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Thorium Molten Salt Reactors

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#1 Sconnie

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Posted 29 September 2019 - 06:50 AM

Calling all science nerds!

I would really like this community’s help in understanding a complex scientific subject. While politics and energy goes together like peanut butter and jelly, this discussion is not intended to be political. Please refrain from politics.

Thorium Molten Salt Reactors have been a concept with extremely limited deployment since the 1950s. One of the first experiments were to make a perpetual flight airplane in-flight fueling became feasible.

https://vittana.org/...r-pros-and-cons

https://www.zmescien...reactor-424343/

It is supposedly possible to engineer them safer because there aren’t rods to crack like traditional nuclear reactor. They are supposedly able to be more efficient (less waste to store for shorter periods) also due to the absence of rods. Thorium is supposedly vastly available with enough supply to power our planet for 1000 years.

Can members provide better articles to reference? My searches on google were just ok.

Why don’t we hear about these? There are several organizations with projects in the works.

Is it more science fiction than fact?

Shout out to Diehard: since these can fit inside a standard shipping container, can I put one up in my back yard?
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#2 Craig Arko

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Posted 29 September 2019 - 07:38 AM

You can look at these for a bit more information:

 

https://www.world-nu...on/thorium.aspx

 

https://whatisnuclear.com/thorium.html

 

The second one also has a nice Thorium Myths page.

 

https://whatisnuclea...rium-myths.html

 

These are more technical; proceedings from conferences:

 

https://books.google...thorium&f=false

 

https://books.google...thorium&f=false

 

Personally, I'd like to see the research and test deployments move forward. India and China are making some headway in the area. It's not fusion, which would be better, but it seems way better than Uranium and Plutonium based reactors.

Edited by Craig Arko, 29 September 2019 - 07:42 AM.

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#3 glunn

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 01:06 AM

I have read that the Three Mile Island plant is closing, that the cleanup cost will be in the range of $1.2 billion and that the decommissioning process will take around 60 years.  https://www.cnn.com/...sing/index.html

 

I am hopeful that Thorium reactors or some other cutting edge reactors may provide a much more cost efficient solution for dealing with existing facilities by using what is now "waste" to create clean power. I wonder how Thorium stacks up against other options to recycle existing nuclear waste.

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#4 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 06:42 AM

 

I have read that the Three Mile Island plant is closing, that the cleanup cost will be in the range of $1.2 billion and that the decommissioning process will take around 60 years.  https://www.cnn.com/...sing/index.html

 

I am hopeful that Thorium reactors or some other cutting edge reactors may provide a much more cost efficient solution for dealing with existing facilities by using what is now "waste" to create clean power. I wonder how Thorium stacks up against other options to recycle existing nuclear waste.

 

Seems like the easy solution (though not necessarily cheap) would be to launch waste into the sun. 

 

I know there was talk about nuclear fusion at some point. Not sure if this is what that was, but I seem to remember that a big reason why the powers that be wanted to return to the moon was because a key ingredient to nuclear fusion was rather plentiful there. I'm not sure if that's cheaper/cleaner than this, but I'm all for anything that can produce clean and cheap energy. 

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#5 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 08:25 AM

Seems like the easy solution (though not necessarily cheap) would be to launch waste into the sun.

That is a fascinating idea to me which I had not heard of before.
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#6 ashbury

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 09:15 AM

That is a fascinating idea to me which I had not heard of before.

Seems like a failed launch could be pretty gnarly, though.

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#7 Sconnie

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 10:33 AM

Seems like a failed launch could be pretty gnarly, though.

yup, and Thorium needs to be fertilized with fissile material anyways. Seems like a logical match for safety and cost.

#8 ashbury

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 12:32 PM

yup, and Thorium needs to be fertilized with fissile material anyways. Seems like a logical match for safety and cost.

If it's safe enough to not worry about a failed launch scattering the materials, does it need to be launched into the sun?

 

(That's an honest question. I don't know.)

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#9 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 01:09 PM

 

If it's safe enough to not worry about a failed launch scattering the materials, does it need to be launched into the sun?

 

(That's an honest question. I don't know.)

I was referring to nuclear waste in general, but this technology exists... though to the point of what to do when it fails is certainly worth considering. 


#10 Sconnie

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 02:55 PM

If it's safe enough to not worry about a failed launch scattering the materials, does it need to be launched into the sun?

(That's an honest question. I don't know.)

yeah, I wasn’t clear there. The idea with Thorium as a fuel for Molten Salt Reactors is Thorium is not fissile on its own. It needs a fissile material to feed it. It can hypothetically be made fissile from waste. The theoretical advantage to Molten Salt Reactors in terms of safety, is there is no ceramic to crack, so it can be used longer to deplete more of the radioactivity.

The idea is to recycle the material that is no longer usable in traditional reactors rather than store it. You’d eventually have to do something with the waste.

I guess launching it into the sun would ensure that we aren’t sending radioactive litter into space. Better to be burnt up than potentially go into orbit or accidentally send it to another planet. Who else is picturing Wall-E reimagined as sending our litter into space (instead of humans) and the junk lands on a planet which launches interplanetary war?
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#11 ashbury

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 05:34 PM

It might not be fissile, but is it harmful (to anything/anyone) if scattered in a launch accident?

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#12 Sconnie

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 07:17 PM

It might not be fissile, but is it harmful (to anything/anyone) if scattered in a launch accident?

dirt isn’t bad for you. If you were to launch dirt in a rocket and it blew up, the rocket parts and fuel would be the most harmful part. you probably consume microscopic amounts of thorium on a regular basis.

if you were to mine it or distill it from seawater into concentration to be used in a reactor, yes, it would be harmful, not fissile.

If you “breed” Thorium with Uranium 235 or a denatured bomb it becomes fissile (U-233 I think) and in the right reactor self sustaining (paraphrased from the Myths article)
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#13 Sconnie

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 07:20 PM

You can look at these for a bit more information:

https://www.world-nu...on/thorium.aspx

https://whatisnuclear.com/thorium.html

The second one also has a nice Thorium Myths page.

https://whatisnuclea...rium-myths.html

These are more technical; proceedings from conferences:

https://books.google...thorium&f=false

https://books.google...thorium&f=false

Personally, I'd like to see the research and test deployments move forward. India and China are making some headway in the area. It's not fusion, which would be better, but it seems way better than Uranium and Plutonium based reactors.


The technical ones were over my head. I’m gonna give them another shot, but need to rest my noggin.

The other 3 were very accessible and moderate. Great to read something that didn’t feel like propaganda

Thanks Craig!
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