In a recent comment on Nuclear Green Rod made a number of highly unflattering comments about Kirk Sorensen and myself. For example Rod states,
my issue with the messianic way that both you and Kirk push thorium is that your efforts carry a substantial risk of delaying important and measurable progress in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.Wow Kirk and I have pushed thorium in a Messianic way, and we are in danger of impeding progress in the effort to reduce dependency on fossil fuels! Had Rod paid attention to what I have been saying for the last few months he would have known that I am not pushing thorium reactors as short run solution. I have advocated Uranium fueled Molten Salt Reactors since last summer. Why? Because we can build them cheap, maybe at half the price of Light Water Reactors, Right now Light Water Reactors are considered too expensive by the market, and if Rod has not noticed investors are not exactly flocking to loan money for their construction. Nor are utilities seemingly willing to take a risk with them. There are hints that Kirk Sorensen may share my interest in practical, low cost uranium fueled Molten Salt Reactors. So if Rod were up to date he would accuse me of promoting uranium fueled reactors in a messianic way
Secondly Rod makes the point that
There are way too many people in the US and Europe who think there is a magical way to step from DOS to Windows 7 without going through the intermediate steps or a way to move from a Model-T to a Lexus without countless generations of learning in between.Granted, i do not disagree with that, In fact I favor beginning molten salt development by commercializing the Molten Salt Reactor technology tested tested by ORNL with the MSRE during the 1960's. No one in the thorium community has disagreed with me.
We know how to produce, fuel and operate light water reactors safely and economically now. Many of us know they are not the ultimate technology, but we also know that prosperous light water reactor owners are far more likely to be interested in investing in the next big fission technology than are people whose money and power comes from combustion technology.OK Rod Ford know how to build model T Fords too, but that doesn't mean that Ford should not be interested in building more modern cars. There are clearly things that LWRS can't do, for example compete with Natural Gas for the peak power market, or provide the high temperature output required for industrial process heat. If, as Rod's claim, light water reactors were all that economical, why isn't there a rush by utilities to replace their coal fired generating plants with LWRs?
Well lets see, depleted uranium following enrichment contains 0.2% to 0.3% U235, that means that between 28% and 42% of U 235 is lost in the enrichment process. When light water reactors are no longer able to burn nuclear fuel, it still contains 0.7% U.235, which means that you have lost another 23% of the fissionable U-235 from your Light Water Reactor. Now consider the truly terrible thermal efficiency of light water reactors. They operate at no more than 50% of the temperature of MSRs. So about how much more efficient does a light water reactor have to be in order to recover all of the lost energy potential of the uranium that goes into the original enrichment process? Rod brags,
Current reactors obtain roughly 5,000 MW days per tonne of natural uranium - the theoretical maximum is 1,000,000 MW-days per tonne of heavy metal. Where does the other improvement come from?Rod, as I have demonstrated from amending the inefficiencies of Uranium separation, from rectifying the inefficiency of LWR U-235 use, and from greatly enhanced thermal efficiency.
Rod tells us,
I like the idea of using thorium and have no intention of trying to tell you guys to slow down, but why do you have to try to pull down uranium in your attempt to promote thorium. The enemies burn coal, oil and natural gas and dump their waste products into the environment without much thought at all.Rod, as you can see, I do advocate a uranium fuel route to the future. in addition uranium fueled Light Water Reactors will be with us for some time to come, but their days are surely numbered by the inefficiencies of their fuel cycle. Uranium breeders could potentially be with us for far longer, but have to be built as fast reactors, which means that the they require 10 times the fissionable fuel LFTRs require. Thus among reactor types, LFTRs can be deployed far more rapidly, and for a span of time that stretches over millions of years.
My expectations of the LFtr are hardly messianic. After large scale LFT deployment, dogs and cats will still fight, men and women will get divorced, teenagers will still be disrespectful to their parents, and a universal era of peace may not begin. We will have abundant low cost land low carbon energy, and that will be an improvement.