Posts Tagged Molten Salt Reactor

House of Cards and Rare Earth Elements

Netflix’s “House of Cards” has characters fighting over a rare earth refinery in China. This is a welcome pop-culture introduction to the challenge facing North American high-tech manufacturing: no domestic supply of HEAVY Rare-Earth Elements.

If you’re a fan of House of Cards, I think it is interesting to hear a congressional staffer observe it is “the most popular show among congressional staffers”, and lament that such a popular plot point has not resulted in the same staffers understanding the rare earth problem.

If you think this video is useful, please consider providing me with captured footage (as was done here!), or funding the man-hours required to edit.

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“Th” Thorium Doc Chapters: “Greens”, “MSRE”

Generally I don’t post updates concerning the thorium documentary “Th” here, as it is still a work in progress and my updates are so incremental they’re really only worthy of short tweets.

But I think a couple of the chapters have reached a quality level that I should try direct people to them.

Thorium Documentary “Th” Chapter 8: Greens vs Nuclear (& Thorium)

Of course not all environmentalists dismiss nuclear. Baroness Bryony Worthington has strong environmentalist/activist credentials. She drove with us towards Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and so her perspective is captured in the greatest detail. Many other environmentalists quoted in this chapter to help explain why they’ve rethought their anti-nuclear positions.

Thorium Documentary “Th” Chapter 9: Alvin Weinberg’s Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment

And here we reach our destination: Oak Ridge National Lab. We tour the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (that’s an extremely rare tour!) The MSRE is discussed with researchers who took part.

The Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment demonstrated that nuclear fuel could be dissolved in molten salts… that solid fuel rods and water coolant were not the only game in town when designing a nuclear reactor.

There are a great many advantages to dissolving nuclear fuel and keeping it in a molten state during normal operation. Only a few are touched on here.

But if you’re opposed to nuclear power, I do think these two videos are worth your time.

Anyone who’s opposed to nuclear ought to be opposed for specific reasons… not just fission itself. That’s like being opposed to gravity, thermodynamics or our planet having a molten core. Fission happens. It’s happened naturally on the surface of the Earth. It happens (along with fusion) every day in the sun.

Concerns about nuclear safety, nuclear waste disposal and weapons proliferation deserve serious consideration. Careful researching today’s water-cooled reactors, tomorrow’s water-cooled reactors and molten-salt reactors might lead someone opposed to nuclear power to decide some reactor designs are acceptable, and some are not.

But to dismiss nuclear out-of-hand as dangerous is a mistake. I came to this with no opinion (or interest) in nuclear power, except for my own larger concerns about global warming.

As I learn more and more about nuclear fission, and about the challenges of renewable energy alternatives (such as solar, wind and geothermal), I’ve come to the conclusion that many environmentalists are simply as incurious as I once was about nuclear fission.

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Alberta Party Leadership Forum 2011 Calgary

Alberta Party’s leadership convention in Calgary featured 4 obviously competent candidates. Chelsea Pratchett was already streaming this event for OpenFile Calgary.

However, I had a specific question to ask. I was there taping anyway, so here’s my coverage!

My question, which was not presented (probably due to its length):

Alberta wastes valuable natural gas in process of adding hydrogen to bitumen, resulting in oil that can be then processed into gasoline etc.
Deploying LFTRs (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors) would supply us with heat and electricity which would (using copper-chlorine cycle) let us stop wasting our natural gas in this process.
China is racing ahead of everyone in LFTR development, and have stated their intention to control the intellectual property.
LFTR promises inexpensive electricity, reduce our CO2 output when processing oil sands, and offers vast improvements over every other commercial form of fission, including our widely respected CANDU.
LFTR enables local inexpensive energy production. Can we invest in LFTR research instead of soon-to-be-redundant transmission line capacity? Or will we be paying licensing fees to China when we inevitably build these things?

Not having this question answered during the forum, here are the candidates discussing thorium afterwards…

Lee Easton on Thorium

Randy Royer on Thorium

Glenn Taylor on Thorium

Glenn Taylor left before I had a chance to approach him at the forum (he happened to be the last person I could have gotten to). Glenn has since spoken with me via recorded video Skype about Thorium.

Tammy Maloney on Thorium

I briefly spoke to Tammy after the debate, and she suggested we discuss the topic by phone before she go on the record discussing the subject. She’d seen TEDxYYC Kirk Sorensen video “Can Thorium End Our Energy Crisis?” already, but wasn’t ready yet to speak on the topic.

We have since had a decent phone conversation, and Tammy is aware of the many Albertan industries which can benefit from our use of LFTR. She agrees it is important, but does not see where funds for research can be found, asking where does one cut to find the money.

Tammy won’t be able to participate in a recorded Skype call before the leadership election.

Alberta Party – Good for LFTR?

My sense at this point, from the candidates I’ve spoken to, is that they’re open to new technology, and appreciate that this is indeed a different type of nuclear power.

They all deserve credit for having some knowledge of the subject before our conversations: I’d tweeted them in advance I’d like to discus LFTR, so our discussion was less “what is LFTR?” and more about their approach to new technologies.

The most promising aspect of the Alberta Party in this matter: their policy can be influenced by a grassroots movement to promote this clean energy technology. Certainly I don’t have answers for how research can be funded. But if enough Alberta Party members from industries demanding cheap electricity (or enough Alberta Party environmentalists understand what is being offered), it is quite feasible LFTR will soon have political allies at the provincial level.

What is LFTR?

And just in case you were only looking for debate coverage of Alberta Party leadership candidates, and you have no clue what this “LFTR” thing is of which I speak… Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor.

It is the most practical & essential technology I’ve ever heard of, since some guy decided mice needed lasers instead of balls.

10 Minute TEDx video – “Can Thorium End Our Energy Crisis?

16 Minute (more technical) video – “LFTR in 16 Minutes

If you’ve watched those 2 videos, then the most important piece of information you need to know is this: China is already researching thorium powered molten salt reactors, and they’re seeking to file patents on the technology.

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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TEDxYYC Video – Kirk Sorensen on Thorium

On April 1st, Kirk Sorensen spoke to a Calgary TEDxYYC audience about the potential of Thorium as an energy source. Kirk’s TEDxYYC video is now available.

0:50 0:50 10 years working at NASA, designing sustainable lunar colonies.
1:38 1:38 Almost all nuclear power on Earth uses water as a coolant. Some use water at 150 atmospheres of pressure, as needed to generate electricity effectively.
2:24 2:24 Liquid water at 300 degrees Celsius will flash into steam (taking up 1000x more volume) if a leak occurs. This is why today’s nuclear plants need large, expensive concrete containment structures.
3:04 3:04 Today’s reactors extract less than 1% of the energy stored in their uranium oxide fuel, and must be constructed next to large bodies of water.
3:54 3:54 Why not use molten salt instead of water? Liquid fuel instead of solid fuel?
5:11 5:11 Molten salt reactor feature: The freeze plug. Would have been handy in Japan.
6:01 6:01 And then Kirk heard about thorium, and things got even more interesting…
7:34 7:34 LFTR vs conventional nuclear power. 200x more efficient. Enough power to pull CO2 from atmosphere and create new “fossil fuels” from it.
8:18 8:18 Do we have enough thorium? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Holy crap, yes.

If you find the LFTR concept to be as exciting as I do, then there is something you can do right now, to help accelerate investigation and implementation of this technology. You can help promote this video.

You see, this isn’t just any old YouTube video. It is a TEDx video. That it was shot at Calgary’s TEDxYYC event, and uploaded to the TEDxTalks YouTube channel means it has the potential be a TED Talk video. If this YouTube video you see before you has good viewing stats, then it may one day be seen by everyone who visits

So please consider doing any of the following:

  • LIKE the video on YouTube.
  • Add the video to your FAVORITES on YouTube.
  • Tweet about the video. Suggested URL:
  • Share the video on Facebook.
  • Blog about it, with the video embedded.
  • Email the video. Consider people outside your circle of family and friends. (Federal representative?)

And if you’ve never done so, be sure to check out, where other folks from all walks of life interested in this technology can learn more, monitor it’s progress, and see how they can help out.

2011-10-21 Update:

THORIUM REMIX 2011 is finally 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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