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  • alasdairlumsden

    Molten Salt Reactors can burn more than just Thorium, they can eat existing Nuclear waste stockpiles, which is exactly what Transatomic Power want to do:

    So I'd say the real technology is the MSR/LFTR, not Thorium. Thorium is definitely an energy source of the future but the attention should be going on the reactor that can best use it. Because the MSR/LFTR design can burn 99% of the fuel rather than the 1% in existing solid fuel reactors, it produces vastly less waste and has the potential to generate energy cheaper than coal. This is a point worth stressing - if it is the cheapest way to produce energy, market forces should hopefully adopt it.

    Coal causes over 100,000 deaths annually due to respiratory diseases; 13,000 in the US alone. Coal mining kills over 6000 worldwide annually. A coal plant pumps out vastly more radiation and toxins into the atmosphere than a Nuclear plant does because coal contains radioactive elements and heavy metals which are released as fine particles during the burning process.

    We really need a disruptive technology to displace Coal and Gas generation, and MSR/LFTR is it. There is no greater method of energy production other than perhaps Fusion.

    Of course, China has seen the potential and are now actively pursuing the technology at their National Academy of Sciences - the project is being headed up by Jiang Mianheng, son of former leader Jiang Zemin. So this extends right the way to the top of politics over there. They're putting serious money and effort into this, $350M and around 1000 staff. If China is successful, and we have every reason to believe they will be, this will be the biggest game changer in energy in the last 50 years.

  • ntouran

    Just so everyone knows, the online LFTR community has gone supercritical. There are now stories citing stories in circles spreading the good news of Thorium.

    A few myths to debunk:

    1) Uranium has more energy in it than Thorium. Don't think that MSR/LFTR is the only reactor that can breed. There are 191 MeV/atom of U-233 (the product of Thorium) and 197 MeV/atom of U-238 (in a typical uranium cycle). You have to use BREEDER reactors to unlock the vast majority of this energy. Regular old fast breeder reactors are one option, and Thorium fueled MSRs like LFTR are another.

    2) The owner of a LFTR can easily get weapons material. At MSRE in Oak Ridge, the used something called a fluorination process where they pumped in hydroflouric acid (HF) and out bubbled weapons-grade U-235 (in the form of UF6). Of course, that was fueled with weapons-grade U-235. In a Thorium-fueled manifestation (which they subsequently tested), a high power-density core must necessarily separate Protactinium as it is created and keep it out of the core until it decays to fissile (weapons-grade) U-233, at which point they put it back in the core. If you put it in a bomb instead, you'd have bombs. How is this proliferation resistant again? The only solution I've seen is the Denatured-MSR, which is so big and low power density that you don't have to take out the Pa as the core operates b/c it's poisoning is reduced at low power density. LFTRs make it hard to divert weapons material, but if Iran had one, they would make weapon material from it. Fact.

    3) MSR development WAS NOT CANCELLED BECAUSE WE NEEDED MORE BOMBS! This is a laughable claim made by the entire LFTR web community, so it seems like it's true thanks to so many articles like this. The MSRE was cancelled by oak ridge themselves so they could focus on developing the larger MSBR reactor. But the DOE was out of cash because they had spent it all on the solid-fueled fast breeder program and so they said, sorry guys, cool idea but we are out of cash. It wasn't some big conspiracy to make more bombs. We had plenty of bomb production capability at the time. Get real, yall!

    There are tons of great things about MSRs/LFTRs, but don't think for a second that it's some incredible new power source. It is definitely interesting and should be developed, but if you think it's problem free, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

    BTW, there's a page written by Ph.D. nuclear engineers on these topics at

    • Kellen

      Hey Ntouran, sorry for the delay, thanks for the comment. I think you skipped addressing the point of this post tho. Based on the sources I outlined below, to name a few, it seems that thorium energy in a LFTR is the way to go. You do mention in your last paragraph the questions I'm getting at: 1, how do we encourage the US to pursue thorium reactors, and 2, what exactly are the problems with thorium everyone should be aware of? (keeping in mind the proliferation argument is addressed by several of the sources listed.)