged was difficult.

          Molten Salt coolant is not damaged by temperatures that would damage fuel pellets; neither is uranium (or plutonium) dissolved in and chemically bound to molten salts.

          Molten Salt Reactor cooling systems aren’t expensive, just compact heat exchange units, made of a metal alloy matched to the specific salt used.

          Breeding makes a lot of sense. We don’t have enough enriched U235 or Pu239 to start up all the MSR we need for the world’s energy. After the “initial fissile load”, MSR can breed their own fuel from thorium (U233) or U238 (Pu239). MSR breeders operate at atmospheric pressure and very stable fission rates (unlike solid fueled 1970s-style breeders with stability issues).

          • Van Snyder

            A significant problem with solid fuel (as in LWR) is that the fuel is a low-conductivity ceramic that also has high doppler reactivity. Fuel in EBR-II (the IFR prototype) was metallic. The fuel slugs are about 75% of the inner diameter of the fuel pin, to allow for swelling (which was the reason for switching to ceramic fuel). The fuel is thermally coupled to the pin shell with sodium. The top quarter (or so) of the fuel pin is filled with argon, to allow for fuel expansion. EBR-II included 900 tonnes of sodium coolant. The result of that, along with the geometry of the fuel assemblies, is that the reactor cannot melt down. This was demonstrated to an international audience in 1986.

          • atomikrabbit

            The high negative Doppler (fuel temperature) coefficent, about 1 pcm/degree F, is not a problem in LEU LWR fuel, but an inherent safety benefit. As the fuel centerline temperature rises from about 550 to several thousand degrees during normal operation, it provides a negative reactivity feedback that must be intentionally overcome by the operators to raise power.

            An unintentional power excursion while critical is self-limiting by Doppler feedback (and negative moderator and voids temperature feedback).

          • Van Snyder

            After Figure 7-6 on page 152 of “Plentiful Energy,” which shows an oxide-fueled core passively equilibrating at a much higher temperature than a metal-fueled core, Till and Chang write “The total positive reactivity introduced from full power to shut down power is basically the stored Doppler reactivity.”

          • atomikrabbit

            Right – the LWR ceramic oxide fuel operates at a higher centerline fuel temperature, but also has a much higher melting point (about 5080 F). The fuel temperature (Doppler) coefficient here depends on the concentration of resonance neutron absorbers (mostly U238 and Pu240), the diameter of the fuel pins (optimized to allow self-shielding of the pellet center at low temperatures, but not at high), and the large rise in centerline temperature as power increases.

            The EBR-II, with its HEU metallic fuel, and operating in the fast neutron spectrum, was a different beast altogether, where Doppler feedback was primarily in the form of thermal expansion of the Zr-U fuel pins. Of course, liquid sodium is also a much more thermodynamically efficient coolant than water.

            I’m not saying the FBR is not (perhaps) a better design. It is a “Next-Gen” design, like the MSR and HTGR. that should be vigorously explored, tested, and validated. I am just pointing out that – little known to the general public – our existing LWR reactors also have inherently safe passive feedback mechanisms to limit reactivity excursions. This is not accidental, but built in by design, and it is worthy of note that the first PWR patents came from no less than Alvin Weinberg and Eugene Wigner.

    • WhatTheFlux

      Thorium would be best used in a Molten Salt Reactor, where the fuel is also the heat transfer medium (the “coolant”.) This is a liquid fuel reactor, totally different in design and concept from what we are using today.

      A fluoride salt form of nuclear fuel (Uranium Fluoride, thorium fluoride, etc.) would be dissolved in molten fluoride salt.

      Fluoride salt is solid at room temperature. Molten (heated and melted) fluoride salt has the look and consistency of green dish soap. The reactor would operate at about 700º C, but would never be under pressure.

      An MSR can’t melt down because the fuel is already melted. If the reactor should ever leak, the spill would quickly solidify, and hold the hazardous material in chemical lockdown.

      Imagine a spill from a truckload of concrete. It would be a mess, but it wouldn’t go anywhere.

      The scary thing about conventional reactors is, if there’s a catastrophic failure, the material can spread far and wide.

      The spill from a Molten Salt Reactor would be measured in square meters, not square kilometers.

      • Van Snyder

        1. The Integral Fast Reactor has been proven to be meltdown proof. See

        2. The only serious incidents in which nuclear materials from civilian electric power plants were spread far and wide were Chernobyl and Fukushima. Chernobyl was a disaster waiting to happen, and the operators literally set it on fire, ironically in an attempt to rush through a safety check. TEPCO had been told to shut down the 50-year-old reactors at Fukushima eight years before the tsunami, but they got approval to keep them going provided they implemented changes advised by the US NRC — which they did not do — most significantly, moving their auxiliary power generator diesel fuel to higher ground and burying the tanks.

        Bad as Chernobyl was, the UN Chernobyl Forum says it resulted in 58 deaths. The World Health Association says there is no evidence of ongoing increased risk of cancer in the reason. There was one injury at Fukushima and no deaths. There were no injuries at Three Mile Island, and only tiny releases of iodine 137, which has a half life of eight days. 5000 coal miners die per year, but, of course, they’re not nearly as dead as the average of one death per year, worldwide, due to nuclear electric power production.

    • fiddie

      Gen3 LWRs & BWRs were used because:

      1) that’s what AEC regulators were familiar with.

      2) Argonne administrators were political darlings of congress

      3) ORNL didn’t know how to lobby (sweet talk) congress for $

      4) Navy vets were trained to operate a U-235 enriched Gen3, so there was a trained workforce already established.

      Interesting fact, Dr. Alvin Weinberg (director of ORNL) was a Manhattan Project alum who helped to design (& held patents on) the core of those nuclear reactors still in use today. He had convinced Adm. Rickover to use that basic design for the Navy. A few years later Weinberg wanted the AEC to switch (stop using his Gen3 patents) civilian NPPs to a superior design of his – the Gen4 MSR! He was ignored and eventually lost his funding for that project.

      After leaving ORNL, Weinberg noticed some fresh climate data which supported a paper he had written while a grad student before WWII. That paper was about the effects of infrared light on CO2 in the atmosphere. That’s right, he had known about the possibility of Global Warming since before WWII! Throughout the late 1970s and beyond, he was again ignored by the important folks in Washington DC – this time about climate change. The Nixon, Carter, Ford, & Reagan administrations really screwed up not listening to Dr. W.

      • Jortiz3

        Very cool side-story about Dr W. However I will continue to believe, as does the IAEA-published technology briefing, that higher core temperatures require increased costs, and until uranium is three times more expensive (perhaps in as little as fifty years), market implementation of breeder and thorium reactors will not occur. The way I see it, physics and economics rules our decisions as a society, but some prefer the political explanations.

        • Jag_Levak

          The coolant in a light water reactor, namely water, is quite cheap. However, it is only effective as a coolant if maintained at high pressures. This means very expensive heavy forgings for the reactor core, heavy plumbing and fittings, high pressure management systems, and to top it all off, a massive concrete dome which is needed to contain any ruptures. The coolant in a molten salt reactor would have a higher initial cost than water, but would be usable almost indefinitely. But the coolant operates at roughly ambient pressure, which eliminates the need for the steam containment dome and dramatically lightens and simplifies the reactor design. The materials used are more expensive by the ton than those in light water reactors, but they don’t need anywhere near the tonnage. Higher operating temperatures can also yield higher operating efficiencies and make feasible some direct process heat applications for which light water reactors are too cold, and this might also improve the economics of molten salt reactors.

          There have been several explanations as to why we did not go the molten salt route, but whatever reasons there may have been in the past, it appears they are no longer so convincing, as there are multiple efforts underway to develop various kinds of higher-temperature molten salt reactors. We should find out soon enough whether the cost problems claimed by Working Group 8 still have any standing today.

          • Michael Mann

            Another small point not specifically mentioned, the temperatures at which these reactors operate is high enough that atmospheric cooling works fine as the ultimate heat sink, no need to locate near a large body of water, minimal evaporation/water use…

          • Ike Bottema

            Although, because of the high heat, besides being able to power electrical generation, an MSR would be very effective as a desalinization plant. Thus in arid regions, it could prove useful to locate some MSRs closer to oceans, not for coolant, rather as a source for drinking water.

          • Jortiz3

            I think the Gen IV international effort is giving MSRs a fair chance, internationally there is high interest, but its unfortunate fusion research is given so much more money in the US over fission.

          • Jag_Levak

            My understanding is that the U.S. has committed to funding a fixed proportion of the ITER project, no matter how high the costs on that project may run. This appears to have had the effect of sucking funding away from any alternative approaches to fusion. A few months ago, the editors of Nature mentioned the Dynomak and Lawrenceville fusion projects as being particularly deserving of support. Lawrenceville has been operating on such a shoestring that they turned to Indiegogo for funding of a critical stage of development last year. And in addition to being cheap, both of those projects would have very short research timescales.

            I would like to see government funding for molten salt development, but one of the problems there is that having abdicated its role for several decades, development in the U.S. has been picked up by individual universities and companies, like Flibe Energy, TransAtomic, and Martingale (with some outside companies such as Terrestrial Energy working with U.S. labs and universities). So a challenge of government funding at this point would be figuring out how to keep it fair for all. It may be that the best thing the government can do for molten salt development would be to get its regulatory house in order in preparation for new kinds of reactors that it currently doesn’t understand and which won’t fit into the old regulatory model. Some sensible, science-based rules regarding the handling of thorium are also long overdue.

          • Jortiz3

            Sounds sensible, although I will continue to be skeptical of the rewards of fusion research when our energy infrastructure will be going low carbon perhaps over the next thirty years. Would like to see a better faster regulatory framework, deeper research into risk vs reward for regulations, possibly also some preaproved designs. But nuclear materials research into fuels, cladding, and metals could be improved with a new test reactor preferably not in Idaho. Materials science not only limits the lifetime and operating power of fission reactors but eventually the same for fusion or mixed reactors. The SMR subsidies are interesting but Babcock and Wilcox has backed out hope Nuscale is up to the job. I doubt much private sector interest will happen until there are talks about a carbon tax of some form.

            Is nature worth subscribing to?

        • Van Snyder

          Refined uranium, reduced to metal (but not yet enriched), currently costs about $138,000 per tonne. To produce a GWe-year of electricity requires converting about a tonne ($138,000) of heavy metal to fission products. Current reactors use about 0.6% of the energy in mined uranium, or about $23 million per GWe-year for fuel (not counting enrichment, fabrication, and waste management). A year is about 9000 hours, and a GWe-year is a million kilowatt years. So the fuel cost for a kilowatt-hour is about 1/4 cent. That’s about 1/20 the delivered cost of electricity. The cost of uranium is irrelevant. That was the origin of the “too cheap to meter” quip, which ignored capital amortization, operation, ….

          • Jortiz3

            I think your fuel cost figure is about twenty years too old. 0.7cents is about right, and triple the price of uranium and your talking about a 10%+ increase in cost, which is where working group 8 believed breeders could supplement so as to create a price ceiling. I think regulations are the primary variable that could upset that however.

          • Van Snyder

            Uranium oxide U3O8 (not metal) peaked at about $140/lb ($308/kg) in 2007, but it’s back below $40/lb ($88/kg) as of December. It’s unlikely that reducing it to metal would double the price. The price will probably go up again when the Russian/American “Megatons to Megawatts” program ends. Since IFR would use nearly 100% of the energy in mined uranium, instead of the 0.6% used by contemporary reactors, the fuel price per kwh would be the same if uranium prices went up by a factor of 160. But that wouldn’t matter for a very long time if we first “mined” our stocks of “waste.” If we replaced our current light-water reactors (90 GWe) with IFR, our “waste” would power them for 780 years. If we replaced all of our current electric generating capacity (450 GWe) our waste would last for 155 years. In an all-electric American energy economy (1700 GWe), it would last for 42 years.

      • alqpr

        Thanks for the interesting history re Weinberg, but although he did useful work on atmospheric CO2 the basic mechanism of the so-called “greenhouse” effect had been known for over a century by that time, and the rough estimate of 2-4 degrees per doubling (in the absence of any unknown damping effects) had been worked out by Arrhenius well before WWONE!. So anyone with more than half a brain “had known about the possibility of Global Warming since before WWII!”

      • Van Snyder

        Actually, there was a substantial faction at Argonne who advocated for LMFBR, and proved at Argonne West that it’s inherently safe, at least in the EBR-II design. Read “Plentiful Energy” by Charles Till and Yoon Jiang.

  • Christina Macpherson

    Thorium nuclear power is touted as “the safer future of nuclear energy”. That really means “the less dangerous future of energy”. It’s like saying – “we”ll give the kids pistols: they’re less dangerous than assault rifles”

    Why not face up to the fact that all nuclear power is dangerous, abandon it, and promote safe clean renewable energy?

    • Bearpants112

      Because we can’t produce enough renewable energy fast enough to make up for the loss of Coal/Nuclear/Hydro.

      A more apt comparison would be, “Here is this pistol, they’re less dangerous than these assault rifles, and a ton safer than this rabid wolverine (coal).”

    • Buddy199

      Because you can’t power a modern global economy with windmills and solar panels. Ironically, in Norway, the world leader in renewable energy, the major energy source is still carbon – the major sources of “renewable” energy are nuclear and hydro dams.

    • Rob Sanchez

      Because what you are proposing means energy poverty, especially for the developing world. It’s no coincidence that developing countries consume much less energy per capita than we do: abundantly cheap energy makes clean water, functioning sewer systems, hospitals, medicine, universities, innovation, and jobs possible.

      Wind and solar cannot provide baseload power, and their true costs are distorted due to subsidies. Remove the subsidy, and the technology dies. No developing country has any incentive to invest significantly in wind or solar, and as energy demand in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc. continues to increase, they will choose to burn cheap dirty coal instead, which is absolutely the worst option.

      If you could generate zero-emissions electricity from nuclear waste and dismantled nuclear weapons we already have to deal with anyway, while providing orders of magnitude *more* baseload power for a much lower cost, why wouldn’t you?

      Please don’t let your ignorance of nuclear science and technology derail this debate, it’s probably the most important one our world has faced in history. Of course we should move away from fossil fuels, but the alternatives we propose have to be realistic.

    • Robert

      Because we will need ALL the clean energy to power ten billion at western standards. We will need to use diesel fuel to extract olivine, w which sequester s the excess CO2, along with desalinating enough water to green a desert.

      The bad kids will just take all the adult riflesforthemselves anyways. Yes, we need solar, wind and especially cheap ev batteries, too.

    • Jortiz3

      What factor most determines if someone supports nuclear energy? Perceived safety, how safe they “feel” it is. What factor most determines if nuclear energy is used? Economics, which includes how safe it “really” is. In the end, energy is about economics.

    • Fanandala

      People with your ignorance and attitude will bring us first energy poverty and then real poverty.

      You cats will end up on some starving persons dinner plate.

    • Van Snyder

      What do you mean by “Dangerous?” According to the UN Chernobyl Forum, the Chernobyl fire resulted in 56 deaths — 48 plant operators and fire fighters, and eight cases of thyroid cancer. There are 40,000 cases of thyroid cancer in Eastern Europe every year, so how they decided that eight of those were due to the Chernobyl fire is beyond me. But let them have their eight. The World Health Organization says there is no evidence of increased risk of cancer in Eastern Europe as a result of the Chernobyl fire. There was one injury at Fukushima, and no deaths. There were no injuries (and no significant release of materials) at Three Mile Island. Of course those 56 are far more dead than the 225,000 coal miners who have died since the first nuclear reactor went into service. Nobody will ever build another reactor like Chernobyl, a “disaster” (56 deaths) waiting to happen, which was ironically set fire by the operators who were in a rush to finish a safety check! Likewise the 50-year-old Fukushima reactors will never be duplicated.

  • Abhishek

    China & India definite need it more than the other countries. These are the mist power hungry countries for their higher population and growing industrial needs. With a good amount of plutonium and thorium in them, they can create a cheap alternative for conventional fuel import with proper R&D projects .

    • Fanandala

      I think China will win the race. They have the money and the determination to get there. The western world will be left behind.

  • Later555

    I hope thorium is used sooner in nuclear power plants , and that more plants are built for a sustainable energy situation – given we are also heading towards electric car future !

    • Robert

      It seems that uranium (235) is easier, because it can also be used in a MSR and don’t have to deal with the nasty u232 stuff.

      My concerns are meltdown proof and less proliferation. The wastes volume means nothing to me, what does is getting to the easiest way of reprocessing.

      • Later555

        better still is nuclear fusion. Check out the story on “Compact Fusion” by the skunk works @ Lockheed !

        If that bears fruit, we really can have a sustainable energy solution for the world, which is also safe and nuclear free and carbon emission free !

        • Jag_Levak

          The Lockheed announcement is interesting, but the stated reasons for the announcement don’t really hold water, so there’s no telling what their game is. But at least we shouldn’t have long to wait to find out if they can pull it off. But even if they accomplish all their stated goals, the critical missing piece is the cost.

          The Dynomak team from Washington university has some promising cost projections, but a slower development schedule.

          Meanwhile, Eric Lerner with Lawrenceville Plasma Physics is hoping to get his pinch plasma reactor core operational this year. The mainstream view is that he won’t succeed, but he’s gotten a lot further than the mainstream view predicted when he started. If he does succeed, that would pre-empt both the Lockheed and Dynomak reactor projects.

          But one thing you don’t get with fusion reactors–they can’t burn up existing nuclear waste. So there would still be a role for reactors like the TransAtomic waste burner, and I suspect Martingale is also looking to do some waste burning in their Thorcon reactor. And disposing of thorium could also help with the economics of rare earth mining.

          • Later555

            okay, the important thing is though – there should be a serious effort in the world to reduce human populations (dramatically) , and also check our consumption patterns…..

            We have a limited planet, and if we want a sustainable planet for future generations, we need to make sure we live very consciously.

            I find it absurd that today, we are just a cog in the wheel of an “economic engine” where we serve the “world economy” rather than it serving us !

            It is bizzare & insane !

          • Jag_Levak

            We know of basically two approaches which have worked to curtail our reproduction rates. The first is the regulatory model China implemented, which was highly restrictive, intrusive, and resulted in thousands of forced abortions. This approach has short-term effectiveness, but it is very difficult to sustain, and to implement globally would require a world authority to enforce it. The other approach is rising levels of prosperity and education, and increased reproductive autonomy. The reproduction rate in most of the developed world has fallen to nearly flat growth, and in some places it has already tipped into negative growth. (There is also some promising news out of Australia for a strategy to develop a birth control pill for men.)

            But one of the big factors underlying rising prosperity is energy, and that is only going to increase in importance as we enter an age of robotics and autonomous systems. And the cleaner, denser and more abundant our sources of energy, the better our chances of shrinking our environmental footprint, even while we try to lift billions of people out of poverty.

          • Later555

            I think what we should aim for is “sense” rather than enforcement, like China has done, which is incorrect!

            If human beings can be more “human” and perceive life around them with a bit more awareness, then sense will prevail !

            Human sense & intelligence should chart human destiny , not killing/enforcing/telling people what to do or waging wars – As America continues to do in the Middle East and with Russia & others !

          • grumpy

            Right! Japan population is going down, because they have the best entertainment and plenty of pornography! And because they educate girls. The quicker we can get electricity, TV, and Porn to Africa the quicker the population explosion will stop.

          • John Born

            A thousand upvotes for you, sir.

          • disqus_RUOK

            What is insane is expecting this planet to last forever. Everything we know in the universe eventually comes around to changing form. Earth is no different. This planet like all the celestial bodies will change to non-life supporting piece of space rock.

            That is our deadline to figure out how to get off this rock and move to another to continue our form of life. No matter how well we try to preserve the earth it will all come to an end. We can neither speed the process up nor slow it down. A single cosmic event can undue all known humanities achievements and supposed “prevention” tactics.

            Our job is try to figure out other ways of survival within our universe. We cannot stay on earth indefinitely – we will be forced off of here in the future.

          • Jag_Levak

            My expectation is that the Earth is going to host life and last a lot longer than humans. We are at the very beginnings of genetic engineering, cybernetics, synthetic cognition and autonomous systems, and the more those fields develop, the faster they will develop. Natural selection will continue, but instead of only being able to select among a large number of small-scale random mutations, it will soon be able to select among engineered organic, synthetic, and hybrid designs.

            We’ll start out by curing diseases, correcting malformations, and repairing injuries, but at some point, the modifications are going to grade into improvements. For a while, there will be sporadic efforts to halt the process by regulation, but development will simply continue where it can. Competition will do the rest.

            Earth may ultimately be the launching point of a great space-faring civilization, but I see no reason to suppose it would include anything we would today recognize as human.

          • Later555

            The earth has another 5 billion years of life !

            I do not expect humanity to last that long.

            But the breakneck speed at which we humans are exploiting this planet is simply not right !

            To sustain our population at the “American standard of living” for 7 billion people, I think we might need 2 more earth size planets – and I do not think right now we have those.

            So living with sense is the only way forward !

          • John Born

            It’s real easy, man. Kill yourself. Lead by example. Added benefit: you won’t be bothered by all the profligate behavior of the rest of us benighted fools.

          • Later555

            S T- F U… Unbridled reproduction is not a good thing , neither is unbridled consumption.

            Besides where are the resources for this population?

            From 20th century (a population of 1 billion) to 21st century (7 billion) – this is really irresponsible reproduction.

            And where is the land/water/air to sustain this?

            And what about other species on the planet, that we are rapidly killing ?

            Having children has to be selective….it needs to be pursued based on if a person has strong needs to have children or not.

            Iam 33, and I have not had children yet.

            If you so like “over population” – then go to India/Bangladesh and live in one of those cities !

          • John Born

            Gosh, yes, if those dirty brown-skinned people would just kill themselves, we could have more room for our organic herb farms and yoga yurts.

            Malthus was a dick, but at least he was an original dick. You don’t even have that. The 7 billion people on Earth today have, on average, a far higher standard of living than the 300 million that were alive in 0BC. And it can keep going that way indefinitely, given just one factor: cheap energy. If we can get it, the sky’s the limit on population and living large. And there’s no doubt, scientifically, that we can get it. What’s slowing us down is people like you who maintain weird equations in your head like radiation=poison and population=bad and fear=reason.

            Not that it even matters, because worldwide trends indicate that population will top off at 10 or 12 B and then start going down, not from starvation and pestilence but from the spreading of the middle class and all the fat, comfortable, peace-loving, small-family-having, hobbit-like habits prosperity engenders.

            Oh, and the Earth has had many more and many fewer species at different times, and it didn’t much matter. We could maintain a fine biodiversity with a tenth of the species–not gonna happen, but it could.

            Seriously, quit clutching your panic-sweat-stained pearls and knock off the “there should be fewer people on my Earth” shtick. Makes you sound preachy, if not sociopathic.

          • TheOldMan

            You first?

          • Van Snyder

            Reduce population! You first.

      • Van Snyder

        The Integral Fast Reactor was proven to be meltdown proof in 1986. See

  • Fanandala

    I read the article only partially. It is full of mistakes and misconceptions. The article should have been proofread by a nuclear physicist or engineer who understands the subject.

    • Robert

      That’s what I was left hanging about. I was thinking that the accelerator approach was seriously being considered.

      • Fanandala

        Admittedly, there is a (in my opinion) halfhearted effort being made in Belgium (MYRRH) to develop a accelerator driven reactor. But the main idea is to dissolve the fuel in the salt.

        The Indian approach is using thorium in a conventional Heavy Water Pressurized Reactor. Which I consider an interesting variation, but not a technological breakthrough.

        The Norwegians are trying to use thorium as an addition to conventional fuel in a Light Water Reactor.

        • John

          THIS ARTICLE is a sell it to the idiots at large. Yes it is a piece of crap article in reality a lot of mis conceptions and half truths. It is extremely dangerous extremely.

          • Dennis Ray Williams

            John, this is not our current nuclear technology which is dangerous.

            Get educated here:


            Fanandala, recheck your ‘facts’…GEEEZ!

          • DDupuis

            Do you mean the article, or the energy, or both? What parts are dangerous John? I know nothing of thorium reactors and need to learn more. Talk to me John.

          • really??
          • really??


            see this on youtube;

            Kirk Sorensen A Global Alternative thorium energy via LFTR @ TEAC4

          • John

            “thorium” Water, Life of by product.

          • Heimdall222

            “…sell it to the idiots at large.”

            Yep. And judging by the comments being posted here, those very idiots are reading the article!

    • atomikrabbit

      You are correct – the misconceptions in the article are too numerous to mention.

      If Discover wants an accurate article on nuclear energy from thorium they need to take the time to seek out a real expert like Kirk Sorensen. Kirk specifically advocates for the Liquid Flouriide Thorium Reactor, LFTR, and has numerous excellent videos on YouTube.

    • Scott Medwid

      The Europeans are working on such a system near Cern.

      • Heimdall222

        OK, and…?

      • Timothy Maloney

        That’s the first I’ve heard about it.


    • DDupuis

      I don’t understand what you mean Fanadala? Are you saying that it cannot produce clean energy with a large reduction in byproduct, is hard to weaponize, and is abundant? Is that what you mean? What did I miss – please educate as I thought this sounded like a fantastic approach to nuclear energy production – it’s not? Inquiring minds want to know…:). Thx Fanadala.

      • really??

        DDupius, that is all true. just some of the operational facts in the article are wrong. (no fact checking). Also LFTR is much safer. If the current reactors lose power (like what happened in Japan) there is a major issue. With the LFTR design you could leave it running and walk away and it would just shut itself down, no meltdown.

      • Bongstar420

        The flu would be pretty easy to “weaponize.” Why are we squabbling about a few dirty bombs that could be manufactured now anyways?

    • codejack

      Um, while I am not a nuclear physicist, my degree is in physics (astrochemistry, but whatever).

      No, the older designs were not accelerator-driven, but that has been suggested as a neutron source to start the reaction; I imagine it was included to head off the inevitable criticism that it would require fissile fuel.

  • stevek9

    I think the main reason to develop thorium is that it will be cheaper. It may also be safer and more proliferation-resistant, but current reactors are more than adequate in that regard. If there were a concerted effort to develop them, they would probably be faster to deploy … and that may be important if climate change produces problems on the serious end of the predicted spectrum of effects.

  • fiddie

    Great headline, lousy facts.

    This is part of the reason I’ve not renewed my subscription to Discover Magazine after nearly 20 years. Too many articles seem to be researched by web-surfing.

  • Vincent Wolf

    Thorium is the future of nuclear power and fusion is a pipe dream. Talk about spending money in the wrong place–typical of our government!

    • grumpy

      The USGovt hasn’t spent any money on MSR or Thorium since 1976 when Corrupt President Nixon killed it to please the Grand Oil Party buddies.

      • Van Snyder

        Interesting but unsupported (and unsupportable) conjecture about Nixon’s reasoning.

        And the US Govt hasn’t spent any money on IFR (see “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” in December 2005 Scientific American) since Bill Cliton, John Kerry, and Hazel O’Leary teamed up to kill it in 1994, when it was an inch from completion, at more cost than finishing it. In his typical pandering fashion, Cliton said “I know; it’s a symbol.”

        • grumpy

          You are right to criticize President Clinton. At least he was honest in saying it was symbolic rather than smart. During the cold war, opposition to the “nuclear industry” was a way to avoid the immanent threat of nuclear war. The Light water reactor for commercial power was chosen in part because its “waste” was helpful in making bombs. So in fact nuclear energy and nuclear weapons preparation were interlocked, despite President Carter’s pledge not to use civilian waste for war.

          Today the risk of nuclear war has receeded. Bomb production has stopped. And Climate collapse is immanent. Time to rethink the cold war logic and accept nuclear power– and build the it the best we can in 2015 which probably shouldn’t look much like 1952.

          • Van Snyder

            That the waste from light water civilian electric power reactors was useful for making weapons is a fiction that was convenient for hysterical anti-nuclear activists. Civilian nuclear electric power reactors and weapons programs were interlocked only in the imaginations of those who were ignorant.

            Yes, there were light-water reactors that were purpose-built for making plutonium, but the “waste” from civilian light-water electric power reactors is so contaminated with non-fissionable Pu-240, and fissionable but far too “hot” Pu-241, that one is faced with an even more difficult isotope separation problem than with uranium. Nobody has ever made weapons from the “waste” from civilian nuclear electric power reactors, because just about any other way is easier and less expensive.

          • grumpy

            Van, Right again, with the benefit of hindsight, we know the waste from commercial reactors is not so great for making weapons. Unfortunately commercial LWR reactors can be adjusted to make weapons, as Israel has done with much success, and Iraq planned to do before their reactor was bombed by the Israelis who already had one from the same manufacturer.

            American power plants could have been operated like Diamona, and that’s possibly why we built them that way.

            Once WWII was really over, the military industrial complex didn’t need to worry about victory anymore so they turned to profiteering. At that point the more expensive way of building bombs became more attractive, so a separate system was built.

            A MSR will be very easy to inspect to make sure no part of its fuel chain is diverted to weapons.

          • Van Snyder

            Actually, by “adjusting” you mean “remove the fuel and reprocess it within two months or so, to avoid buildup of Pu-240, Pu-241, Am-243…..” This makes it more expensive than using a purpose-built reactor. Of course, if you don’t have a purpose-built reactor….

          • Ike Bottema

            I hate to be the one delivering the bad news but the cat escaped from the bag many years ago. Any nation with the will to develop nuclear weapons can do so with sufficient resources. The possible use of civilian power plants turning out fissile materials for bombs would contribute only a puny part of the solution. Anyone who really wants nuclear weapons would have purpose-built reactors to avoid all the complications of extracting enough fissile material from power plant cores. Now by building nuclear reactors designed to burn fissiles completely, really puts a nail in the proliferation coffin!

  • Scott Medwid

    There are efforts in the US to develop thorium fuel cycle reactors.

    Former NASA engineer Kirk Sorensen revived forgotten molten salt reactor (MSR) technology in the 2000s, interest in MSR technology has been grown quickly. Since 2011, four separate companies in North America have announced plans for MSRs: Flibe Energy (started by Sorenson himself),Transatomic Power (started by two recent MIT graduates), Terrestrial Energy (based in Canada, which recently partnered with Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory), and Martingale, Inc., which recently made public its design for its ThorCon MSR.” – ZME (thanks Sergius Tunes)

    MSR is a radically different way to make heat to do work. It takes a lot to keep an MSR operating. Water cooled reactors depend on layered safety systems, they have a 60 year track record, they are how nuclear has been done for decades they are what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are used to working with.

    Back in the days of the Atomic Energy Commission, a lot of experimentation took place at US Government Laboratories. There were some amazing innovations that were developed. We need a new A.E.C. with a mandate to inovate and build 4th generation reactor systems.

    In the late 1950’s there were plans to get people into space, but it took the Russian and Sputnik to move the US off the block. It took a mandate from Kennedy to get the country to focus and develop a program to get to the Moon. I wonder if an American President will deliver a mandate to develop advanced reactors (MSR, IFR, Traveling Wave, SMR etc.) in US with Department of Energy Labs cooperating with innovative startups and the existing nuclear power infrastructure OR will we be buying advanced reactors from overseas?

    Advanced reactors are going to be built. The world needs more energy ASAP but to continue burning fossil fuels that are heating the climate and acidifying the oceans is madness. We need to clean up our energy act for the planet that we leave our for our kids and their kids. Wind and Solar will help from the edges but we need dependable 24/7 clean electricity and heat to power civilization for 7 billion people and we need it quick. Nuclear power has delivered over it’s 60 year history.

    • Dennis Ray Williams

      Thanks Scott for an intelligent post.

    • Van Snyder

      One problem with thorium reactors (or solar panels, or windmills, or biofuels, or geothermal, or fairy dust) is that none of these technologies consume the substance we currently call “nuclear waste.” The Integral Fast Reactor, described in “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste,” which appeared in December 2005 Scientific American, would consume it — and no other proven technology could. Thorium reactors would leave the “nuclear waste” problem to Yucca Mountain and WIPP, both pathetic non-starters.

      • Ike Bottema

        Not true.The key is that the reactor’s fuel is in liquid form. Solid fuel (usually rods but some reactors use pellets) builds gaseous daughter product contaminants that distort the rods so much that only 2% of the fuel is used. However liquid fuel contaminants will simply bubble to the surface and be siphoned off for chemical processing. As a result an MSR will burn fuel much more completely leaving much less quantities of waste that would be rendered harmless within centuries rather than millennia.

        • Van Snyder

          Ike didn’t say it explicitly, but I hope he meant to imply that MSRs can burn all transuranics (if that’s true). They ought not, therefore, be called “thorium reactors,” which was, after all, the title of the article.

          I haven’t kept up with developments in MSRs. Were the corrosion problems ever solved? Frank Shu (UCSD) is proposing carbon composite instead of nickel alloys. Can carbon composite withstand the neutron flux?

          The complaint about solid fuel is valid for the current generation of light-water reactors, not least simply because we never open used fuel pins, let alone reprocess their contents. Even in 1965 it was known to be a problem. that’s why the design of the Integral Fast Reactor’s fuel system accounts for it. Fuel was recycled five times at EBR-II, consuming 25% of the energy in the mined uranium, without any problems, before the Cliton administration shut it down.

          The problem with breeding fissile U-233 from non-fissile Th-232 is that it only breeds 1% more fuel than is consumed, whereas breeding Pu-239 from U-238 breeds 5% more. Can a MSR breed Pu-239 from U-238? 8-10 tonnes of fissionables — U-233, U-235, or Pu-239 — are needed to start a 1 GWe reactor of any kind. With our current inventory (used LWR fuel plus decommissioned weapons) we could start about 130 GWe more capacity. Getting to 1700 GWe (my estimate of the need for an all-electric American economy with today’s energy consumption) would require either 260 years of 1%-breeding, or enriching uranium. With plutonium breeding, 1700 GWe could be reached in about 60 years, without enriching uranium.

          • Ike Bottema

            I didn’t mean to imply that but yes it’s true that transuranics will be consumed leaving fewer and much shorter half-life isotopes.

            Corrosion is a problem that has several solutions either in development or being researched. Certainly, alloys that are both neutron flux and corrosion resistant is an active area of research. However the approach being pursued by Terrestrial Energy for example, is the replacement of the reactor container after 10 years or so. Keep in mind also that since MSRs do not operate under the high pressures of LWRs, corrosion does not present the danger it is with LWRs.

            Why breed more fuel than is needed? … would describe the philosophy of MSR developers. I expect that if additional “starter fuel” is needed, a method will be developed — or retained from current technology. It seems to me that having insufficient “starter fuel” would be a nice problem to have. 😉

            In any case I’m not sure that even uranium-based MSRs (such as the one being developed by Terrestrial Energy) would leave much in the way of plutonium. It may become a matter of extracting and storing enough enriched uranium during operation to be able to pass on the nuclear torch to a new batch.

          • Van Snyder

            One point that seems to be escaping is that there are no scientific, engineering, or technical problems remaining to prevent full deployment of IFR. A GE/Hitachi consortium has been ready to build them for twenty years. They say they could build them, on a factory floor, not in the field, in 360 GWe modules. With a steady stream of orders, economies of scale would bring the price down to about $1.10 per (electric) watt. MSR still has corrosion problems, and maybe other unsolved problems.

            Why breed more fuel than is needed? No point in that. But, in order to deploy a full-electric economy, more fuel IS needed — about 17,000 tonnes of fissile (not just fertile) material. We have fewer than 1000 tonnes now. Insufficient starter fuel is NOT a nice problem to have, if you want to displace coal (and gas). So, for now, breed as fast as possible — or enrich uranium, which is far more expensive than pyroelectric refining would be. Once a full-electric economy is reached, change the operating parameters of reactors to breed just the right amount.

          • George Lerner

            Yes, MSR can breed Pu239 from U238, and just like LWR it does so with such high amounts of other isotopes of Pu it would never be used to make a bomb (far easier for terrorists to make a secret simple specialty reactor that doesn’t make other isotopes, than to separate out other isotopes).

            Breeding ratio is adjusted in many ways, especially fissile/fertile ratio. Starting fissile load is also specific for each design. Molten fuel reactor needs less than solid fuel reactors.

            The “traditional” Molten Salt Breeder Reactor design (Weinberg et al., 1970) has a starting fissile load of 1500 kg 233U/GW(e), a Breeding Ratio of 1.06, a 20 year doubling time [“Molten salt reactors: A new beginning for an old idea”, David LeBlanc, Nuclear Engineering and Design 240 (2010)]

            Starting with LWR waste, “Optimizing the Burning Efficiency and the Deployment Capacities of the Molten Salt Fast Reactor”, Proceedings of Global 2009 says “Our studies demonstrate that an initial fissile inventory around 4 to 5 metric tons per GWe may be easily reached”.

          • Van Snyder

            Thanks for the numbers and the references.

          • George Lerner

            Some of the MSRE “corrosion problem” was so slight the solution was make the metal slightly thicker, to last longer than the designed lifetime. Some of the “corrosion problem” was solved adjusting the alloy (that’s what the test reactor was for, find those problems; this was fixed before Congress sited the problem as a supposed reason for canceling the program).

            Yes, several other materials are expected to work better (last longer, allow reactor to operate higher temperature), and materials certification has not yet been done.

    • George Lerner

      Tiny correction, did you mean “takes a lot to keep an LWR operating”? The rest of the paragraph is about water cooled reactors…

  • Grey

    I think it would be better if they focus all their energies on Nuclear Fusion instead.

    I’ve also noticed that the “down sides” of the Thorium reactor is not mentioned.

    • Van Snyder

      Fusion has always been (and still is) fifty years in the future. Might be great someday. What should we do now?

  • Paul Dvorak

    As a wind power advocate, I cannot speak to the alleged technical flaws in the article. However, one aspect was obviously missing: Costs. The respected economist Milton Friedman frequently asked of dubious propositions: At what cost? Read any other article on energy and some dollar values are mentioned, but not here.

    Thorium reactors may well be the future of electricity production, but for at least the next 10 years, like it or not, natural gas and wind power will be the partners to beat.

    –Paul Dvorak

    • Vincent Wolf

      No sun power will be.

      • Van Snyder

        Wind can never supply more than about 12% of our energy. The only technologies that can produce the power we need without emitting CO2 are solar and nuclear. All the alternatives combined — wind, biofuels, geothermal, tides, ocean currents, hydro — can’t do the job. See

      • Van Snyder

        According to calculations (not wishful vague handwaving) by several physicists (including Frank Shu at UCSD) and wind experts (Tim Liu at JPL), wind can never supply more than about 12% of current energy needs. There are only two technologies that can supply all our energy needs, and essentially eliminate CO2 emissions: Nuclear and solar. Solar looks cheap because subsidies hide the true cost. Nuclear looks expensive because interminable lawsuits increase the cost.

  • Jon Stanley

    Have reported to editor, this article is just shocking

  • Chris Namelast

    The “problem” with energy consumption is that modern man uses energy…. Reduce the population would be one way to reduce energy consumption… I live very parsimoniously tightly regulating my energy usage at home. Driving (well…) one has to work where the job is located. Reduce population/ban the use of ALL fossil fuels!!! Live like stone age man! Sounds like a good plan. The earth has been here FAR longer than the human race and it will most likely be here after we are gone. The environment that supports life is complicated and has MANY (MANY!) intricacies that require study. The environment of Earth has a steward called man (unless there are other more powerful entities involved? lol conspiracies lol) Man will make mistakes along the way and the environment of earth may suffer. In the end a sustainable energy source needs to be found. Pollution of the air/ground and water needs to be a minimum. The shear size of the human population in itself has altered the environment and will. Earth changed over 2000 years ago (or longer) when man started developing higher tech and that will continue. Either eliminate man or live with humankind on the face of the planet.

    • Matthew Slyfield

      The “problem” with the environmental movement is that it has become dominated with misanthropes who want to see drastic reductions in human population if not outright human extinction.

      If you think we need a significant reduction in population, lead by example.

      • Chris Namelast

        I agree with you and share your sentiment. I am NOT a “greenie”/environmentalist and those who feel there needs to be a reduction in population should lead by example. Devils advocate 😉

    • marque2

      The first major ecological disaster this planet had, in regard to life, was when algae developed with used carbon from CO2 to build itself. This released toxic oxygen into the atmosphere, and killed off most of the animal (small single celled critters) life on the planet, since life at the time could only live anaerobically. The earth and life recovered, and now most life uses the toxin Oxygen, in a controlled way. It is also dubious we could destroy the earth with a little pollution, when the earth itself produced most of the pollution.

    • Van Snyder

      You first?

  • Adrian Fox

    Two concerns about this. First, no nuclear reactor produces ‘zero carbon’ as you must include the fossil fuel costs of manufacture, mining of fuel, transportation and so on. I know that’s a quibble, but we cannot pretend it does not exist.

    Secondly, we need a full economic analysis of the costs of both constructing a new technology and decommissioning the same.

    What has held back the construction of a new generation of reactors in Europe, particularly in places like France which has been completely committed in the past, is not just fear of potential dangers but the simple economics.

    • Van Snyder

      An energy economy based on constructing, fueling, operating, and decommissioning nuclear reactors would eliminate 97% of CO2 emissions. In an all-electric nuclear-powered economy, most industrial CO2 emissions would be from cement production. Sir Nicholas Stern, a former World Bank chief economist and vice president, in a study commissioned by the Blair administration, estimated that advanced nations would need to invest 2% of GDP per year to cope with climate change and reduce CO2 emissions by 25%. Taken over the 60-65 years that would be required to provide all US energy by IFR (see “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” in December 2005 Scientific American), the cost would be about $19 trillion, compared to about $4.7 trillion for an all-IFR energy economy.

  • WalterHorsting

    The Molten Salt Reactor using Thorium is the best way forward. Solid Fuels don’t efficiently burn the fuel, and molten salt reactors are inherently safe from explosion, melt down and are walk away safe.

    • Kurt Van Luven

      Thanks. This is interesting.

      • WalterHorsting

        You are welcome. Not

        • Kurt Van Luven

          Apple, that explains it. Good Evening.

          • WalterHorsting

            Sorry iPad malfunction! You are a Welcome!!!

          • DDupuis

            LOL…I was wondering why you were upset Walter. That’s funny…:).

      • WalterHorsting

        Not many know that the waste stream of green energy’s use of Rare Earth Elements Tosses away yearly enough of the Super FuelThorium that can power the planet using MSRs

    • Van Snyder

      The IFR burns unenriched uranium efficiently, has been proven (not conjectured) to be inherently safe from meltdown or explosion and to be walk-away safe, produces 1% as much waste as current reactors, which waste needs special custody for 1/1000’th the duration, and can burn waste from today’s reactors. IFR can breed fuel from thorium, but it breeds 1% more than it uses, while with uranium it breeds 5% more than it uses. In my book, the score is 3-2 IFR over MSTR. In the short term (a century or so to consume today’s “waste”), uranium in IFR is more attractive. In the long term, thorium either in IFR or molten salt will become more attractive.

      • George Lerner

        MSR and IFR both have even better safety than LWR, which has much better safety (deaths, cancers, illness, environmental impact, per gigawatt-year) than coal or oil or natural gas.

        MSR safety was demonstrated in 1960s, IFR safety was demonstrated.

        Thermal spectrum breeds thorium better than fast spectrum reactors; fast spectrum breeds uranium-238 to plutonium-239 better than thermal spectrum. MSR can be designed for either thermal or fast. We need both.

        Compared to the benefits over coal, the differences between MSR/IFR safety and the differences between MSR/IFR fuel use are small. MSR has no risk of sodium fire; IFR has low risk.

        I’ll guess the total cost of operation of either would be lower than coal, with MSR having simpler design but more expensive materials, and IFR having more expensive removal of fission products.

        Build either or both, as fast as we can!

  • WalterHorsting

    The United States is about to be left in the dust of China who is walking away with our Oak Ridge National Labs design for the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR). The anti-nuclear lobby has blinded policy

    makers on the importance of Green Nuclear.

    Google after $2+ Billion invested in renewables realizes green energy won’t save the planet.

    Germany’s Green Energy Failure; they shut down CO2 clean nuclear plants and are forced to build Coal powered plants of-renewable-energy-bring-on-the-dirty-coal-monsters/germany-death-of-renewable-energy-bring-on-the-dirty-coal-monsters/

    Green Energy is industrializing nature due to its being 1/5,000,000 less energy dense than nuclear

    Green Energy’s waste stream of Rare Earth Elements (REE)

    tosses away enough of the super fuel Thorium yearly that can power the entire planet using Molten Salt Reactors (MSR). Imagine powering the World b yrecycling Green Waste?

    For the cost of the California High Speed Rail and the Delta Tunnel project; CA canhave unlimited emission free energy and unlimited desalinated water & fast commuter rail.

    China is on a $1+ Billion crash program developing our ORNL MSR design in ten years.

  • hopleyyeaton

    And what ever became of pebble bed reactors that were also self regulating?

  • IBePOed

    obammie and the liberals won’t add 0.00001% more pipeline. they will not allow thorium or any other technology that will help Americans no matter how safe. they hate Americans and our way of life.

  • fiddie
  • Adam Weisshaupt

    One Word: Protactinium. Its a complete lie to say Thorium Reactors present no proliferation risk. Protactinium must be REMOVED FROM THE REACTOR as its a Neutron Absorber – it would then be stored on site –. It would be a wonderful substance to make a dirty bomb out of.. It will also Decay into Uranium. 233, which not idea for Nukes with long shelf life, if fine for a Nuke that you plan to use within months of its manufacture. Is all of this better than today’s reactors? Maybe. But Its not like the problems go away.

    • George Lerner

      Protactinium only removed in Some designs of MSR — but from the reactor core, not from the reactor containment.

      YES, this is much better than today’s reactors!

      LFTR for example has thorium in a region Surrounding the reactor core, not absorbing neutrons in the core. Protactinium in LFTR (or other two-fluid MSR) is never removed from the Reactor, is just outside the area where fission is going on.

      Very difficult to make ultra-pure U233 (with very low levels of U232) suitable for weapons. All tests of bombs with U233 have been duds, and like Plutonium made with other isotopes than Pu239, “tend to pre-detonate”, meaning the bomb will go off on its own, probably in their lab.

      Terrorists would use much easier ways of making bomb material. Stealing radioactive material from a nuclear power reactor is risky, both risk of death from radiation and risk of death from being caught. (Assemble MSR in factories, with sensors for pressure, temperature, radiation; with floor sensors and cameras throughout the reactor building; with motion and pressure sensors and cameras throughout the building and grounds; you think they wouldn’t be caught???) We didn’t make the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombs with materials from nuclear power reactors; we made much simpler “atomic piles”.

      If thorium were a good source of bomb material, neutron beams are made by much simpler devices than nuclear power reactors, right??? Look up “neutron generator”, finger sized are probably too small, go with a table sized one.

      Easier for terrorists to blow up oil trains traveling through our towns. (Oh, wait, that’s oil company negligence and railroad companies not doing track maintenance.) Easier for terrorists to blow up school buses.

  • grumpy

    Really important to develop innovative nuclear power. Renewables aren’t going to fix what’s broken on this planet even if they could preserve our lifestyle until the climate collapses. This article has a few minor errors, but the direction is important. The cold war is over and we have to rethink our fear of nuclear tech vs our fear of climate collapse. We have burned down 19,000 nuclear weapons in our reactors to make carbon free electricity! And that was just burning the old soviet weapons. We haven’t started on the US supply yet… That’s progress!

    Now if we build MSR reactors that were 50x cheaper and 20x faster to build and 100x cheaper to fuel… we would all feel a lot richer as our lifestyle suddenly gets more affordable.

  • Dennis Ray Williams

    To learn more about this please watch the videos at this site:

  • Van Snyder

    There are a few distortions in an otherwise factual article, mostly having to do with the state of uranium fission. First, molten salt uranium reactors could be built. The problem with molten salt reactors, whether thorium salts or uranium salts, is that they’re both fluorine salts, and therefore exceedingly corrosive. Nobody has actually demonstrated a molten-salt reactor that would last more than about five years, although Frank Shu at UCSD has some ideas that carbon-fiber composite plumbing might do the trick (if it can withstand the neutron damage).

    Second, reactors that aren’t molten-salt reactors can be built to be inherently safe, without dependence upon computers, pumps, control rods, or operator diligence. This was proven at the Experimental Breeder Reactor II in Arco, Idaho, in 1986. That reactor was the prototype for the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), described in “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste,” which appeared in December 2005 Scientific American.

    Third, nobody has ever made weapons from civilian nuclear power reactor “waste” because the other ways to do it are far easier and cheaper. In the IFR, the problem would be significantly magnified.

    The IFR was completely absent from the article. Aside from inherent safety and weapons-diversion resistance, IFR could be fueled with what we currently call “waste” — actually valuable 5%-used fuel, which current reactors cannot use, largely because of transuranics such as americium. This would reduce the volume of waste needing special custody by a factor of 100 (not 1000 as the Chinese claim), and reduce the duration of special custody from 300,000 years to 300 years, thereby effectively destroying it. Thorium reactors, by definition, cannot consume this stuff, of which we are desperately eager to be rid. We have upwards of 70,000 tonnes of it, and no real alternatives what to do with it (Yucca Mountain and WIPP are pathetic non-starters). To produce a gigawatt-year of electricity requires converting roughly a tonne of heavy metal to fission products. An all-electric US economy would need a capacity of about 1700 GWe-year per year. So our current stock of “waste” could power our entire economy for more than 40 years. We have roughly 900,000 tonnes of uranium, largely “depleted” uranium, already above ground, mined, milled, and refined. At 1700 GWe-year per year, this would last for more than 530 years. Once started, the IFR fuel cycle does not need uranium enrichment, so anybody who had IFR and claimed to need to enrich uranium for civilian electric power would be lying — they would have a weapons program.

    Unfortunately, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Hazel O’Leary teamed up to kill the complete IFR demonstration when it was an inch from completion in 1994, at more cost than completing it. Clinton, in his typical pandering mode, said “I know; it’s a symbol.” Otherwise, we could offer to give (or sell) IFRs to Iran. When they refused, we could conclude they have a weapons program, not a civilian electric power program.

  • Van Snyder

    Hydro is maxed out in essentially every industrialized economy, and greenies want to reduce it. it provides 7% of US electricity, or less than 1% of total energy. It’s nice that Norway’s electricity is mostly hydro (its cars, ships, airplanes, and many industries use energy sources other than electricity), but the rest of the world isn’t Norway.

    • JeffJL

      Hydro maxed out? If that is referring to the low hanging (and a lot of the medium hanging) fruit being picked. I agree.

      My reply, Van, was to Buddy claiming that in Norway the major energy source is carbon.

      I agree that ‘essentially every industrialised economy’ has hydro maxed out and that Norway appears to be the exception to prove the rule. My comment was solely to point out the factual incorrectness of Vans reply.

  • Van Snyder

    With IFR (See “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” in December 2005 Scientific American), uranium enrichment would not be necessary. The advantage of IFR compared to LFTR is that IFR can consume “waste” from current reactors, while LFTR cannot.

  • Van Snyder

    Loved the graphic. Very informative!

    • Dr. A. Cannara

      Thanks, you’re very welcome. and this one should illustrate why nuclear (and local solar) are the greenest of them all…

      • Van Snyder

        I still prefer IFR to solar, until (if) we work out how to destroy LWR waste with solar panels.

  • Van Snyder

    Only needs dilithium crystals, and off you go!

  • Van Snyder

    Post-use processing would be simple with metal instead of oxide fuel, as in IFR (see “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” in December 2005 Scientific American). IFR can burn all the actinides in “waste.” Thorium reactors (and solar panels) cannot.

  • Van Snyder

    The correct reprocessing paradigm is to use metallic fuel, not oxide fuel, pyroelectric refining, not aqueous refining, and extract all the energy from the heavy metal, not 0.6% of it. See “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” in December 2005 Scientific American. The resulting fission products are 1% as much as the “waste” we now produce, and need special custody for 300 years, not 300,000 years. 300 years is easy: mix it with concrete and drop it in the ocean. There are intact concrete dock works at Caesarea in Israel that were poured by the Romans 2000 years ago!

  • darryl

    Forgive my ignorance, but what would the source of neutrons be for this sort of reactor? Based on what I’m reading, the reaction stops without an outside source of neutrons, so what would make sense?


  • Heimdall222


    A very detailed article. So detailed, in fact, that:

    (a) Very few will read all of it, except for the exceedingly anal.

    (b) It comes across as a screed. (Yeah, yeah, we know you don’t — Google it!)

  • Владимир Помаков

    The safer and cheapest source of energy is the petrol. Because it has already been proven in a most decisive way that the origin of petrol is inorganic, and that in the zone between 3 and 10 km below the Earth’ crust function gigantic natural “laboratories” producing constantly enormous quantities of carbohydrates part of which turn into petrol and part accumulate as natural gas. And these processes will last until there is the planet Earth.

    • Kyle

      What is it with Russians and the debunked inorganic oil BS? No oil has ever been tested for biomarkers that did not test positive for known organisms that contributed the original organic matter.

      • Владимир Помаков

        What do you mean? That these biomarkers – if a sample of oil is tested – will prove that raw oil originated on the Earth’ surface, from dead organisms? That’s really a nonsense!

        • Kyle

          It’s fact. Show me one example of an oilfield tested for biomarkers that didn’t have exactly those predicted by the conventional geological theories that 99.9% of scientists accept.

          • Владимир Помаков

            Show me one research study that proves that death organic matter had been taken (by natural forces) from the surface of Earth to 5 km depth under the crust and turned into oil?!

          • Sparafucile

            Cite one study that proves your inane claim.

            Good luck.

          • Владимир Помаков

            And how did these 99.9% of “scientists” prove that the organic substances that formed raw oil and were produced by the biosphere moved at a depth of 9 or 10 km below the Earth’s crust?!

  • “Big Bear” Heggen

    There is (or once was) a thorium power reactor operating commercially some 40 miles north of Denver, Colorado – the Fort Saint Vrain reactor, out on the plains on the way up to Greeley, CO. It was (as I remember) cooled by liquid sodium. This reactor was unfortunately shut down and abandoned some 20 years ago by the Commonwealth Edison power company supplying the Denver area. I toured this plant three times back when it was operating — safely operating, as always. I just thought the technology was quite interesting and very progressive thinking. This plant was shut down do to the cost of maintaining the NRC licensing and the cost of maintaining the plant. Is there any chance of this plant being revived?

  • Ben

    It’s a good effort on the part of the author, but there are several misconceptions laid out in the article. They are very common and while you might criticise the author for not doing enough research, they are understandable mistakes.

    The biggest one being the wrong concept of the biggest problem in nuclear reactor design: How to prevent a nuclear meltdown.

    It’s not that nuclear reactors meltdown because of runaway fission, it is all about RESIDUAL DECAY HEAT and how to effectively dissipate it.

    Nuclear reactors, contrary to popular belief, are very very easy to shutdown, just tickling a reactor’s configuration a tad will bring it out of criticality. But after hitting “OFF” switch, there remains many highly radioactive fission products that continue to decay for a few hours after and that’s what generates all that heat that can cause a meltdown.

    The reason why LFTRs are such amazing pieces of kit is that the drain tanks allow you to move the liquid fuel away from not just a critical configuration in the core, but into an environment which is designed to passively reject residual decay heat effectively, something you CANNOT do with solid fuels.

    • Van Snyder

      The problem with LWR is that the fuel is a low-conductivity ceramic. EBR-II used metallic fuel, which has very high thermal conductivity and very low doppler reactivity. Read “Plentiful Energy” by Charles Till and Yoon Jiang.

      • atomikrabbit

        You might be interested in googling a metallic LWR nuclear fuel innovation by Lightbridge Corp, that is being backed by the four largest US nuclear utilities.

        Currently being tested in Norway, it would replace the ceramic UO2, Zr clad, fuel pins with a metallic U/Zr alloy. It also has a twisted rather than cylindrical geometry. This dramatically improves heat transfer, as you said, but must undergo extensive testing and safety analysis before approval. As you probably know, the Navy has had metallic fuel for decades, but their performance requirements are different than for a large baseload plant.

  • jimlynchjackson

    Perhaps the Ida should join w Iran & develope this enery quest!

  • bullardrr

    From my nuclear engineering, I recall there was an efficiency and/or stability and/or process dimensional configuration issue(s) with the proactinium-233 stage that made the thorium process somewhat unwieldy. It will be interesting to see where all this goes.

  • Guitarnuke

    Normally I would not comment on an article like this, but I think it warrants a response. Several others have commented on technical inaccuracies in the article and I won’t point them all out. Suffice to say it needed a critical read by someone who understands nuclear technology. I will, however, briefly comment on two points.

    First, I think it would be false to assume that a liquid fueled breeder reactor cannot be used to produce weapons grade materials. Many of the purported “advantages” of this concept stem from the idea of continuously reprocessing fuel. If U233 can be removed after a few days of operation, as done in one test Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, then the resulting U233 material is relatively pure and could be used in a rudimentary nuclear weapon. So in a sense, the liquid fueled molten salt reactor is perhaps a perfect production reactor, at least for certain weapons grade materials.

    That is is might be perfect, if the concept were even remotely practical, which it is not. In my view, an objective reading of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) experience shows that this idea should not be pursued further.

    Let’s focus a moment just on the activity of the molten salt itself. The MSRE made less than 1/400th of the thermal power of a large commercial water-cooled power plant. The fuel salts, however, were about 20 million times more radioactive that the water in a nuclear reactor about 15 minutes after reactor shutdown. Practically this means that if a few drops of water from a nuclear reactor made it onto my desk, I could wipe it up, then break my arm lifting the book of rules and regulations governing what I am allowed to do with the rag. If a few drops of molten salt reactor salts made it onto my desk, well, first it is the temperature of lava so it would burn through my desk, and floor, and the floor below that, then into the concrete. But after it cooled, well, I could notice it and walk away, suffering no ill effects. However, that would probably be the last nuclear-related work I could do for the year, because I would likely have exceeded legal limits on worker radiation exposure. So with that, imagine the consequence of a small leak. It could shut down the reactor for months, years, or forever, completely negating any investment.

    An that is just the fuel salt itself, not to mention certain materials produced by fission that plated out in the plant components themselves. This made several plant components (pump bowls, piping, sample lines, etc) inaccessible almost indefinitely.

    The radioactivity of the coolant greatly complicates repairs and trouble shooting problems, of which the MSRE suffered many. The MSRE had a poor operating record with many breakdowns, near through-wall pipe cracking, clogged vent lines, humid air leaks into the pumps (producing deadly gasses), power transients due to transient fluid vorticity, and a host of issues that took months to repair with “long tools working through heavy shielding” and relatively high radiation dose to workers. I am sure there are people who will want to argue the history and claim that all the problems are solved. But there is no denying that there are major problems, and in my 30 years of experience most of the claimed “solutions” are of a type that just lead to new problems. And all this was in a reactor that produced no electric power, leaving the lion’s share of the hard engineering of a nuclear power plant undone,

    So while Discover magazine is just interested in publishing hype, then the article is OK, I guess though flawed in many ways. More serious and responsible minds would do well to look a little deeper.

    • Marcelo Pacheco

      There’s no need for a uranium mine or a nuclear reactor to make a nuclear bomb. Uranium can be extracted from regular sea water and it just need enrichment to high enough levels to make a trigger type bomb. No wonder the concern about Iran’s nuclear program isn’t they have a reactor that makes plutonium but rather why they need to enrich.

      Any nuclear reactor could be used to make plutonium as long as it has any neutron surplus, just place a blanket of U-238 around the reactor to catch neutrons leaving the reactor. But the bulk of worldwide electricity generation is on countries that either already have the bomb or are stable democracies not looking to make the bomb. Cheap clean electricity will save far more lives than that one in a trillion chance to a nuclear bomb being detonated. No, solar and wind aren’t ready to take over, it’s still an experiment that needs decades until we have an economical solution to fix climate change without nuclear. We need nuclear now, and either molten salt reactors and thorium/u-233 based fuels offer huge advantages over current nuclear technologies.

      This anti nuclear paranoia only leads to more pollution, poverty, reduced development (and indirectly to wars) worldwide. We need clean, cheap, plentiful electricity now. We need nuclear now.

    • Sparafucile

      Did you fail to notice the most-important difference between water-cooled and molten-salt-cooled reactors is that the latter aren’t pressurized? You’re not going to get that drop of hot radioactive salt on your “desk” if it has no mechanism by which to escape the reactor.

    • Van Snyder

      There were none of these sorts of problems at EBR-II in Idaho. IFR, which would be based on the design of EBR-II, would address all the issues that a molten-salt reactor would, but apparently with essentially none of the problems Guitarnuke remarked.

  • Marcelo Pacheco

    Please don’t give the accelerator driven design credit as “THE” Thorium reactor design. It’s not. In recent years the Europeans have been unable to produce an economical nuclear reactor design. Just look at the Areva EPR costs. The ADS reactor design is more of the same.

    There are three ways to use Thorium in nuclear reactors (in my opinion ways more logical than the ADS proposal):

    1 – The cheapest way, which is being tested right now, making 10% Plutonium + 90% Thorium fuel, for usage in water cooled reactors. This improves thermal safety margins, improves burnup (as much as twice more energy can be extracted from the same load of fuel, or twice the burnup), and a reactor running on Thorium based fuel might enable power uprates of existing reactors. This is the short term plan. This fuel formulation leads to maximum destruction of Plutonium (vs traditional MOX fuel which makes half as much new plutonium as it destroys).

    2 – Reprocess fuel from scenario #1, reusing the Uranium (mostly 233, but also 234 and 232), and make 10% U233/90% Thorium fuel. Depending on how efficient the reactor is, it might be possible to repeat this cycle indefinitely, adding more Thorium. Even if the reactor doesn’t quite produce as much U233 as it consumes, multiple runs from scenario #1 can be combined to make one this type of new fuel.

    3 – Molten Salt breeder reactors (specially LFTR or Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor). This reactor is highly optimized to make more U-233 than in consumes, and by using a molten salt coolant with the nuclear fuel dissolved in greatly increases safety margins, eliminates scheduled refueling shutdowns (since the fuel is molten, you can add more fuel by simple injection, and fission products can be removed by removing batches of core material and reprocessing those).

    Lets dig into Thermal margin features:

    Regular uranium/plutonium reactors with water cooling have around 200C in thermal margins before a meltdown due to the very limited thermal conductivity of Uranium and Plutonium Oxide.

    Using Pu+Th or U233+Th fuel increases thermal margins by around 300C, since Thorium Oxide is far greater thermal conductor than Uranium Oxide (U233 Oxide is also a bad conductor, but its just 10% in this case). In the Molten Salt reactor Thermal margins are 600C to 800C plus the much higher operating temperature makes it easier to cool the core plus the drain tank concept ends any concern about overheating.

    Lets dig into the Nuclear waste advantages:

    Water cooled reactors have a problem with too much transuranics (elements that form when Uranium doesn’t fission and absorbs neutrons). But Thorium negates that problem, allowing for much higher transuranic concentrations. This means Plutonium, Neptunium, Americium, Curium can be kept in the fuel until it fissions (or it gets reprocessed and recycled into new fuel). This reduces maximum half life from around 77000 years down to 30 years, rule of thumb 10 half lives means the nuclear material has decayed (99.9% has decayed), we go from close to a million years until stability to 300 years until stability. Plus 80% of fission products have far shorter half lives, which means even with 100 years the total radioactivity is much lower, making it so much easier to store the material between 100 yrs old until 300 yrs old.

    Much higher energy extracted from nuclear material:

    Using Uranium on water cooled reactors without reprocessing limits extracting around 0.7% of the total nuclear energy of mined uranium. With multiple reprocessing cycles we can perhaps double that, to 1.5%. Using off the shelf more efficient reactors, such as CANDU we can get close to 1% without reprocessing, 2% with reprocessing, still 98% of Uranium is unfissioned. With Thorium fuels and either a molten salt reactor, CANDU reactors or RMBWR (reduced moderation BWR reactors), reprocessing can be done indefinitely, meaning that each ton of mined Thorium will eventually have at least 99% of its energy released, or a 50 fold improvement over uranium usage on water cooled reactors. Plus the much higher burnup (how much of the nuclear energy of fuel loaded in a reactor gets released until the fuel must be removed and either stored or reprocessed) makes reprocessing much more interesting, specially in the case of molten salt reactors (reprocessing liquid fuels, specially fuels in fluoride form avoids two costly steps, preparing the fuel to be reprocessing and making fuel with reprocessed material again).

    • Van Snyder

      EBR-II, the prototype for IFR, which operated for thirty years and was proven meltdown-proof in 1986, has essentially all the same advantages, plus there were thirty years experience and engineering development at a realistic scale (20 MWe) instead of five years experience with a laboratory toy (0 MWe). The downside of IFR, a very minor one, is that the reactor needs to be shut down to remove fuel for reprocessing.

      • Marcelo Pacheco

        Take a look at Sodium explosions on youtube. There’s a video from thunderf00t and another from Kirk Sorensen.

        GE has the S-PRISM design that incorporate everything learned from EBR-II and evolved into a commercial plant.

        However there have been ZERO orders.

        The main issue is S-PRISM is more expensive than ESBWR or AP1000.

        DMSRs promisse US$ 1 / Watt, vastly lower price than ESBWR or AP1000.

        • Van Snyder

          The main issue is that the NRC hasn’t figured out how to license S-PRISM. A GE/Hitachi consortium believed they could make S-PRISM for $1.10/watt (not counting indirect costs such as Greenpeace lawsuits and demonstrations). So far, there have been no molten-salt reactors larger than laboratory toys. If a bleeding patient has a fever of 104 and you open two triage boxes, and one has bandages, antibiotics, sutures, hemostats… and the other has some slick engineering proposals, which one would you use?

          • Marcelo Pacheco

            Most of us MSR proponents have abandoned hope that the first MSR will be installed in the USA.

            Canada, China, India or South Korea are far more likely, without NRC approval.

            Terrestrial Energy claims that Canada’s CNSC allows for a non prescriptive regulatory approaches for SMR reactors. With Terrestrial pursuing reactors as small as 250MWt / 80MWe, that might allow them to build the demo one and the first few dozen in Canada, and let the NRC figure out if they actually want any non water cooled reactors to ever get certified in the USA.

            The truth is if GE were serious about S-PRISM, they would have cut a special deal with China to make the first one without NRC approval.

          • atomikrabbit

            “The main issue is that the NRC hasn’t figured out how to license S-PRISM”

            The NRC took a good stab at it 21 years ago – the biggest problem was/is that utilities are too conservative, and there’s still no consistent, urgent national policy to implement Gen IV nuclear tech: pbadupws(dot)nrc(dot)gov/docs/ML0634/ML063410561.pdf

          • Van Snyder

            Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I noted in the Abstract that the conclusion of this preapplication report is that “no obvious impediments to licensing the PRISM design had been identified.”

  • Egadsno

    According to MIT 200,000 Americans will die early from ozone and carbon particulate matter from the combustion of fossil fuels annually, according to WHO 2,000,000 will die in the world from the same causes annually… what are we waiting for?

  • Bongstar420

    Its nice they didn’t focus on solid fuel LWR designs. THE FUTURE IS LFTR!

  • Bongstar420

    At least they didn’t fixate on solid fuel LWR designs. LFTR is the future.

    Oh, Thorium is a waste product of mining Rare Earth elements in most cases btw.

  • codejack

    Solar and wind just aren’t quite ready, yet; Just providing New York State with all of its energy from renewables would take 15 years, cost $500 billion, and use every ounce of material we could mine (creating more environmental problems).

    Even the nuclear reactors we use now are actually safer than solar; solar kills more people, per unit power produced.

  • Walter Duda

    Unfortunately you are looking for common sense that does not exist in the corporate world, as Michael Douglas said in the movie, greed is good. That’s only if you are on the receiving end of it. Decisions that are critical are being made with nothing else but the dollar in mind by people who really do not spend much time on what they are talking about. To hell with the next generations, I want mine now.

  • Van Snyder

    Edwin Sayre estimated that a tonne of used LWR fuel (mostly uranium) would have a market value of $16 million. He simply got a list of fission products and their amounts per GWe-year, and looked them up in a chemical-supply house catalog. To make one GWe-yr of electricity requires turning a tonne of heavy metal into fission products. A tonne of uranium, reduced to metal, costs about $130,000. Nuclear “waste” is a profit center, not a cost center!

  • Teddy Hunter

    How will the rich energy companies keep the masses poor if the energy they supply is so much cheaper than it is now?..and how will they remain rich and powerful? war= big money for the rich and powerful so why would they want an alternative energy they would NOT have to fight for?

  • Donk970

    The very thing that makes a LFTR so attractive is what will keep US Corporations from pursuing it. Companies like GE or Westinghouse that build light water reactors build these things almost at cost because the real money is in the fuel rods. The fuel costs for a LFTR will be almost zero compared to LWR fuel costs which means that the only way to make a profit is on the initial construction. The only way that the first LFTR will get built is if the government foots the bill because no bank will lend the money for an untried technology. With the “only good government is no government” crowd controlling the purse strings you can forget about any real advances in this area happening in the US. Luckily China and India will do what needs to be done and then we can pay a shitload of money to buy it back.

    • Sparafucile

      You’re trying to be funny, right? Fuel costs, over the entire operating life of a nuclear plant, are less than 10% of the construction cost. Much less.

    • Van Snyder

      A GE/Hitachi consortium wants to build their design of the Integral Fast Reactor, called S-PRISM. It has all the advantages of a molten-salt reactor, plus having thirty years of operating experience and engineering development in a realistic scenario (20 MWe) opposed to only five years experience with a laboratory toy (zero MWe).

  • ecoresearch

    There are so many holes in the description above, that claims of safety become unbelievable. Presumably the neutron gun can affect thorium only at the top of the core, and convection currents are relied upon to keep exposing unchanged atoms to it. So U-233 which is fissile must remain so for some time, as it leaves the area of the neutron gun and sinks in the currents. If this is not so, then you are going to need a whole array of neutron guns at different levels in the liquid, and how can they penetrate the containment vessel? To say “fission stops immediately” means that the design is unworkable. It must persist for some time.

    If and when the liquid core is jettisoned, there is likely to be stratification as it cools, and U-233 and other fissile by-products could well form critical masses as this occurs. At Fukushima, although criticality did not occur, heating continued for several days, and gallons of sea-water were used, in order to avoid criticality. It is silly to say “heating continues but does not get worse” because the cooling system that dissipated that heat is now inoperative, after the plug has melted. We know that disaster conditions are only ever simulated. Nobody does any experimentation because it is too expensive.

  • ecoresearch

    According to Wikipedia, “When thorium-232 absorbs a neutron, it becomes thorium-233, which has a half-life of only 22 minutes.”

    22 minutes is not “immediately”. After the plug has gone and the core is jettisoned, it is still critical for 22-x minutes. There is a small window during which the neutron guns have to be turned off, and emergency cooling started up for the dumped core.

    Neutrons generated during this decay will create more U-233.

    NONE of the bloggers here have mentioned these technicalities. And yet they are so gung ho on thorium reactors.

    Stop talking safety up, in order to generate research jobs for yourselves.

    I would not trust one of you

    • Sparafucile

      What you describe is, perhaps, the most-easily solvable (non) problem in nuclear engineering. It’s so-easily solvable, there are a number of entirely-different ways it can be accomplished. combining them makes for a “belt & suspenders” solution.

      • ecoresearch

        So tell us how you would solve them. From memory, the cross-sectional area of the Fukushima reactor was about one tenth of that of the reactor building, and the height was about 4 metre.

        So a flat tank below the Thorium reactor would reduce the depth of dumped core to 40cm. Nobody can pretend that “natural convection” will keep that cool. And the air currents involved will very likely carry particles into the environment, and will certainly make the reactor building non-inhabitable. So thorium reactors will have to be put into enormous buildings, making them much more susceptible to earthquake damage, and to breaches of the integrity of the “safety tank”.

        Water-cooled is well understood. Tightening safety measures (for example a passive water-reservoir in the surrounding hills) would make them a lot safe. Whether they would still be cost-effective relative to gas-turbines or renewables, is another question.

        • Sparafucile

          First, let’s correct some of your false premises: that the reactor fuel is *ever* critical (ie self-sustaining, at a minimum), and that the neutron guns operate in the dump tank..

          Then, to contain, cool, and control an overheated reactor, when the drain plug(s) melt (as described), the liquid reactor fuel flows, b gravity into a tank beneath. Whether or not the reactor’s neutron guns turn off, this tank is insulated from those neutron sources, except at the actual openings, which only permit a tiny fraction of neutrons to pass. Inside the dump tank are baffles, which serve three purposes — they (using a moderator) capture neutrons, to help shut down the reaction, they separate the fuel from itself, further impairing the reaction, and act to quickly cool the liquid, like a corrugated heat sink.

          Your notions about “natural convection” are irrelevant, since all the cooling would be accomplished by a combination of the thermal inertia of the dump tank, and its conduction with the ground (or anything else) beneath.

          • ecoresearch

            OK, the neutron gun is a red herring. Baffles sound interesting, although I would want to know about the thermal conductivity of the moderator sandwiched inside them.. Wikipedia puts the temperature at 700 C. Steel is 3.5 times weaker at that temperature, and 15 times weaker at 900C, so there is not much slack.

            A commercial web-site has

            “FireROK™ cement concrete can withstand intermittent temperatures as high as 1000°C (1850°F) and sustained temperatures up to 300°C (570°F) without significant loss of strength.” Looks like you are going to have an awfully big mass of exotic alloy if you want to keep the integrity of the concrete. I wonder about the integrity of the tank in the case of an earthquake.

            Wikipedia puts the thermal output from beta decay at around 6% of operating power, so you might be in with a chance, if your moderators stop fission which would otherwise raise the output above this percentage. But won’t the isotopes created by the neutron gun continue to decay for a number of minutes, generating more than 6%?. Wikipedia has

            “Uranium-233 is produced by the neutron irradiation of thorium-232. When thorium-232 absorbs a neutron, it becomes thorium-233, which has a half-life of only 22 minutes. Thorium-233 decays into protactinium-233 through beta decay. Protactinium-233 has a half-life of 27 days”.

            My interpretation of that is that after 22 minutes, the power output is 50% of the 500KW or so, There is going to be an awful lot of heat to dissipate for a few hours.

            My recollection of Fukushima is that the rods dropped and fission stopped (presumably better than your baffles would achieve). The reactor vessel was not damaged by the earthquake. But the battery back-up for the cooling water-pumps died after 2 hours, and isotope decay generated hydrogen from the water, which exploded and destroyed the integrity of the reactor vessel. Then they just pumped sea water into it, which leaked out into the sea, highly contaminated.

            I do recall confident predictions of thermal output dropping over a few days, which seem to be proved incorrect. Presumably the experiment had never been done, and the theory proved unreliable. Or maybe some rods were damaged and fission continued. Your best argument seems to rest on this never happening with a thorium reactor.

            Still, its nice to see you thinking and not just pushing the party line.

          • Sparafucile

            The thing you seem to be missing is that, unlike in Light Water Reactors, the fission reactions aren’t ever anywhere near criticality. Yes, they still generate heat, but that heat output is declining, from the instant the neutron source is turned off.

            Therefore, whatever cooling sump design you wish to you, all it needs to do is take away the heat from the quick-fission of U-232 (primarily), and the lingering heat production of the other elements/isotopes (secondarily, and to a much-lesser degree).

            You can slow the non-decay (and initiated decay) chain reactions with a moderator, as I described, flattening the heat curve (lowering the highest temperature, extending the duration). But, again, there’s never any criticality — so the total amount of heat generated is calculable.

          • ecoresearch

            At the site I mentioned with the Google query, one blogger suggested having control rods in the bottom of a water-cooled reactor vessel, in case of damage to fuel rods. Another quotes a Swedish paper which reports re-criticality after shut-down, due to pockets of concentration of fissile material. I wonder how that relates to possible stratification in the “magma” after dumping into the safety sump. You have already used up the latent heat of fusion, so a temperature spike above 700C is on the cards. There is fissile material in there, although in much lower concentrations than in a water-cooled. As an erstwhile Control and not a Nuclear Engineer, it seems to me that research effort is better spent on additional safety features to water-cooled. Political considerations on Uranium sources might dictate otherwise.

          • Sparafucile

            How does one get “re-criticality” when the reaction’s never been anywhere close to critical in the first place? There are two types of reactions — those that can go critical, and those that cannot. The Thorium fuel cycle never gets anywhere near critical — even in “pockets”.

    • Michael Mann

      The core is not “critical” for 22 minutes, it stops being critical as soon as the geometry stops being correct for criticality.(immediately) This could be caused by insertion of control rods in a solid reactor, or a physical change in geometry for a liquid core, (LFTR) the insertion of a chemical “nuclear poison” like boron or the removal of the moderator.. there are many ways to make this fail-safe.

      • Sparafucile

        I’m not so sure the core is *ever* critical. The reaction sequence may continue, but it is never self-sustaining. It’s always on a declining path once the (artificial) neutron flow ceases.

        • Michael Mann

          The way I understood one LFTR design was a reactor chamber with graphite moderator which the liquid fuel flowed around, while the fuel was in the chamber it could achieve criticality and was self sustaining with a very negative temperature coefficient, if for any reason the fuel left the chamber (different geometry and no moderator, it would be subcritical and below the point of adding heat, it would quickly cool and solidify.

          • ecoresearch

            As a non-Nuclear engineer, I consult Wikipedia articles on Thorium reactors. There are 3 variants. 1) The thorium is held in solution in a fluoride salt (liquid at op. temp); 2)The thorium is in ceramic fuel rods in the core; 3)The thorium is in a “jacket” around a conventional core. Only in (1) could the thorium be drained in an incident, through a heat-sensitive plug in the bottom of the reactor. The “neutron gun” is usually U-235. This produces “fast neutrons” which have to be slowed by graphite-filled moderator rods, in the core. After slowing, these become “thermal neutrons” which are highly interactive. In 1) it is not clear where these are installed: presumably in a small conventional core.

            Proponents prefer (1), that they imagine is safe. But a Thorium atom absorbs a thermal neutron to produce Th-233 with a half-life of 22 minutes. This decays into U-233 which has a 159Kyear half life. One infers that much more energy is produced from Th decay than from U decay. Whilst neutrons are produced, a chain started by one neutron into Thorium generates less than 1 neutron so criticality is impossible. But the Gamma output is enormous.

            Decaying Th-233 will be pumped away from the core into a heat exchanger, emitting Gamma all the time. So the pipework has to be heavily shielded. There will be fast neutrons produced too, but without a moderator these are less interactive. Wikipedia gives no relative figures. In an earthquake, pipework and heat exchanger are more vulnerable than the reactor vessel. You can shut off the neutron gun virtually instantaneously with the rods, as in a water-cooled reactor, because U-235 and its decay product U-236 are very low gamma emitters, with half-lives in millions of years. Unlike Thorium, they are relatively high neutron emitters, and one neutron in produces more than one out.

            With Thorium the disincentive to nuclear proliferation is the creation with the U-233 of very low levels of the undesirable U-232, whose daughter Tl-208 emits ultra-hard gamma rays

            The whole basis of the Thorium cycle is high gamma emission.

            Consequently, damage to the pipework in an earthquake would prevent entry by men in suits. Slower robots would be necessary. So if your cooling system goes because of pipe leaks, you have no way to repair it. They could end up spraying sea water onto the reactor, as at Fukushima, but this would flash at 750C into steam, presumably with further destruction, and who knows what chemical and nuclear reactions might follow: at F they found iodine emitters. How do you get the hoses into the building in the face of all that Gamma?

            The 22 minute half-life of Th-233 means that atoms passing through the pipework are still emitting large amounts of Gamma energy. The bulk of the reactor’s thermal output is in this form. So 22 minutes after you have shut off the neutron source, on a 1GW reactor, you are still getting 0.5GW of heat. Do the integral !

            So, the plug melts, and comes to our rescue. But instead of all those gamma and beta sources being sealed in the core, they are now in the open air in a sump under the reactor, which you have to cool for days. Thermal concrete can stand 300C continuous, 1000C intermittent, and the temperature started at 700C and is still rising. Steel has little integrity after 1000C.

            OK, it will all eventually stop, without a China syndrome. But after leaking gamma sources all around the area.

            OK, core melt-down is less likely than in a water-cooled, but you have no fall-back mechanisms, and especially none involving humans. Boron injection just stops reactions that demand neutrons. That works in a water-cooled, U-235 reactor, but not with Thorium.

            I can see the military and space-travel attractions, but not for electicity generation. Any leak from reactor (and pipework), and you still have widespread gamma contamination. And your shut-down cooling has to deal with much more than 6.5% from beta emission, for 88 minutes, and thereafter for weeks, as at Fukushima..

  • William Linnell

    So there are still problems with cost, accidents, leaks, and contamination of the environment. And the wheels on the bus go round and round…..

    • Sparafucile

      Your assessment of what constitutes a “problem” never gets past the speculative stage.

  • William Linnell

    Do you guys work from home, or are a couple of you in a pro-nuke office somewhere cranking out the party line?

    • Ike Bottema

      Who is “you guys”? I myself am a university-educated individual taught to think for myself so I do! I’ve read a lot of articles and books and came to the conclusion that nuclear isn’t the boogeyman that you make it out to be. No party line, just objective analysis of the information available and I’ve concluded I can sleep soundly knowing that electrical, weak force, and strong force radiation are all natural components of the world we evolved into.

      • Michael Mann

        Some anti-nuclear activists are paid to organize and protest so they assume everyone else is also a paid commenter.

      • Sam Gilman

        It’s interesting how he cannot argue back; he just tries to smear anyone who criticises him.

        I used to get told I was “drinking the Al Gore Kool Aid” all the time by global warming deniers in much the same situation.

        However, I must say this: One marked distinction of anti-nuclear junk advocates I’ve noticed is the automatic suspicion of anyone who has read up on the science.

        In a reply to one of my comments, he asked me why – knowing that I’ve been living in Japan from before the Fukushima crisis – I happened to be so quick in answering his junk science talking points on radiation and health, as if that was evidence of suspicious behaviour. For pity’s sake, I have kids, my wife was pregnant at the time, and like you, I’m not an academic slouch. Of course I bloody read up on the topic. And then I read more, made sure I was basing what I said on the best science because I then had not only to read for myself and my family, but help others around me negotiate the science, and help them explain to others – their friends, employees, and families back home and so on – I had a responsibility to get it right.

        If he wants to dismiss all that and smear me, then it tells people reading this all they need to know about his credibility and tactics.

      • William Linnell

        I got me a college degree, too. Yes, radiation occurs naturally. So does arsenic. But I don’t want industrial quantities of it near the lobsters I eat, the water I drink, or the air I breathe.

        • Michael Mann

          No one wants “industrial quantities” in the environment, it’s just that normal quantities are being treated like “industrial quantities” Radiophobia over levels which are less than the differences in background radiation around the world is counterproductive and causes more harm than good.

        • Marcelo Pacheco

          Even in Fukushima, 5 Km / 3 miles away from the reactor arguably it is safe to live. The reason for the clean up is a combination of irrational paranoia, the eagerness of Japanese government to do another jobs program, the shortage of land in Japan, and again irrational paranoia. The levels of radiation just two years after the meltdown 3 miles away is far lower than I get sunbathing in Guarapari Monazite sand beach, flying with the airlines and a full 1/10th the radiation astronauts are exposed in the ISS for 6 months continuously.

          Radiation safety standards were set between after WWII and the 50s, with massive safety buffers and never reviewed to account for data that supports lowering them by a full order of magnitude.

          If we calculate radiation levels from Chernobyl and apply to the population exposed downwind, we would have gotten hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of extra cancer cases. Instead we got a few hundred deaths, about 1000 cases of mutations and zero deaths except for people that were close to the reactor right when it happened.

          Three Mile Island is another case, ZERO cancers, ZERO deaths.

          99% of the problem is human anti nuclear paranoia. 1% is actual radiation effects.

    • Marcelo Pacheco

      I’m an IT/Telecom expert. I have an incomplete computer engineering training (with much of the common engineering curriculum classes) and took a single online intro to nuclear tech class (coursera/university of pittsburgh).

      There are two types of people in this world as far as nuclear goes. Those that are fearful even of their own shadows and are utterly unable to calculate risks rationally, and those that can do the math and focus only on numbers instead of irrational fears.

      The whole world together has nearly 400GWe worth of nuclear power, around 400 reactors. Those combined are in the order of enough to generate all power to North America.

      So, if nuclear power were rationally dangerous, we would have serious accidents at least every other year. They wouldn’t stop happening, no matter what we did to improve nuclear reactor safety. The way I look at it, is there will be a limited total number of accidents, we’ll learn all the lessons, and from then on, no more ! And Fukushima is either the last or the next to last accident.

      Finally, nuclear power generation today transposed to aviation is like as if we’re still running strictly piston airplanes that require expensive maintenance and aren’t nearly as safe as they can be (I’m also a private+IFR rated pilot with a lot of knowledge about the history of commercial aviation). There is 100 ways to do nuclear. The world is fixated on water cooled/solid fuel reactors cause that was the best way for nuclear powered subs, and the US paid first mover costs. There was a chance at having the best type of reactors for civilian use, but the most crooked USA president killed it (Nixon).

      Molten Salt reactors are so much safer than water cooled / solid fuel reactors. Would love to discuss more if you ask for it.

  • Van Snyder

    Thorium is not in itself fissionable, so it’s not directly usable as fuel. Uranium 233 is bred from a blanket of thorium 232, so the reactor is fueled with uranium 233 instead of uranium 235. The difference isn’t between uranium and thorium so much as differences in the fundamental design of reactors. A pressurized-water reactor fueled with 5%-uranium 233 derived from thorium would have exactly the same risks as one fueled with 5%-uranium 235 derived from uranium ore. Different designs fueled with uranium 235 have similar benefits to ones fueled with uranium 233. The main competitors are molten-salt reactors, or liquid-metal fast breeder reactors, such as the IFR described in “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” in December 2005 Scientific American (or online). Both are inherently safe. The IFR is much further developed, having been in service at 20 MWe scale for two decades, while only laboratory-scale molten-salt toy reactors were deployed, primarily for materials testing.

    • Marcelo Pacheco

      The fundamental advantage is that U233 is a better fissile than U235 in the thermal spectrum and a heck of a lot better than Pu239.

      U235 has near 90% chance of fission with average production of 2.3 neutrons.

      U233 has over 90% chance of fission with average production of 2.4 neutrons.

      When U235 doesn’t fission it must eat a lot of neutrons before it can become Pu239 and has another shot at fission.

      U233 when it doesn’t fission eventually becomes U235 which is almost as good a fissile.

      Since U233 produces 2.4 neutrons, combined with the 2nd fission chance at U235, makes a thermal spectrum breeder quite possible if neutrons are managed very well, and worst case allow for very high conversion ratio and can use any fissile transuranics mixed in as its fissile driver (like 80% Th232 + 5% U235 + 15% U238, or weapons grade Pu or Np/Am/Cu/Pu from regular reprocessing).

      So in practice it offers most advantages of fast breeders, without the disadvantages with Sodium or Lead cooling.

      Pairing up one BN800/S-PRISM with a dozen good enough burner MSRs would allow depleted uranium to be consumed at a much lower cost, since MSRs need far less fissile inventory than a breeder that needs around 20% fissile content and a much higher total fissile+fertile inventory due to much lower neutron cross sections at the fast spectrum.

      • Van Snyder

        This is a fine long-term system. It can ‘t consume the 70,000 tonnes of 5%-used fuel we already have on hand. Burn that first. Thorium will still be here.

  • Van Snyder

    The primary reason to want breeding now is to phase out enrichment.

  • Van Snyder

    EBR-II was also self-moderating, efficient, and stable. It was proven in 1986 to be meltdown-proof. Unlike LFTR, it operated for thirty years. Nobel Laureate Hans Bethe said it was the best breeder reactor research project ever pursued.

    If you’re doing triage and you open two boxes and one has bandages, sutures, anesthetics, antiseptics… and the other has some tentative engineering drawings of something that might eventually be better, which one would you use first?

    • Eric Robinson

      Lets do both! They are both better than LWR, wind and solar.

      • Van Snyder

        Molten-salt reactors might eventually be wonderful, but the only one ever built operated for a very short time, and was a lot of trouble. Fluorine salts are a big problem. They evolve UF6 gas, which gets into everything. This caused enormous clean-up expense for the LFTR — more than actually building and running the experiment. Continue research, but don’t let it stand in the way of inherently-safe liquid-metal fast-neutron reactors, which are ready. Indeed, Russia has already deployed two sizes of them (BN-350 and BN-800) and has BN-1200 under development. They have a contract to build a BN-800 in China. A South Korean company says they’ll have a 500 MWe one ready for sale on the international market in two years. GE has (at last) applied for a license for S-PRISM.

  • UncleB

    less waste is the most interesting part of this discussion. The waste is in fact less poisonous too! In fact: What is considered waste from current U.S. technologies is fuel for these reactors!

    • William Linnell

      Yes, and filtered cigarettes are less poisonous than non-fiction cigarettes, but so what? -Better to chew gum than do either.

  • Brian Donovan

    The sun is the safer nuclear energy, and it’s cheaper, actually safe, and 100% recyclable.

  • Neal Miller


  • Brian Donovan

    China is cutting corners on nuclear, and efficiency, wind and solar are all cheaper.

    Thorium is a future fantasy.

    Why the censorship of comments against thorium? can’t stand the truth?

  • Rich Purtell

    A TMSR mandate for Iran would have been a great idea. Tell them “Thorium or nothing” and watch this technology take off in a hurry.

  • Brian Donovan

    It’s not substantially safer, still million year waste and a delay increase in radiation after 300 years. All the claim of thousands of years of thorium don’t make much sense given that the proven reserve of thorium are only good for on year of supplying all the world’s energy from nuclear, if that were possible, which is not. You can’t build the reactor fast enough to get to more than about 5% of the world’s total energy demand. Nuclear is by far the most expensive electricity as well, and depends on gov welfare just to run. The talk of future reactors is just science fiction. These reactor design are old and the industry never adopted them for good reasons.

    Solar and wind are cheaper much faster to install, in fact out installing nuclear by several times right now, with infinite free fuel, and no material limits to growth.

    Back it up with waste to fuels and fuels air, water and electricity (look it up) running in reserve diesels and turbines that we mostly already have.

  • Brian Donovan

    Science fiction. Solar, wind and renewables are the real thing: hear now, and cheaper, clean, safe and forever.

  • Stoli89

    Just to put things into a global perspective, conventional coal ash throws off more radiation (from naturally occurring isotopes) into our atmosphere than Chernobyl…every year.

    The powerful coal lobby in the USA has prevented its waste stream from falling under federal nuclear regulatory limits. If it did, it would be shut down.

    Strangely, the Rare Earth mining business remains subject to these same regs, preventing its economical operation within the US due to naturally occurring Thorium (which is as plentiful as lead).

    I guess the Petroleum Institute is even more powerful than the coal lobby.

    Bottom line, crony capitalism has handed “communist” China a monopoly on Rare Earth’s AND a huge head start on a Thorium fueled nuclear renaissance. WTF America!!!!!!!

  • FRE000

    The main problem with expanding nuclear power and preparing a better nuclear power system for implementation is POLITICAL. Unless the political problems are addressed, we will be dabbling with ineffective “solutions” while global warming continues apace. We must find ways to address the fact that the anti-nuclear crowd has the politicians afraid even to mention nuclear power, even when politicians know full well that nuclear power is essential to limiting global warming.

    One thing we could do would be to write a brief drama showing a wind farm owner struggling to sell wind power to a utility when he cannot guarantee how much power he will have available to sell and when it will be available. i.e., dramatize the problems associated with intermittent power sources. Links to that drama could be posted in all threads which discuss climate and power issues.


  • FRE000

    Here is an item I wrote which I am posting in sites which discuss environmental and power issues; feel free to copy it:


    Nuclear power is essential to minimize global warming. Half-way measures will make little difference.

    By the year 2100, the global demand for power will increase

    by about FOUR TIMES as poor countries strive to lift their people out of poverty. That includes power for heating, cooling, lighting, cooking, transportation, sea water desalination, manufacturing, etc. To reduce CO2 emissions to acceptable levels, about 90% of that power must come from non-CO2 emitting sources.

    Renewables, because of their intermittent nature, can make

    only a very minor contribution towards reducing CO2 emission although they are useful under some circumstances.

    Only nuclear power can adequately reduce CO2 emissions so

    that 90% of global power will come from non-CO2 emitting sources. Unfortunately, the anti-nuclear crowd, by making government leaders afraid even to mention nuclear power, are leading us down a very destructive path.

    Even though our current nuclear power technology is worse

    than mediocre, it still has a far better safety record than any other currently used power generating technology. It is capable of reducing CO2 emissions to an acceptable level and should be greatly expanded until we develop a better nuclear technology.

    The reason we are temporarily stuck with a bad nuclear

    technology is that funds for R & D for better nuclear technologies were cut off in the late 1960s else we would already be using a better, more economical, more efficient, and safer nuclear power technology. The liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) looks especially promising, partly because it cannot melt down, but there are also other nuclear technologies that could be used to replace our current pressurized water nuclear reactors.

    For more information, I suggest spending many hours

    studying. The following google searches will provide a good start:

    “thorium reactor”

    “integral fast reactor”

    “pebble bed reactor”

    Our government leaders should get over their fear of the

    anti-nuclear crowd and do what should be done, i.e., greatly expand nuclear power while supporting research for better nuclear technologies.

  • Marcelo Pacheco

    Accelerator driven reactors is perhaps the most challenging way to use Thorium.

    1 – We could use Thorium in a few years on existing nuclear reactors. The safety advantages are significant but not huge, but it would help current reactors many of which are quickly becoming too expensive to operate versus cheap natural gas (which does produce CO2).

    This initiative would also help fission existing plutonium stockpiles.

    Search: “Thor energy” Halden Thorium

    2 – LFTR is an advanced (hence far away) form of molten salt reactors. Most of the advantages of an MSR with Thorium come from the MSR side rather than the Thorium side. There is a simpler MSR idea called the DMSR (D as in Denatured), which avoids some proliferation concerns about the LFTR Thorium breeder concept, and results in six to ten times more efficient use of Uranium vs current Uranium reactors.

    Search: Terrestrial Energy IMSR / Martinghale ThorCon

    3 – Advanced solid fuel Thorium breeder reactors. Westinghouse and GE are working on advanced variants of already certified water cooled reators that will be able to breed U233 (make more U233 from Th23 than consumed).

    Finally, MSRs don’t need control rods. MSRs can be made to the 100% walk away safe. The MSRE experiment at Oak Ridge in the 60s/70s demonstrated that MSRs offer load following characteristics which are one major shortcoming of existing reactors (those that can do load following do so at a cost and longevity disadvantage, while MSRs would be natural load following sources). Load following is fundamental to allow us to use a load of solar and wind with zero fossil fuels in the mix. Right now the only fossil fuel free load following source in hydro electric dams which are too scarce in most countries to solve this issue alone.

    MSRs don’t have to be decades away. The largest issue is most nuclear regulatory agencies of the developed world are inflexible and care 99.9999% at making nuclear “safer” at any cost, including adopting many “safety” requirements that don’t actually add safety. It’s one of the problems with big government. I don’t want the US NRC to go away, but it needs a serious reform, and the nuclear establishment are quite content with the status quo.

  • tim

    my friend ( and employee ) worked at Y12 and X10 during the period that the US had a thorium reactor. I worked at K25 but only after the thorium reactor was shut down. My friend believes, as well as I, that we went the wrong way when Nixon shut down the thorium reactor program. Now we are assisting China to make a reactor that could solve a lot of the problems we have with nuclear power. Inherently Safe, far cheaper to operate, far less capitol costs, can “burn”nuclear waste, far more efficient use of the fuel, far less possibility of bomb grade material proliferation. Just so many benefits. BUT …. this reactor concept is fighting an entrenched industry and political bureaucracy in the US. So…. to prove the concept we have to “assist” another country to develop something that we did 50 years ago. What a Sad and Pathetic state we have come to be.

  • Brian Donovan

    Real existing commercial reactor and fuels cycles will be short of fuel in ten years according to the IAEA and others. That’s just for 2% of the world’s energy for 50 years.

    Thorium can NOT solve that problem. It’s even more limited.

    RAR, reasonably assured reserves of thorium are HALF as large as uranium RAR. There’s no reason to expect ANY nuclear power plant to be cheaper, since the history of nuclear power has been promises of cheaper, followed by massive overruns. Nuclear has a negative learning curve as far as price is concerned.

    You still have million year wastes with thorium and in fact it gets worse up to about 400 years.

    You still need uranium to start the thorium reactors.

    Why do we keep wasting time, and money on nuclear power?

    Solar pv is made from silicon, oxygen and albumin, the three most common elements in the earths crust. and it’s recyalbable costing less than half as much the second time around.

    Solar alone without storage using only the same reserve generators nuclear and coal use throughout the world, can supply 50-60% of our electricity, all while costing 1/4 of real nuclear power. The sun shines or the wind blows about 60-80% enough to of the time to supply some 60-80% of our energy needs. That includes charging electric vehicles to eliminate most of our oil use. Manufacturing will adapt to predictable solar and wind as well. Synthetic fuels from wastes will be created with excess solar and wind.

  • marauder

    Thorium reactors a long time in coming forward.

  • Brian Donovan

    Nuclear always promised too cheap to meter, and never delivered.

    Thorium is in shorter supply than uranium, That’s proven reserves or RAR as the nuclear power call it.

    Not the nuclear fans will try and convince you that crust abundance is the real measure and claim thorium is twice as common….in the crust, not as usable ore.

    Thorium as a fuel requires reactor that don’t exist commercially and require uranium or plutonium to start, 1/3 uranium by most accounts. Since real commercial reactors are short of uranium in ten years according to the IAEA and that’s for 2% of the world’s energy.

    So with thorium, nuclear power could provide the most expensive and dirty electricity for 6% of the world’s energy for ten years. Then we get stuck with million year wastes.

    Solar, wind, waste to fuels, and hydro are all we need forever,m and much cheaper. Lazard energy version 8

  • Brian Donovan

    It’s a fantasy, so far. The MSR that was built almost blew when they decommissioned it.

    Graphite is used in most MSR design, and causes the whole system to be prone to overheating and criticality events.

    Why do all designs have an emergency drain plug?

    The processing system that is needed has never been built or tested.

    The waste is still radioactive and deadly for a million years.

    Thorium reserve are half uranium reserves which are short in ten years.

    There is no reason to think the cost will be lower, already 4 times solar or wind.

  • Christian Morales

    For me this is the best nuclear technology for power generation because it doesn’t harm the environment. This type of technology doesn’t produce a lot of nuclear waste.

    Here is my question for the against this type of nuclear technology:

    Is there other best power generation that can produce a gigawatt electricity?

    • Michael Mann

      All nuclear power is based on the huge amount of energy created from a tiniy amount of mass, in other words, they don’t produce a lot of waste, a tiny fraction of the waste created from chemical reactions.

  • bick

    ,,Medical marijuana and cannabis oil for sale at [email protected]

  • PhilanthropythroughHumanism

    See the SciShow video on the LFTR process. It helps explain exactly how this technology works.

  • Brian

    No it’s not. LFTR has emergency drain plugs. Why? What emergency haven’t they pro thorium people told us about? I haven’t heard what could cause the reactor to need that emergency drain plug. You know why? because it pr. It’s not safe, it not clean, it will cost more than current reactors, it’s been tried failed and almost blew up.

    Liquid core reactors tend to concentrate different substance in various nooks and crannies of the plumbing system. These can reach un planned spontaneous criticality. This can cause fatal radiation exposure and explosions.

    Proven reserves of thorium are less than half of uranium proven reserves which are only enough for ten years of nuclear power till the shortages begin.

    All these fantastical future reactors are proof that the real current nuclear power is horrible.

    REAL nuclear power is short of fuel in ten years, generates 27 tons of deadly million year, billion dollar to store spent fuel rods, up to 2M tons of deadly mining wastes, cost 4 times available solar and wind, and takes 12 years to install, by which time solar and wind will be 16 times cheaper.

    We already have the miracle new energy sources we need and they aren’t fossils nor nuclear.

    Solar pv, offshore wind, electric vehicles, efficiency, and hydro and waste to fuels for backup, long range and chemicals. Cheaper before gov breaks, infinitely cheaper than war, pollution and climate change.

    Solar and wind are now available cheaper than any other sources. Before gov breaks

    search lazard energy version 8

  • Jon

    .. Clean efficient fail-safe reactors are what we need . a thorium liquid crystal reactor is over 90% efficient compared to our current ‘dirty’ water cooled reactors that are only about 0.05% efficient . all the vast quantity of nuclear waste currently stored could be burnt in these LFTR reactors . at the end of a year a thorium reactor produces less than a baked bean can full of waste and some of that is isotopes valuable in medicine.

  • Rupert Welliams

    It’s an updated molten-salt reactor, a type that’s highly resistant to meltdowns. High costs, together with concerns about safety and waste disposal, have largely stalled construction of new nuclear plants in the United States and elsewhere though construction continues in some countries, including China. The new reactor is expected to save money not only because it can be built in a factory rather than on site but also because it adds safety features.

  • Glenn Heryford

    The US had three functioning thorium nuclear power plants. the last one was decommissioned in 1986. At that time research had NOT looked at molten salt as coolent therefore the light water reactor that was used was too hard to work with and was shut down. also as was mentioned it was impossible to produce plutonium from thorium

  • zanmirrob .

    I would hazard a guess and say that the oil companies don’t want these reactors to exist!

  • AuldLochinvar

    The explanation conceals one important fact about startup. Thorium enthusiasts have an understandable aversion to the Uranium hegemony that eclipsed Alvin Weinberg’s pioneering work, but let’s not forget that it’s an isotope of uranium that supplies the actual neutrons, and the thorium supplies one such isotope. For startup, you need to supply uranium 235, or create a thorium-232 / uranium 233 fuel mix with neutrons in some other reactor

  • AuldLochinvar

    Several people in this stream ask why it hasn’t been done a lot sooner, and one answer is cultivated FUD — Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, although I’d rather make it FID, downright Ignorance more than mere Uncertainty.

    So far as I can tell, a level of anti-science on the political Left comparable to the Reactionary wing’s rejection of Darwin, is the rejection of nuclear physics, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seems to have thought that maximum pacification of those extremists was their bounden duty.

    Thorcon reports that they were twice told it would cost them maybe a billion dollars, and worse, twenty years, to get a license to build a prototype in the USA.

  • David Berwald

    The author needs to take Nuclear Engineering 101. Thorium reactors have some potential advantages. They are more efficient at insitu breeding, make less actinide waste and are more suitable for use in fluid fuels; specifically as molten salts. HOWEVER, a particle accelerator is neither unique to thorium nor desirable as criticality safety for reactors with negative reactivity coefficients (all modern commercial reactors) is well proven. Thorium reactors also make just as much fission product waste as uranium reactors. These reactors can also be operated by bad guys to minimize dangerous 232U, so 233U is a proliferation issue.

    Source :

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