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Health Thorium image via Shutterstock

Published on September 11th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan

190

Why Thorium Nuclear Isn’t Featured on CleanTechnica

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September 11th, 2012 by Zachary Shahan
 
 
Update: I have published a new post on this matter (thorium) that includes two rebuttals to the below reposted paper.

I had a reader email me recently asking why we don’t feature thorium nuclear technology on CleanTechnica. To many good-intentioned folks, thorium is an energy panacea that seems perfect. People I respect have asked me the same thing in the past year or so. But thorium is far from perfect. In fact, it’s pretty darn lame, as I think you will see below (if you read this with an open mind).

Thorium image via Shutterstock

Now, before I get into the details of why thorium is anything but awesome, I want to say a few things about the culture that surrounds the “thorium will solve all our problems!” idea. Thorium enthusiasts are often willing to make claims like, “if it weren’t for the government, we would have switched to thorium nuclear energy decades ago.” Or, “thorium nuclear will solve all our problems, but it’s been suppressed by big government for decades.”

I have to admit that I’ve gotten into far too many discussions with conspiracy theorists in the past several years (mostly regarding the topic of global warming). Two things I’ve learned are that 1) they think nearly everything wrong in the world is due to governmental conspiracy; 2) you cannot expect to have a logical conversation with them — presenting facts does not matter at all.

Believe me, I understand that most if not all governments have a lot of corrupt politicians and leaders in them, that rich, entrenched energy industries have far too much control, and do suppress new technologies that could threaten their livelihood. That said, everything is not a conspiracy, and there are legitimate reasons why wind and solar energy are blowing up in use and popularity but thorium is not. There’s a good reason (or many good reasons) why wind turbines and solar panels are in place all over the world, but there isn’t a single commercial thorium reactor in operation. It’s not because every government in the world is suppressing thorium. It’s most likely because thorium simply isn’t what its proponents say it is.

Now, many or most of the commenters and bloggers who are into thorium come into the discussion in a very conspiratorial way, from my experience, which immediately throws up a yellow flag (note: not a red flag, but a yellow one). As I said, I’ve spent way too much time unsuccessfully trying to bring science and logic into discussions with conspiracy theorists.
 

 
Conspiracy theorists aren’t the only ones getting behind thorium, though. I know some very intelligent people not obsessed with conspiracy who think it could be awesome. But the thing is, nuclear technology and science is very technical. While hearing a handful of nice things about thorium in what sounds like technical or scientific language might get some people excited, it really shouldn’t. Unless you have a ton of time on your hands to very scientifically study the matter (not read blogs about the topic), you should probably defer to independent experts who have studied the matter, and have carefully studied the claims of the thorium fan club.

You might also consider that some governments (i.e. India) have been trying to get thorium off the ground for decades, with apparently no success, and many others have researched it (including world-leading countries such as Germany, Japan, the UK, Russia, and the US). Do you really think that every government that looks into the matter doesn’t want cheap, safe energy?

Now, that’s all just a preface, but here’s a nice, concise (3-page) rebuttal to the biggest claims regarding thorium (in particular, claims regarding safety, waste, technological advantage, and cost), from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Physicians for Social Responsibility (full repost of the PDF that is linked in the title):

Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power

By Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd
A Fact Sheet Produced by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Physicians for Social Responsibility

Thorium “fuel” has been proposed as an alternative to uranium fuel in nuclear reactors. There are not “thorium reactors,” but rather proposals to use thorium as a “fuel” in different types of reactors, including existing light-water reactors and various fast breeder reactor designs.

Thorium, which refers to thorium-232, is a radioactive metal that is about three times more abundant than uranium in the natural environment. Large known deposits are in Australia, India, and Norway. Some of the largest reserves are found in Idaho in the U.S. The primary U.S. company advocating for thorium fuel is Thorium Power (www.thoriumpower.com). Contrary to the claims made or implied by thorium proponents, however, thorium doesn’t solve the proliferation, waste, safety, or cost problems of nuclear power, and it still faces major technical hurdles for commercialization.

Not a Proliferation Solution
Thorium is not actually a “fuel” because it is not fissile and therefore cannot be used to start or sustain a nuclear chain reaction. A fissile material, such as uranium-235 (U-235) or plutonium-239 (which is made in reactors from uranium-238), is required to kick-start the reaction. The enriched uranium fuel or plutonium fuel also maintains the chain reaction until enough of the thorium target material has been converted into fissile uranium-233 (U-
233) to take over much or most of the job. An advantage of thorium is that it absorbs slow neutrons relatively efficiently (compared to uranium-238) to produce fissile uranium-233.

The use of enriched uranium or plutonium in thorium fuel has proliferation implications. Although U-235 is found in nature, it is only 0.7 percent of natural uranium, so the proportion of U-235 must be industrially increased to make “enriched uranium” for use in reactors. Highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium are nuclear weapons materials.

In addition, U-233 is as effective as plutonium-239 for making nuclear bombs. In most proposed thorium fuel cycles, reprocessing is required to separate out the U-233 for use in fresh fuel. This means that, like uranium fuel with reprocessing, bomb-making material is separated out, making it vulnerable to theft or diversion. Some proposed thorium fuel cycles even require 20% enriched uranium in order to get the chain reaction started in
existing reactors using thorium fuel. It takes 90% enrichment to make weapons-usable uranium, but very little additional work is needed to move from 20% enrichment to 90% enrichment. Most of the separative work is needed to go from natural uranium, which has 0.7% uranium-235, to 20% U-235.

It has been claimed that thorium fuel cycles with reprocessing would be much less of a proliferation risk because the thorium can be mixed with uranium-238. In this case, fissile uranium-233 is also mixed with non-fissile uranium-238. The claim is that if the uranium-238 content is high enough, the mixture cannot be used to make bombs without a complex uranium enrichment plant. This is misleading. More uranium-238 does dilute the uranium-233, but it also results in the production of more plutonium-239 as the reactor operates. So the proliferation problem remains – either bomb-usable uranium-233 or bomb-useable plutonium is created and can be separated out by reprocessing.

Further, while an enrichment plant is needed to separate U-233 from U-238, it would take less separative work to do so than enriching natural uranium. This is because U-233 is five atomic weight units lighter than U-238, compared to only three for U-235. It is true that such enrichment would not be a straightforward matter because the U-233 is contaminated with U-232, which is highly radioactive and has very radioactive radionuclides in its decay chain. The radiation-dose-related problems associated with separating U-233 from U-238 and then handling the U-233 would be considerable and more complex than enriching natural uranium for the purpose of bomb making. But in principle, the separation can be done, especially if worker safety is not a primary concern; the resulting U-233 can be used to make bombs. There is just no way to avoid proliferation problems associated with thorium fuel cycles that involve reprocessing. Thorium fuel cycles without reprocessing would offer the same temptation to reprocess as today’s once-through uranium fuel cycles.

Not a Waste Solution
Proponents claim that thorium fuel significantly reduces the volume, weight, and long-term radiotoxicity of spent fuel. Using thorium in a nuclear reactor creates radioactive waste that proponents claim would only have to be isolated from the environment for 500 years, as opposed to the irradiated uranium-only fuel that remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. This claim is wrong. The fission of thorium creates long-lived fission products like technetium-99 (half-life over 200,000 years). While the mix of fission products is somewhat different than with uranium fuel, the same range of fission products is created. With or without reprocessing, these fission products have to be disposed of in a geologic repository.

If the spent fuel is not reprocessed, thorium-232 is very-long lived (half-life:14 billion years) and its decay products will build up over time in the spent fuel. This will make the spent fuel quite radiotoxic, in addition to all the fission products in it. It should also be noted that inhalation of a unit of radioactivity of thorium-232 or thorium-228 (which is also present as a decay product of thorium-232) produces a far higher dose, especially to certain organs, than the inhalation of uranium containing the same amount of radioactivity. For instance, the bone surface dose from breathing an amount (mass) of insoluble thorium is about 200 times that of breathing the same mass of uranium.

Finally, the use of thorium also creates waste at the front end of the fuel cycle. The radioactivity associated with these is expected to be considerably less than that associated with a comparable amount of uranium milling. However, mine wastes will pose long-term hazards, as in the case of uranium mining. There are also often hazardous non-radioactive metals in both thorium and uranium mill tailings.

Ongoing Technical Problems
Research and development of thorium fuel has been undertaken in Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the UK, and the U.S. for more than half a century. Besides remote fuel fabrication and issues at the front end of the fuel cycle, thorium-U-233 breeder reactors produce fuel (“breed”) much more slowly than uranium-plutonium-239 breeders. This leads to technical complications. India is sometimes cited as the country that has successfully developed thorium fuel. In fact, India has been trying to develop a thorium breeder fuel cycle for decades but has not yet done so commercially.

One reason reprocessing thorium fuel cycles haven’t been successful is that uranium-232 (U-232) is created along with uranium-233. U-232, which has a half-life of about 70 years, is extremely radioactive and is therefore very dangerous in small quantities: a single small particle in a lung would exceed legal radiation standards for the general public. U-232 also has highly radioactive decay products. Therefore, fabricating fuel with U-233 is very
expensive and difficult.

Not an Economic Solution
Thorium may be abundant and possess certain technical advantages, but it does not mean that it is economical. Compared to uranium, the thorium fuel cycle is likely to be even more costly. In a once-through mode, it will need both uranium enrichment (or plutonium separation) and thorium target rod production. In a breeder configuration, it will need reprocessing, which is costly. In addition, as noted, inhalation of thorium-232 produces a higher dose than the same amount of uranium-238 (either by radioactivity or by weight).

Reprocessed thorium creates even more risks due to the highly radioactive U-232 created in the reactor. This makes worker protection more difficult and expensive for a given level of annual dose.

Fact sheet completed in January 2009
Updated July 2009

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Nu3learSn8ke

    Um, I don’t know a lot about nuclear reactor technology, but everyone is aware that a Thorium reactor is being built right now, right?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Sure, and some have been built in the past.

      When the current attempt has been up and running for a while we’ll have a better idea if they are cheap enough to be considered.

  • Tom Lemon

    Zach,

    Coming to the party late. Actually Thorium is much worse than Uranium, not better. The reason is, it requires molten salt reactors to operate.

    MSRs are hideously dangerous from a proflieration standpoint. MSR technology would immediately jump to the nuclear gray market and would then immediately become available for rogue states to separate Plutonium, or U-233 (either one). That’s why the US government shut them down in the 1960s.

    The thorium advocates wave thorium around as a way to distract from the real issue…the very real and well-known dangers of MSRs.

    This has been explored in length in a series of Quora posts, by the way. I invite anybody to go and look at them. You’ll get a lot of good critique. http://www.quora.com/What-are-the-cons-of-thorium-nuclear-energy.

    As for the Thorium nuts…well suffice to say that real nuclear engineers think the whole thing is lame and funny. Any first-year nuclear engineering student could destroy the arguments of the Thorium nuts over a modest luncheon. Thats why the thorium guys tend to avoid real nuclear experts, because they don’t want to be shot down.

  • JoFergus

    Espousing misinformation (or presuming upon ignorance) in order to try and make numerous incorrect arguments sound plausible is a rather reprehensible tactic at the best of times. Quite unforgivable when it comes to such an important subject.

    You should be ashamed of yourself for not having at least taken down your inaccurate nonsense, if you’re incapable of correcting your own mistakes (likely because your info has simply been plagiarized to begin with, and you don’t have a clue where to begin your fact checking)

    Consider yourself discredited, dude

  • Paulbee

    Thorium is safe to handle, and so also is technetium-99. Technetium-99 is actually injected in our bodies for certain medical tests.

    Longlived radioisotopes are actually less radioactive than short lived ones. The reason that the end product of a LFTR reactor is safe after 300 yrs is because what is left is at natural background radiation or less.

    Cleantchnica unfortunately seems less about clean CO2 free energy, it;s more about bigoted fear of all things Nuclear. I will gladly and hapily accept a LFTR, and I hope we rediscover them after 50 yrs of foolish neglect.

  • dan
  • Brent Cole

    I have two points: 1.) Regarding the problem of nuclear pollution:

    When nuclear power generating plants began being built commercially there was no viable solution for safely disposing of nuclear wastes and we were told, “We will figure it out.” More than 60 years later no viable solution to the problem has been forthcoming. Mountains of nuclear wastes continue to grow and threaten environmental devastation. Background radiation levels have been ratcheted up to many times their natural levels and threaten the balance of life on this planet if not the extinction of all life. The environmental devastation and long term problems are difficult or impossible to quantify in terms of economic costs alone and are so severely underestimated as to be utterly absurd. The quality of life has been severely degraded by the nuclear industry and that cost has been utterly ignored.

    2.) It would be a simple matter to compress air and use a compressed air engine for power generation using wind (instead of generating power directly) and would dramatically increase the production efficiency. Similar technology could easily be employed for energy storage to level out the production from solar at a far cheaper rate than current storage methods. I suppose this is too simple and logical to be employed.

    We continue to destroy the environment and threaten life with nuclear contaminates and “cook the books” to make nuclear generation appear to be viable by ignoring and underestimating the environmental and long term costs and use unsubstantiated claims of global warming to rationalize. Water vapor has over 100 times the effect of CO2 on global warming, but that fact is ignored.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Point 1 – True. If the industry hasn’t found an acceptable solution in 60 years why should we expect them to in the next few years? Why should we even consider building hundreds of new reactors and greatly multiplying the problem?

      Point 2 – We know how to store energy in the form of compressed air. We’ve got two CAES systems that have been running for years. But CAES is not efficient/cost effective when compared to pump-up storage.

      Storing air before converting it to electricity might be a reasonable approach but it’s an idea that has been in existence for a while and no one seems to have produced convincing numbers that have led to implementation.
      Someone tried to build a wind farm a few years back where turbines compressed air. I don’t know if they couldn’t get funding, discovered a flaw in their thinking, or gave it a try an failed.

      Some things sound good until they smack up against reality.

      And this -

      “Water vapor has over 100 times the effect of CO2 on global warming, but that fact is ignored.”

      - is factually incorrect. It’s one of the mis-truths spread by climate change deniers.

      • PsychoPigeon

        Anyone using the term ‘denier’ is an agenda pusher. If you want people to take you seriously then understand the actual argument. So-called ‘deniers’ (skeptics) acknowledge human contribution to co2 levels, the argument comes down to how much of a factor does it play and are the policies being pushed actually going to affect the climate or are they detrimental in economic terms as well as environmental e.g in Haiti they have deforestation on a vast scale due to ‘green’ policies.

        • Bob_Wallace

          No, the deniers (false skeptics) have chosen to ignore the vast amount of scientific information we have that shows us how much of our greenhouse blanket has been produced by humans.

          It’s an active choice to be ignorant.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I commented on this earlier via email but my response hasn’t appeared.

      Quickly – #1 point. Agree. And water vapor is in no way ignored by climate scientists. That’s a piece of denier-crackpot stuff you’ve picked up somewhere.

      Now, storing wind. I wrote that it’s an old idea that hasn’t panned out to date. After writing that comment I decided to update my information.

      What I see on line is that many companies/individuals have considered the idea. Lots of pictures have been drawn. Art is available on line.

      Here’s a company that was going to invest $20 million in 2008 and have something up and running in 2011. Checking their web site I don’t see anything about them accomplishing anything with wind. It looks like they might have had some involvement with adding storage to a gas plant.

      http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10026958-54.html

      Here’s a company that says they are going to do something.

      http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20069772-54/start-up-pumped-for-compressed-air-wind-storage/

      I don’t see any actual results on line.

      There’s a problem with compressed air storage. The heat generated during compression, if not saved, is a system energy loss. Cold air doesn’t contain the energy that is in hot air.

      There is a company called LightSail which claims that it has figured out how to store the heat separately and add it back in to greatly reduce systemic loss. We’ll see….

  • Bob_Wallace

    Not being in paragraphs made that a blue (female dog) to read. But if I grasped the main point:

    The raw LCOE of electricity is not an adequate and complete measure of value.

    Power delivered at times of low demand has less value than
    power delivered at times of high demand. Furthermore, power which
    is dispatchable has, at times, even additional value. (This we knew.)
    What does that tell us?

    1) Nuclear loses. Nuclear cannot be the lowest cost provider at any time of the 24 hour cycle. Wind will under-price it when the wind is blowing. Solar will under-price it when the Sun is shining. Natural gas will under-price it any time of the day or night. New nuclear has no market.
    2) “Always on” combined cycle gas will be pushed off the grid by less expensive wind and solar. Wind is already head-to-head competitive, the price of wind is expected to fall and the price of gas to rise. Solar is already cheaper because solar can be installed at the user/retail end and does not have to compete at the wholesale price point. As time goes on it is likely that solar will continue to drop in price and gas will continue to rise so that solar will take over at the wholesale level.

    3) The near future role for natural gas is fill-in. Being dispatchable (10-15 minutes for a gas turbine to spin from off to full on and ~3 hours for the extra value of the steam turbine to reach full output) gas will have value. Until storage becomes cheaper.

    Here’s how I see our grid development playing out.

    Stage 1 (the one we are in)

    Lots more wind and roof-top/retail level solar installed.

    Coal continues to get shut down due to the cost of eliminating emissions.
    Some combined-cycle gas gets built along with some gas peakers.

    Tidal and geothermal will also increase their role.

    Stage 2

    Affordable storage, most likely utility scale batteries (like Ambri’s liquid metal battery) appear and offer storage at a good price point.

    Cheap wind + cheap solar + cheap geothermal + cheap tidal + cheap storage dominate and coal, nuclear and gas disappear as existing plants wear out and replaced by cheaper generation.

  • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

    for all the nuclear supporters below who seem to think solar & wind aren’t working, here’s are two interesting questions:

    1. why does China keep increasing its solar targets and pushing its nuclear targets further back? in the past 1.5 years or so, China has increased its 2015 solar target from about 5 GW to 40 GW: http://cleantechnica.com/2012/09/18/china-to-double-2015-solar-pv-target-to-40-gw/

    2. why is wind blowing up in Brazil? 88.8% of Brazilian electricity in 2011 was from renewable resources: http://cleantechnica.com/2012/06/18/88-8-brazilian-electricity-2011-renewable-sources/

    80% of contracts in December Brazil power auction were for wind: http://cleantechnica.com/2011/12/22/80-of-contracts-in-latest-brazil-power-auction-are-wind-power/

    wind is now cheaper than natural gas or hydro in Brazil: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-18/wind-beats-natural-gas-hydro-in-brazil-power-supply-bidding.html

    meanwhile, solar is cheaper than the retail price of electricity: http://cleantechnica.com/2012/07/04/brazil-solar-energy-below-grid-electricity/

    • PsychoPigeon

      Wind and solar still use fossil fuels to function, it does in no way threaten what some call “big oil”.

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        not really sure what point you think you’re making.

        if it’s about oil mostly being used for transportation:

        1- yep, but wind+EVs and solar+EVs does threaten “big oil”

        2- also don’t forget that in many developing countries and island states, oil is actually used for electricity.

  • Tim D.

    Wow, a “fact” sheet from a slanted, ideological organization that only reports on issues that further its PSR agenda.

    And if you are interested in reading real research and not blog and liberal BS, here are some options:

    http://accelconf.web.cern.ch/accelconf/IPAC2012/papers/thppr061.pdf

    http://proceedings.aip.org/resource/2/apcpcs/1448/1/59_1?isAuthorized=no

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306454912001582

    • Bob_Wallace

      The fact that the science might work (unproven to date) does not mean that thorium reactors would produce affordable electricity. For some reason you pro-thorium people either can’t understand or refuse to consider that fact.
      The cost of electricity from a nuclear reactor is not significantly driven by fuel input, but by construction and financing cost.

      We could put colonies of people on the Moon. We have the technology to do that. But it would make no economic sense.

      • Tim D.

        I’m not pro-thorium, nor am I anti-thorium. I am pro-SMR, however. What are your credentials, and what research have you done into alternative energy sources? You keep citing one government website that admits it does not provide real-world information. You need to review scientific studies and weigh both sides of an argument, not just jump on an ill-informed bandwagon. I live in Michigan, perhaps the best single state for wind generation. Yet it will never be abundant enough to be out primary energy source. In part because people are fighting against the obtrusive monsters spoiling beautiful naturally scenic views. The huge farms cannot come close to competing with a mere 30-acre natural gas power plant in output, or cost at this point in time. It is not a big picture answer, just a reasonable portion of a larger carbon-free energy future.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Well, Tim, how about pointing out one single person who has ever claimed that we should power our grid with nothing but wind power.

          Or with 100% solar. Or with 100% geothermal. Or with 100% tidal.

          BTW, in no way is Michigan “the best” state for wind production. And the price of wind is going down while the price of natural gas is on the way up. Prices are expected to rise in 2013.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.r.schroeder Don Ryan Schroeder

    I wandered to the site because of link on a Thorium blog I follow. I surely not a conspiracy theory type guy and only started following the Thorium story recently. I am a concerned citizen that recognizes the energy predicament we are in as a society so heavily dependent on fossil fuels. I too am concerned with our energy future and reading this post and the following comments is disappointing.

    The main point completely misses what people are excited about regarding Thorium and LFTR reactors. Referencing a paper about a completely different kind of Thorium reactor and using highly dismissive rhetoric doesn’t inspire much confidence that this site is using a fair and balanced approach overall. Should I invest time at this site if all pieces are of this quality? Why not a update to the post? Does this site like to stand by inaccurate info?

    It sounds like several regulars here are down on nuclear and quite high on wind and solar. I am as well as long as we’re talking about traditional nuclear. There are too many problems with traditional nuclear.

    It seems here like wind power is a no brainer in terms of cost. So why the poor penetration? Much like nuclear’s affordability has been questioned, I must question the numbers thrown out for wind. If these numbers are accurate, why in the world are we using anything else? The numbers can’t be the whole story. The fact that we haven’t really embraced wind (despite the price) really can’t be the whole story? There’s more there that’s holding us back. Instead of dismissing the stereotypical problems with nuclear out of hand when thinking about Thorium, why not do a little more digging and address what might be holding back Thorium? At least more than a debunked paper from 2009 about something else.

    A few have mentioned why the nuclear industry hasn’t been able to build an affordable reactor the produces cheap power…well, from what I know, Thorium LFTRs aren’t really close to traditional nuclear. I’m a physician and asking me to open an acupuncture clinic wouldn’t get you very far. I have a feeling it’s the same way with nuclear. Many years of training on traditional systems is going to get you someone who knows them well and not much about the alternatives. We had a functioning prototype reactor going in the 60s. It worked well from what I understand. It’s not like it’s something that doesn’t work. It’s an engineering problem that no one has truly worked with in this country since then.

    Funding is a big issue. Thorium nuclear isn’t some moderate sized research program that a university or company can undertake. I know companies build reactors, but do you GE is going invest the hundreds of millions in a new kind of reactor that their own scientists know little about? The financial roadblocks are real in terms of obstructing private finance.

    Other obstructions like the weapons proliferation, nuclear accident concerns and waste disposal that plague traditional nuclear are a matter of education. Thorium LFTRs don’t have a lot of them, but the general person doesn’t understand this.

    The dismissed aspect of nuclear that solar/wind can’t solve is energy density. Not only must we solve our own energy issues, but unless we are able to solve them for the world at large the climate won’t care. Wind is great and should be expanded radically, but there’s something to be said for a single reactor that can power many more homes than hundreds of windmills. LFTRs have a much smaller footprint than a traditional reactor and don’t need a large body of water for coolant/meltdown purposes. They can be put relatively anywhere and scaled to size. They can also be built in modular fashion which has the potential to dramatically improve the costs of building them.

    There’s also the problem of actually getting this stuff done. Many people are opposed to solar and wind because of some crazy ideology. Many of these same people seem o.k. with nuclear though. I’d rather pay a little more for a great nuclear option like Thorium could be if it actually meant we could implement it on a national scale. Better that than losing ground to an agenda that would have us more dependent on fossil fuels and discounting solar/wind.

    Maybe Thorium is a pipe dream and wind/solar should rule the day, but I had to share how disappointing it was that little actual exploration apparently went into the dismissal of Thorium LFTRs here on this site.

    • Bob_Wallace

      ” It seems here like wind power is a no brainer in terms of cost. So why the poor penetration? ”

      The price of wind has been falling rapidly over the last few years. Penetration grew from less that 1% in 2007 to 2.3% in 2010
      and apparently over 3% in 2011 and seems to be closing on 4% in 2012. (Detailed final 2011 numbers are yet to be released.)

      ‘Wind is just getting started, not there yet’ would be my synopsis.

      “The dismissed aspect of nuclear that solar/wind can’t solve is energy density.”

      Energy density is largely irrelevant. Cost of delivered electricity is the major criterion for what is built. Speed of build and safety also come to the mix.

      “I know companies build reactors, but do you GE is going invest the hundreds of millions in a new kind of reactor that their own scientists know little about?”

      When I read something like that I suspect the individual making the statement is engaging either in shallow thinking or self-delusion. A company like GE with a net worth of $230 billion or so employs scientists and engineers who don’t keep up with energy generation ideas? That aren’t capable of understanding something that is so clear to a bunch of non-scientists posting stuff on a blog?

      I’m sorry. That just makes no sense. Think it through.

  • brendan

    I honestly do not believe you could have done more damage to the credibility of cleantechnica than publish that drivel from
    Makhijani and Boyd. cleantechnica clearly wants to become yet another trumpet for anti nuclear propaganda from the caldicott brigade

    • http://bobhiggins.wordpress.com/ Bob Higgins

      The nuclear industry needs no assistance in tarnishing its reputation for ignoring public health and safety and milking the public treasury to pad its own coffers.

  • http://bobhiggins.wordpress.com/ Bob Higgins

    Thanks for posting this article which provides some valuable perspective for the layman on a complex subject. I’m sure there will be some hot discussion from proponents of thorium and nukes in general but the ax they continue to grind is always obvious.

    I still maintain that there is no need for us to reproduce the mechanisms of stars around the corner and down the street. All the power we need is being produced and sent to us every second by a conveniently located star.

    Our focus should be the collection and storage of this manna in all its forms. Everything else is shortsighted and akin to tripping over dollars to pick up pennies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=730700327 Nathaniel Downes

    The source for the counter-paper comes from an anti-nuclear lobbying group. Would be akin to asking the KKK to write a paper on illegal immigration.

    Scientific papers can and do exist, and you turned to an anti-nuclear lobbying organization, and a paper which is *years* debunked. Can we get some real reporting, or just wipe this piece off the net before you hurt the sites credibility?

    • Bob_Wallace

      So your idea is that this site should print only pro-nuclear industry pieces?

      Publishing a bunch of stuff about how some technology that does’t exist is wonderful and how this unproven idea is the answer to the world’s problem is your idea of how to make the site more credible?

      Got it. Taken into consideration. Thanks for your input….

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      could you give me links to some that address these issues?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PKBLDBYWRPMI7N3DTPQIZJJQTM Nuclear

    Compare the Nuclear (Thorium or Uranium) with the current fossil fuels like Coal or Oil (especially Heavy Oil) and the nuclear will be much more cleaner.

    Solar and Wind are certainly good for homes and offices and geothermal of heating / cooling, but what about the machines in factories that needs electricity 24 * 365, this is where Nuclear is needed, but this area is controlled by Fossil fuels.

    Homi Jehangir Bhabha the great Indian Scientist who wanted to develop Thorium reactor died in a plane crash, if he would have lived, certainly India would have made some progress in this area.

    How many people said that safe nuclear reactor is not possible until the Chinese built 4th Gen modular reactor which will never melt. Now they are building a 200 MW prototype. With ever rising oil prices, nuclear will become an important option along with Solar, Wind, Wave & Geothermal.

    Expect Japan and Germany to suffer from rising Oil prices and start rebuilding their nuclear industry. The same Electric and Plugin vehicles and their storage batteries that benefit the Solar & Wind will also benefit the nuclear power.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Dear Nuclear.

      Just one word.

      Storage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.g.noonan Paul Noonan

    Bob,

    From your comments about there being no need for base load power it sounds like (you think) you live a low energy lifestyle.

    Firstly there’s no shortage of people wishing other people could be more like them. If that was all it took to solve the world’s problems we’d be sorted by now.

    Secondly there are occasions when power is needed immediately. Have you ever fallen suddenly and seriously ill only to be told ‘sorry Bob, we can’t operate. The theatre’s closed because the wind hasn’t blown for a few days’. Of course not, or perhaps you are young enough to still take your good health for granted?

    Thirdly how do you think your woodworking tools, and the computer you used to post your article, were made cheaply enough for you to be able to afford? Not by capital intensive factories hanging around waiting for the sun to shine, or the wind to blow, that’s for sure.

    In fact the material wealth of developed nations depends on a reliable, consistent supply of low cost energy. Any solution that depends on the vast majority of people who already enjoy this prosperity giving it up is pure fantasy. Any solution that depends on people who are currently poor being unable to attain this wealth is immoral.

    Solar and wind farms are only constructed because there are subsidies. They would not be viable comercial enterprises otherwise.

    Nuclear power is a bit like democracy. It’s the worst possible solution apart from all the alternatives. Nobody claims it’s perfect, but it’s better than being poor, and it’s better than putting up with fossil fuel pollution. LFTRs have the potential to make a good solution even better, but it would be naive to imagine this technology will become commercially viable without a good deal of up front investment.

    • Bob_Wallace

      ” From your comments about there being no need for base load power it sounds like (you think) you live a low energy lifestyle. ”

      Yes, I do. However, if I wished I could just install more panels and batteries and use a lot more power. You miss the point about baseload.
      “Secondly there are occasions when power is needed immediately. Have you ever fallen suddenly and seriously ill only to be told ‘sorry Bob, we can’t operate.”

      In the last 20+ years I have been without power only one time and then only for a few minutes. I turned on the table saw when the washer was running and blew an undersized shunt. Going “dark” is not about the source of electricity, it’s about the overall grid design.

      All energy systems have to have backup/redundant generation systems.

      “Thirdly how do you think your woodworking tools, and the computer you used to post your article, were made cheaply enough for you to be able to afford? Not by capital intensive factories hanging around waiting for the sun to shine, or the wind to blow, that’s for sure.”

      Do you not understand that renewable energy, even stored for when the wind isn’t blowing and the Sun not shining, is cheaper than new coal and new nuclear? Let me rephrase that – cheaper than both old and new coal and new nuclear.

      “In fact the material wealth of developed nations depends on a reliable, consistent supply of low cost energy.”

      So? You think we can’t build a 100% renewable grid? Do you not understand that wind is one of our two cheapest ways to produce electricity and on its way to being the very cheapest?

      ” In fact the material wealth of developed nations depends on a reliable, consistent supply of low cost energy. ”

      That’s a load of horse poop.

      “Nuclear power is a bit like democracy.”

      Nuclear plants are being built mainly in countries (and states) with strong central governments which seize money from their citizens and use it to build reactors.

      Nuclear power is as close to communism as energy can be. Grab citizens’ money and jam the reactor down over local opposition. Then make citizens pay for the overpriced output.

      China is your idea of a great democracy?

    • http://bobhiggins.wordpress.com/ Bob Higgins

      A watt is a watt no matter the source.

  • Will

    I find this and the discussion below very dissappointing. Just as there are many kinds of ‘solar’ power, there are many forms of nuclear power. As some commentators have pointed out, the form of thorium power discussed in this article is not the kind of thorium power that contemporary advocates are interested in.

    We need some form of base power generation and without a green lobby who are open minded enough to explore all the options, that power will come from either coal, gas or mainstream nuclear.

    I really don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, nor someone who has ‘read the odd blog’ on the subject. There were clear economic, pragmatic and political reasons why thorium was dropped for uranium. The only one that remains is the economic inertia of (re)building well-tested designs. That is a large hurdle indeed for the private sector, especially one which holds the plans for very expensively designed and tested reactors, the investment in which would only be returned by building those same reactors.

    I guess I would like to turn the authors question on its head. If the arguments against thorium were this obvious, why does he suppose that there is any research into it at all? I hope it isn’t a conspiracy …

    • Bob_Wallace

      ” We need some form of base power generation ”

      No, we do not.

      We need power when we need it and in the amounts required. We have gotten into the habit of thinking that the electricity we need must come from “always running” plants like coal and nuclear, but that is out of date thinking.

      There’s absolutely no reason that 100% of our electricity cannot come from a mixture of wind, solar, and other variable renewables along with fill-ins from dispatchable sources such as hydro and storage.

      I’m off the grid with solar as my major energy input. Today I’ve pumped a few hundred gallons of water to my storage tanks, I’m doing a few loads of laundry and I’ll be firing up my larger woodworking tools when the laundry is done. I’ll run my life tonight using electricity stored in batteries. When the Sun lets me down I’l fire up my dispatchable source – a generator.

      My little system is a model of what we can do on a grand scale. Use renewables when they are generating, store some of their energy and back up with other sources.

      No coal or nuclear needed.

      • http://twitter.com/ShotmanMaslo DreamChaser

        We do not have a storage tech to do so on the scale required.

        http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/

        • Bob_Wallace

          We have about 80,000 existing dams in the US. We use about 2,500 for power generation. Based on a study of all the dams on federal land we should expect more than 10% of existing dams to be usable for pump-up storage.
          Additionally, we can build pump-up hydro on bare land. All that is needed is a couple of small pieces of land which are reasonably close together but at different altitudes. (Think a bluff.) And a seasonal supply of water for the initial fill-up and annual evaporation refills.

          Throw in abandoned mines as another site. Germany is converting some of their old mines to storage.

          Pump-up hydro plus cheap wind would be cheaper than either new nuclear or new coal.

          Scale is absolutely no issue.

          That said, I don’t think pump-up will be our storage solution. There are two very promising grid-scale battery storage technologies under development. One is going into production this year.

          Aquion is promising a sodium-ion battery that can store at six cents per kWh with the expectation that they can take that cost down to 1.5 cents over time. Their technology is already proven by an independent (US Navy) lab.

          Ambri is developing an even more promising liquid metal battery that should be dirt cheap. They have working prototypes and expect to be manufacturing in about two years.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      nothing wrong with research. but researching something is not at all the same as “this technology is good, safe, and cheap.”

  • Kirk D

    There is no conspiracy theory needed to explain why molten salt
    reactor research lost funding.
    Weinberg’s molten salt breeder concept was one of the leading
    alternative breeder concepts to the LMFBR, along with the gas-cooled breeder
    and light water breeder, which all lost funding when the AEC ultimately focused
    limited resources exclusively on LMFBR.
    Glenn Seaborg’s book about “The Atomic Energy Commission under Nixon”
    has a good summary about the politics and budget decisions for the AEC’s
    breeder programs. In addition to discovering
    the potential of thorium as an energy resource, Seaborg served as the head of
    the AEC for nearly a decade. Below are a
    few relevant excerpts from Seaborg’s book:

    “The uranium cycle was selected in preference to the thorium
    cycle largely because it had become familiar in work with the wartime plutonium
    production reactors, whereas little was then known about the physical and
    nuclear properties of thorium. In addition, fast breeders were thought to work
    better on the uranium than on the thorium cycle.

    Alvin Weinberg, then director of the Oak Ridge National
    Laboratory and one of the most thoughtful of contemporary scientists, stated
    his belief that the breeder “would have to be ranked as of extraordinary
    importance in the history of mankind, only a little less important than the
    discovery of fission.”

    Also, to the extent that an alternative using the thorium
    cycle could be developed in addition to one using the uranium cycle, energy
    resources would be vastly extended since thorium was estimated to be much more
    abundant in nature than uranium.

    President Nixon informed the heads of all executive departments
    and agencies on January 25, 1969, that the combined effect of an inflationary economic
    outlook, continued military operations in Southeast Asia, and a disappointing
    balance of trade would demand “decisive and substantial action to reduce
    the size of the budget and to keep Federal spending under strict control.”

    EXPLORING THE ALTERNATIVES

    While giving priority emphasis to the LMFBR, the AEC had for
    a number of years been giving a modicum of support to breeder concepts other
    than the LMFBR.

    In his autumn 1969 letter complaining about the cost of the
    breeder program, Budget Director Mayo asked whether the AEC could not reduce
    the number of alternative breeder concepts it was supporting. In reply, we pointed
    out that in the previous five years we had eliminated seven major alternatives
    to the LMFBR, reducing the number we still wanted to support to three very
    promising approaches. These were the light water breeder reactor, the molten
    salt breeder reactor, and the gas-cooled fast breeder reactor. I argued that
    any further elimination should be deferred until some very important technical
    information was forthcoming on the basis of which industry could determine
    whether it wished to support any of these three concepts.

    The molten salt breeder reactor (MSBR) was being developed
    at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Alvin Weinberg,
    who lent his considerable prestige to efforts to promote it. Like the LWBR, it
    used the thorium cycle. As Weinberg pointed out, the MSBR had the advantage of
    very high heat-transfer capability. A drawback was that it employed slow rather
    than fast neutrons and so would not have a high breeding ratio.

    In the Nixon administration’s first markup of AEC’s fiscal
    year 1970 budget, which occurred in March 1969, the LWBR was eliminated entirely,
    and both the molten salt and gas-cooled approaches were cut severely from the
    already low level of support advocated by the AEC.

    On November 10, 1969, we received the Budget Bureau’s markup
    for the fiscal year 1971 budget. This time all breeder approaches other than
    the LMFBR were eliminated entirely. After I protested in a conversation with
    Mayo he relented a little; we could keep alive the LWBR or the MSBR, but not
    both. He left it to the AEC to make the choice. The Commission found this task
    a difficult one. The LWBR was close to the completion of its development
    program; it therefore represented the less costly budgetary choice and the
    quicker payoff. The MSBR had broader, long-range potential but would cost a lot
    to develop. When it came time to vote, Commissioners Johnson, Thompson, and
    Larson voted for the MSBR; Ramey and I for the LWBR. This outcome was made
    questionable, however, by Larson’s former connection with the Oak Ridge
    National Laboratory, where the molten salt work was taking place. It was
    therefore agreed that I would have one more try at Mayo. I did so the same
    afternoon. I described to him the inconclusive results of our vote and suggested
    a possible solution, namely, to carry through the LWBR and also to carry the MSBR
    at a low level for a number of years just to keep it alive. I told Mayo that
    otherwise we might lose the team at Oak Ridge as well as a real chance for an
    eventual breakthrough on a very inexpensive source of nuclear power. Mayo reluctantly
    said BOB might make $5 million available for MSBR, as well as a larger amount
    for the LWBR, but, again, only if the AEC volunteered a compensating cut from
    some other program. We were able to do that.

    Learning from us that the project was still alive seemed a
    relief to Weinberg, but the reduced level was an obvious disappointment. Not
    long afterward, in a wide-ranging letter to Joint Committee chairman Holifield,
    Weinberg wrote: “I believe the country’s almost single-minded commitment
    to fast breeder reactors, and its corresponding inability to support
    alternatives, particularly the molten salt breeder, is an error which I hope
    the Joint Committee can somehow correct in the not too distant future.”
    This appeal was unlikely to produce results – nor did it – because the joint
    Committee itself had a strong bias in favor of the LMFBR.

    This and other items on which AEC appealed from BOB’s markup
    were reviewed by President Nixon and, as a result, the $10 million we had
    requested for the LWBR was restored. The molten salt approach continued to limp
    along at its reduced level of support.

    In the 1970s, the government’s commitment to the LMFBR
    became more exclusive, and budgetary support for the alternatives dwindled.

    Alvin Weinberg may well have been right. The AEC, with the
    Joint Committee’s active connivance, may well have erred in putting too many of
    its breeder eggs in the LMFBR basket. While correctly stating the case for
    alternative concepts in budget presentations, we gave them only token support compared
    to the massive emphasis on the LMFBR. When presidential support was sought, it
    was for the LMFBR only. And when the LMFBR was elevated to the status of a
    national goal with additional budgetary support, it all but assured that the
    alternatives would recede further into the shadows. Rather than throw such huge
    resources into a massive LMFBR program with short-term deadlines, the AEC might
    have done better to initiate a slower and broader program that would have
    afforded the opportunity to change course as difficulties arose. As later
    analyses would demonstrate (see Chapter 12), there was not such great economic
    urgency to get breeder reactors on-line quickly as we first maintained. On the
    other hand, we did not fully appreciate this until the bulk of the program
    commitments had already been made.”
    (page 179).

  • Luke

    Everybody, shut the hell up. This article is perfectly timed. A few minutes beforehand I posted a comment on another cleantechnica article, in reply to a gentlemen who was trying to advocate for some advanced new reactor technology. My comment to him wass as follows:

    “Why oh why, whenever I peruse comments on energy sites, does some idiot always try and play up the benefits of some new unproven, unrealistic, expensive, apparently magical and revolutionary nuclear power plant design.

    You wanna’ know F*ing why these nuclear power plants aren’t being built or developed? BECAUSE IT DOESN’T WORK!”

    Drop it, people. Your precious nuclear power concept is nothing but a pipe dream. No one wants nuclear anymore. Solar & wind are both cheaper already. Build a bridge and get over it.

    Thank you Zachary for a fantastic, and surprisingly satisfying article.

    • Michael

      “new unproven, unrealistic, expensive, apparently magical and revolutionary nuclear power plant design”

      The way I see it, grid level storage (which is necessary for mass use of solar and wind generation) is the currently unproven technology, although there are some interesting developments in the works:
      http://www.ted.com/talks/donald_sadoway_the_missing_link_to_renewable_energy.html

      But at the same time, you shouldn’t completely discount nuclear. At ORNL in the 70′s there was a thorium reactor, and yes, it did work. No, it wasn’t yet suitable for commercial power generation but the research was promising enough that it is worth persuing today, I think.

      • Bob_Wallace

        We are researching thorium reactors. Many countries are. Serious efforts have been made to figure out how to build a successful thorium reactor.
        Here’s the bottom line.

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

        No one has yet demonstrated a thorium reactor which produces affordable electricity.

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

        Now, let’s keep that one fact in mind.

        Someday someone might produce one of these wondrous beasts. If so, we can put thorium reactors into our menu of practical solutions for getting off fossil fuels. Until that happens all the talk about thorium reactors being “the solution” is just bull. It’s nothing more than an unproven idea. (Remember pebble bed reactors and cold fusion? Other ideas that haven’t produced as promised.)

        BTW, we built over 20GW of pump-up hydro in the US back when we were building reactors. Storage was necessary to allow reactors operate on our grid. We have a couple of CAES plants operating in the world. We have some fairly large battery banks working on the grid.

        Storage is proven. The issue now is what will be the most affordable storage technology.

    • http://bobhiggins.wordpress.com/ Bob Higgins

      Another thing seldom mentioned by these nuclear magical thinkers is the fact that no one will underwrite their construction or assume liability for their risks. They always come hat in hand to the public, except for distribution of the profits.

    • Tony Montagna

      Not really true,

      You are right that a thorium reactor won’t be coming to the US anytime
      soon, but wrong that it isn’t here “BECAUSE IT DOESN’T WORK”.

      Nuclear is hard to develop because any research is very expensive, and needs government approval. So the rate of innovation in nuclear energy has been stunted for quite some time. Science implicates that a thorium reactor is indeed feasible, but getting the research funding and gov approval to build one, along with NRC acceptance and licensing, is an enormous hurdle.

      • Bob_Wallace

        More crap from you, Tony.

        If it was possible to build a thorium fueled reactor which produced electricity at a better price then we’d be building a couple right now in Georgia rather than the two uranium-fueled ones that are being built.

        (Way over timeline and significantly over budget….)

        If thorium reactors were what you claim China, Russia and Korea would be building them rather than uranium-fueled reactors.

        • PsychoPigeon

          China and India are already developing Thorium reactors. Please, spread your bullshit elsewhere.

  • Jesper Oersted

    What Zachary Shahan talkes about is thorium in a conventional reactor, not in a molten salt reactor, purposely build. Fuel fabrication? BS! There is no fuel fabrication in a MSR, just a salt destillation. Can be done automatically without need for human manipulation. You cannot removed the U-232 from the U-233, thus seriously complicating any weapon use. In brief: Zachary Shahan hasn’t done his homework.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      will look into that and see if it changes anything for me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-J-CHamberlain/1128726119 Paul J CHamberlain

    The thorium movement is based on the molten salt reactor design using thorium. You said in your article that you would show that thorium is “pretty darn lame”, yet neither you or the article you includes any reference to the molten salt reactor.
    Dismissing thorium advocates as conspiracy theorists is pretty darn lame. There was no secret conspiracy in the decision to go with the uranium cycle, rather thorium was lousy for making weapons. How about addressing the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor design.

    • PsychoPigeon

      Spot on. The term “conspiracy theorist” is used to discredit your opponent without having to refute what he’s discussed with verifiable evidence. It’s a pathetic behavior.

  • ConcernedNEB

    I also think that you failed to mention the current US-China collaboration on thorium nuclear that Berk, MIT and UW-Madison are involved in…along with DOE and Westinghouse. A collaboration project in which we GAVE China the information they tried to hack from ORNL two years ago. You are right, only you, the rational person, can see their fallacy going forward.

    http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/westinghouse-enters-us-china-nuclear-collaboration/17252

    • Luke

      A collaboration project.

      Sold! I’m sold! Take my money! THIS EVERYONE, is proof that Thorium is going to provide a revolutionary new energy source that will take humanity forward into a better tomorrow.

      Because a collaboration project = a commercially-viable nuclear reactor, AMIRIGHT?

  • John Haugeland

    Oh god, the cluelessness, it burns

    • Bob_Wallace

      We feel your pain John.

      Just step away from the nuclear industry propaganda and things will cool off for you.

      • Will

        The mainstream nuclear industry is certainly no fan of Thorium Bob. It would be a competitor to their own reactor designs, which they are desperate to sell. Are you a moderator on this site? It doesn’t feel like it. In fact, I find it alarming.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Bunch your pantaloons tighter. I’m a mod and a opinionated commenter as well.

          Live with it.

          The nuclear industry would flip from uranium to thorium in a micro-second if they thought it would allow them to build new reactors at a decent price. The nuclear industry would grasp onto fairy dust if they thought it could help them avoid extinction.

          • Will

            Isn’t their usual trick just to try and grasp on to any passing senator’s nuts?!

            It’s clear that you have a principled objection to nuclear per se. Fine. Your dream of affordable energy generated by 100% renewables sounds great.
            But this kind of objection doesn’t seem that relevant when the main concern in these posts is that the above article is misinformed and hence (in and of itself) uninformative.

          • Bob_Wallace

            It’s clear that the nuclear industry is desperate to find some financing help somewhere. Clearly they cannot build a reactor and produce marketable energy on their own.

            Look at what they are pulling in the state of Georgia with the aid of the state government.

            The utility company is overcharging customers for their present electricity and using that money to build reactors. If the plant never opens their customers money goes up in smoke. If the plant does open their customers will be force to pay more for their electricity.

            I love the fact that this is happening in one of the most right-winged of all states.

            Socialized electricity through the seizure of private property. Communism running rampant in god-botherer country.

            The fun thing to watch, if this plant does come on line, is how fast solar goes on tens/hundreds of thousands of rooftops in Georgia. I’d give Southern Company about five years post turn-on to start squealing like stuck pigs over their loss of market.

  • http://raszl.net/ iraszl

    Arjun Makhijani? C’mon. He’s just pushing his own agenda. His claims have been debunked http://thoriumforum.com/reply-mr-makhijani

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      sorry, but this rebuttal does nothing for me. it’s mostly someone rambling about issues not relevant to the topics above. it does not address the issues above at all.

      • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

        and, for that matter, doesn’t seem to say anything about the author of the report, either.

  • Murray

    Really you have to consider the source of Zachary’s motivation to try and put down Thorium energy. Pretty obvious Zach buddy. You have 0 credibility!

    • John Haugeland

      Speaking as a supporter of LFTR, I wish you weren’t here.

    • Luke

      Nuclear power has no credibility.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      what is the source of my motivation? not sure of your point at all.

  • WhatTheFlux

    Zachary – Now that you’ve given Makhijani’s paper a full airing, how about posting the rebuttals in full as well? (The links are provided in Will Power’s comment.)

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      will check them out.

  • WhatTheFlux

    I saw Makhijani at a talk in West Los Angeles last year. He seemed smugly proud of the fact that he spent 30 years living on university / government grant money exploring the chimera of fusion power. And then he proceeded to tell us about his new line of interest – renewable energy that could magically power the whole world. And who knows? Maybe with another 30 years of grant money, he can figure out how to pull that rabbit out of a hat. Or not.

  • Mike Carey

    Cleantechnica says,

    “Overall, I think our top goals are to:

    inspire and help people to take cleantech action in their lives;share correct information on cleantech and debunk widespread myths ….”
    Really? Zach needs to spend more time staying current than spreading debunked information from 2009.

    And Bob Wallace needs to read CHEAPER THAN COAL, by Robert Hargraves before he spreads more of his disinformation about the cost of nuclear power.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I do not need to read a book to know that nuclear is cheaper than coal.

      I also wouldn’t need more than a double digit IQ to recognize that you are using the false dichotomy of “coal or nuclear”.

      It does not matter if nuclear is cheaper than coal. Both are too expensive to be considered by rational people.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Thompson/522255758 Daniel Thompson

        What do you mean by “expensive”?

        • Bob_Wallace

          “Expensive” to me means that something costs too much.

          Nuclear at least $0.15/kWh. Most likely higher than $0.20/kWh.

          Coal, probably over $0.15/kWh.

          Neither of those prices include federal subsidies and risk assessments. What we pay at the meter for coal and nuclear is not reflective of their total cost.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Thompson/522255758 Daniel Thompson

            It’d be interesting to see how expensive renewables would be if the infrastructure wasn’t manufactured using cheap energy from coal and nuclear.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The energy payback for solar panels is under two years, sometimes less than one year.

            A wind power plant typically takes only a few months (3 to 8, depending on the average wind speed at its site) to pay back the energy consumed for its fabrication, installation, operation, and decommissioning.

            We now have more than enough solar and wind on line to produce all the energy needed to make future panels and turbines. Solar and wind long ago became self-supporting. On an annual base we make far more energy from existing installations than we use for building new ones.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Price/100000480524523 Christopher Price

            Really! Pay back less than a year! Perhaps you have been influenced by certain renewable scams out there. Certainly with the china-slave worker globalisation PV revolution ( 50 cents per watt and perhaps down to 16 cents- crazy pricing it could be so).

            Yes you could be right. BUT I’ve been on the local supplier lookout and these crazy price simply DO NOT tally with panel prices and system installation quotes.

            COME ON if this were so everybody would be putting them in. Heres hoping.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hate to break it to you, but I am right. You will notice that I said “energy payback”. Cost payback takes longer, but
            it’s significantly shorter than expected system life which means years of free electricity.

            And here’s some more upsetting news for you – solar installation rates are zooming.

            There are companies in the US installing for a bit over $3/watt. Germany is just over $2/watt. $3/watt minus the 30% federal subsidy gets one down to the $2/watt range.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Price/100000480524523 Christopher Price

            This reminds me of the solar water heating fiascos of the 80′s. They were not hot heat collectors by day, but boy were they good radiators at night. The simplistic plumber installers did no system design.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry Daniel, I don’t think I answered your question correctly.

            Let me try again.

            “It’d be interesting to see how expensive renewables would be if the infrastructure wasn’t manufactured using cheap energy from coal and nuclear. ”

            Given the fact that wind produced electricity is considerably cheaper than coal produced electricity we’d have to say that renewables would be no more expensive, in fact, they would be cheaper were we to take coal offline.
            Then, given that the median price for nuclear (from existing plants) is $0.06/kWh and the median price for wind is $0.05/kWh we’d have to say that renewables would be no more expensive, in fact, they would be cheaper were we to take nuclear offline.

            (Do I hear an echo in here?)

          • Bryan Elliott

            Nuclear generation isn’t subsidised in any honestly appraised way.

            The Price-Andersen act is an insurance account maintained by the US Government, and paid by the generation industry to the tune of $375 million per GW-year. It presently holds $12.22 billion in its coffers from those funding sources, to cover nuclear accidents. It has not paid out.

            There is subsidy for nuclear energy research – in the form of the IFR – but as this is not a benefit to the nuclear industry, I don’t see how it’s appropriate.

            Perhaps, you’re supposing that loan guarantees are a subsidy, rather than a probable governmental windfall?

            Maybe you think that the eventual waste storage repository that the US is mandated to build using the $25 billion the nuclear generation industry has paid into the nuclear waste fund is a subsidy?

          • Bob_Wallace

            ” Perhaps, you’re supposing that loan guarantees are a subsidy, rather than a governmental windfall? ”

            Government loan guarantees are definitely a subsidy. American taxpayers assume the risk for a plant never completed and in addition nuclear plants are able to borrow money at a lower rate than they otherwise would.

            That is a subsidy.

            “… presently holds $12.22 billion in its coffers from those funding sources, to cover nuclear accidents.”

            The Fukushima cleanup will cost at least $250 billion. And we all know how early estimates are often very much below final costs.

            That uncovered “$237.78 billion” – American taxpayers are in the position of having to absorb those costs which lower the insurance costs for nuclear.

            That is a subsidy.

          • Tim D.

            Wind is majorly subsidized, to the tune of nearly $5 billion in 2010. But those subsidies may run out at the end of this year. What will that do to your cost competitiveness? And keep in mind that the most productive wind energy comes from offshore, which is also the highest to maintain, and brings in costs far above nuclear.

            http://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy/

            http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

            http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/energy-environment/wind-power/index.html

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tim – LCOE, Levelized Cost of Electricity numbers DO NOT include subsidies.
            Offshore wind will start high because we will not have
            the infrastructure needed to efficiently install. Over a few years we will build the dock facilities and specialized vessels needed to tow towers into position and raise them.

            The EIA predicts the cost of offshore wind to be around 6 cents/kWh in ten years and in the 4-5 cent range in 20.

            Right now the cost of offshore wind is cheaper than new neuclear.

            http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

            Old nuclear is cheap. But there is not way to build any more “old nuclear” plants unless you’ve got a time machine. New nuclear is very unlikely to be less than 15 cents per kWh and could be well above 20 cents per.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Price/100000480524523 Christopher Price

            So when its for real (as in above 3 per cent) generation technologies its a subsidy,
            But for clean green its an investment.
            And of course lets put a 97 per cent consensus pollutant cost on fossils.

            I’m all for renewables especially the china-slave worker price per watt revolution that globalisation brings, but lets not throw the vast majority of electric power generators off grid. WE desperately need them for EVs.

            Perhaps a scheme to put KW sized panels to power EV ‘carts’ for local shopping and transportion needs might be the answer to the forthcoming electricity crisis.

    • Bob_Wallace

      And Mike -

      You believe that new nuclear would produce electricity for less than $0.15/kWh?

      Please give us the basis for your opinion. A link to sources which do the math would be helpful. Quotes from major figures in the energy world would be helpful.

      Make sure you calculate out delivered, not overnight price. Get that financing cost in there. And, just for fun, include the cost of federally funded subsidies such as free liability insurance and loan guarantees.

      —–
      I’ll help you out some. I’ve never seen a claim lower than $0.12/kWh and that claim was from an industry insider who refused to state which costs were and were not included. Furthermore, that claim was made a few years ago, before Fukushima melted down and increased safety regulations further raised costs.

      • John Haugeland

        “You believe that new nuclear would produce electricity for less than $0.15/kWh?”

        Despite your breathless skepticism, yes, actually: this technology was doing so in the 1950s.

        Strut less, learn more.

        .

        “Please give us the basis for your opinion.”

        Research. Try doing some.

        • Nicholas

          Hello.

          Do you think that nuclear power would cost the same after ~60 years? According to MIT’s 2009 nuclear power summary (search for it in Google), the cost of construction of nuclear power plants has been increasing at a rate of 15% per annum for a straight decade, and also, 70% of the cost of nuclear electricity is the cost to construct the plant, and the rest is fuel and maintenance, because small amounts of fuel are required.

          The cost issue is primarily the plant construction cost.

          When someone asks you to prove what you said, you have to prove it.

          You can’t just tell them to find the proof that you were supposed to find. That shows that you are probably lying and can’t prove it.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The MIT 2009 nuclear paper is out of date.

            We can’t build new nuclear for even the high price they calculated. Things have changed.

          • Tim D.

            Again, your argument is out of date, as you are speaking of large reactors, not the small modular reactors that would utilize a thorium fuel mix.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Get out on the sidewalk. Watch for the clue bus.

          We cannot build new nuclear plants for what they cost in the 1950s. And the current low price of nuclear is coming from paid off plants, not plants with a large debt to service.

        • Luke

          Yes, I’m sure the safety standards of nuclear power plants in the 1950′s were top notch.

      • Tim D.

        Again, not related to Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, or other old nuclear technologies, so get past that fact.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Sorry, Tim. Previous melt-downs and near melt-downs have increased the cost of building reactors. That’s just a fact.

          Thorium won’t get a pass unless it proves its safety over several decades of operation. People just do not trust the nuclear industry. With very good reason.

          • Tim D.

            The majority of current smr designs have NO/ZERO/NADA chance of a meltdown. Read up on that before you make a comment. These are not going to have that safety concern.

  • youareme7

    There are many many technical hurdles needed to bring thorium to the world wide energy stage, but the reasons that the reactor engineering problems haven’t been worked out while the uranium cycle’s problems have isn’t a conspiracy theory, it is bureaucratic fact. There are vast government regulations all over the world controlling nuclear power and the US wanted bombs in the 60s and 70s. Simple. I don’t think thorium is a panacea and there are major issues, but they are engineering issues; not fundamental science issues.

    • youareme7

      BTW, I’m not trying to discount other clean energies, I am actually an EE working on utility class wind and solar PV; so I do believe in them, but thorium deserves a better chance. We’re always going to need baseload until someone builds the mythical uber battery that super powers these intermittent systems.

      • Bob_Wallace

        We’ve got two very promising grid storage batteries already in prototype and tested.

        One is going into production this year.

        Aquion has a sodium-ion battery that promises storage for around $0.06/kWh. Pair that with $0.05/kWh electricity from wind and you’ve got $0.11/kWh electricity for the hours that the wind isn’t blowing. Solar is now being sold to utilities for under $0.11/kWh.

        Here’s the challenge for new nuclear. You’ve got to be able to sell your output for a 24 hour /365 day average price of at least $0.15/kWh. (Likely higher, but 15 is high enough.) Every hour that you have to sell below 15 you have to crank your price up during other hours to recover that loss.
        Now. On average the Sun is going to cause you to loose at least 4 cents an hour for 4.5 hours a day. Wind is likely to cause you to loose 10 cents an hour for 12+ hours a day. You’ve got to jack up your price during the other hours to recoup those losses. You will need to sell your power for well over $0.20/kWh.

        Even $0.15/kWh storage kills you. It drives you into bankruptcy.

        And here’s the even worse news. By the time you get that new reactor on line, 8 to 14 years from now, both solar and wind are going to be considerably cheaper than they are right now. We’re likely to have large amounts of offshore wind coming on line and offshore the wind blows more regularly, more hours of the day.

        It’s a bleak future for nuclear….

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Hargraves/1665342655 Robert Hargraves

          Actually, my objective for THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal is indeed under 5 cents/kWh (wholesale at the plant). Only energy cheaper than coal will dissuade 7 billion people in 250 nations from burning fossil fuels for energy. And do take note that wind energy costs 20-30 cents/kWh. But the book or just look at the references (for free) at http://www.thoriumenergycheaperthancoal.com

          • Bob_Wallace

            Robert, that’s hogwash.

            You cannot build a nuclear reactor, including finance, and sell power for anything like five cents.

            The median price for wind generated electricity is currently $0.05/kWh and expected to drop to $0.03/kWh over the next ten years. You can check those facts here -

            http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

            Click on LCOE.

          • Tim D.
          • Bob_Wallace

            What am I supposed to learn from your link Tim? I see no LCOE kWh prices in that pdf.

            Here are the EIA electricity cost numbers.

            http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

          • Tim D.

            Capacity factor. Wind has a 33% capacity factor compared to 90% for our current nuclear, and a projected 93% for the smr reactors. Wind is a joke! But not a funny joke.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tim, I’m sorry but someone has fed you bad information. Many years ago wind turbines had ~33% capacity factors but due to better technology and siting that has risen to around 50%.

            Once again I’ll give you the link to a site where you can update your facts…

            http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

            Furthermore, it’s not percentage of nameplate that is the important statistic, it’s the cost of electricity produced.

            There is one additional issue which is time of production. Both wind and nuclear get hurt a bit here. You can’t turn on the wind when you need power and you can’t turn off a nuclear plant when you don’t. That makes dispatchable power from things like hydro, gas and storage somewhat more valuable at times.

            Perhaps you aren’t aware but back when we were adding nuclear reactors to our grid we had to build over 20GW of pump-up and CAES storage in order to make things work. Late night surplus nuclear electricity had to be shifted to peak hours.

            You might think wind a joke, but if you’ll check with utility companies you’ll find that the joke is on you. Wind is now the cheapest way to generate electricity.

          • Tim D.

            You keep relying on one site for your “proof.” That site does not factor in other VERY important costs, and is not the end-all, be-all of any discussion. It is one small component of the equation, Well, here is what two of your resources say about your proof.

            http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/methods#levelized costs

            http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html

            Why don’t you throw me a few numbers about degradation costs. SMRs are kept underground, which gives them a longer life-span than wind. SMRs are built within 20 miles of their users, requiring minimal transmission and NO battery storage. SMRs provide greater energy security from terror threats and natural disasters, including massive solar flares that would knock out ANY grid system. SMRs can be built ANYWHERE, even near geological fault lines. Seriously, do yourself a favor and research this. SMRs utilize nuclear waste from decommissioned warheads and spent radioactive fuel. Wind cannot do any of this, and is only tenable in areas with significant wind, requires massive, costly upgrades to our current grid/storage system, and has a maximum efficiency rate of 59.3% unless the laws of physics are altered.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tim, there are no SMRs. There’s the idea of a SMR.

            Can you grasp that fact?

            If so, do you realize that the idea of a SMR has been around for a long time and no corporation has decided that they would be a good idea and started building them?

            How about that – can you get your head around it?

            Now, sometime in the future someone might decide they are worth the investment and give things a go. Until that happens how about we recognize that SMRs are nothing by an unproven idea and regardless of how wonderful they seem to be to you that they might not be successful.

            There’s always the “Oops, didn’t see that problem.” problem that sometimes pops up when wonderful, foolproof ideas are actually tried.

            You’ve got factual errors in your post. I’m not thinking that it’s worth my time to spell them out for you.

          • Tim D.

            Bob, Bob, Bob. There are indeed SMRs. As of 2009 – according to the IAEA – there were 133 in operation in 28 countries around the globe, mostly on a small scale, i.e. <25 mW, powering remote villages. In fact, the advantage of SMRs is that they can be deployed anywhere, without requiring vast infrastructure investments to bring power in from other locations. This is a global solution that will one day bring power to all.

            http://www.iaea.org/NuclearPower/Downloads/Technology/meetings/2011-Dec-5-9-WS-SMR/Day-2/18_IAEA_Sollychin_SMRDec2011.pdf

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tim x 3.

            What factory is manufacturing SMRs? How much do they cost? What is the price of electricity produced?

            The fact that some small reactors have been hand built and for an unknown cost is not adequate. And note – the existing small reactors are placed where electricity would be expected to be very expensive (imported diesel, for example), not in competitive markets.

          • Tim D.

            So we should continue to pay foreign companies for wind rather than be a net exporter of a technology that can supply 100% of our future power needs, which wind cannot? I’ve got more important work to do. Study this further. This IS happening, and China is likely to win while we sit on our hands thanks to Obama’s inaction. China and Russia are building them now.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Look, you’ve got a bug up your butt about small nuclear reactors that could be put on a truck and hauled to whatever foolish place wanted one.

            You think they couldn’t be build in China and shipped here?

          • Tim D.

            I do believe they can be shipped here. So the question is, do we want to be a leader or follower? Do we want to give China more jobs, or do we want to take the prevalent alternative energy option and be a leader and innovator, or just march blindly forward with solar and wind which can never supply the needed electricity? Wind is not doing in in Denmark, and it will NEVER be the prevailing choice here. Period.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Personally I don’t care who solves the CO2 problem.

            I’d like to see the US develop more manufacturing jobs but preventing runaway warming is a much higher priority.

            BTW, your argument is flawed. You’re trying to argue that we should install the most expensive electricity generation in order to create jobs. More expensive power would make us less competitive and destroy jobs.

            And your claim that wind and solar could never supply all our electricity is extremely bogus. This should get you up to speed…
            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030

          • Tim D.

            This first two links best summarize the misinformation that negates this “proposal,” as tackled by real scientists. It has been proven to be unrealistic, and never really addresses the massive grid and storage costs. They have the facts wrong on nuclear, and factor war into their equation. They assume people want dams everywhere possible when it is shown they very much do not. This “research” is flawed, heavily. CO2 is rising in Denmark, and wind is faaaaaarrr too intermittant, as is solar. Again and again I have asked you to show me real scientific research, and this is the only one you could supply, from one civil and one transportation engineer. Clearly their vast physics experience (read: NONE) qualifies them to make this judgement.

            Even the IPCC is pushing for SMRs (3rd link).

            http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/11/03/wws-2030-critique/

            http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/A+path+to+sustainable+energy

            http://www.docstoc.com/docs/122182037/The-International-Panel-on-Climate-Change-projects-that-by-2050

            http://accelconf.web.cern.ch/accelconf/IPAC2012/papers/thppr061.pdf

            https://digital.lib.washington.edu/dspace/handle/1773/16633

            http://proceedings.aip.org/resource/2/apcpcs/1448/1/59_1?isAuthorized=no

            https://epic.sites.uchicago.edu/sites/epic.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/EPICSMRWhitePaperFinalcopy.pdf

            http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-112shrg68432/pdf/CHRG-112shrg68432.pdf

          • Bob_Wallace

            We’ve got ~80,000 existing dams and use only ~2,500 for electricity storage. At least 10% of existing dams could be converted to pump-up hydro if we went that direction. There’s no need to build new dams for storage.
            We’re much more likely to go with utility scale battery storage. We should have some go into production later this year. Initial costs are projected at $0.06/kWh and expected to fall to 1/4th that much over time.

            Wind is 5 cents per kWh, stored wind would be 11 cents. Assume 60% of the time the grid is supplied by 5 cent “direct” wind and 40% by “stored” wind the average price of 7.4 cents.

            Solar contracts are now being signed for less than 11 cents. Geothermal is less than 10 cents. Tidal should settle in at well under 10 cents. Hydro is under a nickel. Mix all that together and our needs for storage drop bringing the overall cost of renewable energy to well under 10 cents.

            New nuclear is projected to be 15+ cents per kWh.

            (I’ll forgive you for not knowing who Jacobson and Delucchi are. Your knowledge base is not well developed.)

          • Tim D.

            I know who they are, you apparently do not. They are both predominately engineers and have no real respect in the scientific community. You skip around my request to PROVE you know anything through actual scientific publications, not a nice little entertainment magazine about science. I am a member of many professional science organizations, I am well educated, and I work in the field of climate change and alternative energy as my profession. Not a guy who writes for a blog.

            This is who they are:

            http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/

            http://www.its.ucdavis.edu/?faculty=delucchi-mark-2

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sure. A professor in engineering has no respect in the scientific community.

            What’s your next joke attempt?

            Now, what is it that you want proved? You’ve flung so much stuff on the wall in hope something would stick that I’m a bit lost.

          • smillman

            Boy, this Bob is dense. I’m surprised by your patience.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Two years late to the discussion.

            Wind (no subsidies) has fallen to 4c/kWh. Solar contracts which were being written for 5 cents, down from 11 cents.

            Grid storage is now being installed.

            The economics of nuclear have become no better. Both Vogtle and Summer have gone considerably over budget. Olkiluoto 3 has had it’s possible opening date pushed forward a couple more times, now closing on two decades to build.

            The math for nuclear has become much, much worse. Anyone with their eyes open should see that.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Price/100000480524523 Christopher Price

            The tragedy here is that the debate of cost should be amount of energy divided by cost of capital plus fuel consumed plus pollutant costs.
            Here the so called name-plate turbine power figures are contrived. Most wind farm sites do not have blade-turning wind profiles that come close to 50 per cent of time. If you grizzle about how this is not capacity factor, you have left the energy/cost debate.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Christopher, I’ll give you a site where you can look up the LCOE (levelized cost of electricity). That will give you the capex, fuel and operating cost derived price for each.

            http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

            Those numbers do not include factors such as the environmental damage caused by coal and natural gas. Nor do they include the potential safety costs which would be created by a reactor melt down.

            Then you can give a read to the externalities of coal here -
            http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05890.x/full
            You can look up the cost that taxpayers shoulder by providing nuclear unlimited liability insurance and low cost guarantees for construction loans.

            Something else left out of the price factors above are dispatch-ability and time of generation. Natural gas and hydro are a bit more valuable because they are dispatchable. Solar is a bit more valuable because it produces during periods of highest demand.

            The energy industry understands all this. They make their decisions based on cost. At the moment they get away with not having to pay for environmental damage (to a large extent) or the cost of nuclear liability insurance.

            Nameplate costs are what they are. The term has a defined meaning, if you find no use for it then you are free to ignore it. The energy industry will not be joining you.

            I realize you’ve got some strange bug up your butt over wind turbines not spinning 24/365. Take a moment and think. Wind is our cheapest way to bring new generation to the grid. It’s a penny or so cheaper than natural gas per kWh and ten to fifteen cents cheaper than new nuclear or coal.
            Wind is not available 24/365, but it’s the cheapest so the smart utility will use it when available and fill in with other sources when the wind is not blowing. Those other sources can be storage, hydro or natural gas. It’s going to be cheaper to use wind “half” the time and NG “half” the time than to use NG all the time.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Price/100000480524523 Christopher Price

            Here’s a suggestion. Lets put cameras on wind farms to get true blade movement figures.
            One BS check is to look for energy produced figures (gigawatthours) for the current crop of wind farms. You won’t find them, they do not promote their cause.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Christopher, you are making foolish, uninformed statements.

            You want to know how much wind generation we have had on line each year and how much electricity those turbines produced? Look here…

            http://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/

            A heads-up, you won’t be able to get a totally accurate output capacity by crunching those numbers. Annual generating capacity numbers are for mid-year while annual output numbers are for the total year. But you’ll get close.

            Or you could go here – http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

            Click on ‘Capacity’. You can dig deeper on that site to see how the numbers are generated.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Price/100000480524523 Christopher Price

            All based on contrived wind capacity factors.

          • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

            it’s hard to be interested in reading a book that has clear myths (i won’t call them lies) in the summary: “Many environmentalists advocate replacing fossil fuel energy with wind and solar energy sources, blind to the fact that these are 3-4 times more costly!”

          • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

            wind is the cheapest option for new electricity in many if not most places now.

            with full cost accounting, solar is also cheaper than fossil fuels or nuclear in many places, and the costs keep dropping (unlike nuclear costs)

          • Tim D.

            The costs will not continue to drop, and there are many more associated costs to wind and solar, such as grip storage as they feature dismal capacity factors. Here is proof.
            http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tim, that’s an ignorant claim. Wind is currently at 5 cents per kWh and expected to drop to 3 cents. Solar is still above 10 cents per but expected to drop to the 5 cent level.

            http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/ – click on LCOE and then look at projected prices.

          • http://www.facebook.com/sa.kiteman SA Kiteman

            By Zachary’s link, wind is 9cents per kWhr but that is only by being subsidized by all the other dispatchable sources. Paying its own way it is shown to be more like 20 cents.

          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            1- Straight bull. Your 20 c/kWh claim is way off target.

            2- Subsidies for other sources far, far outweigh those for wind. So if you want to bring subsidies into the discussion (i.e. remove them from the equation), wind gets even more attractive.

          • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

            Tim, for someone who is supposedly educated on energy issues, you make a very large number of huge errors above.

            yes, wind has a lower capacity factor (closer to 50% now, not 33%), but capacity factor is just an input into cost, which is what really matters. and all in all, wind is the cheapest option for new electricity many places now. this is why Brazil is putting the majority of its attention on wind. this is why wind power keeps increasing by leaps and bounds in the US. this is why countries like Denmark, Germany, China, and the UK keep installing a lot of wind.

            Of course, predictability is also key. But this is something wind & solar actually do better in. These energy sources are intermittent, but they’re fairly predictable. And their distributed nature is also a benefit here. In fact, as far as reliability is concerned, they have been shown to offer a net benefit, even in Germany, where they are most abundant. Nuclear power, however, can go out completely and unpredictably due to disasters, heat waves, droughts, and such. In such a situation, you actually need a whole reserve power supply that can turn on very quickly or else you get blackouts or worse.

            Denmark & Scotland actually plan to be 100% powered by renewables. its foray into wind power has been a great success, one the country is very happy about, and it is continuing along that line.

            Mark Jacobson, as shown in your link, has a BA, a BS, two MS degrees, and a PhD. As far as I have always seen, he is a very respected scientist.

            Delucchi also has a PhD, and has done a ton of very useful research.

            Your claim that they are not respected is ridiculous.

            Wind and solar growth are off the chain. Every top country in the world is focused on developing and growing both because they are clearly key parts of our energy future. To claim otherwise is simply absurd.

          • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

            furthermore, Tim, while you seem to not like the data put forth on the openei site, this is a DOE project with the most current information on these matters. why would you ignore it?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Price/100000480524523 Christopher Price

            I wish wind advocates would use proper capacity comparisions. You have to compare wind speed occurances (enough to turn the blade) with most of the time (or practically full time base loaders) .
            Sorry but the blades do not turn 50 per cent of the time. And yes this is what you honesty should be comparing with not your contrived ‘capacity’ factor.

            I believe true factors can be a low as 5 to 15 per cent. This illustrates the nature of the greenie on-slaught that modern civilisation faces. Far more than any 7th century faith threatens.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually blades at good wind sites turn more than 50% of the time. 50% nameplate capacity means that on average, over a year, the turbine produces 50% as much power as it would were it to spin at full speed 100% of the time.

            It’s not a “contrived” number. It’s a number that you don’t yet understand.
            No generation technology produces at 100% “nameplate capacity”. Coal is about 87.5% due to routine downtime for maintenance. Nuclear is about 90%. Solar is one of the lowest at 17% to 30%.

            The 20th Century grid was fed by a lot of high capacity input such as coal, but for obvious reasons we are moving away from fossil fuels and to clean energy sources which are better for us and the environment and are cheaper. The 21st Century grid will require more dispatchable supply, storage and moveable load but we’re developing these things.

          • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

            Believe it or not, I didn’t contrive capacity factor. It was in normal use long before I came to the topic.

            There are a lot of things that could be changed to make comparisons more accurate, some benefit one source, some the other.

            But the real issue is cost. Wind turbines wouldn’t be going up all over the place if they weren’t cheap.

          • smillman

            Germany is backing off, relating to wind… get with the program.

            Straight from the chancellor herself:
            “Speaking at a June 12 energy conference in Berlin, Chancellor Angela
            Merkel called for scaling back renewable energy subsidies to
            contain spiraling costs which have now reached around $27 billion per
            year. The chancellor noted that “If the renewables surcharge keeps rising like it did in recent years, we will have a problem in terms of energy supply.””
            http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2013/08/13/german-green-energy-bluster-running-out-of-wind/

            http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/wind-power-investments-in-germany-proving-riskier-than-thought-a-946367.html

          • Bob_Wallace

            As the price of renewables continues to fall more capacity is installed per dollar/euro. Less subsidies are needed.

            Germany can scale back their subsidy program without “backing off wind”.

            Get up to date. Quit your 1990s thinking.

          • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

            interesting that you stick this here. this shows that wind power is the second cheapest electricity option, behind natural gas. and with natural gas prices rising and expected to do so further, wind could soon be first.

            meanwhile, it’s important to note that home solar power competes with retail electricity prices. something easily skipped over by solar energy haters.

          • Tim D.

            And interesting that you overlook the fact that the EIA specifically states this is incomplete information that is not reflective of the true energy cost.

            It states, in no uncertain terms: “It is important to note that, while levelized costs are a convenient summary measure of the overall competiveness of different generating technologies, actual plant investment decisions are affected by the specific technological and regional characteristics of a project, which involve numerous other considerations. The projected utilization rate, which depends on the load shape and the existing resource mix in an area where additional capacity is needed, is one such factor. The existing resource mix in a region can directly affect the economic viability of a new investment through its effect on the economics surrounding the displacement of existing resources. For example, a wind resource that would primarily displace existing natural gas generation will usually have a different value than one that would displace existing coal generation.”

            SMRs have a longer lifespan than wind and require far less maintenance, with the possibility of decades passing without and significant maintenance and without changing fuel. But hey, one hurricane in the Atlantic, and we’re screwed!

            http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/02/scienceshot-thar-she-blows-over.html?ref=hp

          • Bob_Wallace

            Did you perhaps read what you posted?

            This part in particular….

            ” actual plant investment decisions are affected by the specific technological and regional characteristics of a project, which involve numerous other considerations. The projected utilization rate, which depends on the load shape and the existing resource mix in an area where additional capacity is needed ”

            This bit is a huge part of why nuclear fails. Nuclear has to operate 24/365 (minus routine refueling/maintenance) in order to remain even…
            I’m stuck for words. I started to say in the ballgame, price-wise, but nuclear is not in the ballgame. At 15+cents per kWh nuclear just does not compete against any other generation technology except, perhaps, new coal.
            OK, let’s do this differently. Nuclear is not dispatchable, it fails the ” load
            shape and the existing resource mix in an area where additional capacity is needed” test.

            The cheapest producer does not need to meet load shape, it simply pushes the more expensive producers out of the market. The market will pay something more for production that fills in the gaps that the cheapest producer leaves. Nuclear cannot fill that role.

          • http://www.facebook.com/sa.kiteman SA Kiteman

            Zachary,
            You really need to compare apples to apples. In this case, dispatchable to dispatchable. In order to make wind “dispatchable” and therefore comparable with nuclear you need to EITHER roughly triple your installed capacity and have a way to store a little energy (and throw away the excess) OR install an unGodly amount of storage.
            Apples to apples, wind is WAY more expensive than even the absurdly expensive “advanced nuclear”. LFTRs could be cheaper than coal.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Dispatchable to dispatchable? Neither wind nor nuclear are dispatchable.
            If wanted to run a grid off of nothing but wind we’d need storage to carry power into times when the wind isn’t blowing.

            If we wanted to run a grid off of nothing but nuclear we’d need storage to carry nuclear over-production from low demand times to high demand times.
            Since wind is so much cheaper than new nuclear it’s pretty clear why the world is building a lot more wind than nuclear.

            (I bet you have no idea how dependable wind is as an energy source.)

          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            First of all, wind doesn’t need storage up to a much higher penetration level. Spread wind farms out over a greater geography and the issue of intermittency becomes less and less important. Add in complementary renewables like solar, tidal, and biomass, and the situation gets even better.

            Nuclear takes a long time to start up and shut down — that makes it problematic. This will be a bigger problem than the intermittency issue in the energy system of the coming years. Furthermore, nuclear still needs to be backed up, because it still needs to go offline at times.

            In other words, please take you nuclear propaganda to a nuclear circlejerk site. Mmmkay, thanks.

        • Bryan Elliott

          I guess I don’t understand.

          The generation costs for my local nuclear plant (Limerick) are well below what you’re claiming – about $0.04/kWh. There’s line maintenance, regulatory, and other charges there that would be applied to any generation source, and amount to about $0.12/kWh. I opted not to go with the “green energy sources” option because it costs about $0.10 / kWh more than taking energy from Limerick.

          In the US, almost all of the nuclear plants run at or near capacity almost all of the time – 92% in 2007, according to Wikipedia. That implies that the electricity is selling persistently. I’m not sure where your numbers actually come from… but I have my theories.

          Now, sure, offshore wind can operate at a capital cost of about $0.05/kWh over 40 years, not including maintenance – but that implies a cost of $35 / W produced ($17.5 W capacity). That seems consistent with the low range of turbine / inverter costs I’ve seen. Incidentally, nuclear plants have a cost range of $4/W – $8/W, according to the US DoE.

          Also, according to the graph you linked yourself, the LCOE for nuclear is a median of $0.06/kWh. I don’t see why Hargraves’ $0.05 seems out of the ordinary.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Construction began on that plant in 1974 and it was completed in 1989.
            Construction costs were significantly cheaper in the 1970s and safety regulations were lower. You cannot build a new nuclear plant now for what it cost ‘back then’.

            That plant is over 20 years old. Almost certainly it has paid off its financing so operating costs are significantly less than they would be were there loans to service.

            Think about the Hoover Dam. Build a long time ago. Producing cheap electricity.

            Now think about what electricity would cost from a new massive dam.

            And your costs. They are probably “overnight” costs. The price if somehow a plant could be built in one day. They do not include the cost of financing which can easily double the final cost.

            Common tricks used by the nuclear industry and its supporters – try to argue based on the price of power from old, paid off plants and to ignore the very high financing costs of a new plant. And to ignore the governmental subsidies required.

          • http://www.facebook.com/thierry.agauche Thierry Agauche

            How about that one ?
            http://www.power-technology.com/projects/civaux/
            15 years old, $4bn, $1,349 per kWe. Good propaganda I guess.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Fifteen years old? Back when it was a lot cheaper to build stuff?

            China’s growth during the last few years has made the cost of steel, copper and aluminum soar.

            Additionally, Fukushima’s meltdown has increased safety regulations which also increase costs.

            The 2009 MIT study which predicted the cost of building new nuclear is badly out of date, no one can build for those prices any longer.

          • http://www.facebook.com/thierry.agauche Thierry Agauche

            Good thing windmills are built out of wood then ! http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/09/11/latest_jacobson_windpower_stuff/

          • Bob_Wallace

            Whatever wind “mills” are built from they produce electricity at $0.05/kWh. And their cost is dropping.

            That’s a nickel without subsidies, just in case you were wondering….

          • http://www.facebook.com/thierry.agauche Thierry Agauche

            Ok I will copy/paste the article then: “For instance, US government figures (pdf) suggest that just getting to 50 per cent wind energy (not merely electricity, but the ten-times-greater all-energy requirement) for the USA by 2030 would require something in the region of tripled US consumption of steel, concrete and copper, and multiplication of neodymium supplies many times over. As large amounts of thermal energy are used to make all these things, energy consumption would climb significantly – not fall.”
            Source:
            http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2011/5036/sir2011-5036.pdf

          • Bob_Wallace

            You know, all generation sources take material and energy inputs. Our old nuclear reactors are wearing out. Our coal plants are dirty and being closed. We’re going to replace them with something. None of the existing coal, nuclear or gas plants are likely to be operating fifty years from now.
            Furthermore, there is absolutely no way we are getting to 50% wind in the next 18 years. It would be very smart if we were to, but that’s a strawman argument.

            Almost everything used to build wind farms is recyclable. All it takes is energy to transform the old generator windings into new copper wire and the concrete into new fill. And as we go along more and more of that energy will come from renewable sources.

            We’re starting to build a sustainable grid, unlike the old grid which was built on fossil fuels which have been used past their prime.

            What if we did do a “Jacobson and Delucci” and converted all our energy inputs to renewables over a 20 year span? IMHO that would be great. We’d free ourselves of dangerous energy inputs. We’d have all the energy we could want and it would be both safe and cheap.

          • http://www.facebook.com/thierry.agauche Thierry Agauche

            Amen !

          • Will

            why do you keep going on about current nuclear designs when the article concerns the possibility of a different one?

          • Tim D.

            Hello! Small modular reactors would utilize thorium, not your grandpa’s nuclear. We are talking fourth generation nuclear here, and the cost would be one-tenth of the behemoths currently in operation. Know your topic.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Turn on your common sense module Tim. Your claim…

            Small modular reactors utilizing thorium would cost 1/10th of ” the behemoths currently in operation”.

            OK, let’s think that through.

            The current median cost of electricity from nuclear plants is $0.06/kWh. The range is from $0.04 to $0.12. One tenth of that would
            be electricity produced at $0.004 to $0.012.

            Are you willing to argue that a well-heeled company like GE would not be jumping on that opportunity and pumping out modular reactors? They would quickly be supplying 100% of the world’s electricity, making it for a penny and selling it for a nickel.

            Or are you using the $0.15+/kWh of what power would be from a newly constructed reactor? Even at 20 cents per (a more realistic number) GE would be producing at 2 cents and earning an enormous profit selling at 5. Nothing that GE does returns 2.5x.

          • Tim D.

            First, the smaller reactors cut the buildout time, allowing for completion in 24 to 36 months. That saves money off the top.

            In addition to that, the costs for SMR would match or be lower than wind when removing subsidies. See table 4 of the University of Chicago study completed last fall.

            https://epic.sites.uchicago.edu/sites/epic.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/EPICSMRWhitePaperFinalcopy.pdf

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s after you build the plant. Building in smaller units would allow them to start an income stream faster, but even cutting cost by 50% does not make nuclear less expensive than the competition. And you still have a siting problem.

            Keep asking yourself – “If this is such a good idea then why have the deep pocket big boys not jumped on it?”.

        • Tim D.

          Solar and wind are only cheaper due to massive government subsidies. We cannot afford to continue those subsidies on a broader scale needed to make either wind or solar a viable long-term solution. And – in regard to the battery power needed for grid storage for these intermittent power sources – what becomes of all of these batteries after their useful life span?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Solar and wind have become cheap via governmental help. Wind is now the very cheapest way to generate electricity – with no subsidies. Wind is becoming cheap.

            Wind, over the last three or so decades has dropped from around $0.30/kWh to $0.05/kWh, a 6x decrease. Solar has dropped from around $100/watt to under $1/watt, more than a 100x decrease.

            Nuclear has received enormous government assistance and has become significantly more expensive.

            Nuclear is eligible to receive the same $0.022/kWh PTC credit as does wind.

            Nuclear also receives free liability insurance and loan guarantees which wind and solar do not.

            You probably don’t want to go down the road of complaining that wind and solar have received disproportional government assistance. I think you’d quickly find that they have received only a small portion of what nuclear has received. Remember, the first reactors were developed and build with 100% federal money.

            Grid storage batteries will get recycled. Depends on the technology. We already recycle lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries, but neither are top candidates for large scale storage.

            The most promising I know about are Aquion’s sodium-ion batteries -100% recyclable. And Ambri’s liquid metal batteries – the major materials never get used up or worn out best I can tell. After many decades the “packaging” might need to be replaced.

            You can read about the Ambri here -

            http://cleantechnica.com/2012/08/30/liquid-metal-battery-ambri/

          • Tim D.

            cleantechnica is an adorable little biased site that neglects reality in preaching its ideology. If wind is so cheap, why does it supply a ridiculously low percentage of our power? Because it is not feasible on a large scale and people don’t want to look at them. Solar farms are supported by environmentalists as a wonderful renewable energy source, but environmental groups are fighting their installation because they harm the environment and threaten habitats. It is never going to happen, so let us move on to the technology that other countries are pursuing, smrs.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s see. In 2004 we were getting 0.4% of our electricity from wind. By 2006 that had doubled to 0.8%.

            Before 2008 was over we had seen another doubling, ending the year at 1.9%.

            In 2011 wind hit 2.9% and first half of 2012 wind produced 4% of our electricity.

            That’s a significant growth curve. I suspect you are aware that at one time nuclear checked in a 0%, grew over time to around 20% and stalled. Nuclear in the US has been stalled for decades.

            When some company actually builds and installs a “smrs” do get back to us. We’ll check the price and see if it makes sense in a free market.

          • Tim D.

            SMRs are already operating in other countries. You really know NOTHING about this. China, India, and Russia are sinking a lot of money into the research and finding the best designs to move forward. Here, we are going to award $452 million in government grants by the end of this year. And they will be in production by about 2020, a time when wind will have captured a whopping 15% of our energy production. And hey, don’t let this negative news get you down.

            http://www.chron.com/business/energy/article/Potential-loss-of-tax-credit-becalms-wind-industry-3697651.php

            http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/energy/german-wind-energy-plans-in-the-doldrums

          • Bob_Wallace

            Factory built, mass produced small modular reactors are operating in other countries?

            Please supply details. Size, number, cost, price of electricity produced.

          • Tim D.
          • Bob_Wallace

            Tim, your link does not address the questions.

            This is turning into another game of Whack-A-Mole.

          • Tim D.

            Really? I thought it provided information, as it stated:
            In 2009 there were 133 units up to 700 MWe in operation and 16 under construction, in 28 countries, totaling 60.3 GWe capacity. I love arguing, but I have deadlines, so thanks for your time and have fun!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Price/100000480524523 Christopher Price

      I think the main opposition is from the technical expert firms who have made multi-decadal investment in uranium processing technologies. Its too much research, we have proven safety records. Oh we would be out of a job too.
      Just another example of technology barriers that are too large to overturn without political support. But guess who spends the lobbying dollar.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The most important factor is cost.

        Reactors, regardless of fuel type or how the heat is transferred to the turbine, are expensive to build. Very expensive to build.

        And reactors take a long time to build. Because large sums of money have to be borrowed early in the construction cycle there are years of interest compounding before any money starts to flow from the plant. The financing costs roughly double the cost of constructing new nuclear.

        Simply put, there are much cheaper ways to generate electricity and no one in their right mind would build generation that would be too expensive to sell.

        Wind-electricity is $0.05/kWh (median price). Natural gas produces electricity at $0.06/kWh (median price). Geothermal produces at $0.09/kWh (median price), PG&E just signed a long term contract to purchase solar at $0.10/kWh.

        You can’t build a reactor of any sort that would produce at $0.12/kWh (very low, likely unrealistic estimate) and compete in a market in which all your competitors can sell at at a profit for much less than your production cost.

  • Will_Power

    You might wan’t to use something better than a debunked paper as your reason for rejecting thorium.

    Makhijani and Boyd’s paper was destroyed twice:

    http://energyfromthorium.com/ieer-rebuttal/

    http://energyfromthorium.com/2010/05/13/cannaras-rebuke-of-psrieer/

    You might want to do a little research next time.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Read.

      Not swayed.

      • Will

        (a) Are you a nuclear scientist? If not, why would the article above ‘sway’ you any more than those linked here?
        (b) What exactly is it that you are not ‘swayed’ by? The fact that the article above doesn’t discuss the thorium technology that everyone else is discussing? Or something else?
        (c) What do you mean when you say you ‘read’ these articles?!

        • Bob_Wallace

          Get real.

          • Will

            Get articulate.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I believe correct usage would be “Become articulate”.

            I don’t think articulate is something one can get. But that’s probably just the picky undergrad English major part speaking….

          • Will

            Well, if you’re going to be like that, I think you’ll find it’s quite hard for a currently existing object to ‘get real’ – or even to become real for that matter!
            Or did you mean I should get (some) ‘real’? Is real something one can get? Is this article real?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Whack-a-mole. I’m caught up in yet another round of Whack-a-mole… ;o)
            You have a nice day Will, bless your heart.

          • Will

            Well look, no one’s forcing you to play that game.

            The point seems simple. Most people who are interested in ‘clean tech’ are interested in energy tech that meets both of the following two criteria: (a) clean, and (b) (maximally) affordable.

            Proponents of FLTR reactors claim that they meet both of these criteria. Now, imagine that were true. Great! There’d be no reason why we couldn’t envisage scattering some around amongst the other great clean technologies detailed in this blog.

            And the article quoted above, many in this comment stream are saying, does nothing to undermine the claims of proponents of FLTR reactors.

            Now, maybe it’s not true. Maybe FLTR reactors – like other forms of nuclear generation – won’t or can’t meet both of these criteria. Pity! One less bow in the armoury. But let’s talk about that and stop playing whack-a-mole shall we?

            If you think that, contra the claims of many in the comments, the article quoted above does undermine the claims of thorium’s proponents, okay, let’s hear it – I’m no dyed-in-the-wool supporter. I’ll only support thorium if thorium is as cool as claimed. If it’s cheaper to do without, why would I care?
            If you think that there are other reasons, not mentioned in this article, then so be it.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You forgot (c) and (d) – (a) clean, (b) (reasonably) affordable (c) safe and (d) available right now.

            ” Proponents of FLTR reactors claim that they meet both of these criteria. Now, imagine that were true. ”

            Imagine that was true. Imagine running turbines on unicorn farts.

            Until someone (and people are trying) produces a FLTR that produces affordable electricity this is nothing but gum-beating.

            We have an immediate problem to solve. We need to get off fossil fuels and get off quickly. We have to go to work with the tools we have, not the tools we imagine that we might have some day.

            Wind turbines work. They produce clean electricity at an excellent price. We could power the entire world several times over with nothing but wind, had we no other energy source.

            Solar panels work. They produce clean electricity at a price much better than new/old coal and new nuclear. We could power the entire world several times over with nothing but PV solar, had we no other energy sources.

            Additionally we have geothermal, hydro and tidal which all cheaper than old/new….

            If someday someone produces a FLTR that gives us power as cheap as renewable sources then we can consider using that technology. For now, we can’t use something that does not exist. Makes as much sense as setting unicorn traps.

          • Will

            Well, they claim (c) too. And to bring things back to the (in my opinion misguided) message of the article we’re commenting on, FLTRs are on a par with a great many of the technologies mentioned in this blog – there’s been a promising prototype stage, but they are quite a long way off the production line. They might be disruptive, or they might disappear without trace.
            If you think the technology that’s rolling off the production lines right now is good enough to solve all our woes, then I imagine you’re amongst a pretty small minority of readers here (though it would be great if you were right!).

          • Will

            They also share with many of the other emerging technologies discussed here that they seem to be facing an uphill battle against outmoded, biased or prejudicial government legislation and practice.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s becoming a non-issue.

            We’ve got Republican governors in conservative states lobbying for more wind support. Their farmers and ranchers are making money leasing out land for wind towers. Good jobs are being created. Dying towns are being revived by tax revenue and jobs created by wind farms.

            Solar is getting very competitive at the retail level. When someone can put panels on their roof and produce electricity for less than what they have to pay at the meter – and lock that price in for 20 years – and then get a couple of decades or more of free electricity, then the government is needed less.

            Support from the government got us to this point, but the government’s work is almost done. Certainly for onshore wind and rooftop solar. Offshore wind will need help for a few years while the production facilities and installation vessels are built.

          • Bob_Wallace

            How good is a claim without proof? There are no operating FLTRs, so we don’t actually know whether they are safe or not. We’ve got a paper at the top of the page that states there is a safety issue and pro-FLTR folks saying that they are not. It’s above my pay grade to sort that argument out. We need a higher power to wade in, someone like the Union of Concerned Scientists would sway the argument for me.

            The technology rolling off our production lines is fine for everything but storage. We could use pump-up but a cheaper and easier to site solution would be better. I think that’s coming our way in the very near future.
            But we’ve got years before we create a significant need for storage. The Western grid could change to a 30% renewable (25% wind, 5% solar) supply before any additional storage is needed. The Eastern grid is about 25% and the Hawaiian grid more like 35%, IIRC.

            We’re now around 3% wind and under 1% solar, so we’ve got time to develop better storage and pump-up to fall back on.

            Bringing a number of EVs/PHEVs on line would/will allow us to move that 30% considerably higher. Plugged-in-while-parked EVs are excellent places for grid operators to stick extra supply when wind or solar peak above other demand and EVs can easily drop out when supply is low. EVs, on average, will need ~1.5 hours of charging per day. That makes them a very useful dispatchable load.

            Having a lot of dispatchable load means that we can build more wind and solar. We won’t have to curtail when they exceed demand and make their prices higher.

          • Will

            One of the main points in the comments is that the quoted article doesn’t mention the relevant reactors, so doesn’t in fact raise any safety concerns with the relevant reactors.

            An experimental molten salt reactor ran for 4 years in the sixties: “The broadest and perhaps most important conclusion from the MSRE
            experience was that a molten salt fueled reactor concept was viable. It
            ran for considerable periods of time, yielding valuable information, and
            maintenance was accomplished safely and without excessive delay.”
            A promising prototype …

          • Bob_Wallace

            The 1960s were 50 years ago. In 50 years no one has been able to produce a reactor that produced affordable electricity.

            Now, are you willing to buy into the “thought” that over the last 50 years very smart people in universities and governments all around the world haven’t put efforts into making a thorium reactor “real”?

            Do you believe that the nuclear industry has not thought about how to make thorium reactors as a way to keep their industry from going extinct?

            If there was a way to make a profitable thorium reactor (or any kind of profitable reactor) don’t you think a major company like GE would have stepped up and built one?

            What would one cost – 6, 8, 10 billion? GE’s net worth is $230 billion. They wouldn’t invest 3% of their net worth in a profitable enterprise?

            In the last few years Ontario (Canada), San Antonio and the country of Turkey have all asked for someone to build them a new reactor (or two) for a guaranteed fixed price. All the bids submitted were over the top expensive.

            I’m sorry, common sense just doesn’t support the claims of the pro-nuclear forces. Their dog ain’t hunting when the prey is staked out in plain sight…

          • JoFergus

            Actually they have thought about…

            MSR a very dissruptive technology to an entire, and very well-entrenched industry. MSR would greatly erode the revenue streams from uranium processing and fuel production.
            ( you don’t think the real money is being made in the actual building of power plants do you?).

            Ergo, the current powers that be continue to maintain the hard-earned status quo.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If MSRs were real – if they had actually been built and shown to produce very cheap electricity then we could call them a disruptive technology.
            But MSRs have not been built and have not produced very cheap electricity so they are a “disruptive idea”. And one that even the nuclear industry hasn’t found overly interesting.

            When you’ve got a deep pockets corporation like Westinghouse giving up on the idea then one must suspect that the idea is not promising for someone who certainly has taken a very hard look at the details

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Price/100000480524523 Christopher Price

            a liquid fueled reactor was demonstrated in the early days of nuke reactor research. Go read it.
            Simple ‘facts’, yeah right. The article is typical of falsehood spreaders. Tell a side of the story that fits your arguments. True Thorium benefits require really hot liquid reactors that offer negative thermal coeffs (meaning inherently safe, no need for complex dynamic safety systems, just simple plug-melting emergency reaction stop sumps). and on site nasty extraction, at atmospheric pressures, in a quarter of the volume (meaning direct one fourth construction costs))))).

          • Bob_Wallace

            How many are up and running Christopher?

            What is the cost per kWh for the power they produce?

          • Paulbee

            They are not running because:

            1) people like Cleantechnica spread falsehood and fear,

            2) The People who manufacture current LWR nukes invested billions in the current technology, and if LFTR wins, they lose.

          • K.Pazera

            Let me begin by saying I’m not for or against thorium LFTR reactors. To me it’s just data to be considered. To those that say it can’t be done need only look at the thorium reactor that they built that ran 20k hours in the 1960′s. So proof of concept has been accomplished. Also let me state I neither love or hate nuclear,gas,coal,geothermal/oil/solar power. I recognize the need for a better system of power generation than currently available with today’s technology. I evaluate everything as equally as I can but admit I am lacking data in some areas of my study but that is more from a lack of objective information than a lack of effort on my part.

            I’m not affiliated with any type of agency/ organization/ company in the energy industry I’m not a scientist or politically oriented. What II am is single father of 2 young boys on the Autism scale that is a fairly bright, independent individual capable of observation and critical thinking skills to form my own ideas and hypotheses from a purely objective viewpoint. I don’t care who wins the alternative energy battle. I do care how power is generated, the effect of the environment surrounding power generation facilities, the environmental costs of production of raw materials to build and fuel these facilities, planetary effect of the methods and amounts of power being generated.

            Wind farms are environmentally disruptive not only by disrupting local weather patterns but their construction requires rare earths to produce.Rare earth right now come almost exclusively from China. China’s mining operation/factories are far from clean and pollution free or even safe for workers or environment. Wind energy is only produced 1/6 of the time( because the wind is only blowing 1/6 of the time) and the base load needs to be generated by another source such as natural gas, coal, even nuclear to take up the slack. Basically wind generation of power can work out to about 0.5KW/acre which is fairly poor by anyone’s standards. Also they are environmentally disruptive in the amount of space require to be cleared that they occupy. Plus you automatically lose 10$ power generated by sending it through the transmission lines that you never get back.You cannot place wind turbines in rows one behind each other. Doing so reduces the efficiency of each turbine following the first because after the wind hits the first turbine much of the energy require to make it operate has been used, the wind speed decreased and then moves to the turbine behind it.After so many in a row the poor performance of the last turbine in line actually interferes with the first turbine in line. Think about normal steam turbine generated power systems. There’s a small high pressure loop that does 2/3 the work and then there are three or so HUGE low pressure turbines recovering the energy left from the high pressure loop. It takes 3 huge low pressure turbines to equal the output of the one small high pressure turbine.

            Solar, more rare earths required for manufacture. Current technology/efficiency requires a much larger footprint than a conventional power generation of the same wattage output. The batteries required to store the power they generate are large and heavy usually lead acid batteries which take up a large amount of room to store power. Power storage has NEVER been economical hence why it is not being done commercially nor will it be done without advances in battery technology. Advances in battery technology are limited by the rare earth supply that is currently controlled by China. When threatened with anti monopoly charges and actions from the World Trade Organization China submitted and agreed. But somehow China’s demand for rare earths started to match it’s mining production output giving the net effect that China STILL gets, mines, produces all the rare earth they want and everyone else agrees to their terms or get barely a pittance from them.

            If you’re a proponent of geothermal you are also indirectly a proponent of nuclear energy. Where does that heat in the ground come from anyhow? It comes from fission of radioactive elements, high pressure,magnetism, and gravity. The proponents of Thorium like to point out that if you’re a proponent of geothermal then you’re a proponent of Thorium.

            Do I think there is a fight to change an established power generation infrastructure? Yes I do. Do I believe there are some politics involved? Yes , to an extent.at least in regards to acquisition of raw materials such as rare earths from mostly a single source on the planet. Do I buy into all the conspiracy theories? Not really but like folklore and myths some have some kernel of truth with the remaining 98% garbage.

            What we need is more information,experimentation and discovery. Let’s get down to brass tacks and get to it shall we instead of infighting which is best..

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Wind farms are environmentally disruptive not only by disrupting local weather patterns but their construction requires rare earths to produce.”
            Wrong on both. The “local” area disturbed is very, very small. Barely extends past the shadow of the tower. And we are building turbines without rare earth minerals.

            Solar doesn’t require rare earth minerals. Some panels use them. Some don’t.

            China is cleaning up their REM mining and processing. We are opening (and re-opening) REM mines and processing outside of China. Including the US and Canada.

            Geothermal = nuclear. Simply bullshit.

            As a concern troll you are a failure.

            As a thorium fanboi you’re making no convincing case. The cost of uranium is only $0.0025 per kWh (or some low number like that). There’s not much room to drop the high cost of nuclear by switching to a cheaper fuel. And regardless of the fuel building a reactor is still a great bit, expensive, time hogging project.

            Let’s face facts. If thorium reactors could produce affordable electricity then large companies like GE and Westinghouse would be building them right now. Someone would have jumped at the UK’s offer of 12 cents per kWh and would already have a signed contract, undercutting the French and Chinese.
            If thorium reactors could produce cheap electricity then the French and Chinese would be building them in the UK.

            Just because you see something on YouTube does not mean that it is real.

          • noname_noslogan

            In other words, you have no specific rebuttal.

            Failure.

      • http://www.facebook.com/don.r.schroeder Don Ryan Schroeder

        What parts specifically caused your concern? You seem very knowledgeable in terms of specifics on wind and solar and energy in general. What specifically are your concerns with this kind of LFTR?

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      thank you. this is the first i have ever run across or been supplied anything worth reading or reprinting regarding thorium. i will go ahead and repost these.

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