Sunday, July 26, 2009

Could This Be the Beginning of the Thorium Age?

Lots of exiting things have been happening on the horizon for the future of thorium-based energy, particularly in the form of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) concept. I would like to draw your attention to a recent Tech Talk sponsored by Google. Kirk Sorensen, an expert on the LFTR as well as being a brilliant man gave an informative as well as enlightening speech on potential of the LFTR in regards to the future of energy. It is quite a long video, but I strongly recommend that those of you who are interested in the future of clean energy watch it in its entirety. Not only can the LFTR provide a cheap source of plentiful, environmentally friendly electricity, the waste heat from an LFTR can be used for many applications ranging from an economic means of desalinization to the production of synthetic fertilizers and fuels with no need to use petroleum or natural gas. Hydrogen can be thermochemically produced from water at the operating temperature of an LFTR, and carbon can be extracted from the atmosphere. By doing this, you can synthetically produce alkanes that form the basis of organic chemistry such as the production of polymers and the refining process of petroleum into liquid fuels. By doing this, you could produce synthetic fuels like dimethyl ether or methanol and they would be carbon neutral when burned since the carbon used for their production was originally extracted from the atmosphere.



Next, there have been a whole series of LFTR-related recent posts over at the fascinating blog, The Nuclear Green Revolution run by Charles Barton, a man whom I admire. His father was a researcher over at the Oak Ridge project during the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) experiments of the 1960's before the MSR project was de-funded for political reasons. He offers a personal insight into both the convoluted history behind MSR-type reactors as well as the political issues that caused the project to be canceled in the first place. Mr. Barton has a series of essays looking at the economic means of lowering the costs of construction and operation of nuclear reactors as well as promoting new nuclear research.

Preface

1. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Economies of Scale or Serial Production?
2. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Advanced Materials
3. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Inherent Safety
4. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Nuclear Waste
5. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Labor Costs
5a. Addendum: Estimated US Energy Use in 2008: ~99.2 Quads
6. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Some Siting Considerations
7. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Investment Costs
8. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Research and Development

Confessions of a Nuclear Blogger, Part I

Finally, we have a post by davidwalters over at the Daily Kos comparing the economics of scaling behind the different potential sizes of the LFTR. He also has an interesting analysis of a means of their deployment as well as their potential to be used for naval transportation. An LFTR-powered cargo ship would be orders of magnitudes cleaner than ones that use conventional sources of energy, such as marine diesel which is one of the dirtiest grades of liquid fuel in existence.

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