Thorium Energy Alliance Conference - 2014


  1. It’s a great idea but Thorium reactors will only start to be credible when utilities start asking for and building them.

    1. That is not factoring in the NRC or is it ?

      Thorium reactors will be built in India first where there is a political will to do so. Same with any other new design. It will not happen in the US.

      Will Clinton, Gore and Kerry live old enough to be anathematized for what they did ? I hope so.

    2. @Mitch

      How can utilities ask for something that does not exist? They are not in the business of research and development; they can only order what other companies have invented and developed to the point where it can be licensed and then built.

      1. Certainly Thorium Energy Alliance Conference 6 will be a better conference if Rod Adams is one of the presenters. True Thorium advocates value Rod’s perspectives and his sustained, dedicated support of fission nuclear and would delighted if Rod is able to attend and speak at the Conference.

        It should be remembered that there is a solid fuel Thorium Technology that is a lot closer to commercial maturity than excellent (but still immature) molten salt Thorium technology.

        Solid Fuel Thorium Innovator Lightbridge Corporation has worked to bring to commercial reality a solid fuel Thorium technology based to considerable extent on work by Alvin Radkowsky who was a reactor designer, nuclear physicist, and chief scientist at U.S. Navy nuclear propulsion division. Lightbridge Corporation has designs for Thorium containing fuels in solid fuel rods for use in most existing Light Water Reactors. Lightbridge has nearly a decade of investment in regulatory effort to qualify Thorium fuel for commercial use in the US. Lightbridge fuel technology stands a good chance of being the first Thorium technology that becomes commercial.

        Thorium in LWRs and the UAE –
        In 2010 the United Arab Emirates contracted with Seth Grae, CEO of Lightbridge, and requested S6.4 million in consulting services to study Thorium and to produce a plan for longer term nuclear development in the UAE.
        UAE could become tile first country to build its commercial nuclear power industry around thorium—although for the moment UAE officials consider that a long-term solution.

        Note: I attended the first Thorium TEAC 1 Conference along with Rod – (he was there and present and helped to remind all Thorium zealots present that all Thorium reactors are actually Uranium reactors that happen to burn a slightly different Uranium isotope – U233)

          1. @Manic

            The possibility that excited the initial developer of the idea – Alvin Radkowsky, who was one of Admiral Rickover’s reactor core designers – was the Light Water Breeder Reactor.


            One advantage that thorium has over uranium is that the Th-232-U-233 system provides enough excess thermal neutrons to enable breeding in a water cooled reactor. That means that the system uses all of the knowledge and industrial infrastructure of the existing nuclear power industry yet produces far more energy per unit of mined fuel.

            Since low enriched uranium oxide fuel is cheap today, many nuclear plant owners don’t see much advantage over solving that particular issue. However, that does not mean that uranium will always be as cheap and as readily available as it happens to be today.

          2. Rod, the real advantage for the utilities would be increase in the lifetime of a core so that the refueling period would extend greatly from the current 18 months. This would increase the value of each reactor greatly since it could produce revenue longer. I understand this is a very expensive process that they practice for nearly a year to make it as short as possible. A longer lived core would reduce that whole expense while generating income.

            1. @David

              Much of the expense and practice for outages goes into the conduct of required maintenance that has little or nothing to do with the fuel shuffling operation.

              However, there is something to be said for longer lived cores that do not require additional fissile loading.

          3. I thought that the solid fuel rod’s cladding starts to have issues if it is in-core much longer than it currently is (about 6 years, IIRC). Would advances in fuel rod cladding be needed in order for the fuel to be in-core for a significantly longer time??

        1. With all due respect, Lightbridge’s “decade of investment in regulatory effort” appears to be a bit of an overstatement. There is a record of precisely one meeting between Lightbridge and the NRC, in 2010, to discuss Lightbridge’s fuel development efforts, focusing primarily on qualification of its uranium metal fuel (though there was some discussion of thorium fuel development); there is an explicit disclaimer in the meeting announcement to the effect that Lightbridge was not (at the time) planning to submit anything to the NRC. There’s no indication, in fact, that Lightbridge has ever submitted anything, related to either the U-metal or Th/U-233 fuel. (There may be earlier meetings, under a different company name, since “Lightbridge” was adopted just a few years ago. I didn’t check. However, the salient point is that there has been no (apparent) interaction between Lightbridge and the NRC since 2010.)

          As far as thorium fuel for reactors is concerned, let’s keep in mind that it’s not only a matter of developing reactors that can effectively utilize the Th-232/U-233 fuel cycle; it’s also a matter of developing the INFRASTRUCTURE to support the use of Th-232/U-233, including (but not limited to) facilties that can fabricate Th-232-based fuel and facilities that can reprocess the discharged fuel to recover the U-233. The challenges (and, most likely, the costs) involved with developing that infrastructure are (in my humble opinion) at least as great–if not greater–than those associated with development of the reactor technology.

          I wish my friends in the thorium business good luck, but I think it will be a VERY long time before we see any commercial use of thorium-based fuel in the U.S.

          1. @Old Nuke

            Like many small efforts, Lightbridge might have taken the course of setting up the initial “free” meeting with the NRC, scoped the information they would need to provide, and decided to spend their money developing the information instead of frittering it away on meetings that cost $272 per staff hour.

            I don’t have first hand knowledge, but I have talked to people who were with Lightbridge that described an extensive physical irradiation program in Russian reactors. Those programs are time consuming and difficult to accelerate.

    3. Why not carry out nuclear research on board a big ship in international waters, out of reach of fossil-fuel-money-bought-and-paid-for regulatory agencies?

  2. When I see Kerry peddling US nuclear services and technologies on his many world tours, it makes me see what politicians are all about.

    Doesn’t he have any remorse ? How can he keep a straight face ?

  3. “They are not in the business of research and development;”

    Utilities do research through EPRI. Thorium reactors look to be too big a bite for them to swallow.

    I think some of that DOE research on clean coal ought to be rerouted to Thorium research. There are many reasons to research Thorium reactors. The availability of the stuff is reason enough.

  4. Responding to Rod’s questions:

    – I did not check under “Thorium Power,” but it would be easy enough to do so in ADAMS.

    – It is certainly possible that Lightbridge decided to spend its money on activities other than meeting with the NRC, but that’s a step that’s going to have to be taken when and if the decision is made to try to commercialize the technology in the US, and Lightbridge is either going to have to bite the bullet and come up with the funds, or develop some sort of creative financing solution. I am aware of Lightbridge’s efforts in Russia (in a broad sense, not in detail); the only comment that I will make is that if the data being developed in that program are going to be used to qualify the fuel in the US, I hope the Russians’ quality assurance program can meet the NRC’s standards. (However, as I indicated, the meeting notice for the 2010 meeting indicated that the only fuel qualification efforts being discussed were for Lightbridge’s uranium metal alloy fuel, not for the thorium-based fuel.)

    One last comment: for those who think that developing a Th-based infrastructure will be relatively easy (or cheap), take a look at 10 CFR Part 20, Appendix B. What you will find is that the allowable air effluent concentration for Th-232 is an order of magnitude MORE restrictive than that for Pu-239. Same thing for the inhalation DAC for occupational exposure. I don’t know if there’s a technical basis for those values, but at those levels, a Th-232 processing/fabrication facility would be extremely expensive just because of the measures needed to meet the limits. It might be possible to get the NRC to amend the values–but (I think) the industry would have to provide a sound technical basis for making such a change. Such are the practical considerations when it comes to moving from “on-paper” facilities to real, engineered ones.

    1. The Lightbridge site is light on technical details, but I am certain that they do not intend to reprocess spent fuel or manufacture fuel using U-233.  I suspect that their value proposition is largely from the use of thorium in lieu of burnable poison in conjunction with LEU.  The Th-232 would also cut reactivity, but it would contribute new fissiles from neutron captures instead of merely burning off as it goes.  The resulting slower decrease in reactivity allows more energy produduction before the fuel must be replaced.  This is why they’re touting 24-month fueling cycles.

      Generating substantial amounts of new fissiles allows the initial enrichment of the natural uranium component to be lower, saving money.

      That’s my best guess.  If anyone has firm info, I’d be fascinated.

  5. As an early member of the “LFTR community” I remain excited about the possibilities. It is “possibilities” that distinguish us from other species and to see a thorium driven economy has provided me with a lot of essays.

    The big problem among my fellow LFTR advocates is the tendency to counterpoise issues with the the current, and future, fleet of LWRs with that of LFTR by basically “putting down” LWR development and deployment. This has increased in recent year and has done thorium development no good at all.

    The issue with bringing any Gen IV reactor to fruition is basically a political one, not a technological one. The technology challenges are there (high temperature metellurgy, flouridation of the fuel stream, actual commerical grade closed cycle Brayton gas turbines etc) but they can met. The real issue is the overall issue of nuclear energy. LFTR advocates often add to the general anti-nuclear discourse by arguing how bad LWRs are and why we should go to thorium based ones.

    This has been false from day one and needs to be opposed. The success of LFTR and all Gen IV reactor development is wholly dependent on the success of the Gen III deployment currently going on in the U.S., China, S. Korea, France and Finland We cannot separate publicly derived nuclear policy into “anti-LWR” and “Pro-Gen IV”. It’s won’t happen nor should it. We need to triple and quadruple Gen III deployment to prove that these new reactors are safe, can be brought in on schedule and at budget or there will be no pro-LFTR/Gen IV development and thus no Thorium Economy toward the middle and end of this centurey.

    Vent finished,

    David Walters

  6. “…Gen IV reactor development is wholly dependent on the success of the Gen III deployment currently going on in the U.S., China, S. Korea, France and Finland ”

    Now thats hilarious. Since the Gen III “success” is based on cost reduction by stripping out safety systems and human operators, and the usual LWR ponzi of just forgeting about the waste and sustainability of sourcing fuel issues altogether…its hardly more than wishful thinking. .

    “…fellow LFTR advocates ”

    Looks they are disappearing one by one. Easy prediction: will go off the air within the next 2 years.

    “…general anti-nuclear discourse by arguing how bad LWRs are ”

    Westinghouse gave away the crown jewels on LWR’s to China. There is no choice but to be anti-LWR now if you are an aspiring vendor of reactors.

    Old_Nuke is obsolete, get it?

  7. “Looks they are disappearing one by one. Easy prediction: will go off the air within the next 2 years.”

    Have some faith, Mr. Starvington. The obstacles to the LFTR may not be so much of the laws of nature, but the rules of man and men’s willingness to pursue this goal.

    “take a look at 10 CFR Part 20, Appendix B” This is a rule. Rules are meant to be broken and / or changed.

    I see the path to the LFTR as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. This path needs to be guided by a few men with dogged determinism. These men have to have vision. They realize that it is not a single step from the laboratory to production. As old nuke said, it will take hard work. Most everything worthwhile does.

    The LFTR problem reminds me of a statement I saw on the California state capital a few years back, “Give Me Men to Match Your Mountains.” The LFTR just needs some of those men.

  8. Rather than argue these esoteric points, you should all read, Martin Shapiro’s 2039, a new novel that has the world racing to develop the thorium power plant 25 years from now! Uranium has become scarce and expensive, the major coal burning countries are choking the atmosphere for everyone and global warming is encroaching on the shores. China, after subduing the extremist Mideast Arabs as their now largest customer for hydrocarbon energy (since the US is now energy independent with its shale gas and has abandoned the Mideast [including Israel]) is threatening to take over the world by offering thorium based nuclear energy for LEASE, paid for on a royalty basis per mkw generated.

    The source of a nation’s wealth is its energy. You are wealthy if you have it and poor if you don’t. If China owns the generation plants and can adjust its royalty charge at will, it will OWN the economy of the nations who cooperate with them.

    Read Martin Shapiro’s 2039. Published March 11, 2014. Available exclusively from Amazon, paperback/kindle.

    See you at the Conference in May.

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