What happens when you put two hyper-active kids in a room with other kids? Reactor Core
What happens when you stir leaven into three measures of flour? Reactor Core
What happens when you put uranium particles in a metal vessel? Reactor Core

Like begets like, and some things amplify each other when put together. That is how it is with brains and intelligence.

Two hyper-active kids and 30 normal kids becomes a room full of very active kids.
Leaven and three measures of flour becomes a very active, bubbly liquid, and then nutritious bread.
Uranium particles get hot, and then make clean electricity for everyone.

What happens when you put facts and ideas together into a single brain? A brain is like a reactor core; facts and ideas combine together to produce power.

Articles

Radiation Dose Chart Wondering what those radiation numbers mean on TV? What is your actual risk and danger from radioactive fallout? Check out this chart from XKCD.
The Radioactive Orchestra Making Music With Radiation , posted by KSUinformation (YouTube link) Nuclear radiation can make catchy music.
Radiation Network shows current radiation levels in North America, updated every minute.
Black Gold, Hot Gold, by Marshall Douglas Smith (2001). Is it really true that the fuel for nuclear reactors can be recycled, and that Europe has no "nuclear waste" problem? And that the current scare about nuclear waste is due to the Oil Industry? This article was convincing enough to convert Ralph Rene, a life-long foe of nuclear power!
The Great Global Warming Swindle (BBC Video Documentary,2007)Was the whole global warming scare a counter-strike by the Nuclear industry to fight back against the Oil industry? Or was it just a Big Government play to crush the power of the Coal Miners unions by boosting Nuclear? Watch this video and decide for yourself. But read "Black Gold, Hot Gold" first!
NUKALERT 24/7 Radiation Monitor and Alarm is a geiger counter that WORKS really well. It can even survive a nuclear blast. And it is VERY reasonably priced. . Set your mind at ease by KNOWING what is going on around you. Don't worry about invisible nuclear beasties.
Toshiba 4S Nuclear Reactor There were stories about a Toshiba nuclear reactor small (and cheap) enough to power a city block. Sadly, this isn't true. It is a nice idea being able to helicopter such power generators into remote communities. However, Toshiba is designing a very small, safe, efficient reactor, the 4S. 4S stands for Super-Small, Safe, Simple. It looks like a great product!

Which reactor design will brighten our future? SNACR, LFTR, pebble bed, travelling wave, or sub-critical energy amplifier?

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May 12, 2014 Comment from Scottingham:

After doing a lot of research into the current state of Thorium technology I was able to find the following non-FUD conclusions as to why Thorium and LFTRs in particular aren't working out so well.

  1. The liquid medium that is actually containing the fission events is incredibly caustic. This means that the reactor vessel, in addition to dealing with a very high neutron flux, has to handle severe corrosion issues at the surface. The fact that it is done at STP does not provide any help.
  2. The salt 'plug' that is often cited as a major safety asset for the LFTR has some major engineering obstacles that have been be able to be addressed yet.
  3. The liquid medium has to undergo re-processing on a fairly frequent basis. This is non-trivial as the medium is highly caustic and radioactive. The products pulled out are also highly problematic. This is probably one of the biggest hurtles for LFTR. It is a costly and messy chemical process.

There are other smaller problems, but these are the 'big three' I can recall.

For next-gen reactor tech my money is on traveling wave type reactors (which never need to be refueled for its entire lifespan..30-100 years). Look up the Toshiba 4s for the furthest along reactor.

There are also sub-critical 'energy amplifier' reactors that use a particle accelerator to drive a proton beam into a spallation target (lead) which causes a neutron flux suitable for fission events to occur, though not enough to cause a self-sustaining reaction. Only 10% of the energy is required to be redirected back to the accelerator (fission rules like that). This one has the advantage of being able to use pretty much any fuel, and waste we have as well as reducing the daughter products to benign isotopes. Belgium is currently in the process of building one.

Links: (original comment), (original article)

November 19, 2013 Watch this video by Gordon McDowell Thorium: An energy solution - THORIUM REMIX 2011 (YouTube) Video is 2 hours long, and every second of it is interesting. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) are being built in China right now. They can clean up the waste created by current nuclear reactors, and thorium mining would open up a lot of rare earth deposits, breaking China's monopoly on the electronics industry. Also very safe, cheap, etc. Also adding Kirk Sorenson to the blog-roll today.

September 26
The Forgotten Promise of Thorium, by Karl Denninger. Via

We experimented with Thorium as a nuclear fuel in the 1950s and 1960s. Carried in a molten salt there are a number of significant advantages to this fuel cycle. Chief among them is that the reactors operate at atmospheric pressure, have a strongly-negative temperature coefficient (that is, reactivity drops as temperature increases) and because they operate with their fuel dispersed in the coolant and rely on a fixed moderator in the reaction vessel shutting them down is simply a matter of draining the working fuel into a tank with sufficient surface area to dissipate decay heat. This can be accomplished passively; active cooling of a freeze plug in the bottom of the reactor vessel can be employed during normal operation and if for any reason that cooling is lost the plug melts, the coolant and working fluid drains to tanks and the reactor shuts down. In addition thorium is about as abundant in the environment as is lead, making its supply effectively infinite.

Finally, these reactors operate at a much higher temperature; the units we have run (yes, we've built them experimentally in the 1950s - 1970s!) run in the neighborhood of 650C. This allows closed-cycle turbine systems that are more efficient than the conventional turbines in existing designs, making practical the location of reactors in places that don't have large amounts of water available. That in turn means that the risk of geological and other similar accidents (e.g. tsunamis!) is greatly reduced or eliminated. Finally, the fuel cycle is mostly-closed internally; that is, rather than requiring both fast-breeder reactors and external large-scale reprocessing plants to be practical, along with a way to store a lot of high-level waste these units burn up most of their high-level waste internally and produce their own fuel internally as well as an inherent part of their operation.

So why didn't we pursue this path for nuclear power?

That's simple: It is entirely-unsuitable for production of nuclear bombs as it produces negligible amounts of plutonium.

I've seen similar information on the Internet before. But I haven't posted it here before, because of counter-arguments like this, found in the comments section of Karl's article:

The reason the US (and other countries) has a large stockpile of U-233 is the same reason (one of several) as to why enriched U-235 was used for nuclear power instead of the Thorium cycle.

The process of creating U-233, when produced from Th-232, creates an impurity in a nasty isotope of Uranium, U-232. U-232 is a very nasty isotope, and is the cause why U-233 was not used for weapons or power plants in the first place.

Overcoming the problem of U-232 is going to be one of the more expensive scaling costs of LFTR technology. It is possible to get rid of the continuum of U-232 impurities, but I'm afraid it isn't going to be cheap or easy. LFTR enthusiasts keep overlooking this problem as a minor fuel production issue, but the day has come for someone to come up with a valid, scaled up and tested production answer or the LFTR cycle will not be a viable process.

Age sometimes is an advantage in understanding. Although it is journalistically interesting and certainly exciting for those who find joy in discovering a long held US secret, the fact is that the adoption of enriched uranium light water reactors was never about creating a source for nuclear weapons material. It was just a statement of the limitation of our knowledge and computation capabilities at the time combined with the primary intended use of nuclear power.

The fact is that in the course of the Manhattan project effort one of the technical by-products was the scientific and engineering detailed data of enriched U-235 plus the basics for a design of a light water reactor. In addition, the primary initial use of nuclear power plants was to be for US Navy submarine use, and in those days it was expected that dumping at sea the refuse of a light water enriched U-235 reactor would be just fine (which BTW the Russians did).

WW2 had just ended, we knew the costs of the Manhattan project, knowledge of radiation protection and its effects was in its infancy and materials science and computing were really still nascent when it came to nuclear science and engineering. Going for a new technology like the Thorium cycle would have been arguably a huge cost that the nation, just finishing up with the Manhattan project, couldn't afford, and we also didn't know the true cost radiation effects and disposal with the U-235 cycle.

After the Navy work at ORNL and Idaho Falls, we had a prototype. As far as the power industry was concerned, why pay for an investment in a new process like the Thorium cycle which still has problems like U-232 when you could just do an extrapolation of the current Navy light water propulsion reactors and just build that instead?

The answer was it was cheaper to extrapolate what you knew than invest in inventing something new, not something nefarious as some would propose. In any case, the Hydrogen bomb made the question of the need for uranium except for triggers a mute question. Uranium and Plutonium did come back into vogue in weapons design in the late 70's at the height of nuclear battlefield weapons, but even then the yields of those weapons were never that good and the neutronic bomb (more publicly known as the neutron bomb took us back full circle, so to speak.

In 1972, the American Nuclear Society has a long frank and private (secret) discussion on this very subject. I, as a student of Al Sesonske and Sam Glasstone, two of the premiere early power plant designers, attended the event. I can remember very clearly first hand that everyone was surprised when someone brought up the fact that light water enriched uranium power plants would be a source for nuclear weapons. Even Admiral Rickover stated in the meeting as I recall in his famed acidic way: "Nice by-product, but we already had too much weapons material. Why get additional commercial sources that could be unreliable? That's stupid. All I wanted was the Nautilus and we got it quickly after we proved the plant would work at Shippingport and all you guys in the power industry wanted was the cheapest already tested design!"....and I heard that personally, folks. End of story as far as I'm concerned.

I am in favor of the Thorium cycle, but I believe it is not yet technical ready for prime time because of scaling issues and issues like U-232.

I don't know which side is right. Only a few people in the world have enough specialized knowledge of nuclear technology to say one way or the other. It sure would be exciting if the Thorium people are right. A few months ago, a fellow named Jim Stone was saying that the Thorium cycle can combine with the regular nuclear reactor technology to completely eliminate nuclear waste. Who knows.

February 17
Feature: Small modular nuclear reactors - the future of energy?, by David Szondy. Via.

"This year is a historic one for nuclear power, with the first reactors winning U.S. government approval for construction since 1978. Some have seen the green lighting of two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to be built in Georgia as the start of a revival of nuclear power in the West, but this may be a false dawn because of the problems besetting conventional reactors. It may be that when a new boom in nuclear power comes, it won't be led by giant gigawatt installations, but by batteries of small modular reactors (SMRs) with very different principles from those of previous generations. However, while it's a technology of great diversity and potential, many obstacles stand in its path. This article takes an in-depth look at the many forms of SMRs, their advantages, and the challenges they must overcome."

Interesting article. Did you know that Russian light-houses are powered by RTFs? (Radio-thermal generators) The radio thermal generator is a type of nuclear reactor that uses natural radioactive decay to power a simple thermoelectric generator. It can produce at most, two kilowatts.

There are a lot of different Small Modular Reactors in production, use, and development. The future is very bright and exciting for safe and cheap nuclear power. My favorite, the salt reactor, is discussed:

In this type of SMR, the coolant and the fuel are one in the same. The coolant is a mixture of lithium and beryllium fluoride salts. In this is dissolved a fuel, which can be enriched uranium, thorium or U-233. This molten salt solution passes at relatively low pressure and a temperature of 1,300 degrees F (700 degrees C) through a graphite moderator core. As the fuel burns, the waste products are removed from the solution and fresh fuel is added.

One of the commenters had this to say:

VoiceofReason - February 16, 2012 @ 08:21 am PST

One thing you didn't mention about Flibe's molten salt reactor is that it runs at atmospheric pressure (basically). That is a huge improvement in safety. Also, there is no hydrogen buildup possible or any other combustibles so explosions leading to the dispersion of radioactive particles is eliminated.

Since the fuel is in a molten salt, if the core did rupture, the salt would leak out and solidify (possibly even plugging the hole and stopping the leak).

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