Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

Major Energy and Environmental News and Commentary affecting the Nuclear Industry.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, support for

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, support for

Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future
c/o U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20585
I write in support of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future's draft report of "Reactor and Fuel Cycle Technology Subcommittee
Report to the Full Commission" dated June, 2011.
Specifically, I applaud and support the recommendation to advance "game changing" nuclear reactor design, especially Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR or MSR). This liquid core reactor type answers all the negatives of legacy PWR's and more.
They produce copious amounts of rare earth minerals of which China has cut off the supply. It also produces significant amounts of needed medical isotopes.
The simple design is ready made for assembly line production. Once one has been certified by NRC, deployment of large numbers will be possible because they can all be identical. NRC approval is not required by the military so use of LFTR in "islanding" all Army and Air Force bases can proceed at a much faster rate than commercial LFTR power plants which require lengthy NRC certification.
Exports of "Ready to Use" LFTR power plants on foreign soil will be possible due to the virtual impossibility of using U-233 from LFTR for weapons. No country has ever considered using U-233 for weapons because it is always contaminated with U-232 which decays, creating "hard" gamma radiation, destroying electronics and explosives. Anyone working with this material will likely receive a lethal radiation dose very quickly. Any removal of U-233 from LFTR will stop the reactor.
The US imports all uranium from foreign countries. We in the US have about 20% of all known thorium deposits in the world. Thorium is 300 times more efficient than uranium because 100% of thorium is used in LFTR compared with only .5 to .7 percent of uranium in a legacy PWR. Using the thorium deposits readily available in the US will power the entire world for thousands of years. Uranium will run out in the very near future.
The lack of water cooling requirements allows LFTR to be sited virtually anywhere. They do not need to be placed in a coastal area, on a lake or river. The absence of water cooling towers and pressure containment vessels will allow for a smaller plant site than legacy PWR's.
The much feared nuclear waste problem is eliminated with LFTR. The waste produced is continuously removed during regular operating time. Stored nuclear waste at legacy power plants can be consumed in - and used for power in a LFTR. In a legacy PWR, 99.5% of all uranium placed in the reactor results in nuclear waste. This waste is stacking up at every nuclear plant in the world, without a solution for it's ultimate fate. This material can be used in LFTR's while generating power.
Supporting LFTR type nuclear power plants is a very easy decision for this country if you look at all the benefits listed above. Unfortunately, such decisions are usually made without regard for what is best for the US and the world. Political posturing and special interest always seem to adversely affect public projects. I am hopeful that the enormous benefits of LFTR over PWR will ultimately win out. It just does not make any sense to continue with solid core uranium PWR's.
China does not have such problems. They have looked at the technology, physically visited the MSR project site at Oak Ridge National Lab with a national team of engineers. They have begun a nationally funded research project with the stated goal of developing a Molten Salt Reactor (same as LFTR) and claiming intellectual rights for the technology that they will then sell internationally. This should serve as the "Sputnik moment" for the DOE. We should not only support the development of LFTR, we should assemble an effort like the Manhattan Project to continue the research that ORNL conducted in the '60's and early '70's and lead the way for our own commercialization of LFTR technology.
DOE can use $477 million dollars authorized by congress to dilute and dispose of one ton of U-233 that is being stored at ORNL. DOE should ask congress for authorization to use the funds for a different type of disposal, namely, use it in LFTR operations. LFTR's need a small amount of starter fuel to get going. The U-233 is perfect for this job and will effectively dispose of the U-233 as congress requests. So DOE should use the $477 million to conduct a crash R&D LFTR program. No new funds are needed to begin work.
Thank you
Richard Houghton
19 Camborn Pl.
Conroe, Texas 77384
July 13, 2011

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