Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The LFTR, a short and simple account

Thorium is a very abundant mineral in the earths crust. The LFTR has a liquid fluoride salt core instead of the usual solid core. The liquid salt type of reactor was developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory between 1950 and 1976. The LFTR would use thorium 232 rather than uranium as a basis of its fuel cycle. Thorium is subjected to neuron radiation inside the core of a reactor, an then undergoes a nuclear transformation that produces fissionable uranium 233. The LFTR is 200 to 300 times more fuel efficient than standard reactors. Givrn the abundance of Thorium and the efficiency of the LFTR, the combination offered abundant energy it as long as people will want a massive energy source. Calculations, based on ORNL estimates from the 1970's, are that it will cost between $2.5 to $5 billion to develop LFTR technology to the point which where commercial prototypes can be built. Again based on ORNL cost estimates, plus known savings in the cost of labor, interest, and a standard calculation for the cost savings from the learning curve in serial production, the LFTRs will be between $1 and $2 per watt of generating capacity. The LFTR will be cheap enough to produce mid-load and peak power, And unlike the conventional reactors the LFTR can do dynamic load balancing for the grid. Why heck, the LFTR can even provide electrical backup for solar and wind, but why anyone would be so crazy as to install solar and wind generating facilities if they had LFTRs is beyond comprehension. The LFTR is very safe, can be designed to control itself without human intervention, produces little waste, and can destroy the waste from other reactors as it generates electricity. The LFTR can produce electricity for a cost that is lower than the cost of coal using carbon capture and storage, or the cost of wind and solar generated electricity.


Robw said...


I've been ready your blog daily for almost a year now and this is one of the best short posts on the benefits of LFTR's that you've done...sums it up nicely for the average joe like myself

It's still amazing to me that more attention isn't being paid to this. Think about energy source to end all energy sources. Cheap, clean, abundant, cleans up old nuclear waste, reduces proliferation...almost sounds too good to be true, but isn't.

Still amazing to me that a 'Manhatten' project is going as we speak to develop this to it's fullest potential


Charles Barton said...

Thank you Rob. The only thing I know is to continue to repeat the message, and to do it as well as I can. I do believe that we are making progress. The LFTR is better known today that it was a year ago. Revolutions seldom happen overnight. The seeds have to be planted first. It takes time for ideas and awareness to grow.

Alex P. said...

Just curious, Charles, to which extent what you usually say about LFTR many advantages does apply to chloride fast spectrum MSR? It' s a point I don't see to be dealt with many times...

Charles Barton said...

Alex P., In theory the LCFB would have similar advantages to the LFTR with the added ability to operate as a Uranium cycle fasr breeder, Development of the LCFB would have to proceed from scratch, although LCFB could borrow concepts from the MSR.

Alex P. said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but I rememeber you cited a long time ago the fact that your father dealt with the liquid chloride "fast" option (but I could wrong)

Do you foresee to deal with the issue in this site in the future?

Personally, given the very high breeding gains achievable with LCFR (even 0.6-0.8 with a Pu-Du seed-blanket configuration), I see them very favourably in a configuration with a thorium blanket to produce the fissile start-up of uranium 233 for LFTR and a seed of LWR spent fuel transuranics, in order to burn them completely.
If needed, in the future the blanket could switch to a depleted uranium or natural uranium, in order to develop the (even if politically risky) uranium-plutonium cycle, besides the thorium one in LFTR
Unfotunately, chlorides option R&D has been slowed down, if not stopped, even much more than fluorides one

Charles Barton said...

Alex P., you are quite correct. Mt father did pioneering chemical research on LCFR fuel/carrier salts. My focuse right now is on getting the LFTR started. Certainly after that the LCFR would be one of several interesting R&D options. I will leave future choices to the future. What gets breed with the LCFE is another future decision. There is a lot of U-238 above ground. It represents a lot of energy that should not be waisted. The LCFR would be good technology to use it.

Alex P. said...

Indeed, with current need of about 200 tonn of natural uranium for GWyear of electricity, we'll have before year 2020-30 about 2000 years of worldwide electricity needs, it's a pratically renewable energy source

Thanks anyway for your excellent work, Charles

Charles Barton said...

Alex P. At the moment, I have not the slightest idea. I will see if there is the beginning of an idea. If the research program is similar to the MSR program, somewhere between $5 and $10 Billion. If there is substantial learning transfor from the MSR to the LCFB, maybe closer to $5 than $10 billion. This is a rough guess.

The North Coast said...

May I have your permission to post this article in it's entirety on my own blog? I will of course credit you and link your blog.

Your blog needs to be more generally read, and I'd like to introduce it to my tiny public, which is mostly my eco-conscious neighborhood. Most people are not aware of the newer, safer, and more economical nuclear technologies, and your articles make them understandable to a wide public.


Charles Barton said...

North Coast, you have my permission to cross port the article.


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