The Thorium Dream

2011 ,    »  -   52 Comments
Ratings: 8.97/10 from 146 users.

There's much to take for granted in the evolution of technology, or at least in the way that technology appears to us today – refined, perfected, ever cutting-edge.

Globally, our energy and resource supplies are becoming increasingly costly to extract and use. Demand has never been higher; ditto levels of CO2 and other terrible greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Nuclear energy is powerful, but it can look worse, given persistent waste storage issues and the threat of proliferation.

So when the topic of thorium nuclear energy comes up at a party, or in a webpage comment string, it elicits angry dismissals, or heaps of praise.

The idea of building small, thorium-based nuclear reactors – thought to be dramatically safer, cheaper, cleaner and terror-proof than our current catalog of reactors – can be shooed away as fringe by some.

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52 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Earthwinger

    Very intriguing doc. I don't have much of an opinion on it yet, as I need to research this more, but it's sure piqued my curiosity.

  2. brucelevin909
  3. brucelevin909

    Worthless documentary. Emotional appeal to favor Thorium over Uranium in future power plants. Almost no actual facts presented. Thorium probably is the future but you can not tell it from this documentary.

  4. dewflirt
  5. dewflirt

    Is this as good as it sounds, or is there a catch?

  6. Samuel Morrissey
  7. Samuel Morrissey

    No it is not as good as it sounds, though it is without doubt a much safer and conscientious approach towards electricity generation from fission, than uranium fueled light water reactors.

    Thorium has potential advantages as well as tangible disadvantages. The thing is the 'cons' such as greater difficulty and expense for proliferation, and the fact that large groups of ill/mis/uninformed people are fundamentally opposed to nuclear power with a fervour equal to any evangelist, quite often actually seem more like pros to me, but then without pubic support and with public vilification, nuclear energy is doomed. I myself have read as much as could understand on this subject and remain convinced that fission is by a huge factor the most energy dense and therefore most practical means of electricity generation for, longevity, industry, space travel? etc. But the questions remain, do we really need such dense energy? We could certainly use less and likely should. Plenty of people living healthy and happy with only a few hours per day of electricity, if at all. Do we really need industry to run machines 24/7/52? Do we really need to go to space?

    There are real cons, cost of development and manufacture is at least similar and likely greater than conventional uranium reactors, which is to say, immense. Then of course the cost of mining and refining thorium for fuel, though somewhat cheaper than uranium, still a huge cost. When I talk about cost I mean to include expenditure of energy, not strictly money, for example how many diesel engines burning diesel at what rate to keep the thorium coming in in sufficient quantities etc...

    This documentary is unhelpful though, and contains false information. All naturally occurring thorium on earth is in one isotope, that being the inert (non-radioactive) isotope 232Th. If you used a giger counter and measured free neutrons from fissions in granite, it would certainly not be the thorium generating them. It is one of the big potential advantages in the thorium fuel cycle, that it is completely safe to handle and does not require centrifuge separation of unwanted isotopes like is the case with uranium.

    Regards, Sam.

  8. Holdem Tycoon
  9. Holdem Tycoon

    Actually you might need to watch it again. The entire concept is based on the premise that only when thorium reaction is taking place, is energy produced, thus making it "radioactive". When the process to make thorium "radioactive" is stopped, thorium is no longer radioactive nor dangerous. It's very abundant. It's like storing quality harmless energy in a rock.

    As oppose to trying to constantly keep a radioactive substance from exploding, which is the tech level we use today, and reflective of the governing elite's mentality.

    The doc attempts to use a different way to explain that.

  10. dewflirt
  11. dewflirt

    Missed out a question mark after ' still radioactive, still dangerous ' glad you noticed and your right, probably need to watch again :)

  12. ankovacs
  13. ankovacs

    "Plenty of people living healthy and happy with only a few hours per day of electricity, if at all." -> As long as those allow for it who keep developing. The Chinese emperors decided to conserve everything as it was, and all lived happily (?) until the British warships arrived. You are welcome to take that role in the future if you wish.

    "Do we really need to go to space?" -> not very urgent, but at some point yes. The Earth will not remain habitable forever, although the natural changes (i.e. Sun turning into red giant star) are far into the future. By the way, if you don't need access to space then please promise never to use a GPS navigator again...

  14. Patrick Mclaughlin
  15. Patrick Mclaughlin

    I wonder how much Thorium is in the Pyramids? :)

  16. Mercenarry ForHire
  17. Mercenarry ForHire

    Just build a Private Prototype and Tell people in the mount of Profits the'll gain by investing. :3

    (im no expert when it comes to inventing. )

  18. dewflirt
  19. dewflirt

    It's overrated.

  20. Petar Vitanovich
  21. Petar Vitanovich

    These people really need to contact Dr. Ron Paul. What that dude is doing, is the eppitamy of a true free market, where no ideas are frowned upon, and if it works, it succeeds. He is the only man who would embrace this.

  22. noconman
  23. noconman

    Very interesting. I am surprised I have not heard of it. I wish it would have went in to more detail. I am not surprised that it was shelved 50 years ago since you can't make bombs from it.
    I do believe that many more ideas on producing power have been overlooked or silenced in our past (think Tesla)
    In our past, it seems that the way we have determained what is a practical source of power, seems to be based on how rich one can get from selling it, over it's ability to produce power cleanly or safely.
    I will research this more, because I do believe that science can (or already has) discover better, safer, and cleaner ways to supply power.
    Of course It will still require making some people filthy rich before they utilize it. They appear to have just been draining us all financially, off of resources that they were aware of not being safe or sustainable in the first place. But when you're a monopoly, why compete with yourself until you're out of supply and are forced to find a new cash cow.

  24. Samuel Morrissey
  25. Samuel Morrissey

    No problem. I'm glad this doc prompted you to read about the subject, that seems to be the intention and in that it must have some success. It is a fascinating subject.

    The advantages over uranium as I understand it are :-

    Thorium is considered to be roughly 4x as abundant as uranium on Earth.

    All naturally occurring thorium exists as the stable non radioactive isotope 232Th which we intend to use, which limits the cost of refinement, and negates the need for enrichment. It is safe to handle without protection, again limiting fuel pellets and rods/fuel solution (molten salt) production costs.

    Proliferation of fissile material for weapons manufacture is nearly eliminated, as during the thorium fuel cycle, the thorium is bred (transmuted) by neutron absorption mainly into uranium 233, which is the element that we will fission with neutron bombardment, to release our energy as kinetic (heat) and gamma radiation (high energy light) as well as more free neutrons. 233U is moderately radioactive and has a half life of 159K years, but we intend to fission all of it. The problem is some of the absorption and decay chain possibilities mean that a small amount of 232U will be mixed with the 233U, always at a certain percentage. Uranium 232 is highly radioactive, with a half life of 27 days. The U232 cannot be separated from the U233 in a centrifuge. For the nuclear weapons industry, this is a double blow, because it now mandates machines (whose electronics are damaged over time from the hard gamma radiation) to handle and assemble, and is also very difficult to hide, as it is quite literally 'glowing'. Combine that with the fact that a critical mass for 233U is 50% larger than 238U or 239Pu meaning a heavier and larger more difficult to handle warhead etc.

    232Th is roughly 3x as likely to absorb a fast neutron as 238U so this is more efficient, however it takes a significant amount of time (weeks) and neutron bombardment for the decay chain to breed enough fissile 233U to achieve a sustainable chain reaction. When 233U fissions though, it releases on average more than 2 fast neutrons (like 238U or 239Pu) over a large range of energies, meaning better chances for creating more fissions. This greater rate increases the predictability of fissile events and reduces the risk of build up of unknown actinides acting as invisible neutron absorbers or moderators and cause dangerous power fluctuations as happened in Chernobyl Ukraine.

    In a traditional LWR, the once through rods only fission roughly 15-20% of their fissile fuel, uranium oxide/plutonium oxide. After this they must be processed for centrifuge isotope separation and re-fabrication. In a thorium reactor, rods could theoretically burn more than 70% of their material over a many times through cycle. This combined with the relative abundance mean it is obviously the only truly long term fission approach.

    The other advantages they talk about in this documentary, are not thorium derived, more about engineering and materials. Molten salts and liquid cores would be a great step forward in terms of passive safety, as would freeze plugs and large coolant reservoirs. Quite simply these things should have been designed from the beginning so if all external control is removed it shuts itself down. The reason this didn't happen was the technology was from conception hijacked by the military who have a rather more 'stick your head in the fire and see if it burns' sort of approach to everything.

    disadvantages are much the same as traditional LWRs in terms of costs and production of long lived actinides. If you build a thorium LWR, it will still risk steam pressure explosion etc.

    Regards, Sam.

  26. blaxparx13
  27. blaxparx13

    So you think a Libertarian baby Dr. is an expert in this field? Wow!
    By the way what does eppitamy mean?

  28. dewflirt
  29. dewflirt

    Maybe they won't ever switch over but surely there is a growing need for more power in more places. If people were given some facts and a choice there's a chance they could try this. We're at a point now where everything need to be given a fair crack of the whip :)

  30. dewflirt
  31. dewflirt

    Thought I was going to be baffled by science there but that was smoothly written. I'm probably not alone in wondering why this isn't more widely known, but now I know a bit I will keep a look out for it and see what happens. Must be no end to things like this, waiting for the light of day. That's why I like these docs, they tell you (us non scientists) about things you would never have thought to ask about.

  32. Samuel Morrissey
  33. Samuel Morrissey

    I do not claim to know the answers, only pose the questions. What is right to you may be wrong to another. Sure I like the benefits of 240v13A AC on tap, but is it truthfully necessary for it to be available to me 24/7? I'm not using it while I sleep am I?

    Not very urgent? that's putting it very lightly. At some immeasurable time in the future this entire universe will be uninhabitable, what will we do then? My point is, unless our wasteful attitude is modified, we will seal our own fate in a very human timescale. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see people on Mars, I would love more robotic excursions to other bodies in the solar system. I am all for the science, what new things we can see and learn, etc.

    But no, that's fine, I personally have no need for GPS, maps and compass/astronomy are perfectly adequate. I am not saying that there is never a justifiable need for GPS, just realistically for me (and I think for most people) there isn't.

    Let me be clear, I am not talking about going backwards in terms of technology or energy generation, I am talking about analysis for logical and logistical efficiency and conscientious use of these things. Knowledge and technology can be neither right or wrong, it is our attitudes that cause the problems, and that need to change, if we are to survive as a species even in the very short term.

    Regards, Sam.

  34. wald0
  35. wald0

    Wonderful, as a chemist I knew about Thorium and had no idea it was such a well kept secret. Radioactive chemistry isn't my field but, I had heard those in the field talk about it. All I had heard was that it was possible to use it as a nuclear fuel though, I had no idea it also provided so many benefits compared to current tech. I have been up with my dog all night, I think he may have gotten ran over, and kept falling asleep during the documentary but, I wonder if they ever really explained in detail the process of using Thorium instead of Uranium. Anyway I am off to the vet to get this dog's leg set, in a splint, and get some pain pills for him. I'll check it out when I get back. Wish him luck, he is in lots of pain but no internal or seriouse damage from what I can tell. 1.5 year old Pit Bull named chance, called Bully most of the time, lives in doors and thinks he is human. He even turns his nose up at toast unless you butter it, and he has to see you do it just like your own before he will eat it. Favorite activities include watching the dog wisperer, chasing squirrels, and riding down the road with his head hanging out the passenger window.

  36. tariqxl
  37. tariqxl

    AAAAAAAhahaha!!!! that hippy gran was hilarious>

  38. KsDevil
  39. KsDevil

    It's a nice restart with some typical self-promotion and plenty of generalizations. But if the public is to be interested, Thorium will have to be explained in real world terms. That means from birth to death. Mining and it's impact...refining and environment concerns...operation of the reactor....and disposal of waste. Back patting self promotion does nothing but make these suits looks like your typical DC lobbyist.
    I will wait for the next chapter in this story and hope it is more than a sales pitch.

  40. dewflirt
  41. dewflirt

    I did a course a few years ago, tree felling and coppicing. Had to write a 2 page risk assessment on the possible dangers of hitting trees with axes. Priorities are all to cock. Even a small improvement is better than none isn't it? :)

  42. roberthaley25
  43. roberthaley25

    This has got to be one of the worst documentaries I have ever seen. It tells you virtually nothing about the science involved with thorium. It gives you alternative opinions. Most importantly, it doesn't address the question of what is stopping investors from building thorium plants. Are there government regulations preventing it. Is the technology not sufficiently developed? If the technology is still pending, then many of their claims have to be regarded as overstatements. But this documentary doesn't even give you enough to judge that. Are we talking about proven technology or a very promising potential? I just don't see why anyone bothered to waste their time on such an uninformative documentary.

  44. dewflirt
  45. dewflirt

    We were trying out bronze and iron age tools, using the wood to build round houses. No snowmobiles, lots of chopping though :)

  46. CapnCanard
  47. CapnCanard

    The key here is social, group think belief and the profit motive compelling this social compliance. For example, eliminating fossil fuels is another reason why anything like a Thorium reactor hasn't been used. With Fossil Fuels we talking about the most politically and economically powerful people in the world. That economy power is far more socially acceptable than anything science can come up with, to most sheople getting rid of gas guzzling cars is unthinkable despite the durability of electric motors and making a change to Thorium, well that is unthinkable to the powers that be. Innovation virtually stops dead in it's tracks under political pressure. The results play this out over and over and over again. Pick your issue, how about medicine? How long before sailors became limeys! How long did it take to city create sewage systems and there is evidence of this deep apathy. Or consider the issue of Alumina, when dropped in H2O it oxidizes freeing up usable Hydrogen. Why isn't this being more widely pursued? Well that is an economic question and economics is the bane of scientific innovation. Look at wind power where the powers that be are not doing anything to encourage small scale localized energy production instead they want to centralize production to keep control in order to maximize profits. The explanation is really simple.

    For example Peter Lyons says "continuing to look at thorium..." a great political-economic answer that gives cover to the deception of the conventional wisdom. His answer admits that it is economic and scientific rather safety, efficiency and good sense that is the industries rational. i.e. they are protecting their investments first and foremost. They don't care about you or your children, the environment. Their goals are very short term.

    "America has done tremendous things before..." past tense! that quote is like saying, "I give up, I quit, we can now lay down and die".

  48. CapnCanard
  49. CapnCanard

    IF ONLY... well that sounds like it would work( and I believe it would), but I think it would make the powers that be very nervous to the point of military action. Anyone can live outside the norms of society but when others start to do the same, up to 30% or so, then such a movement will become an enemy to the powers that be, a threat to national security and the national interests. Hence, it is likely to cause war. This **** doesn't change until you reach a tipping point(over 50%!!!), a true shift in the paradigm. The knowledge has been there a long, long time but the world of business has a glacial pace. Business is the bane of our existence.

  50. Meera Rangarajan
  51. Meera Rangarajan

    In India we are running the Atomic Power Project thro Thorium only. Our FBTR have become operational and not ecologially insensitive. For that matter, Kalpakkam Aproject called MAPP, is one of the successful FBTR. The Kakrapar Project uses Thorium as the core. The tsunami of 2004 has not damaged MAPP, which is in its direct sweep.I vote for Thorium which is the clean energy. Probably we should develop more safety standards. Let America embrace Thorium based atomic projects and let them signal that Nuclear sanctions have no value if they use.

  52. Samuel Morrissey
  53. Samuel Morrissey

    The FBTR in Kalpakkam uses uranium carbide/plutonium carbide 30/70% as fuel, not thorium. The only new thing about the design is using liquid sodium as a coolant, which has its own advantages/disadvantages. Any coolant leak will create a sodium fire, as it will ignite on contact with oxygen, though this is a fairly simple problem to deal with (but not with water!) Liquid sodium coolant systems will not suffer the pressure problems of using water/steam, so there should be a much lower risk of coolant leaks anyway. There is the problem of neutron absorption, in that the sodium can become radioactive, but this is mitigated by the fact that radioactive sodium 24Na has only a 15 hour half-life, so after being removed from the neutron flux it will relatively quickly decay to 23Na.

    This design still uses the heat transferred through an exchanger from the sodium to heat water to drive steam turbines, and that comes with all the traditional pressure risks as well as the inherent inefficiency of steam turbines compared to gas turbines for example. There is also a new risk, that the coolant may breach through the exchanger into the water system, as sodium explodes on contact with water.

    The new half sized prototype reactor PFBR will be capable of using the thorium fuel cycle, but initially it will use a uranium/plutonium mix. This is unimportant however as this prototype is currently the leading development of the possible move to thorium designs, and India should be proud of taking these first crucial steps.

    regards, Sam.

  54. Meera Rangarajan
  55. Meera Rangarajan

    Thank you Sam for clarifications. It is indeed quite educative.

  56. PavolvsBitch
  57. PavolvsBitch

    willful, destructive, unremitting mismanagement of freely available resources and here we all go, considering more profits, waste, destruction for the same sickly fat and easy ilk. get a grip and stop 'tilting at windmills'.

  58. daryan
  59. daryan

    Where to start with what's wrong with this film....

    - Firstly, there are other ways of utilising the Thorium cycle, notably the HTGR (or VHTR or Gas cooled reactor as they are sometimes called) or using the CANDU (Heavy water reactor). Most experiments to date with Thorium have focused on these as they are much more mature reactor designs, although to date such efforts have yet to yield a commercially viable plant.

    - The bulk of Chinese and Indian research into Thorium, unsurprisingly, involves the reactors mentioned above. LFTR's are more of a “blue sky option” piggy-backed onto a larger research project.

    - LWR's favoured because they can make plutonium? And easily debunked consipracy theory! where is all that plutonium? Still locked up in the spend fuel rods! as US civilian reactors largely ran on a “once-thro” process with no effort made to reprocess them. The best way to make Plutonium is with purpose build breeder reactors, which is where the vast bulk of US military Pu stockpiles came from.

    - The reason why LWR's were favoured is simple, LWR's can be made from easily forged or cast Steel, use water and steam as working fluids (of which there was ample experience from conventional power stations) and were based on military reactors that had been running successfully for a decade or more. MSR's are made from exotic nickel alloys (of which there was very limited if any manufacturing experience of back in the 60's) and involved mucking around with molten salts and "nuclear lava".

    - Most of the claims made in this film are outlandish, unproven and highly implausible. The bulk of research into LFTR's done in the US (or UK) these days involves the use of powerpoint and you-tube!

    - The original MSRE did not “function flawlessly”. Unless you consider distorted graphite elements, a fatigue failure of a critical component and numerous problems with intergranual cracking as a “success”. By that same token North Korea's recent rocket launch was also a “success” in that it managed to go further than the last one and got off the ground okay.

    - The bulk of nuclear scientists I've spoken too or heard expressing an opinion on this matter think the LFTR is a crazy idea. They reckon there may be some case for thorium fuelled kit if Fusion power fails to arrive on schedule (i.e. in 50 years time) but by and large they recommend sticking with what we know works for the time being.

    - The reason for this scepticism, is due to the fact that even with our more advanced knowledge of material science, building something such as a commercial LFTR would be a daunting engineering challenge. It is doubtful one could be build at a rate faster than existing nuclear technology (which is already lagging behind renewables), or cheaper (and already many will argue renewables are now cost equal to nuclear if not cheaper with renewable prices falling while nuclear energy costs are rising).

    - Thorium in Granite....Groan!....yes and by that same token I could claim that you can run a car off of water as its packed full of hydrogen! Unfortunately, there's this pesky little thing called EROEI (Energy Returned Over Energy Invested), which says that below a certain tipping point we'd expend more energy extracting the Thorium from Granite than you'd get back in usable energy. Also there's the issue of “cut-off grades” for ores, below which its just not really technically possible (nor economically desirable) to extract a mineral. All that this demonstrates is a disturbing lack of knowledge on the part of the participants as to the basics fundamentals of energy and physics.

    The truth is that the LFTR is a blue sky idea at the very early concept stage of development. It is decades or more from commercial deployment, indeed there's nothing to say that in the process of answering the research questions, some ironclad show stopper won't emerge. We've been here b4 with OTEC, Fast Breeders, Cold Fusion and numerous other “miracle” technologies.

    And the simple fact is that if we want to avert dangerous climate change we can't wait for technology like this to emerge (after all, what if it never emerges?). Hence why I favour going with what we've got, notably renewables and various energy efficiency strategies and considering nuclear plants such as these at some distant future date when the technology has proven itself.

    ….cue ad hominem attacks from the Thorium Trolls!

  60. Road Hammer
  61. Road Hammer

    this is not the first time you see something become so simple and become so better, there many things round become way more liter, chipper and better, this is technology, simple.

  62. Guest
  63. Guest

    typical of american documentaries.

  64. Dan
  65. Dan

    Great accessible documentary, but oh boy there's a lot of misinformed comments here. Lets clear some things up.

    Thorium 232 is hundreds of times more abundant than uranium 235, and we should be able to use it much more efficiently and thus also more cleanly. Thorium has a half-life of 14 billion years, meaning it is very slighly radioactive (the radioactivity detected in granite may not necessarily be Thorium itself but it's daughter products).

    On average 12g of every ton of the earth's surface is Thorium, which would provide you with power for 10-15 years. That makes mining plain rock economically viable, let alone mining thorium rich rock, which we likely won't do for along time because we have vast amounts already left over from mining other things. The cost of fuel in thorium power will be negligible overall. We probably have millions of years worth of it here on earth, let alone on the moon and the rest of the solar system.

    China seem to think Molten Salt fuelled reactors are a good idea, they will have a full test one in 2017 (they will first build Molten Salt cooled pebble bed reactor in 2015 to test various aspects). They are looking at using silicon carbide as a highly corrosion resistant containment material. The main problem so far seems to be in online reprocessing of the fuel, but it's early days yet.

    Its not just China, not by a long shot. I know of many other national and privateer projects around the world who are trying to make this happen. Many of them are aiming to get their test reactors online by 2015 (the 50th anniversary of Oak Ridge MSRE going online), after that I think we'll hear much more about them.

    No matter which way you look at it the promise of Thorium is far too good to ignore. While there will surely be problems along the way we will find ways to overcome them, and they will be vastly less than the problems we will cause continuing as we are without it.

  66. Ben Matanle
  67. Ben Matanle

    Please do not consider this an attack, but may I refer you to my response to "Dan's" comment above. I have spoken personally with Professor Kirk Sorensen (as you well know, he is an advocate for energy from Thorium) and would be glad to share with you the correspondence that occurred between myself, Prof. Sorensen and Lord Howell (the U.K. Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office). I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter, further to your post above, as I believe that LFTRs/MSRs are a viable solution to the "energy challenge" that the world faces.

  68. D. A. Ryan
  69. D. A. Ryan

    I seem to recall replying to this but it hasn't been posted, possibly because I included links to stuff...anyway, I would note that as far as i'm aware Mr Sorensen (not a Professor, nor a Dr) is the head of a small Thorium lobby outfit that has a handful of staff. A quick check of the Flibe company website should verify this. Unfortunately his outfit does not currently possess the finances, technical skills nor laboratory facilities to get what he proposes off the ground, without substantial outside assistance. And unfortunately my sources from within the nuclear industry tell me that such as assistance is not going to be forthcoming, as many nuclear engineering companies or labs what little to do with LFTR's.

    Casing point, The NNL (UK national nuclear labs) have produced position papers on Small modular reactors (which talks about LFTR's) and Thorium. both these reports are available on their website. In general, the NNL seems to conclude that Thorium simply isn't a viable alternative and any complete breeding cycle (as as a LFTR) will take too long to develop to be any use to the solving the UK (or US) current energy problems.

    You may inquire why the NNL seems out of touch with the House of Lords and the various members of that house you've been talking too. You have to understand, when I comes to the house of Lords in the UK, its sort of a retirement castle for washed up politicians. When a UK politician reaches the end of his career, he gets a knighthood (they just handed out 4 of them to minsters who lost their jobs in a reshuffle) or is made a peer and makes a load of speeches about things such as bringing back hangin, stopping youths from running around and this thing called "rock and roll"....and they hammer on about pet projects of there's such as fast reactors, etc.

    So while members of the House of Lords benefit from all the pomp and privilege of being lords, they are a toothless organization, that is largely ignored by the UK media (other than when they're having a good laugh at a lord's expense) and the House of Commons (where the real power lies).

  70. D. A. Ryan
  71. D. A. Ryan

    "misinformed comments"

    Ah, I think you need to re-read you're own post! Mining granite (or any rock) for Thorium is a crazy proposal. It would never be remotely economically viable to do this. By that same token I could claim that you can run a car off of water as its packed full of hydrogen! Unfortunately, there's this pesky little thing called EROEI (Energy Returned Over Energy Invested), which says that below a certain tipping point we'd expend more energy extracting the Thorium from Granite than you'd get back in usable energy. Also there's the issue of what mining engineers refer to as “cut-off grades” for ores, below which its just not really technically possible (nor economically desirable) to extract a mineral.

    Chinese seem to be getting two Chinese nuclear energy projects mixed up. They have a proposal for a Gas Cooled pebble bed reactor (250MW output, will run on Uranium initially but is backward compatible with Thorium) the HTR-PM AND a smaller "blue sky" research project that hopes to get a small Molten salt reactor of some sort commissioned at some point.

    The use of ceramics within the PB reactor isn't really applicable to the LFTR as the graphite core of that is designed very differently, and the main corrosion issue within a LFTR is the molten salt v's nickel interaction.

    Also ceramics are difficult to work with, indeed I've been criticized in the past by LFTR fans for suggesting its probable they'll have to rely on them, as that would make LFTR's very expensive and unreliable. remember, it was the cost of building and maintaining that ceramic heat shield that turned the space shuttle from a cheap space truck, into an expensive white elephant that killed two sets of crew (one directly as a result of the ceramic heat shield failing). I'm unaware of any situation where a component as large and as complex as a reactor core has been made out of silicon carbide, or any other ceramic. It is pure speculation as to whether this is technical possible, economically viable or how long (and much it will cost) to develop. My suspicion is, go back and insert the word "too" at various points in the last sentence!

    The online processing within the PB reactor is more about removing pebbles from the reactor automatically, its a very different kettle of fish from the CPP of a LFTR, which is still something of an unknown quantity.

  72. Mike Mathwig
  73. Mike Mathwig

    how wierd some are.
    I heard a number of reasons why it is not being persued in this country.
    I heard a general outline of how it works as compaired to hot nuclear.
    The compairison is what gives the insight.
    Maybe you should research and gain a laymans understanding of a standard nuclear generator and its operations and then re-watch this.
    You would probably get the drift then.
    If nothing else, it would shore up reading comprehension.

  74. Mike Mathwig
  75. Mike Mathwig

    everything is worthless,bruce.
    vote republican and put a stop to it.
    you go,boy!
    real sharp dude!!

  76. Christina O'Dee
  77. Christina O'Dee

    If you want more detail please look up Gordon McDowell's other videos on YouTube or my playlist Christina O'Dee

  78. Mercenarry ForHire
  79. Mercenarry ForHire

    That makes a lot of sense based on all the different opinions i have taken into consideration. Thank you for the reply, i have been a quiet fan if your comments.

  80. Jo McKay
  81. Jo McKay

    How much promise is yet to be seen. It is also true that the super rich have their money in maintaining the status quo, and they 'own' most Western govts... However, the technology and the possibilities are being explored right now...China is in in a big way; Norway has begun a 4 year testing program, Japan is in planning stages. So whatever others say about the unlikely development of Thorium, it is happening, just not in the western world...yet.

  82. ThomasXxs
  83. ThomasXxs

    You seem to classify "greater difficulty and expense for [nuclear] proliferation" (with Thorium) as a CON, but why? Don't we want nuclear proliferation to be more difficult and more expensive - and therefore harder to achieve for those seeking it? So wouldn't it be a PRO?

    Also, to answer your question, Yes, we do need the most dense and plentiful sources of energy we can find (balanced with environment, etc). History has shown that good, dense sources of energy are a very essential foundation for building a wealthy society (i.e. not a society with just 2 hours of electricity per day) which would get very old very quickly

  84. ThomasXxs
  85. ThomasXxs

    Expenditures of energy will always be included any accounting of costs, by default - unless of course you have access to a free source of diesel fuel ;-)
    You describe Thorium 232Th as "non-radioactive", but then you go on to say that Thorium is also the source of "free neutrons from fissions in granite". That last part would mean that Thorium IS radioactive. In fact, Thorium is slightly radioactive with a very long half-life. It can be handled without special protections for very brief periods (followed by washing, etc). But your saying that "it is completely safe to handle" is probably going a bit too far in throwing caution to the wind!

  86. Jules
  87. Jules

    This is a very valid point. Big fossil fuel energy company's have heavily invested in the infrastructure and are "milking it" for as long as they can. As you said they are politically powerful people who have the support of your government, for obvious reasons!
    In India they have an energy crisis and don't have enough energy to meet the growing needs of a fast developing nation.
    'Necessity is the mother of invention' - which means
    India and other developing countries will overtake the US soon with more innovative, sustainable and possibly cheaper energy solutions.
    Politics be damned!
    Like your quote said, "America has done tremendous things before"...... Because back then they had to, just like India has to today.
    As a side issue but related to the topic -
    It's all part of the cycles we have in history. Great civilisations, they come and they go.
    The western civilisation is in decline.

  88. bluetortilla
  89. bluetortilla

    This doc. raises more suspicion than it does hope. A couple of the proponents are outright nationalists. A good thing will never remain a good thing in the hands of people like that (eg 'we will rise to preeminence again').
    The other thing is the almost total lack of demonstrating applied uses of thoriums, data, or facts of its capabilities. They say it will work, they've put power behind lobbying it, but I didn't see much of substance here. I don't think it deseves the rating it got at all.

  90. Cosmo
  91. Cosmo

    I am very surprised to see documentary is at a 9 rating as I write this view, considering how little is presented and the way in which it was presented. At one point they played a clip of a stereotypical hippie (who was quite the i*iot even for a stereotypical hippie) talking about how "every technology mankind has made in recent years had made the world exponentially worse" followed by another clip of a middle-aged lady who seemed to me to be very intoxicated ignorantly babbling about Fukushima while wearing some kind of costume. Why did they do this? In order to try and make the statement "these are the kind of people who say nuclear energy is bad." How do I know that's what they were trying to say? A few scenes prior one of the narrator/interviewees literally shouts (paraphrashing) "the only kind of people who say nuclear energy is bad are idiotic hippies." in a vitriolic and perhaps even childish tone.

    Sorry boys, if mankind was perfect we'd have built Thorium-Uranium fuel cycle power plants back when most nuclear power plants were still being built.

    This documentary has affirmed by belief that solar is the future, although I still recommend it because it was very fun learning about Thorium, even if I can't tell what was myth and what was fact.

    I think it honestly deserves a 5/10.

  92. Ryan
  93. Ryan

    This documentary is just talk. If you were looking for something technical this is not it. Pretty meaningless.

  94. michael
  95. michael

    The only problem is liquid sodium explodes if it touches air or water.

  96. Jay Batson
  97. Jay Batson

    The comments in this thread are an immediate proof that a rational, fact-and-science-based dialog on this topic is unlikely to happen any time soon. #sad

  98. Ian
  99. Ian

    CO2 is plant food! It is not the cause of Climate Change. If CO2 drops to around 150ppm then plants die and so do we through starvation.

  100. DustUp
  101. DustUp

    Yet another scheme to keep us at the mercy of never ending power company price hikes.

    How about forcing those who confiscate and shelve technologies in the name of national security (actually protection of vested interests in commodities such as oil) to open their doors and pick a few that most anyone with an aptitude for making things can build.

    Until you have the gumption to do that, why not go with a carbon neutral renewable fuel anyone with a back yard can make from stale doughnuts and sugar beets to grass. See AlcoholCanBeAGas . com for a primer on Ethanol. Then no one can hold you hostage for energy. You can go buy it the next town over or make it yourself.

    That is true energy independence and energy security.

  102. bobby
  103. bobby

    China has started building a Thorium reactor. That will be the impetus for us to follow suit. It's unfortunate that we refuse to lead with this proven Thorium technology. It's also sad that the people at the forefront of this cause present themselves as funny people who don't have the conviction that is needed to initiate interest. If the leaders are not convincingly effective at delivering the message then why bother? I could do a better job and that is more than unfortunate. People need to be serious and driven to improve safe nuclear power.

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