Aim High!

LIQUID FLUORIDE THORIUM REACTOR

  • Energy cheaper than from coal.
  • Walk-away safe.

New book, THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal

THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal is a new book about two energy technologies that can solve global warming, sustainability, and energy poverty. Energy cheaper than coal is the only realistic way to dissuade 7 billion people in 250 countries from burning coal to make electricity. Thorium and the molten salt reactor provide the means to manufacture liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR) at a price that will undercut coal, economically.


New, fast-paced Aim High video

Installing LFTRs the way Boeing makes aircraft would zero out world CO2 emissions from coal plants in 38 years.
If overheated, nuclear fission stops. No pressurized radioactive materials exist to be propelled into the environment.
 

New 2011 booklet edition!

Aim High!+: Booklet edition

Buy this 32-page full color booklet from Amazon, or first visit the presentation links below.

Also available at the Kindle store, including the Amereican Physical Society article.

Aim High!
Energy from thorium, cheaper than from coal, solves more than just global warming

Original, complete 2009 edition with appendices.


The Aim High! presentation has been given at Dartmouth ILEAD, Thayer School of Engineering, Brown University, Amherst College, Columbia Earth Institute, American Nuclear Society, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and many private audiences.

Videos
  • Fast-edited video of Washington DC presentation to Thorium Energy Allliance.
  • Dartmouth College Aim High presentation, Sept 2010.
  • YouTube presentation to Google Tech Talk series, May 26, 2009
Presentation slides
Articles
Documents

You can contact the author at robert.hargraves@gmail.com.

The Aim High presentation has also been presented in a course, Energy Policy and Environmental Choices: Rethinking Nuclear Power, given at the Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth.

Interesting related web sites

Energy from Thorium is a rich site, with a blog about current events concerning the liquid fluoride thorium reactor, and also a technical forum, where volunteer engineers, scientists, and professionals exchange ideas about technical designs and social benefits.

Flibe Energy is a US startup company intending to build a molten salt reactor. Flibe is shorthand for Fluoride salts of Lithium and Beryllium, the preferred molten salt.

Thorium Energy Alliance sponsors annual conferences about thorium power, principally the liquid fluoride thorium reactor.

International Thorium Energy Organization publishes occasional news article about thorium energy. It also sponsors a European conference attracting an international audience.

International Thorium Molten Salt Forum is a Japanese publication related to Japan's work and the FUJI molten salt reactor design.

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

Energy cheaper than from coal can solve more crises than just global warming

The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) uses inexpensive thorium as a fuel, transforming it to uranium-233 which fissions, producing heat and electric power at a cost less than that from coal power plants.

We can solve our world's environmental crises by launching a NASA-style "shoot the moon" project to complete LFTR development and deploy LFTR technology for inexpensive, safe, clean power. Aim High!

Environmental Context

The rising cost of energy concerns the public. The US annually imports $350 billion of oil from the unstable Persian Gulf.The world faces environmental crises:

1. Global warming is destroying glaciers that provide fresh water critical to millions and shrinking the cold polar seas essential for algae that start the ocean food chain.

2. Deforestation and desertification also dry up fresh water supplies.

3. Land to grow food is becoming scarce.

4. Fisheries are collapsing for tuna, cod, swordfish, and 40% of all other species.

5. 13,000 people in the US alone die annually from particulate emissions from coal power plants.

Overpopulation

Overpopulation is the main cause of many of these environmental crises. The world population of 6.7 billion people is growing unsustainably, leading to tragic competition for dwindling food, water, and energy resources that may lead to famine, plague, and war.

The US and other OECD nations' birth rates are less than the population replacement rates, illustrating how prosperity can lead to a sustainable world population. Nations with GDP per capita over $7,500 have birth rates of stable or diminishing populations.

Prosperity depends critically on energy. Electrical energy powers water supplies, sanitation,lighting, refrigeration,cooking, communications, and machines. Nations with annual per capita electric power of 2,000 kwh per year achieve the necessary prosperity for population stability. (The US number is 12,000.

Economists study the balance between the economic damage of carbon taxes against the economic damage of global warming. Raising carbon taxes too swiftly damages the total economy and future world prosperity. Europe’s $50 billion cap-and-trade spending did not stop CO2 emissions growth. Developing nations will not accept carbon taxes that limit their growth. Yet even global warming skeptics can support the economic benefit of energy cheaper than from coal.

The liquid fluoride thorium reactor solves these issues by

·Checking global warming, without carbon taxes, by undercutting the economics of coal power -- possibly the only way to stop developing nations from emitting CO2.

·Enabling populations of developing nations to afford the energy to achieve the modest level of prosperity that leads to smaller, sustainable populations.

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor History

The LFTR uses inexpensive thorium as a fuel, transforming it to uranium-233 which fissions, producing heat and electric power. Innovatively, the thorium and uranium are dissolved in molten salt, simplifying fueling and waste removal compared to today's nuclear power plants. Prototype molten salt reactors were developed and tested by the US at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the 1960s and 1970s. President Ford stopped the project in 1976. Scientists in France, the Czech Republic, Japan and Russia are carrying forward the research. Chine intends to build a prototype. Occasional theoretical papers are published by US scientists. In 2006 the Oak Ridge research papers were scanned and posted on the internet. A collaboration of scientists, engineers, and professional volunteers has begun developing an updated conceptual design for the LFTR.

Environmental LFTR Advantages

1.The LFTR produces energy cheaper than from coal, economically forcing closure of coal power plants and their CO2 emissions, checking global warming. The low cost energy also advances prosperity in developing nations, creating a lifestyle that results in diminishing world population without increasing pollution and tragic competition for dwindling natural resources.

2.The LFTR produces less hazardous waste than coal or other forms of nuclear energy -- less than 1/100 the long-lived radioactive waste of today's nuclear power plants. It can consume spent fuel now stored outside existing nuclear power plants.

3.Ending atmospheric pollution from coal particulates would save 24,000 lives annually in the US and hundreds of thousands in China and worldwide.

4.It uses an inexhaustible supply of inexpensive thorium fuel. One tonne of thorium (costing $100,000) provides 1 GW-year of electric power, enough for a city.

Technical LFTR Advantages

1.LFTR has no refueling outages, with continuous refueling and continuous waste fission product removal.

2.It can change power output to satisfy demand, satisfying today's need for both baseload coal or nuclear power and expensive peakload natural gas power.

3.LFTR operates at high temperature, for 50% thermal/electrical conversion efficiency,thus needing only half the cooling required by today's coal or nuclear plant cooling towers.

4.It is air cooled, critical for arid regions of the Western US and many developing countries where water is scarce.

5.LFTR has low capital costs because it does not need massive pressure vessels or containment domes, because of its compact heat exchanger and Brayton cycle turbine, because of intrinsic safety features, and because cooling requirements are halved.

6.An LFTR will cost $200 million for a moderate size 100 MW unit, allowing incremental capital outlays, affordability to developing nations, and suitability for factory production, truck transport, and site assembly.

7.It will be factory produced, like Boeing airliners, lowering costs and time, enabling continuous improvement.

8.It can make hydrogen to synthesize vehicle fuels from recycled waste CO2, reducing foreign oil dependency.

9.It could convert air and water to ammonia for fertilizer, whose production today absorbs > 1% of all the world's energy.

10.Its molten salt fuel form facilitates handling and chemical processing.

11.LFTR is intrinsically safe because overheating expands the fuel salt past criticality, because LFTR fuel is not pressurized, and because total loss of power or control will allow a freeze-plug to melt, gravitationally draining all fuel salt into a dump tray, where it cools convectively.

12.100% of LFTR's thorium fuel is burned, compared to 0.7% of uranium burned in today's nuclear reactors.

13.LFTR is proliferation resistant, because LFTR U-233 fuel also contains U-232 decay products that emit strong gamma radiation, hazardous to any bomb builders who might somehow seize control of the power plant for the many months necessary extract uranium.

14.In the LFTR, plutonium and other actinides remain in the salt until fissioned, unlike today's solid fuel reactors, which must refuel long before these long-lived radiotoxic elements are consumed, because of radiation and thermal stress damage to the zirconium-encased solid fuel rods.

15.No plutonium or other fissile material is ever isolated or transported to or from the LFTR, except for importing spent nuclear fuel waste used to start the LFTR.

LFTR Challenges

1.The nuclear power industry, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the US military all focus on the uranium/plutonium solid fuel nuclear power.

2.There is almost no political awareness of the thorium/uranium fuel cycle. [Recently, James Hansen, a well-known climate scientist from NASA and Columbia and advisor to President Elect Barack Obama, is recommending consideration of the LFTR.]

3.There is no US R&D funding, except less than $100,000 per year for molten salt research papers.

4.Significant R&D work is required, costing over $1 billion over 5 years to develop a prototype.

5.The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission would need to learn LFTR technology in order to license and regulate it.

Summary and Action Recommendation – Aim High!

The world suffers from environmental crises: global warming, pollution, and resource depletion, caused largely by excess CO2 emissions and by burgeoning population growth.

The liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) can provide safe, nonpolluting energy to address these crises. We can develop this energy source by launching a NASA-style "shoot the moon" effort to solve the crises. President Kennedy's moon shot vision was accomplished in eight years. The Manhattan Project took three years. We can develop LFTR in five years. Aim High!