TED Conversations

Peter Gooley

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

THORIUM. Is it really that safe and great alternative to Nuclear? Is it the Other Miracle that Bill Gates is looking for?

I've been against Nuclear all my thinking life.. so from about age 20 and am now 54. Japan has not helped me become a lover of Nuclear. One thing that I heard briefly in a news report, was the word Thorium. It is apparently a rare earth mineral that is found with Uranium and dug at the same time.
I read the following.. and are yet to check the facts...
* It is a very efficient source of power generating material.
* It has already been dug up and is sitting in piles
* If there is a problem, you just simply turn it off like a light
* The waste can not be used to make a bomb
* Current Nuclear plants can be converted to use it
* It's actually cheaper than Uranium
* It doesn't require those big exclusion zones

Personally, I don't know enough about it, but from what I've read in an article titled "A report on Thorium: The newest of the technology metals . by Jack Lifton" which certainly seemed comprehensive and informed, I'm starting to wonder why this conversation hasn't been had before.

Interestingly, I don't see any reference to Thorium on the Terrapower website even though Stewart Brand referenced it in his Debate FOR Nuclear Power at about the 7 minute mark in the debate. I do note that a search for Thorium on the Terrapower website gives no hits at all.. Refer 13:20 into the Bill Gates speech as well. Not sure why.

What do YOU think?

+4
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jul 9 2011: Hi Craig. Reallly great to see so much interest in LFTRs. I am a retired engineer, but not nuclear. Haviing seen Kirk Sorensens videos, I am a little confused about "Breeder" reactors: are you saying that a LFTR is one because it produces the U233 it needs to continue the fission, once it has gone critical? By analogy to let's say, the infamous "Breeder Reactors " which could produce lots of bomb material. Mr. S. says the LFTR products cannot be used in bomb making, not because there aren't any, but because it is not a practical way to make a bomb.
    • Jul 9 2011: Hi Shawn, Craig and everyone who has contributed here. .. Thank you so much .. There are still little niggles created by John Large a Nuclear Engineer of Large and Associates,who says there are problems with the Processing cycle to split the fuel from the waste and difficulties actually storing the fuel.. He even commented that the Thorium Reactors don't really work.. He said the problems related to Thorium Rectors are insurmountable, in his opinion!! This was from a news report on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOLo73k3OG0&NR=1&feature=fvwp at about the 2:20 point in the video...
      I guess the question that comes up for me is that is he a Nuclear Engineer and a consultant to the Nuclear industry or is he totally independent and unattached?
      Listening to that 10 second grab can certainly press the HOLD THE BUS nerve if someone doesn't take the time to learn what is really the truth.
      Might be time to simplify the message about LFTR to make it more easily communicated..
      • thumb
        Jul 11 2011: John Large makes his living as a hired gun and has often been hired by Greenpeace.

        http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2010/11/john-large-greenpeace-hired-gun.html

        "Once again we note the hazard to media credibility that comes from automatically attributing expert status to the hired guns of partisan causes."

        IMO, for those that don't bother to read the link, John Large is a joke and every one of his comments is easy to prove wrong with a little research.
    • thumb
      Jul 11 2011: Shawn, yes a LFTR is a breeder reactor, but it operates in the thermal part of the spectrum so it breeds slower and is more stable than fast plutonium breeders. In Kirk Sorensen's longer talks he covers this very well. He may have shown an illustration of it in his TEDx talk but can't remember.

      http://www.tpub.com/content/doe/h1019v1/css/h1019v1_138.htm
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor#Types_of_breeder_reactors
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor#The_thermal_breeder_reactor

      All commercial reactors breed fuel, but they have low (though still significant) breeding ratios.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor#Breeding_ratio

      By the way, there is nothing impractical about making a bomb from U-233 using modern robotic techniques. There are just easier routes to go if with current tech if you want to do it. Kirk's argument has nuances that are often lost in short heavily edited talks posted on youtube. Using thorium was the hardest path of the 3 choices they had on the Manhatten project to attempt to make a bomb so obviously they chose the other routes, the plutonium implosion device being the most stable if could be proved to work (Trinity). The point is that LFTR is a breeder reactor and could be designed to make plenty of U-233 for a bomb. This is why you want to design LFTR's technology with antiproliferation in mind, built into the design. It can be done. Making attempts for example to siphon off material for a bomb easily detectable (it would immediately cause the reactor to shutdown for example because one is operating in a correctly designed reactor just at criticality). One should also keep in mind that no civilian reactor of any kind has ever been used to make bombs. It's a very lousy way to go. Stealing the material from a civilian reactor is also a really lousy way to go.

      It's important to read this rebuttal to critics to understand the nuances,
      http://energyfromthorium.com/ieer-rebuttal/

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.