Fission Fans Should Unite – Target Of Interest Is Fossil Fuel Market Share

I’ve spent a fair amount of time during the past few days trying to convince people who promote only certain types of nuclear fission technologies that they are engaging in the wrong battle. They are failing to recognize that all forms of fission take advantage of the incredible energy density found in atomic nuclei to produce emission free, reliable heat. They do not recognize that fission heat that can compete in the reliable energy market against heat produced by burning fossil fuel.

It is a key enabler of progress for human society to recognize that nuclear fission is the new fire; it is the only available power source capable of reducing the market share and political dominance currently held by fossil fuel suppliers.

Unfortunately, many people who recognize that fission is better than combustion are wasting valuable time and political capital by engaging in internecine battles against other fission technologies. There are those who thing that liquid fueled reactors that convert Th-232 into fissile U-233 are “da bomb”, those who are sure that the Integral Fast Reactor will enable us to achieve the dream of unlimited energy, and those who want to take advantage of 50 years worth of knowledge and physical infrastructure to build improved light water reactors. There are fans of high temperature helium cooled reactors, liquid metal cooled reactors, heavy water cooled reactors, and supercritical CO2 cooled reactors.

For some odd reason, too many of them are not spending enough time looking outward at the 85% of the current energy market that is currently supplied by burning fossil fuel and instead think it is worth their time to argue about which single fission technology will best address the FUD that has been thrown at all nuclear energy development during the past 50 years.

Here are some of the thoughts I have tried to share in several different conversation threads.

The people who stand to lose the most if nuclear succeeds are the people that currently control the world’s coal, oil and natural gas markets. No matter what fission system(s) you like, they will ALWAYS be targets of misinformation generated by people who do not want humans to have access to unlimited supplies of power. (It is hard to dominate markets where there are unlimited alternatives and difficult to extract obscene profits from a commodity industry where supply is always greater than demand.)

Used nuclear fuel is not a waste product worth expenditure of huge sums of money for permanent disposal; it is a potentially valuable resource that should be carefully stored in accessible locations for the use of future generations who will be smarter than we are. If there are certain parts of the byproduct stream that everyone agrees have no utility, the US already has an adequate geologic disposal site in operation to handle them. If that is not good enough, Rip Anderson and his team proved that deep sea disposal is capacious and safe.

The world has too many nuclear weapons; more of them should be converted into fuel for nuclear energy production. That said, there is little utility in forcing nuclear energy development to be saddled with huge additional security-related costs to discourage more countries from having the capability of building weapons.

The important activity is to work to establish conditions that discourage everyone in every country from USING nuclear weapons. Weapons in bunkers may be a significant waste of resources, but at least they do not hurt anyone. In my opinion, most actions promoted under the guise of “non-proliferation” are actually efforts to increase the cost of nuclear energy to make it less competitive so it has less opportunity to capture markets from fossil fuel.

During one of my conversations we brainstormed a few bumper sticker ideas that I thought would be fun to share more widely. As you may be able to tell, the correspondent who was brainstorming with me is one of the people I am trying to gently turn to fighting for fission instead of battling against particular forms of fission.

Here is my favorite of the stickers we developed:

Here is another one that provides the general message I think we should be uniting behind:

And here is one of Mike’s favorites that misses the point that there are three superfuels, not just one.

But it’s all good. I am confident that the passion that infuses people who like only thorium or only integral fast reactors will eventually be converted into a more general support for all types of fission.

Update (9:13 am Aug 26, 2012) Here are some ideas inspired by this post’s comment thread:

How about this one:

This one is supposed to provoke a questioning attitude and some self criticism among antinuclear activists.

And here is one that you can have sent to you from my already existing collection – just use the site contact link to email me and provide your mailing address:

About Rod Adams

73 Responses to “Fission Fans Should Unite – Target Of Interest Is Fossil Fuel Market Share”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Daniel says:

    @ Rod,

    Someone came up with the following:

    Uranium : the Supernova fuel

    I think it is cool. Gets one to think outside the box

    • Daniel says:

      Another one to address fear:

      People fear nuclear power almost as much as they fear nukular power‏

    • Daniel says:

      Another facet dealing with nuclear was brought up by Cal Abel. It deals with elegance and entropy.

      Cal said:

      Nuclear elegance – The act of expending only as much internal energy as is absolutely necessary is fundamental to any motion. We call this elegance.‏

      So we could say :

      Nuclear energy

      High on elegance, low on entropy

      It differentiates us right away against wind and solar.

    • Daniel says:

      Uranium : The gentler, kinder heavy metal‏

      Here is why :
      Carbon dioxide is not the only measure of potential ecological damage with all base load sources of energy. The amount of fuel material that has to be gathered up, transported, processed, burned and then have its remains disposed of as waste is a clear measure of ecological damage. It is also important that uranium, unlike many of the green fuels, is not needed for other vital human purposes, like food, nor does it compete with food or other human necessities for sunshine or nitrogen. It does not require vast land areas needed by biofuels, solar panels or wind farms. All these factors give nuclear a very light “footprint” on the earth.

    • Jeff Walther says:

      On the beach:

      “Have you tried Uranium in your generator?”
      “You know, you’re soaking in it.”

  2. Robert Hargraves says:

    COAL IS A DINOSAUR
    URANIUM IS A STAR

  3. martin burkle says:

    TV ads might be more effective than bumper stickers, but the “new fire” is the right idea.

  4. Daniel says:

    OK. So I’m stretching it a bit but maybe something will come out of this one …

    Uranium is the fuel from creation (creationist)

    Fossil fuels are from evolution

  5. Atomikrabbit says:

    Why C+O2
    When E=MC2?

    • Daniel says:

      Cool ….

      But once someone said on this board that even coal and gas and oil respected the E=MC2 paradigm …

      Then I looked it up and clearly only nuclear can match the speed of light ….

  6. George Carty says:

    Here’s a Greenpeace-bashing bumper sticker I designed.

    NO TO NUCLEAR POWER
    YES TO RENEWABLES GAS

    GREENPEACE (with the “G” of Gazprom): Serving Mother Russia since 1971

    • SteveK9 says:

      If you look at Germany it’s more: No to Nuclear Power, Yes to Brown Coal.

      Germany is boasting about their new 2.2GW Lignite plant.

      • Daniel says:

        Greenpeace has won. Long live the German greens. May they choke.

        And they have the guts to tell the Czech Republic, France and Poland not to build any more nuclear plants or else …

        • Rod Adams says:

          I believe that German Greens are strongly supported by Gazprom and the German coal industry. All efforts to discourage competition simply raises the sales price for the remaining suppliers. Even attacks against new production areas like the Arctic have the end result of higher prices and higher profits from the easier to reach supply areas that are already developed.

          • Daniel says:

            Do not wonder why Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are pushing for nuclear.

            The more nuclear capacity they have, the more gas and oil they can sell to the ‘stupid’ white man …..

            Tell me I am wrong.

        • George Carty says:

          To what extent was left-wing opposition to nuclear energy driven by a desire to protect the jobs of coal miners?

          • Rod Adams says:

            To what extent was the left-wing opposition to nuclear energy driven by funding from the Communist Party that was aimed at both weakening the West and improving sales of the only commodities that the Soviets successfully exported for “hard currency” – oil & gas?

          • George Carty says:

            Sure, except for the fact that not all left-wingers were pro-Soviet…

  7. Daniel says:

    Wind === 40 miles an hour at 60 I crash

    Nuclear ==== 70 times around the globe in the blink of an eye

  8. Eric says:

    Well said, sir.

  9. DV82XL says:

    Great set of tags there Rod, now all we need to do is get them dispersed as widely as possible.

  10. John Chatelle says:

    In our neck of the woods, we see a huge number of lawn signs brought by the anti fracking crowd, the ubiquitous frack with the crcle line through it. http://shaleshock.org/

    It’d be nice if the anti fracking lawn signs could be paired with a nice “NUCLEAR!” lawn sign, or maybe a thought provoking LFTRs, IFRs, SMRs, PWRs instead!

  11. Don Cox says:

    “Uranium was created; Fossil fuels evolved”

    I don’t think that makes much sense scientifically.

    Also, I would be wary of talking about supernovae. This makes people think of enormous explosions, and brings back the image of nuclear = bombs = mass deaths, which we need to dispel.

    I think the first two you show are the best.

    • Daniel says:

      @ Don

      All the uranium we have was created when the planet went supernova. That’s it. No more Will be created.

      Some Will find Its way into the ocean when dissolved from rocks.

      • Daniel says:

        @ Don

        This is not to say that Uranium does not have a lifecycle of its own although its inventory is finite and determined at Supernova time.

        From rocks and soil, it finds its way into streams, rivers and then the ocean.

        From there, and thru movements of the tectonic plates, it is filtered to the core of the planet where it is burnt in a fission like cycle providing heat to the ocean and our echo systems. (some say uranium and thorium burn in a fission down below, some say iron is burning at the center of the earth. The jury is out on this one)

        Then this heat allows the creation of the magnetic field that protects this planet and allows life. (I think the other planets in the solar system do not have a magnetic field but I could be wrong).

        There is science to the fact that the Uranium stock on this planet is finite. But it will last for 5 billion years while the sun will set in 4 billion years. Yet solar energy is deemed renewable. Go figure.

      • Daniel says:

        Of course, Uranium & Plutonium can be ‘created’ thru transmutations and the decay chains of a Thorium or LWR nuclear reactors. But that is besides the point.

      • Don Cox says:

        It wasn’t a planet that went supernova, it was a star of an earlier generation than our Sun.

        The carbon atoms in coal and oil were also created inside previous stars, but not during a brief supernova stage.

        I think that suggested slogan is simply confused, and will mean nothing to non-scientists.

        • Daniel says:

          @ Don

          Find this article here that specifically states the contrary:

          from http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/01/nuclear-options/

          And I quote:

          Of the three slow-neutron fissile nuclei, only 235U is found naturally. The other two have substantially shorter half-lives, so the 233U and 239Pu provided in the initial supernova-generated stock of material for Earth has long since decayed away.

          • Twominds says:

            I think you misunderstand that paragraph. The supernova(s) that provided Earth with all elements beyond iron occured before the formation of our solar system and may have been instrumental, but were long over before Earth had formed. Only heavy stars can go supernova, no planets, not even our sun.

            Link with a short description of supernovas and our solar system:
            Making the solar system

  12. Brian Dyke says:

    “Fissile Not Fossil” is my cheesy line

  13. Daniel says:

    We could also find a way to link nuclear fuel required for reactors to radioactive foods required for the human engine:

    Bananas
    Molasse
    Coconut
    Oranges
    Nuts (Brazil and Pistachio)
    Potatoe
    Beats
    Clams
    Salmon
    Figs
    Chocolate
    Avocado
    etc.

    • James Greenidge says:

      Bingo!!!

      A simple PSA featuring all these “radioactive delacies eaten since caveman days” (show a Geiger counter by people and kids munching them and Juila Child cooking them) would SO grab the headlines! Show folks that there’s nowhere to run and hide from natural radioactivity! That Fukushima was not a “unique” exposure to any rads and that a little won’t crisp ya! Would defang the fearmongers cold!

      I love it!!

      How about a few PSAs, nuclear pro groups??

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

  14. Robert Steinhaus says:

    Fission splinters
    (to fission products)

    Fusion joins
    (producing only non-radioactive helium as its only nuclear waste product)

    Deuterium + Tritium –> Helium-4 + neutron + 17.6 MeV energy

    There is a practical form of nuclear fusion designed by molten salt reactor expert, Dr. Ralph Moir, at Lawrence Livermore National Lab [1] that could be built today with very low technical risk that could produce large practical gigawatt levels of energy from fusion using huge quantities of fuel (deuterium and tritium from dissolved lithium) available in the world’s oceans.

    Burn the sea

    [1] – http://ralphmoir.com/aPacer.htm

    (To clarify, I would like to say that I favor a bit of atomic splintering to achieve a higher level of atomic joining and greater unanimity among nuclear advocates. Fusion works reliably when the initiator is atomic fission, diffuse energy ignition of nuclear fusion does not work nearly as well and will probably not be avaiable in a commercial form in less than 50 years. Fission ignited D-T Fusion is available today and has been repeatedly proven to work by LANL and LLNL Field Test Divisions)

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Robert – what would the financial risk be for a gigawatt scale device based on technology that has only been tried on a lab scale?

      Fusion is hard, fission is easy.

      I challenge your statement about “non-radioactive helium as the only waste product.” Where does the neutron go and what does it activate?

      Used nuclear fuel is not waste, it is a resource.

      • Robert Steinhaus says:

        @Rod,

        Practical and reliable forms of D-T and D-D fusion require nuclear fission for ignition. The style of practical fusion systems designed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the mid-1970s is actually relatively low tech, the only high tech component being the actual Peaceful Nuclear Explosive device itself (which is a sophisticated modern design and a significant departure from conventional nuclear weapons in the US arsenal). PACER peaceful nuclear explosives are designed to cleanly produce the maximum percentage of their energy from fusion (and only between 1 to 3 percent of their energy from the fission primary igniter). LLNL and LANL field test division did far more than “lab scale” tests of the underlying PACER technology (the thermonuclear explosives and the PACER cavity or tunnel) as they repeatedly demonstrated practical and dependable thermonuclear fusion in a long succession of both above ground and underground field tests beginning with the Ivy Mike test in 1952, and then in a succession of over 900 field tests thereafter.

        The final PACER system offered by LLNL was designed by Dr. Moir and was based on molten salts for heat transfer and power generation. In this implementation, conventional steam turbines were planned for conversion of the PACER supplied heat into electricity.
        Deuterium + Tritium –> Helium-4 + Neutrons + Energy

        The nuclear waste of D-T Fusion is only non-radioactive Helium that you can use immediately to fill balloons or Blimps or provide the helium working fluid for high-temp Brayton Cycle turbines.
        With PACER, you can produce 1 GWe for a year from burning 100 kilograms of Deuterium with 150 kilograms of Tritium while producing 200 kilograms of Helium plus 50 kilograms of neutrons.

        PACER is pretty low tech, except for the design of the PACER device itself. The PACER cavity must sustain a pressure wave of about 30 MegaPascals of pressure and a 0.2 meter (8 inch) thick wall of SS316 stainless steel should be able to take the pressure and heat and provide a lifetime in excess of 200,000 PACER shots. A PACER cavity, such as LLNL’s Dr. Ralph Moir designed was 27 meters in radium and 127 meters in length. The total volume of stainless steel required to fabricate this artificial cavity is 4283.36 m^3 of SS316 steel. The density of SS316 steel is about 8000 kilograms per metric ton, so the total mass of stainless steel required to make the PACER cavity is 34291 metric tonnes. Steel vendors in China are willing to supply stainless SS316 for as little as $750 per ton but $1000 per ton may be a more common cost.

        The cost in SS316 stainless steel to build a PACER cavity 27 meters radius x 127 meters long x 0.2 meters thick is $34.3 million dollars.

        The PACER cavity is the main capital cost of a PACER reactor. The PACER device is physically small. Typical LLNL devices of the size and yield (3 kt) PACER device were small enough to fit in an artillery piece gun barrel.
        PACER would use a nearly unmodified MSBR chemical support plant for processing of the blanket salt of the ORNL MSBR (similar to ORNL-3996). The cost for such a chemical separation plant updated to 2012 costs is about $35 million dollars.

        The total cost of the 1 GWe PACER nuclear power plant would be on the order of $470 million dollars, the majority of that cost relating to the conventional steam Rankin cycle turbine-generator used to convert heat into electricity,.

        Fissile Requirements required to start production of energy at this 1 GWe level for PACER, LFTR, LWR, IFR and the cost to provide the fissile startup material-
        IFR – 18000 kilograms (costs $1.8 billion)
        LWR – 5000 kilograms (cost $600 million)
        LFTR – 800 kilograms (costs $24 million)
        PACER – 2.5 kilograms (cost $75 thousand)

        The cost of fissile can be a significant part of the cost of starting up a nuclear reactor. The Russians are the current low cost suppliers of fissile materials at about $30,000 per kilogram HEU.

        (LFTR, PACER, and IFR produce the U-233 (and Tritium) fuel they need to operate as they run, while LWRs do not). A PACER device, beside the fissile for the primary, requires about 2 grams of Tritium and 1 gram of Deuterium.

        Comparative Waste Generation from Electricity Production while producing 1 GWe of electrical energy for 1 year

        Coal Fossil Fuel in a 1GWe Coal Fired Power Plant
        Coal Energy Density: 2.9 x 10^7 J/kg
        Fuel Consumed by 1000-MWe Plant: 7,300,000 kg/day
        2666325 metric tons per year
        Waste Produced:
        19466 metric tons of CO2/day
        7,109,956 metric tons of CO2/year

        Thorium/U-233 Fission in a 1GWe LFTR
        Thorium Fission Fuel Energy Density: 8.2 x 10^13 J/kg
        Fuel Consumed by 1000-MWe Plant: 2.7 kg/day or about 1 metric ton of Th-232 per year
        Waste:
        2.7 kg/day (fission products)
        980 kg (fission products) and about 20 kg (Minor Actinide)/ year

        (Thorium Ignited) D-T Fusion in a 1GWe Fusion Reactor
        D-T Fusion Fuel Energy Density: 3.4 x 10^14 J/kg
        D-T Fusion Fuel Consumed by 1000-MWe Plant: 0.6 kg/day or about 100 kg of Deuterium and 150 kg of Tritium or about 0.25 metric tons of fusion fuel consumed per year
        Waste:
        0.54 kg/day (non-radioactive) He-4
        200 kg of (non-radioactive) He-4 produced per year

        (While non-radioactive helium is the only nuclear waste produced by D-T fusion, a profusion of 14.1 MeV fusion neutrons will activate the materials of a fusion reactor target chamber over time – low neutron activation materials are preferred)
        Source: Per Peterson “Overview of the Science and Technology”

        People may be put off by the fact that practical PACER fusion producing power at a continuous 1GWe level is accomplished using a succession of small controlled explosions of about 3 kilotons every 30 minutes (perhaps like scaled up gasoline explosions in an internal combustion engine) but would permit a much accelerated time table for introduction of a practical form of fusion energy by at least 50 years.
        In an era of worldwide energy scarcity and potential climate related concerns it not worthwhile to carefully evaluate a practical form of nuclear fusion?

        • Robert Steinhaus says:

          @ Rod – Errors in my longish post -
          The density of SS316 steel is about 8000 kilograms per m^3
          and
          the fusion fuel burned in each 3 kt PACER shot is about
          5.7 grams of deuterium
          8.6 grams of tritium

        • John Englert says:

          You call 3 kt small? Johnnie Boy was 0.5 kt. Go check out the hole it left in the ground. Johnnie Boy crater

        • John Chatelle says:

          And in a pinch, they could be used to take out Iranian bunkers and Russian tanks.

          LWR fuel isn’t a credible weapons item, and manufacturing the pin assemblies is only dual use in the deepest stretch of imagination of those with an agenda. That wouldn’t be so with the techniques you just advocated. You’re saying lets make a jillion weapons pits.

        • John ONeill says:

          Wouldn’t the mass of the fission trigger greatly exceed that of the fusion fuel for such a small explosion? Three grams of hydrogen fuel for each shot but at least a few kilos of uranium or plutonium (don’t know how cunning the weapon designers have been). Which brings up a potential failure mode- an accidental excess of hydrogen isotopes close to the trigger, or a natural uranium shell put on it by evil minded persons, would turn your power plant into a mushroom cloud.
          You could probably scale up to a much bigger one and power a whole continent, from somewhere well away from everybody’s back yard, for the same fuel costs. Development would be a lot easier than what’s being tried at Cadarache. But politically it’s a non starter, especially when the pro nuclear power crowd have been trying for years to tell people that power plants have nothing to do with bombs

          • Robert Steinhaus says:

            @John(s) -
            First, I would like to thank you for responding to my earlier comments on practical forms of fusion reactors. When discussing practical fission ignited fusion power plants, most people immediately reject the idea without even really considering it, while you, on the other hand, considered it and provided thoughtful comments.

            Impractical forms of nuclear fusion, that will probably not produce an erg of energy into the grid in the next 50 years, are considered safe and for the last several decades have been funded at levels that have greatly exceed the investment in better practical fission nuclear reactors that could be used to light factories and heat American homes.

            It is interesting that a practical form of nuclear fusion that could be built today that use nuclear fission as an igniter, and work reliably first time every time (as proven by repeated actual demonstration at the Nevada Test Site) are considered too dangerous to even consider. Fission ignited Fusion is real D-T fusion (just like tokomak magnetic confinement D-T fusion or inertial confinement Laser D-T fusion) is just D-T fusion. There is no difference between the type of energy (and nuclear waste) produced by impractical diffuse energy ignited D-T fusion and practical fission ignited D-T fusion except fission ignited D-T fission actually works and has been repeatedly demonstrated to produce huge amounts of practical energy that can be harnessed by very common conventional steam Rankin cycle turbines, and used to produce real power for communities that need power.
            Impractical fusion is considered safe nuclear – sometimes heralded by opponents of nuclear fission, including Arjun Makhijani, President of IEER, and the high profile, media favorite nuclear physicist Dr. Michio Kaku as the ultimate energy source – yet it is all the same D-T fusion that we regularly deployed and tested in very carefully controlled fashion in underground nuclear tests and tunnel shots as part of the nuclear test program.
            It is easier to make Peaceful Nuclear Explosives that produce very high percentages of their outputs (estimate in excess of 99% of their output from fusion for PNE optimized devices) when you build larger devices. Both LLNL and LANL designed PNE based fusion reactors in the mid-1970s, and this included preliminary designs for optimized PNE devices. LLNL’s devices were small, around 3 kt, which is the size of a very small tactical nuclear weapon like the W70-3, which is an ultra-clean enhanced-radiation tactical thermonuclear warhead producing minimal fission products (fallout) and was a regular part of the US nuclear arsenal for over a decade. To make a very small and efficient thermonuclear PNEs requires a very modern and sophisticated fission primary, and the small LLNL preliminary designs were modern designs. LANL’s preliminary PNE devices were larger, closer to 50 kt, but were easier to adapt from existing weapons designs and employ a more conventional fission primary.

            Details of the actual PNE devices is still classified. Both LLNL and LANL designers had confidence that they could design PNEs with optimized characteristics to make economical fission ignited fusion reactors cost effective and practical. We did not go further down the road of producing practical fusion reactors in the mid 1970s, not because the technology would not work, but because people in the Nixon and Carter Administrations were uncomfortable with the concept and macro-scale government budget problems forced a reduction in the number of projects that could be actively pursued.

            Proposal to ensure PNE device safety -
            PNE devices are built in significant numbers in a restricted access robot factory. When completed the PNE devices weight around 50 lbs in a couple of small castings and a bit of sheet metal. The D-T fusion fuel and the subcritical micro-pits for the LLNL devices (and more conventional fission pits for the LANL devices) are added to the PNEs at the fusion power plant in a just in time fashion right before the devices are ignited. No PNE is ever shipped around the country with nuclear fuels inside. If a PNE is somehow stolen when transported from the robot factory to the power plant, all the thief gets for his trouble is a couple of small metal castings and a little sheet metal, nothing of value to a terrorist wanting to make a bomb.

            The heavy stainless steel fusion reactor cavity is buried 100 meters underground and has better hardening and safety from terrorist assault than any existing above ground nuclear reactor. Buried at 100 meters, a fission ignited fusion reactor could sustain a full power vertical direct dive-crash from a fully fueled airliner from a height of 40 thousand feet or alternatively, from a direct nuclear strike by a submarine launched missile on the land surface immediately above the reactor by a conventional 100 kt MIRVed weapon and continue to operate producing reliable electrical power without interruption.

            Fission Ignited Fusion Reactors buried underground and powered by small controlled peaceful nuclear explosives can be designed to be cost effective and safe and produce real power decades before all of the fusion approaches currently being pursued are ready in commercial forms. Fission Ignited Fusion Reactors are complementary technology to conventional and unconventional fission nuclear power plants and can, through use of a 10X profusion of fast 14.1 MeV neutrons, burn up LWR SNF or be used to manufacture high quality fissile fuel (Pu-239 or U-233) from fertile materials.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Robert

            I can think of very few locations where the system that you propose could possibly be constructed and controlled. You say that the PNE’s are transported without any fuel inside, but how do you propose to deliver the required materials – by transporter (like in Star Trek?)

            I am interested in fission power plants that can be acceptably located in the local commercial park or on a site similar to the place chosen for the county landfill or the sewage treatment plant. (Not directly in anyone’s backyard, but certainly not far away and not requiring deep burial (100 meters is a very deep hole for a container the size that you describe.)

            There are many other implications associated with setting up the production lines required to make this anything more than a pilot scale demonstration. Sure, ignited fusion works and works reliably, but I cannot imagine how you would scale it up to provide massive quantities of the 24 x 7 electricity required in every settled part of the US.

  15. Jeff Westbrooks says:

    URANIUM’S
    SO GREEN
    THEY USE IT
    IN GLASS

  16. John Englert says:

    It took a million years to make 100 years coal.

    It took 30 seconds to make 10,000 years of uranium.

    • Daniel says:

      @ John,

      We have enough Uranium to outlast the sun … 5 billion years …

      • John Englert says:

        @Daniel,

        Maybe. But look at the continued growth in energy use. For all we know, some time in the not-to-distant future we may be conducting some version of the LHC experiment that burns through a million years (at today’s energy use rate) of uranium in a few shakes.

  17. Brian Mays says:

    Whatever happened to the classic bumper sticker: “Nuke the whales”?

    After all, prior to 1859, whales were the oil industry. I can easily imagine a 19th-century version of Rod Adams railing against whales and the evil industry that they support.

    The solution (especially on this site)? Nuke ‘em. After all, you’ve gotta nuke something.

  18. Rick Maltese says:

    Here’s the chorus of my pronuclear song

    Support a Nuke
    Support a Nuc Nuc Nuclear
    Support a nuke.
    Please contribute and make it clear.
    We ain’t got nothing more to fear
    Support a Nuke
    You can’t dispute
    The weather patterns don’t compute
    Support a Nuke
    Support a Nuc Nuc Nuclear.

    Click Here to listen and see lyrics and click here to watch the performance at the 4th Thorium Energy Alliance Conference in Chicago care of Gordon McDowell.

  19. Rick Maltese says:

    Choosing fossil fuels
    Makes us colossal fools
    Who follow outdated rules.

    Choosing nuclear fission
    Makes us people of vision
    To make a timely decision.

    Don’t sit on the fence
    Make our energy dense
    A vote that makes sense.

  20. Robert Steinhaus says:

    @Rod, (from earlier thread)
    A power plant based on producing fusion energy from peaceful nuclear explosives is exceptionally safe from the standpoint of shipment of nuclear materials. Unlike other power reactor concepts, like perhaps a 1 GWe Sodium Cooled IFR, which requires approximately 18,000 kilograms of fissile (probably Pu-239) to be shipped to the location of the reactor to start up, a practical Peaceful Nuclear Explosives Fusion Power Plant (PNE PP) only requires a very tiny amount of fissile to form the primary to ignite the first PNE (<10 kilograms worst case for LANL PNE and significantly less for the smaller LLNL PNE design) to begin operation of the fusion PNE PP at the same 1GWe power level. The initial fission charge to start the PNE fusion power plant need only be supplied one time (at the start). From that point on, the PNE fusion power plant sustainably breeds, shot to shot, the fissile it needs to make the next and succeeding shots from neutron exposure of fertile material (Thorium or U-238) in fission suppressed molten salt breeding blankets inside the PNE power plant cavity. The profusion and high fluence of 14.1 MeV neutrons from D-T fusion allows the PNE PP to sustainably breed all of the fissile and fusion fuels it needs to operate as long as you are willing to feed ultra-cheap unenriched fertile u-238 or Thorium and Lithium to make Tritium into the fission suppressed molten salt breeding blankets inside the power plant cavity. A small molten salt chemical support plant, integral to the PNE PP, processes the salt from the breeding blanket, removing bred fissile and accumulated fission products produced from the fission primaries, and sustainably manufactures new pits for following shots. After the very first PNE PP shot, no fissile material is transported either into or out of the PNE PP. All sensitive materials are reliably retained inside the PNE PP; nothing escapes into the environment or the world from an operating fusion PNE PP.

    To sustainably operate a fusion PNE PP, you need to supply only a small feed of fertile material (like U-238 or Th-232) and a supply Deuterium and Lithium (to insitu manufacture Tritium) separated from sea water. The only materials that have to be removed from the fusion PNE PP are non-radioactive helium and a small amount of fission products (less than one hundredth the quantity produced by the most efficient form of fission reactor – like an IFR or a Molten Salt Reactor / LFTR while generating the same 1 GWe power output as the fusion PNE PP).

    The fusion PNE PP cavity (27 meters dia. X 127 meters long) or about the size of an NFL football field with end zones oriented vertically in the ground at a depth of 100 meters, is large but not large or deep by Nevada Field Test Standards. At NTS tunnel shots were successfully staged in hook shaped tunnels that were over ¼ of a mile long with a large enough tunnel opening to drive a large military vehicle (tank) into (Ledoux nuclear test). Underground nuclear shots were conducted at NTS at depths in excess of 6000 ft., although this is much deeper than a typical underground shot, which might have a depth closer to 600 feet (200 meters). The 5 megaton yield Cannikin Test shot: detonated Nov. 6, 1971 was performed in a shaft 1,791 meters deep, but this shot did not take place at NTS.

    A buried fusion PNE PP with a reliable source of water cooling for the buried Rankin steam plant allows the surface above the plant to be undisturbed and used for any purpose desired, including unspoiled scenic beauty. Some fusion PNE PPs could have the turbine hall and some support structures on the surface to achieve lower cost and easier maintenance, but the surface footprint of fusion PNE PPs would be small compared to conventional LWRs of similar output.

    The LLNL mechanical engineering for the fusion PNE PP cavity included internal and external shock adsorbing features such that, when buried at a depth of 100 meters, PNE shots would be undetectable on the surface for LLNL 3 kt PNEs and only mild, moderate, low level shocks for the LANL 50 kt PNEs. Fusion PNE PPs could be integrated into the planning of cities without requiring locating them 100s of miles away from the cities they provide power for. Buried at 100 meters depth, Fusion PNE PPs could be decommissioned relatively easily by cementing in the surface access entries and living the cavity buried in place, avoiding expense and hazards associated with digging up and cutting into small pieces the neutron activated materials of the stainless steel PNE PP cavity.

    • DV82XL says:

      Robert – This is one of those situations when being right is dead wrong. From a PR standpoint just discussing this idea is dangerous and has the potential to do far more damage than good: it will only provide the enemies of nuclear more ammunition and will not convert enough other people to offset this.

      Nuclear advocates keep shooting themselves in the foot because they are laboring under the conceit that just because they can be swayed by facts and reason, the general public can be too. That is not to say the public is stupid, they are not, but what they are is conservative. Most of them understand that they don’t know much about subjects like nuclear, so their best strategy is to be cautious, and talk of “peaceful nuclear explosives,” no matter how technically justified, is not going to be seen as a good idea.

      Therefore I am afraid this is concept that is dead – stillborn, as it were – and should stay that way for the foreseeable future.

      • Joel Riddle says:

        It could be a great backstop technology for the future for our grandchildren/their grandchildren (who we hope can improve on the level of knowledge that we have so far attained), if economical fissile resources start to become really tough to come by.

      • Joel Riddle says:

        Thus, all technical data on the PACER concept should be securely and safely maintained within the U.S. government’s files.

  21. Robert Steinhaus says:

    @DV82XL – We live in a world of energy scarcity, where in excess of 2 billion of the world’s inhabitants have not access to electricity.

    When millions of well-meaning and technically informed people wake up each morning with the underlying belief that fusion might someday be a good idea, and is probably worth putting some money into to gradually develop, it is worthwhile to remind them that a practical system to produce large significant GWe amounts of power from fusion was developed at two major DOE laboratories but was abandoned for non-technical reasons.

    You do not have change without making changes. You do not get cost effective and practical forms of fusion off the sidelines by not talking about them.

    Enough work was done with fusion PNE power plants at LANL and LLNL and the Nevada Test Site to eliminate all doubt that a very low technical risk and safe practical approach to nuclear fusion is available which would permit commercial production of fusion energy in less than 3 years. A fusion PNE PP would reliably operate underground while releasing no radiation into the outside environment and only produce non-radioactive helium gas (and tiny amounts of thoroughly burned fission products from the PNE fission igniters).

    There is no energy system that would be a more effective nuclear bootstrap technology, with a lower capital cost of construction while having the smallest startup fissile requirements to generate power at a given commercial level, than fusion PNE power plants. Use of the planet’s fissile resources to ignite fusion PNE devices would get the most benefit from the large but limited worldwide fissile resource. A fusion PNE-PP that produces only ~1% of its energy from fission and over 99% of its energy from abundant fusion fuels derived from sea water is a millennia long sustainable form of nuclear power generation that forms the technical basis for a new better age for humanity.

    In its 1970s and 1980s National Lab implementations, fusion PNE-PP was called PACER Fusion.

    PACER, PACER
    burning bright

    in a realm of endless night

    what budget director’s funding plight
    dethroned your fearful majesty.

    • DV82XL says:

      Some of the most disheartening debates I have had on the subject of nuclear advocacy have been with supporters that cannot grasp the fact that the job at hand is not one of nuclear engineering, but rather social engineering. It simply does not matter what technical arguments are made, or how well they are presented, or how correct they are, if they do not take into account human factors, they are simply – for all practical purposes – irrelevant. Because in the end, like it or not, public opinion will matter enough to determine if an idea goes forward or fails. We may not like this, we may hold the masses in high contempt for being so stupid, but regardless their concerns must be addressed, and unfortunately this will never be done by raw logic.

      You can rail all you want, you can muster as many facts as you like in support of this notion and in the end it will never come about because not enough people will support the idea of “peaceful nuclear explosives,” in the foreseeable future. However we do have on hand many well-proven nuclear power technologies that can be sold to the public right now, and our best strategy is to throw our collective weigh behind them, and not those that will likely provide more fuel for nuclear energy’s detractors.

      It is a simple matter of realpolitik.

      • Robert Steinhaus says:

        @DV82XL – Some fuels are most efficiently exploited by using them to create many small controlled explosions. Deuterium-Tritium (to produce thermonuclear fusion) may be one of those fuels.

        At the dawn of the modern transportation era, there was a controversy between people that favored putting internal combustion engines based on burning gasoline via thousands of controlled explosions into horseless carriages or to instead use steam vehicles, like the Stanly Steamer, that burned gasoline (and other fuels) to burn externally and heat water to produce steam.
        When properly engineered, with adequate thickness blocks and heads, explosive internal combustion of gasoline is safe, and in fact the most efficient way of extracting the energy out of gasoline than burning it externally to produce steam.

        Peaceful Nuclear Explosive Power Plants (PNE-PP) also produce multiple safe. explosions of very well know and consistent size that are repeatedly ignited in a carefully engineered underground mounted 9” thick stainless steel enclosure that conservatively can sustain something in excess of 200,000 shots or about 30 years of commercial operation (and maybe actually much longer – no moving parts – very conservative pressure ratings – no corrosion).

        I admit that there is a public perception problem to be overcome with PNE-PP fusion power. To start with, I am satisfied to first work on the perception issue that holds that fusion is impractical (which it is not) and is always at least 50 years away. The National Labs developed a reliable form of fusion which they demonstrated in the Ivy Mike nuclear test in 1952, fully four+ years before the first commercial nuclear power reactor, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, went online. In over 900 test shots at the Nevada Test Site and additional hundreds of nuclear tests in the Pacific Test Range and in Alaska, LANL and LLNL field test divisions proved they could reliably, on demand, produce thermonuclear fusion with great consistency. Fission ignited fusion is real, reliable, and within a conservatively engineered enclosure is safe, and should be used to make America energy secure and free of dependency on foreign supplied oil and uranium fuel.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Robert – your premise is faulty. We do not live in a world of energy scarcity. We live in a world of perceived energy scarcity. Fusion fans have been banking on that false perception almost as consistently as hydrocarbon salesmen. Our energy issues were essentially solved with the development of the breeder / high converter fission power plant.

  22. Robert Steinhaus says:

    @Rod – Until someone builds the thousands of breeder/high converter fission power plants to supply electricity to the two billion people who do not have access to electricity, we effectively have a world of energy scarcity (and poverty brought on by lack of access to energy).

    If a horticultural scientist develops higher yield and more productive and disease resistant plant seeds, but no one plants them, then you still end up with a world that suffers 100s of millions of starvation deaths.

    We should use the resources available to us, including our knowledge of nuclear engineering and technology, to build the significant number of power plants that will lift mankind out of misery and chronic, energy access induced poverty. The choice of the particular nuclear technology (IFR, SFR, LFTR, or PNE-PP fusion) is less significant than the step of selecting one (or better several) of these technologies and building them. Responsible experts predict that an additional 3 billion people will come to share the planet with us by 2050. The majority of these additional people are located in areas that already have no regular access to electricity.

    Professor Richard Smalley – The Terawatt Challenge
    http://bit.ly/aglriT

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Robert – we do not need the breeders/high conversion reactors yet. There is plenty of uranium and thorium available to last for several centuries even without strenuous efforts to recycle it.

      The systems you have described are wildly inappropriate for developing nations – do you want them to dig 100 meter deep holes and fill them with expensive stainless steel vessels? What is the typical power output of a PACER system? How big of a grid infrastructure is required to distribute the power out? Do such systems exist in developing nations?

      Where in the crowded, developed world would you expect to locate the systems? It is not the disruption of the operation, but the construction that concerns me.

      I know there is something very difficult about admitting that your professional efforts for a career might have been spent chasing a chimera, but I think your proposed system is unneeded and unrealistic. As far as I can tell, the only reason the research was ever funded was to ensure that the funds did not get spent for something more useful – like enabling fission systems to prosper and take market share from coal, oil and gas.

  23. Robert Steinhaus says:

    @Rod
    Peaceful Nuclear Explosive Fusion Power Plants (PNE-PP) would be excellent candidates for small developing nations wanting to join the company of established industrial nations and begin enjoying a measure of the prosperity found in countries in which access to energy is commonplace. No other energy system, nuclear or non-nuclear, delivers greater “bang for the buck” and is less costly or requires less in the way of material (cement and steel) including specialized nuclear material (fissile) resources than PNE-PP power plants.

    If you are a small country, and have nothing, and no one in the world is inclined to really help you, then PNE-PP is a cost effective technology wedge into a better future. PNE-PP is all basic or “low tech” power generation except for the design of the PNE itself, which is a modern and advanced, but simple and cost effective, new nuclear design. In the mid-1960s, as part of Project Plowshare, the AEC offered to US industry a basic 50 kt peaceful nuclear explosive device intended for nuclear excavation, natural gas well development, etc. for a cost of $50,000 dollars. Modern PNE devices would be much smaller, be lighter, and use less material (including much less fissile), and be (typically) around 50 lbs. in weight and 9″ dia. x 38″ long in physical size. For PNE-PP to compete with coal and conventional nuclear in cost of electricity, the cost of the PNE-PP resulting from factory manufacture should be less than ~$2000 per device. A PNE-PP is a minimalist device and contains no computers, electronics, displays, or external controls (just basic castings and sheet metal to hold the nuclear fuels in the right orientation and geometry). The small LLNL version of PNE may require a commercial laser to sit on the surface above the PACER cavity which would be used to ultra-compress and ignite the fission primary, which would achieve very high efficiency approaching 50% (50% of the fissile atoms of the primary igniter fission while producing the conditions required to produce D-T thermonuclear fusion), The laser would be shock isolated and not be consumed in a PACER shot.

    For a small developing nation, PNE-PP has the lowest entry cost to GWe levels of power generation. PNE-PP requires the least amount of cement and steel of any comparable sized power generation system. PNE-PP requires less fissile to begin power generation at the 1GWe level than any other power generation system. PNE-PP uses off the shelf steam Rankin cycle turbine-generator technology (although it could use advanced Brayton Cycle turbines when they become available).
    PNE-PP provides nuclear fuel security for a developing nation. It is not necessary to develop internal advanced enrichment plants to assure nuclear fuel security. Using Thorium Fuel Cycle and economical uranium separation technology developed in the Molten Salt Reactor efforts at ORNL, PNE-PP power plants can use the high fluence of fusion neutrons produced from PNEs to breed all of the U-233 fissile they need to operate sustainably when only fed “dirt cheap” unenriched Thorium into their molten salt fission suppressed breeding blankets. Tritium bred from lithium can also be generated in blankets inside the PACER cavity. Deuterium can be obtained from sea water.

    A PNE-PP power plant can not only produce the fissile fuel it needs to make future shots, but, if desired, can produce a very significant amount of fissile fuel to start fission reactors like Thorium LFTRs or LWRs. Because of the neutronicity of D-T fusion and the large profusion and high fluence of 14.1 fusion neutrons produced by a PNE-PP, no nuclear system currently in existence could outperform a PNE-PP of a given size in rapidly producing the nuclear fissile fuel needed to start new fission reactors. PNE-PP would outperform accelerator based systems, IFR, and LFTRs in producing nuclear startup charges for new reactor by a factor of about 10X. A 1 GWe molten salt fast breeder reactor such as is described in document ORNL-3996, optimized to breed U-233 from Thorium, has the capacity to breed about 73 kilograms of fissile U-233 per year. A 1 GWe PNE-PP operating in the fusion enhanced Thorium Fuel Cycle can produce slightly over 20 tons (20,000 kilograms) of U-233 a year [1]. It requires about 800 kilograms of U-233 to start up a 1 GWe LFTR so a single PNE-PP could not only supply the fissile required to keep itself operating but, if desired, could produce the fissile needed to start twenty-five 1 GWe LFTRs a year.

    It is difficult to locate cranes large enough to handle lowering a 27m dia. x 127m long stainless steel hollow cylinder into position 100 meters below the earth’s surface. It is possible to use a technology called sand hydraulics to safely lower the large stainless steel PACER cavity into position (Note: Not all pharaohs were buried in pyramids. Sand hydraulics was used by some pharaohs thousands of years ago to lower a heavy stone royal sarcophagus down into a deep underground burial crypt in an effort to combat grave robbers and thieves).
    The best place to put a PNE-PP is on the outskirts of a large city in a developing nation. Pacing the PNE-PP on the city outskirts requires the least infrastructure (copper) be provided to supply power to the greatest number. Being mounted 100 meters underground, a PNE-PP would be out of site and would have the absolute minimum footprint as a power plant; the surface above the PNE-PP could be used for any purpose in the case of the small LLNL PNE.

    My professional career efforts were not spent chasing chimera as I feel gratified in the efforts of LLNL and LANL Field Test Divisions and respect the role they played in helping build the nuclear arsenal that continues to defend the West with the help of the US military (including many very able and dedicated naval submariners) who have kept the peace for 60 years.

    I confess that I am disappointed that so many good nuclear technology projects like PNE-PP and Molten Salt Reactors were dropped and shelved during the 30 years it was my privilege to work at LLNL and Sandia National Labs. From 1970 on, pursuit of the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor and the follow-on Integral Fast Reactor and Current Gen-4 SFR dominated DOE spending on practical fission nuclear while Laser and Magnetic Fusion (diffuse energy ignited) dominated fusion R&D spending. So far the American energy consumer has very little to show in the way of commercial technology for all the significant spending and often brilliant DOE nuclear R&D of the last 4 decades (not a single sodium cooled fast reactor currently operates in the United States after 40 years and in excess of 20 billion dollars of DOE research poured into this technology and not an erg of commercial power has been produced from any DOE fusion experiment after 50 years of consistent dedicated effort into diffuse energy ignited fusion).

    The National Labs did develop practical energy systems, like nuclear fission ignited PNE-PP fusion power plants that could supply real GWe scale power at low cost and with very small additional development and almost no technical risk. Because of budget consolidation rather than any technical problem, PNE-PP PACER Fusion and Molten Salt Reactors; both very practical energy generation approaches, were shelved and put on the back burner. Today, hardly anyone in the public even distantly remembers them.

    [1] – Calculation by Dr. Walter Seifritz who is professor for reactor technology at the Swiss Federal Institute for Reactor Research in Würenlingen, Switzerland. I scaled the computation Dr. Seifritz provides in his article “Hacer: A Grand Design for Fusion Power in This Century” for a power level of 1 GWe.

    Note: The fuel to produce D-T fusion is cheap, accessible to all nations, and is almost inexhaustible. In addition to this, only a tiny amount of fuel is required: operating a D-T PNE-PP fusion commercial power station of 1GW(e) power output for a year requires only 250 kg of deuterium tritium fuel.
    It requires about 250,000 kilograms of natural uranium to produce the enriched fuel needed to produce the same 1GW-year of energy in a LWR. Similarly, it would require 1000 kilograms of Thorium in a LFTR to produce the same 1GW-year of energy.

    The total lithium content of seawater is very large and is estimated as 230 billion metric tonnes, while the quantity of deuterium in the world’s oceans is estimated at 4.6 x 1013 metric tonnes. The stoichiometric ratio of Deuterium to Tritium required to produce D-T fusion is 2 to 3 by weight.

  24. Bill Hannahan says:

    Robert, thanks for some fascinating information. Never be reluctant to tell the truth, Galileo set the example.

    The only problem with your recommendation is the failure of our education system to give people an accurate realistic understanding of how the universe works; over 40% of Americans still believe in creation theory.

    Perhaps a better educated nation will develop this technology, then we can buy it from them.

    I expect Iran to announce a PNE program any day now. Even Rod supports their right to have peaceful nuclear power.

  25. Robert Steinhaus says:

    Bill, Thanks for your kind comment.
    I believe that a practical fusion reactor like PNE-PP is complementary supporting technology to conventional fission nuclear.
    Neutron rich PNE-PP can help eliminate perceived problems for conventional fission nuclear like the disposition of accumulated LWR “waste” (the reality is, of course, that SNF is a resource and not waste and should be treated as fuel for future reactors that will burn it).
    PNE-PP is also very effective at manufacturing fissile fuel from fertile material sources (Th-232 and U-238) if that is ever desired. PNE-PP would be valuable in generating start-up charges for a large numbers of new LFTR Thorium Reactors and allow the newly started LFTR to operate in their natural Thorium Fuel Cycle instead of having to be started on U-235 or perhaps for a epi-thermal LFTR on Pu-239 and then transitioned over to U-233 slowly after the passage of a couple of decades. Starting on U-233 would reduce the complexity and cost of a LFTR recycling chemical plant.

    Thanks again for your fine comment –
    (I am a fan and admirer of your very informative web page which focuses on LFTR/Thorium technology and applications).

    • DWBD says:

      Great info on PNE-PP. Sounds to me it would be most useful to launch large loads into Earth Orbit, like from somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. How effective would that be for interplanetary spacecraft, what would you use for reaction mass?

    • Nathan Wilson says:

      Robert, I’m afraid that I agree with DV82XL. The problem with nuclear power today is not lack of uranium ore or lack of neutrons or lack of U233, it’s lack of public support, base largely on fear of nuclear explosions, and a high tolerance for dirty fossil fuels.

      So like Rob says, let’s sell fission first.

  26. Bill Hannahan says:

    Thanks Robert. I do not have a web page. You may be thinking of Jim Holm’s excellent site;

    http://www.coal2nuclear.com/

    he graciously hosts my energy paper.

    http://www.coal2nuclear.com/energy_facts.htm

  27. Robert Steinhaus says:

    @Bill – You are right! I mistakenly thought it was your website.
    I think your paper is excellent and work you should be proud of.
    Best wishes!

  28. David LeBlanc says:

    Great article Rod. I try, but could try harder,, to make my advocacy of MSR technology a fight for fission in general.

    David LeBlanc

  29. Nathan Wilson says:

    In a You-tube video I saw recently, an attendee at a thorium conference exclaimed, “…it sounds too good to be true”. That person apparently didn’t have much appreciation for how good light water reactors already are, especially compared to the alternative (renewables with fossil fuel backup).

    With that said, it’s important to have a road map to show where we are headed. I worked for years in the disk drive industry. Every new disc drive is guaranteed to be obsoleted by a newer modern that’s released just a year later. So talking about the future road map is an important part of the industry culture, and does not at all discourage customers from buying products available today.

    Light water reactors are great, but they are not perfect. So I think it does make sense to talk about the future road map. Otherwise, how would new kids know that light water reactors are not the only way to harness nuclear power, that other reactors type can make nuclear power inexhaustible, that nuclear power can make synthetic transportation fuel, that high temperature reactors can provide the cheap energy storage needed for a renewable-rich (renewable-plagued?) grid?

Leave A Comment...

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>





Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.