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Economic Factors of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors Rob Morse January 2013 1
Elevator Speech I want to build a Thorium reactor to make money. These reactors produce safe, clean and cheap electric power. We ran a Thorium reactor in the 1960 s, but then we stopped. Regulations have changed, and new development takes money. No investor will bet a billion dollars on a politician’s promise to let us license this type of reactor. These reactors are safer than existing plants. Thorium reactors operate at low pressure, about the same pressure as your car tire. They can’t have a steam explosion because they don’t need water to stay cool. These reactors are passively safe, which means they will safely shut down all by themselves if you walk away from them. Thorium is the wrong nuclear fuel to make an atomic bomb. One important difference is that liquid fueled Thorium reactors make almost no nuclear waste.
Outline § § § Elevator Speech Cost Structure Nuclear Background LFTR Application Discussion
A Source of Heat § Man’s progress is that we now harnesses nature rather than enslave our fellow man. § We learned to make heat from fire, and convert that heat to mechanical motion, and to convert that motion into electricity. From electricity we can do almost anything. Nuclear power, and Thorium reactors in particular, are simply another source of heat; an inexhaustible source of heat.
Thorium in, Electricity out
An Efficient Design An desirable nuclear design requires a balance of factors. • Intrinsic safety • Little or no radioactive waste • No bomb materials • Low cost per power delivered • Small physical size • Power on demand • A wide choice of building sites 6
Capital costs of existing plants Capital is 60 percent of the costs. § Plant design and regulatory approval § Plant costs (the building grounds) § Equipment costs § Staff training 7
Reduce capital costs Buy a power plant off the shelf, one that requires little maintenance and can be brought online quickly. Natural gas fired turbine-generators are an example of such “plug and play” power systems.
Fuel for a lifetime? You consume a ball of coal 10 meters in diameter… …or a ball or thorium 37 mm in diameter. 9
Nuclear History § § § § Your “lifetime of energy” is a ten meter ball of coal, or a golf ball of Thorium. Your nuclear waste is the volume of two or three grains of rice. The LFTR reactor is a Thorium 232 - Uranium 233 reactor. This reactor uses a liquid fuel. The liquid fuel is chemically inert at all temperatures and solid at room temperature. The reactor core acts as a nuclear catalyst. This has a huge safety benefit. The reactor operates at atmospheric pressure because the fuel does not boil. The reactor can operate at high temperatures (650 to 850 C). The reactor is given new fuel as the old fuel is consumed rather than carrying several years of fuel in the reactor at one time. Nuclear waste products can be removed on a continuous basis. The reactor is walk-away-safe. The Thorium found in nature is isotopically pure, versus 0. 7% for Uranium. Because the fuel is pure, the reactor produces much less nuclear waste than conventional power plants; 97 to 99 percent less waste. The waste is different in kind and should be “non-radioactive” in about 300 years.
How hard is it to make a 300 year repository?
Nuclear History (continued) § § § § § We built a liquid fueled test reactor in the 1960 s to power an airplane. We even flew a reactor in an airplane. After that, the military and research branches of the government killed the liquid fueled reactor in favor of solid fuel (uranium). Thorium is about as rare as lead or tin. We currently treat Thorium as undesirable waste. We have a thousand year supply of Thorium in one mountain on the Montana-Idaho border. We do not need a massive containment building designed to retain a steam explosion. We could use a thin steel shell to isolate one environment from another. We don’t need a river to cool this reactor. We can cool it with air and put it anywhere. Plant size is determined by regulatory costs rather than technical constraints. The current implementation of LFTR is a 100 MW unit (comparable to a large jet aircraft or navy DDGs) It can be delivered in pre-assembled modules by truck and erected in weeks rather than years. It can be built on an assembly line like an aircraft or ship. It will cost a billion dollars to license a Thorium reactor. That is the cost of the permission slip, not the engineering. No one wants to place that bet in the US.
Old technology 13
Forecast § The country who builds LFTR will have an enormous economic and environmental advantage over their competition. § The US military might build LFTR if our politicians don’t drive us into regulatory collapse. § China recently opened a large dedicated research facility for LFTR development. § Environmental politics would have to change to build LFTR in the US.
Implementation § Build a non-nuclear sub-scale model with an electrically heated core. § Simulate operations with non-nuclear fuel. § Refine the design for total life cycle costs. § Design the manufacturing line and the plant. § Build a sub-scale plant of the prototype design. § Build and test the beta plant modules.
Discussion Questions § How do the technical features of LFTR change financial risk? § What happens when you can put a plant anywhere? § What if you can deliver it in weeks? § What if you can pick the plant up and move it to another location? § What if nuclear spent fuel is a source of medical isotopes and rare earth materials? § What if the biggest cost is regulatory approval and licensing?
Appendix Search the web for. Thorium Energy Alliance Energy from Thorium
Elevator Speech We want to build a Thorium reactor to make money. These reactors produce safe, clean and cheap electric power. We ran a Thorium reactor in the 1960 s, but then we stopped. Regulations have changed, and new development takes money. No investor will bet a billion dollars on a politician’s promise to let us license this type of reactor. These reactors are safer than existing plants. Thorium reactors operate at low pressure, about the same pressure as your car tire. They can’t have a steam explosion because they don’t need water to stay cool. These reactors are passively safe, which means they will safely shut down all by themselves if you walk away from them. Thorium is the wrong nuclear fuel to make an atomic bomb. One important difference is that liquid fueled Thorium reactors make almost no nuclear waste. Where and how would you build a plant? The plant doesn’t need a massive building to contain a steam explosion. Thorium reactors don’t need to sit next to a river or ocean for cooling. They can be installed almost anywhere. Thorium reactors can be much smaller than a regular power plant. They could fit on a tennis court or parking lot. The power plant can be built on an assembly line like an airplane or ship. They don’t have to be built on site like a huge building. These small power plants could be delivered by truck and installed where they are needed in weeks, not years. We’ve already found a thousand years supply of thorium here in the US.
Size matters! Your nuclear waste is the size of a few grains of rice! LFTR wo Equations. Thorium power conference, Oct 2009 20
Lets Make Power § This is a picture of the waste heat coming from the original LFTR test cell. § The heat transfer fluid (molten salt) is at low pressure. § We can use a gas cycle, like a jet engine, at high temperature. – This means they can have high efficiency, a 50% reduction in power rejected to the environment per power delivered to the electric grid. § These plants can run at partial load. LFTR wo Equations. Thorium power conference, Oct 2009 21
Chart of the Nuclides for LFTR Fissile Fuel! Ref: http: //www. nndc. bnl. gov/nudat 2/re. Center. jsp? z=90&n=142 Uranium (92) B~27 days half-life Protactinium (91) B- Thorium (90) Raw Material! +N ~22 min half-life
Contrast Uranium and Thorium § 0. 7 % of Uranium is fissionable. The rest becomes nuclear waste. § Thorium is isotopically pure and converted to U 233 for fuel. § For fuel cycle side-reactions seehttp: //en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle
LFTR Processing Details Metallic Thorium feed stream Bismuth-metal Reductive Extraction Column Pa-233 Decay Tank Fluoride Volatility 233 UF 7 Li. F-Be. F 2 6 Uranium Absorption. Reduction Pa Recycle Fertile Salt Recycle Fuel Salt 7 Li. F-Be. F 2 -UF 4 F 6 Hexafluoride Distillation Fission Product Waste Return “Bare” Salt Core Blanket 232, 233, 234 U Vacuum Distillation Fertile Salt Two-Fluid Reactor x. F 6 Fluoride Volatility Fuel Salt Mo. F 6, Tc. F 6, Se. F 6, Ru. F 5, Te. F 6, IF 7, Other F 6 Molybdenum and Iodine for Medical Uses
Metal Reduction Column
Myth of Half Life § What makes a radioactive material dangerous? – Even low energy beta decays can break organic bonds. § Is a material with a 1 second half life dangerous? – It is very dangerous. . today. Tomorrow it is inert. § Is a 15 billion year half life dangerous? (Half of it has decayed since the big bang. ) It has a very low activity, and we used it for hundreds of years. § How about a thousand year half life? It is both active and persistent.
Myth of Creating Radioactivity § If radiation is dangerous then we should do what we can to eliminate it from the environment. That is exactly what nuclear reactors do. They are the nuclear analog to chemical catalysis reactors; they accelerate natural processes. § The only way to “create” nuclear radiation is with particle accelerators. Conventional reactors simply accelerate decay towards stable elements.
Myth of Concentration Thorium and uranium are dispersed in nature. We concentrate them, and so concentrate their natural toxicity. They decay naturally. For safe disposal, should we re-disperse them and lower their effective activity, or sequester them and decrease our contact?
References http: //en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reactor http: //www. scribd. com/doc/59204103/Thorium-presentation-Green-Energy -Forum-2008 -07 -25 http: //www. thoriumenergyalliance. com/Thorium. Site/resources. html http: //moltensalt. org/references/static/downloads/pdf/NAT_MSBRrecycle. p df Thorium in 5 minutes (remix video) http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=u. K 367 T 7 h 6 ZY