New Ideas for Thorium?

In a comment on Thorium Reactors Jeff pointed out how it would change our electrical grid – or at least allow us to change it.

That brings to mind the question of what changes Thorium LFTR reactors might make in the world.

I know I don’t know all of the possibilities.  I think it would be cool to ask for your ideas:


I will submit two and I am eager to see what others think might happen.  Any and all changes are welcome.


6 responses to “New Ideas for Thorium?

  1. 1. Closing down light water reactors all around the world. I know the U.S. military will always want some running, just to keep making bombs, but we should be able to shut down all but a handful.

  2. 2. Almost free energy. When a golfball-sized ball of thorium will supply all the energy I need for a lifetime, and when the reactors will be so much less expensive, and when so little waste is generated, the cost HAS to come down a LOT. If $200/month electric bills come down a LOT, then I am thinking in the range of maybe $25-$40/month. Perhaps less Perhaps a lot less. That certainly would mean that people of limited means will still be able to keep their lights on. Perhaps if the price is low enough the community can provide poor people with free electricity.

    If a community floats a bond to build one and it costs 1/10th as much as a LWR plant, can the community pay off a LFTR in, say, 15 years? Can it then drop prices by 3/4 or more?

    These reactors also seem to have less moving parts and less to go wrong, but they WILL need maintenance at some point. Will they be able to be repaired or have irradiated parts replaced cost effectively? Will LFTR plants be able then to last as long as they keep replacing parts? How cost effective would that be? I think a LOT.

  3. 1. Not free energy but abundant thorium at $.03/kw beats coal at $.054/kw making coal fired plants with their toxic atmospheric and ash wastes obsolete.
    2. No more economy wrecking resource wars to get fuel and water.
    3. No more strip mining for coal or uranium that destroy landscapes and contaminate water supplies.
    4. Conversion of garbage, sewage, and excess CO2 into feed stocks for the production of liquid fuels.
    5. Production of beneficial nuclear isotopes for medical treatments and deep space propulsion
    6. Abundant fresh water from low cost desalination for urban use and agriculture
    7. Saving the environment from devastating effects of petroleum production, combustion, and spills.
    8. Affordable production of fertilizer from atmospheric nitrogen.
    9. LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) can consumes 90% of the material and uses the energy left in “spent” uranium from existing LWR (light water reactors).
    10. A fuel source that is less radioactive than a banana, Brazil nuts and kitty litter.
    11. Affordable energy that liberates the third world by improving their health care and standard of living which is shown to reduce birth rate.
    12. Compact, dense power production that doesn’t require water and provide adequate power for the realistic colonization of the moon, Mars, Antarctica and the bottom of the ocean.

  4. Eric –

    Extremely good ideas. Thanks! And you covered most of what is out there. 6 and 8 are “awesomer” points among other awesome points.

    15 (Overall). Instead of foreign aid in dollars which might end up in a few pockets at the top, it seems to make sense to donate LFTRs and a skeleton of an electric grid to developing countries, to give them cheap energy – and then let them decide how to distribute it further and use it. The cost would be equal to or less than current aid, and it would “give them a fishing rod instead of a fish for dinner.”

    16. In conjunction with ion propulsion for deep space spacecraft.

    17. As well as the ocean bottom, why not power floating islands in the deep ocean? For farming the sea, or for living, even. It may sound a bit out there, but in time, who knows? (71% of the world is “uninhabitable; perhaps that isn’t necessarily so.)

    18. Change most passenger and cargo planes to electric. With improvements to batteries (when it happens), drive propeller-driven planes with electricity. The more we get away from jet fuel the better.

    19. Rather than battery-powered cars and trucks, why not finally have powered roadways, reducing the weight of cars in the process? (Why carry the fuel?) Induction, or overhead lines like trams, could be the means of transmitting power to the vehicles.

    20. Low-velocity rail gun assist for airport runways, to boost plane speeds up to take-off velocity. Again, to keep onboard weight to a minimum.

    Any area in which power has been a limiting factor should be an area to look at what might be done with very cheap and nearly unlimited power.

  5. Steve – great points! The combination of low pressure high heat in LFTR make it a great source of heat energy thus reducing the cost of many industrial processes. 21) This allows us to affordably move to composite materials for construction of durable light weight vehicles. Cheap “green” fuels also take pressure off food crops like corn/ethanol which reduces wolrd food prices.

  6. First off, the idea of biofuels was a TERRIBLE idea. I heard that and the firt thing I thought of was what it would do to food prices. Bingo! Tortillas in Mexico tripled in price. Fracking is almost a good idea by comparison.

    On your 21 – There is so little reason to have 3,000 lb vehicles, when you get down to it. The only reason has been that you needed to carry the fuel with you and had to have the propulsion on board. If all you have is a ~1 HP motor plus passengers the body weight starts dropping like a rock. Think of an electric motorcycle/motorbike, but with a lightweight crash cage/shell.

    On 20 above, the Navy has almost always used pulleys and weights to boost the take-off speed, then later it was done with hydraulic or air cylinders. Using electricity/magnetism is just another form of power to do the same thing.

    I’ve long thought that rail guns could and should be used for rocket launches. The great thing about it is that with servos they can ramp it up on a smooth curve to achieve max launch velocity – regardless of load. If it were up to me, I’d begin the rail gun, and during the ramp-up I’d begin the rockets – and if they failed to ignite, I’d decelerate to a stop before reaching the end of the rails. Failsafe launches.

    And that would work terrifically well on the Moon or Mars. There you wouldn’t even need ANY launch fuel at all (this is with or without LFTRs onboard) – just accelerate to escape velocity right on the rails. Too much acceleration for humans? Nope – just extend the rails as long as you want them, right along the ground, with a swoop at the end. The longer the rails, the lower acceleration you need.

    The more moons/planets/asteroids you do that on, the more you can begin to travel around the solar system.

    On one of my other posts, I discussed the crazy idea of using a clamp-on ship to attach to an existing comet or asteroid in an orbit reaching in to 1 AU and out to the asteroid belt, and then hitching a ride on it – with a possibility of steering it. It is already going ~30 kps. Using ion thrust driven by a LFTR, we should be able to “push” it to the side or up and down and steer it somewhat. I think we could learn how to pull up next to another asteroid, then steer it back in toward Earth, put it in orbit (perhaps out by the Moon?), and then mine it close by. Science fiction? No more than Arthur Clarke’s “Rama” was in its day. In the process of doing all that, we should:

    a.) learn how to deflect incoming comets endangering Earth

    b.) be able to put in place telescopes all around the plane of the planets in order to detect more and more NEOs and comets. The more detectors the better. (I am big into the history and science of past impacts on Earth.)

    c.) mine minerals not common on Earth

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