Gram per gram, thorium is much more efficient than uranium, as around 99% of it is used in the reaction. Molten Salt Reactors vs India’s Advanced Heavy Water Reactor, Economics of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. No water source required. The Forum on Physics and Society (FPS) is a forum of the American Physical Society, organized in 1971 to address issues related … The liquid fluoride thorium reactor (acronym LFTR; often pronounced lifter) is a type of molten salt reactor.LFTRs use the thorium fuel cycle with a fluoride-based, molten, liquid salt for fuel.In a typical design, the liquid is pumped between a critical core and an external heat exchanger where the heat is transferred to a nonradioactive secondary salt. This is relevant to the licencing cost, but also to deployment times. This philosophy is relevant for any effort to develop a power technology that aims for being cost competitive. After that, radiation is below background radiation levels. Herbert MacPherson, who was in charge of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment at the time, is even more specific in his cost estimation. Much of their work culminated with the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE). PDF Kirk Sorensen – Thorium Energy Alliance. Easy siting, no large water source needed, no large safety zone required (because there is no water and no high pressure). He received his Ph.D. in physics from Brown University. Checks proliferation: As thorium-based power reactor fuel is a poor source for fissile material that can be used to make an explosive device illegally, proliferation is said to be vastly curtailed by using these reactors.U-233, which is present in the used thorium fuel. a bomb or earthquake) broke the reactor vessel, it would make a spill that quickly cools to solid, doesn’t interact with air or water, and would have most fission products chemically bonded to the salt, resulting in a cleanup volume of a few cubic meters, all still within the reactor building; Salt coolant can’t boil away (the boiling point of the salt is much higher than the reactor temperature), and the fuel is strongly chemically bound to the coolant, so loss of coolant accidents are physically impossible. Standardized, modular designs will be crucial for developing cost competitive nuclear reactors, regardless of the technology used. In case of a thorium MSR, 3,2 kilograms of thorium per day needs to be mined to produce the same amount of energy. In addition to delivering carbon-free electricity, LFTRs high temperature output can desalinate water (which we need in some areas even more than electricity, and we will need more as the world population grows). Their approach to handling the high licensing cost of molten salt reactors is to basically license a single design, then stick to that design. These differences create design difficulties and trade-offs: For example, several rare earth metals, used for consumer electronics, are fission products. The objective of the liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) design proposed by Flibe Energy  is to develop a nuclear power plant that will produce electrical energy at low cost. ), There is very little MSRs have in common with the solid fueled, water cooled reactors in use today. MSRs are less expensive and more environmentally friendly than other sources of base-load power or grid power storage, needed to supplement wind and/or solar power. The acid is already killing plankton and other ocean life: the carbonic acid dissolves their “shells”. MSRE was a 7.4 MW th test reactor simulating the neutronic "kernel" of a type of epithermal thorium molten salt breeder reactor called the liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR). (MSR can transfer heat to existing equipment such as steam generators, for example replacing the boiler at a coal plant, but doesn’t use water anywhere in the reactor.) Well, that is waste only if we only use LWR, or similar solid-fueled types of nuclear reactors. Fuel input per gigawatt output 1 ton raw thorium 5. Fuel for 1GW electricity in a LFTR or any MSR: $10,000/yr. One might argue that an MSR prototype successfully operated from 1965-1969, which was indeed the case, but the present day licensing procedure has not yet taken place. (Compare to LWR: $50-60 Million/yr.) Once in production, the authorities need only check if a specific car sticks to the design. World resources of Thorium would last for some thousands of years, making it a truly sustainable form of energy. Some of these are historic, like the remark that Alvin Weinberg makes, a few lines after the reference to his 1964 speech: “I personally had concluded that the commercial success of nuclear power would have to await the development of the breeder” (in his memoirs, Weinberg uses the word ‘breeder’ when referring to thorium MSR’s). Since no MSR uses water for cooling, there is no storage of water containing radioactive materials, and no concern of stored radioactive water leaking. The molten fuel expands/contracts with temperature changes. ), Most of the fission products are valuable for industrial use. MSRs can be safely built close to where there is electrical need (10MW to 2GW or more), avoiding transmission line power loss. Build 100MW LFTRs on assembly lines: ~$200 Million. Without needing a huge steam containment building (since there is no high pressure and no steam), MSRs such as LFTR use a much smaller site. Unlike conventional light water reactor designs, the liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is a type of molten salt reactor (MSR), that was first demonstrated in the 1960s. The total cost of developing MSR technology and building assembly line production (like assembly line production of aircraft or ships, with better safety standards than is achievable with on-site construction, at much lower cost) will be much less than the $10-$12 Billion for a single new solid-fueled water-cooled reactor or single nuclear waste disposal plant. No “PUREX reprocessing” needed, simply extract the uranium and plutonium (including fission products) from the fuel rod, and put it in a MSR. Fuel can be added as needed, to keep the fuel density steady (just above the minimum to maintain fission). Thorium is usually thrown away during the process of mining rare-earth metals. The thorium-232 captures neutrons from the reactor core to become protactinium-233, which decays (27-day half-life) to U-233. We know Molten Salt Reactors work since we built and operated one — decades ago! LFTR is fluoride based liquid fuel, that use the thorium dissolved in salt mixture of lithium fluoride and beryllium fluoride. The MIT study “The Future of Nuclear Power” puts capital costs for coal plants at $2,30 per watt and nuclear power at $4,00 per watt. What is a Molten Salt Reactor? Reactors would commonly be located several meters underground. (Fast-spectrum molten salt reactors (FS-MSR) can use all isotopes of uranium, not just the 0.7% U-235 in natural uranium — with all the safety and stability of MSR.) The fuel cost is significantly lower than a solid-fuel reactor. I'm guessing it was their day off. Other factors relevant to the cost profile are that a thorium-MSR can do without expensive emergency coolant injection systems, lower fuel costs (natural thorium instead of enriched uranium, no need for fuel element fabrication), simpler fuel handling (liquid fuel, no periodic shutdowns needed to replace solid fuel elements), smaller components, and a much higher energy efficiency. It has been suggested that based on its size and design, it may be feasible to produce 100 megawatt thorium-MSR’s factories for around $200 million apiece, similar to the way Boeing produces large aircraft in factories, which would come down to at $2,00 per watt, lower than the capital cost of a coal power plant. The molten fuel then drains to passive cooling tanks where fission is impossible; Even if something (e.g. Another factor relevant to the cost per kWh is that thorium-MSR’s are expected to perform with higher efficiency, due to their higher operating temperature of up to 700 °C. The cost has largely been solved and transmission/storage solutions will be deployed as needed. Perhaps these technical problems can be overcome, but why would anyone bother to try, knowing in advance that the MSR plant will be uneconomic due to huge construction costs and operating costs, plus will explode and rain radioactive molten salt when (not if) the steam generator tubes leak. Molten Salt Reactors are Generation IV nuclear fission reactors that use molten salt as either the primary reactor coolant or as the fuel itself; they trace their origin to a series of experiments directed by Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It is a completely different nuclear reactor than we have been using, with molten fuel cooled by stable salts. They all automatically follow the load, meaning that if less heat is used there is less fission producing heat. But some experts say new technologies, such as molten salt reactors, including liquid fluoride thorium reactors, are much safer and more efficient than today’s conventional reactors. But some authors argue that construction cost only explains a modest part of the capital cost required for nuclear power: a substantial part of the capital cost for nuclear power plants to the mandatory licensing costs. Carbon dioxide in the air enters the oceans, making acid. Nevertheless, some statements regarding the cost bandwidth of MSR’s are worth noting. It is found in small amounts in most rocks and soils, where it is about three times more abundant than uranium. Thorium-MSR’s higher efficiency is due to its higher operating temperature of around 700 °C. Higher temperatures are favourable for conversion of thermal to electrical energy, leading to conversion efficiencies of 45%-50% instead of the 33% typical for coal and traditional nuclear power plants. Need to communicate your complex information clearly? Higher temperatures are favourable for conversion of thermal to electrical energy, leading to conversion efficiencies of 45%-50% instead of the 33% typical for coal and traditional nuclear power plants. Also, the reactor in question was a liquid flouride uranium rather than thorium reactor. ... We are developing Thorium fission which poses considerable further benefits in terms of low cost and high safety. ), No uranium, plutonium, or other long-term elements in LFTR or any MSR waste, since they are simply left in the reactor until they either fission or decay to short-term waste. Ralph Moir has published 10 papers on molten-salt reactors during (We’ve been mainly using the Light Water Reactor, LWR, with solid fuel in pellets cooled by high-pressure water.). What’s Better than Storing Nuclear Waste? 800kg of nuclear waste would work in the same reactor instead of 800kg thorium, with about the same fission byproducts, and the same electrical output. The high heat of a LFTR (over twice what a LWR can generate) can split CO2 and split water, so making gasoline will be affordable. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) is an innovative design for the thermal breeder reactor that has important potential benefits over the traditional reactor design. Molten Salt Reactors have no high pressure to contain (no water coolant), and generate no combustible or chemically explosive materials; A simple Freeze Plug melts in any emergency or for maintenance. Liquid fluoride thorium reactor. After a few years, radioactive decay brings them below background radiation, ready for use. By utilizing thorium fuel in a thermal neutron spectrum, the reactor is able to utilize the energy A LFTR containment building would protect the reactor from outside impacts, and have extra radiation shielding, but would be much smaller and less expensive than a LWR containment building. ), Instead of thorium, a Molten Salt Reactor can use uranium-235 or plutonium waste, from LWR and other reactors. By Graham Templeton on March 13, 2013 at 10:33 am; Comment There are reasons to assume that construction costs of thorium-MSR-based power plants will be lower. How Much Industrial Heat can Molten Salt Reactors Make? LFTRs also can generate carbon-neutral vehicle fuels, from water and carbon dioxide (from the atmosphere or ocean or large CO2 sources such as coal plants). As was stated above, it is impossible to either confirm or reject such claims where it concerns untried reactors. Imagine a few standard “18-wheeler” shipping containers brought in after 2017 Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria, or 2018 Typhoon Mangkhut, providing 100MW electricity and desalinating water. Flibe’s liquid fluoride thorium reactor is expected to cost several hundred million dollars to build. “…extreme caution is necessary whenever one speaks of untried reactors”. (God didn’t make “useful uranium” and “defective uranium”; it’s the reactor design of LWR that only uses ~2% of the fuel, and that is after enrichment.). Another factor relevant to the cost per kWh is that thorium-MSR’s are expected to perform with higher efficiency, due to their higher operating temperature of up to 700 °C. The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor concept has strong safety advantages over today’s nuclear reactors and the potential to implement a highly efficient and sustainable fuel cycle. This is comparable to car licensing: the license is granted to a type. Molten Salt Reactors can be designed to output wide ranges of heat, for different industrial processes. It contains no super-heated pressurized water, and hence will not need this large dome. Conventional nuclear fission reactors are the safest energy in terms of deaths per terawatt hour. This will not only involve the designing and building the first thorium MSR, it will also involve setting up a proper licensing framework, which will be largely design specific, and requires the initiation of the thorium fuel cycle. 83% of the fission byproducts are safe in 10 years, 17% (135 kg, 300 lbs) within 350 years, with no uranium or plutonium left as waste. In addition, the primary system is pressurized and primary system system failure is a severe safety accident, causing the primary steel components to be overdimensioned and constructed and tested following the highest quality standards available. Thorium Converts to Uranium Inside the Reactor, LFTRs Do Not Need High Pressure Containment, No Water Needed for LFTRs, and no Loss of Coolant Accidents, Useful LFTR Fission By-Products, for Industry and Medicine, Manufacturing LFTRs Easier than Other Reactors, Solving Technical Challenges in Building LFTRs. For a thorium-MSR a more closefitting structure will suffice. Yes! In an MSR all shielding of the primary system will most likely be established by heavy and thick concrete to bring especially gamma radiation to acceptable levels. Thorium is highly abundant in relativity to uranium. Simply put, assertions made on the cost of MSR are inevitably speculative at the present time. Total to develop LFTR technology and a factory to mass-produce them, will be less than the $10-12 Billion cost of a. No High-Pressure Coolant? Any leftover radioactive waste cannot be used to create weaponry. In his memoirs, Alvin Weinberg, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory at the time of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, cites from his 1964 ‘State of the Lab’ year-end speech. Another reason for high construction costs is that most of the existing nuclear power plants have their own design. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor3. What is a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor? That is because nuclear fuel in the liquid fluoride form rather than in the solid oxide form has distinct advantages. The high temperature also allows for excess heat to be used for powering other industrial processes such as hydrogen production and desalination. (Storing CO2 in a solid would work; storing compressed CO2 underground has a huge risk of leaks that would suffocate life on the surface.). Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors An old idea in nuclear power gets reexamined Robert Hargraves and Ralph Moir Robert Hargraves teaches energy policy at the Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth College. The concrete is mainly there for shielding, it has no pressure containment function, and hence quality requirements are more modest, but quite a lot will be needed. Annual fuel cost for 1-GW reactor … One difference is that LWR designs need a large reinforced concrete dome constructed to accommodate for a possible steam explosion, in case of a pressure breach. Instead of using water, MSR could produce heat to efficiently desalinate water for drinking or farming. In a light water reactor the fuel cost form a large share of the operating costs, but they hardly impact the electricity price, which is determined by capital costs, and infrastructure improvements enforced by ever changing regulations. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. A large share of the radioactive shielding in LWR systems is achieved by water in the primary system and around the reactor pressure vessel. Georgia power’s share is around $6.1 billion, while “remaining ownership of the two reactors is split among Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG Power), and Dalton Utilities”. It is already in a chemically stable form as a fluoride. From Wikipedia: The expected cost for the two reactors is $14 billion. It does mention thorium on the page but not for this reactor. Thorium and the fluoride reactor present an entirely different approach to fuel management that makes repeated recycling not only easy but economically advantageous. Convert 800kg to be stored for 100,000+ years, into 135kg to store for 350 years and 665kg for 10 years. (Standard industrial processing inefficiency of 0.1% leaves 1kg uranium; we can do better than that, but still much less per gigawatt-year than the 5500 kg uranium left in an open ash pile from an average USA coal plant! Transatomic Power Corporation (Massachusetts USA) Founded in 2010, Transatomic is the only company which has disclosed their funding amounts, 3 rounds totaling $5.5 million from investors that included Peter Thiel. It can potentially produce valuable products in addition to electrical energy that will enhance its competitiveness relative to low-cost natural gas and petroleum. Contact Me. (Compare that 1000kg with 135kg for 350 years, to 250,000kg uranium to make 35,000kg enriched uranium for a solid-fueled reactor like LWR, for that same gigawatt-year electricity, all needing storage for 100,000+ years. LWR uses ~2% of the fuel, because fission products trapped in the fuel pellets block fission, and the pellets get damaged by radiation and pressure. Forum on Physics and Society. The liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is a heterogeneous MSR design which breeds its U-233 fuel from a fertile blanket of lithium-beryllium fluoride (FLiBe) salts with thorium fluoride. Conventional nuclear can be built at very low cost. Thorium is very insoluble, which is why it is plentiful in sands but not in seawater, in contrast to uranium. (Using thorium in a solid fueled, water cooled reactor, such as India is doing, does not give the safety and waste-reducing benefits of a molten fueled, salt cooled reactor.). Researchers are exploring methods of using MSR heat to extract CO2 from solid materials containing a lot of CO2, store the carbon and release or use the oxygen, and then we could put those CO2-absorbing materials into the ocean to remove CO2 from the water. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) took the lead in researching MSRs through the 1960s. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) simply too dangerous -that’s why it was stopped. The 500MW molten salt nuclear reactor: Safe, half the price of light water, and shipped to order. Image “How Does a Fluoride Reactor Use Thorium” is from PDF Kirk Sorensen – Thorium Energy Alliance. The Thorium Molten Salt Reactor website is a publication of the Stichting Thorium MSR, In depth: LFTR, the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. Two of the present day start-up-companies developing MSR Technology, Terrestrial Energy and Thorcon Power, claim that their business case shows that their molten salt based power systems can produce energy cheaper than coal. [ 1] The thermodynamic efficiency through the usage of a closed Brayton Cycle can approach around 54% due to the high temperatures the LFTRs run at  MSR has molten fuel, no fuel pellets, no fuel rods. A MSR’s waste is safe (radiation levels below the original uranium ore and below background radiation) within 350 years. An important reason for the higher costs of LWR’s is in the nuclear power plant construction. A slightly different type of MSR can consume the uranium/plutonium waste from solid-fueled reactors as fuel. The LFTR reactor works by combining thorium and uranium dissolved in liquid fluoride, lithium, and beryllium and starting a cycle that replenishes these elements with chemical combinations. One concept is a hardened concrete facility below ground with a concrete lid on ground level to protect it from aircraft impact and other possible forms of assault. Thorium exists in nature in a single isotopic form – T… Ambient-pressure operation makes MSRs easier to build while costing less (no high-pressure steam containment building, no high-pressure pipes); Operating cost is less since the inherent safety of MSR means less complex systems than the LWR (every LWR requires multiple-redundant high-pressure systems); Fuel cost is lower since no manufacturing fuel pellets (LWR pellets have to contain fission products under very high pressure) or fuel rods. The above figures are the capital cost for LWR’s. (Hargraves & Moir, 2010) . The high temperature also allows for excess heat to be used for powering other industrial processes such as hydrogen production and desalination. (In a MSR designed to use a different salt than LFTR would use, the zirconium cladding of a fuel rod could even be used to make the salt coolant.). For a LFTR, thorium is a cheap, plentiful fuel; (other MSR designs could eliminate LWR waste by using it as fuel); For a LFTR, no expensive enrichment is required, simply add solid or molten thorium or plutonium to the molten fuel; for a thermal-spectrum MSR use low-enriched uranium; for a fast-spectrum MSR, un-enriched or depleted uranium can be used. (Scroll to see all) Molten Fuel; Salt Cooled; Inherent Safety; Easy Construction & Siting; Lower Cost; Industrial Heat. MSRs make no long-term nuclear waste (over 99% of the fuel is fissioned, not left as waste), unlike LWR (only 2-3% of the fuel is fissioned). With sufficient R&D funding (around US $1 billion), five years to commercialization is entirely realistic (including construction of factories, less than US $5 Billion), and another five years for a national roll-out is feasible. The rest of the uranium is considered “waste”, to be stored for over 100,000 years. Thorium can be employed in a variety of reactor types, some of which currently use uranium—including heavy water reactors like Canada’s CANDU. Development of LFTR equipment technology, testing of the design and construction, and construction of factories to produce them: ~$5Billion. A Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) is a type of Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) that can use inexpensive Thorium for fuel (thorium becomes uranium inside the reactor). Most other fission products are easily chemically separated from the circulating fuel salt. The reactor was shut down every 8 days because the design did not allow the salt to be drained in the event of an accident. A thorium-MSR operates at atmospheric pressure. There are several types of nuclear reactor possible, that can fission All that uranium, plutonium, and other transuranic elements. (As a bonus, the rare earth materials we currently mine are almost always found with thorium, which is currently considered a “nuclear waste” though it has one of the lowest levels of radiation of any radioactive material, radiation stopped by a thin layer of plastic or paper; when we use MSR we mine a little less rare earth materials and leave a little less thorium “waste”. To produce 1 gigawatt electricity for a year, takes 800kg to 1000kg of thorium or uranium/plutonium “waste”. Fuel Thorium and uranium fluoride solution 4. Mass produced thorium-MSR’s could even replace the power generation components in existing fossil fuel powered plants, integrating with the existing electrical distribution infrastructure which would also save large amounts of money (Deutch, et al., 2009, p. 6), (Juhasz, et al., 2009, p. 4), (Hargraves & Moir, 2010, pp. Thorium is a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder. LFTR – A Nuclear Reactor That Can’t Melt Down? However the cost of machining tools, remote maintenance of radioactive primary systems and decommissioning were still unsure at the time (MacPherson, 1985), (Weinberg, 1994). LFTRs could even be deployed for military field use or disaster relief. 80% of the new reactors being built are being built in or by China, South Korea and Russia. Create design difficulties and trade-offs: Economics of liquid fluoride thorium reactor is expected cost... 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