Archive for November, 2009

Oil Sands Extraction – LFTR in Alberta?

THORIUM REMIX 2009 has been well received, so I’ve cut it down further to 10 minutes and put the subject in a Canadian context: How about using a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor to power oil sands crude extraction?

Bill Dickie (Alberta Minister of Mines and Minerals 1971-1975) pointed out the Stelmach government just polled 1024 Albertans and found only 25% object to new nuclear projects…

Calgary Herald: Alberta would welcome private nuclear power, Stelmach gov’t says (excerpt follows)

The Stelmach government opened the door Monday to nuclear power in Alberta — rejecting a moratorium and saying it will consider the controversial energy option on a case-by-case basis — but vowed no public dollars will be invested in any project.

The province announced its nuclear power policy the same day Energy Minister Mel Knight rolled out the results of the province’s public consultation on the issue. A telephone survey of 1,024 Albertans, which incorporated input from stakeholder groups, found about one-quarter of people want the government to refuse projects. Two in 10 said the province should encourage proposals and 45 per cent of people polled want nuclear power plants considered on a case-by-case basis.

With those numbers in hand, Knight said Monday that Alberta is open for business on nuclear power. But he stressed the province won’t cough up a penny and hinted the lack of subsidies might dissuade companies from proceeding in Alberta. “We’re not putting a moratorium on nuclear,” Knight told reporters. “We are not proponents of nuclear energy,” he added. “We need power and proponents that want to build (nuclear) in the system in Alberta are welcome to do so.”

Premier Ed Stelmach, however, said Monday in his “Ask Premier Ed” online video that nuclear energy is a “viable option” in Alberta.

“This is one way of keeping down the carbon footprint,” Stelmach said, noting the United States is “very high” on nuclear energy.

The premier acknowledged nuclear waste is a worry for many, but said new technology is key to addressing concerns.

I’m got some useful feedback on REDDIT, and forum pertaining to LFTR’s potential in Alberta…

Depleted uranium can be used as fuel in fast reactors. However, it is not usable in CANDU. CANDU is a thermal reactor, not a fast reactor: it does not breed fuel. It runs on fissile U-235. It can run on (0.7% U-235) natural uranium because it is very efficient at using U-235, not because it burns U-238 (not self-sufficiently, anyway). Conventional reactors are extremely wasteful, as they throw away over 99% of the starting material (because they can not feasibly burn U-238). A closed fuel cycle, with reprocessing and fast reactors, increases fuel efficiency by 100x – hence decreases fuel demands by 100x, and waste production by 100x. The transuranic elements, the most important of nuclear waste, are not left over but are consumed as fuel. Fast reactors can import these waste components from other reactors and burn them. They are waste incinerators. Thorium fuel cycles are basically the same – substituting U-238 with Th-232, and Pu-239 with U-233. They have the same basic advantages as plutonium-cycle fast reactors – fuel efficiency, waste burning. - deleted

Somewhere around 1/3 to 1/2 of a barrel of oil is needed to extract 1 barrel of oil. This is a very significant amount. I can not speak for other people. My primary concern with nuclear reactors are the usual concerns about cost, fuel production, safety, disposal, and cost. If the benefits of nuclear can be had without the drawbacks, then I will dance a little jig. It’s the promise of fusion, after all. - MechaBlue

Canadians are slightly anti-nuke, but the primary problem is that the oil companies already own the natural gas. They just drill a hole and it comes out of the ground to be burned for free, so from their point of view why would they use nuclear? They used to burn natural gas off as waste. You would have an easier time selling the idea of a Thorium reactor in terms of providing people with cheap power. Even then, in Alberta, the “lines provider” will be taking most of the profit from delivering that power. The reason why consumers are stuck with heavily polluting mines and power generation is primarily political. The current generators have used regulatory means to exclude newcomers because it isn’t in their best interest to lower their profits. - raghead

Use of nuclear energy for in situ gasification of coal (via high temperature steam) could reduce mining deaths. High ash coal deposits could also be exploited. Non-volatile poisons could be left in situ and the gas could be cleaned of volatile poisons and suspended matter before use. The process may also be feasible as an alternate for bitumen deposits like Alberta sands. - jagdish

Indian thorium solid fuel fast breeder will be up in 2011 at Kalpakkam This is unrelated to LFTR, which is a thermal spectrum reactor working with liquid fuels. - tt23

2011-10-21 Update:

THORIUM REMIX 2011 is now complete. This is my recommended video resource for learning about the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (a type of Thorium Molten Salt Reactor). It begins with a brief summary comparing LFTR to Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR).

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Oil Sands Debate with Elizabeth May

“Is Oil Sands Development Ultimately Irreconcilable with the Environmental Agenda?” was the question posed by Calgary Enterprise Forum. The discussion was held at Calgary Petroleum Club featuring Elizabeth May, Deborah Yedlin (Calgary Herald columnist) and Murray Smith (Energy Minister 2001-2005).

Despite the plethora of oil patch executives, Calgary Greens and red wine, no fisticuffs took place.

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Thorium Remix 2009

Update: Further trimmed video’s length to 16 minutes! That’s as brief as I can possibly make it.

Kirk Sorensen’s Google Tech Talk “Energy from Thorium” made a big impression on me. But when I recommended it to others, the typical response was “it’s 82 minutes long”. So I shortened it. In fact, I combined 3 Google Tech Talks on Thorium into first a single 25 minute summary (below), and now a 16 minute summary (above).

If you are care about climate change, energy independence or nuclear fission byproducts (some take thousands of years to decay), then please check this out. The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is a fascinating concept, and watching a remix may be the fastest way to get up to speed. Prefer reading copy? Chemical & Engineering News just posted an excellent Thorium overview.

197 minutes of Google Tech Talks were reviewed and compressed to make this video. The video quality is what it is because it is all second generation YouTube content. Should anyone knowledgeable about LFTR pay a visit to Calgary (or Edmonton), I’ll be happy to record a lecture on the subject, and provide a sharper summary video.

Canada’s oil sands may represent the most likely scenario for LFTR adoption in Canada. Regardless of the energy source used to extract oil from bitumen, Alberta will be responsible for emitting a lot of CO2 as oil sands development continues. That appears politically inevitable. The resource is in the ground, we’re going to dig it up. Hopefully it will proceed as slowly as possible (as the bitumen will only increase in value over time), and as efficiently as possible.

LFTR R&D might be only considered “Oil Sands R&D” in the short term. But if it enables Canada to expand our CANDU reactor line to include liquid-fluoride thorium reactors, we wouldn’t just have better energy options at home, but more reactor options for export.

With that in mind, I created a MP3 audio-only version (6 MB), and an iPhone/iPod friendly MPEG-4 version (115 MB).

Those alternate formats are the 25 minute version, not 16 minute version. If you want to take a stab at creating a still shorter version (I think a video needs to be under 8 minutes to go viral), a high quality MPEG-4 version of the 16 minute remix is right here (89 MB). Giv’er.

2011-10-21 Update:

THORIUM REMIX 2011 is now complete. This is my recommended video resource for learning about the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (a type of Thorium Molten Salt Reactor). It begins with a brief summary comparing LFTR to Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR).

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Chaordix Promo Video on Crowdsourcing

I’ve created a corporate video for Calgary based Chaordix which briefly describes crowdsourcing.

[flashvideo file= image=×290.gif width=515 height=310 duration=127 /]

The creation of this video was an example of client fast feedback loops enabled by posting iterations of a video to a private video host. While working on each iteration of the video, the previous iteration was uploading to Blip.TV.

Prior to upgrading to a 64-bit OS (Win7x64), there was a noticeable hit in PC performance while simultaneously rendering and editing. But now with 7 GB RAM, and 4 CPU, I can edit, render (and of course upload) at the same time. Good workflow.


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