Safe nuclear power has been available for decades as a result of the 1960s molten-salt reactor (MSR) research & operations at ORNL in Tenn.
Please use the template below as a general guide in preparing your proposal.
The Proto-History of the Molten Salt System, A. Weinberg, Journal of Accelerator and Plasma Research ISSN 1225-9896, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1997;
The First Nuclear Era, the Life and Times of a Technological Fixer, A. Weinberg, AIP Press, 1994.
"The Nuclear Imperative", J. Eerkens, Springer, 2010.
Dr. A. Cannara, 650-400-3071; firstname.lastname@example.org; (others to be named later).
Selected university scientific research groups known to have related interest in nuclear technology.
Specific university research groups with interest in public policy, environmental/energy issues, economics, business law, political science & public psychology. The purpose of non-reactor research is to determine the most effective ways of explaining MSR/LFTR advantages to members of the public, members of Congress, media, environmental organizations & non-scientific members of administrative organizations that will hols sway over the print & bureaucratic issues surrounding research & policy development & funding. The bureaucracies include DoE & NRC, whose funding & actions are Congressionally cicumscribed.
Advocates, such as: iTheo.org, ThoriumEnergyAlliance.com, the-weinberg-foundation.org/
Participating corporations, in & out of the USA. This will require a structure for intellectual-property protection, as well as disposition of any costs & revenues ascribed to each participant. This, in itself, is a project that an economic team will attend to, perhaps in novel ways, and will proceed in parallel with engineering & political work, as particpants are recruited.
12) Document everything.
Why: Rationale for the proposal
The report to IPCC Copenhagen (Fall 2009) made clear that global CO2 emissions had by then placed at least 160 million people in danger of loss of land, livelihood, food & life, even if emissions were reduced by 4% per annum. beginning January 2011, and achieved equivalent of 1 ton CO2 per capita per annum by 2050: http://download.copenhagendiagnosis.org/default.html (p51, 1st edition).
The result of that warning was no action. Instead of any reduction, emissions increased by 5% in 2010. In addition, ocean acidification began to evidence itself in Nordic waters, causing defrormastions in organisms that form the base of oceanic food chains around the world. Since 70% of human food protein comes from the sea, this may well portend a far more disatrous & proximate effect of emissions than climate change or sea rise. In any event, the need to eliminate greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions is today critical: http://tinyurl.com/2a7lswe http://tinyurl.com/3cw4rkc
Since our energy production worlwide now generates tens of giga-tons of GHGs, we are clearly far away from the <9Gt 2050 target for a population of 9 billion. The challenge is to deploy an operational, zero GHG-emission, full-scale (1GWe) power plant every week from now until 2050. Only high power-density technologies can hope to meet this requirement. It indeed would have been met by 2000, had the 1962 AEC report been followed. We are thus today, hundreds of giga-Watts behind in the US alone.
There are only 3 sizable 'renewable' energy sources on Earth -- efficiency, solar & nuclear. Engineers & environmental organizations easily advocate the first two, specifically, distributed generation (DG) for solar on existing structures. Those sources build a robust power grid, without large transmission losses & without environmental impacts or sensitivity to climate change -- for example, wind-power suffers all those disadvantages & consumes fossil fuels for processing ~700 tons of material per installed MW peak (~1/3 MW average). China has already begun experiencing negative climate-change effects on some wind 'farms', and they can't move them to follow the wind.
If we're to achieve 1GWe clean new power per week, it can only be done with power sources of density near that of fission -- several GWHr/lb of fissile material. And, if this is to be done safely & cheaply, fuel processing & waste must be reduced by orders of magnitude below the amounts associated with solid-fuelled, LWRs today. This, of course, was part of the logic behind the 1962 recommendations to JFK & Congress.
Only fission-fuel breeding, via Thorium or 238Uranium can approach the fuel-cost need. Only breeding from Thorium in molten salt can meet safety, cost & waste requirements, while providing many thousands of years of sustainability. And, LFTRs find fuel as easily on the Moon & Mars as on Earth. Fission's energy was, after all, stored within new heavy nuclei by supernovae shocks billions of years before our Sun existed. We have, in effect, nuclear 'batteries' charged with amazingly dense mechanical & electromgnetic energy just awaiting our wise exploitation by fission. In LFTR, a neutron, slowed by a Carbon (graphite) moderator, is called a "thermal neutron". It moves at a few miles/second -- just right.to fission another nucleus or to breed a Thorium atom into a 233Uranium atom (picture below). The reaction continues as long as there's enough fertile Th & fissile Uranium (233U or 235U) in the salt.
Only high-temperature reactors can operate at thermal efficiencies competitive with our best combustion plants. MSR/LFTR systems are exactly of that class and can drive turbine systems using intert gasses for superior safety, eliminating the need for cooling water taken from the environment. The Brayton Cycle is a fully gas-turbine cycle, allowing standard, multi-stage tuirbine generators which exhaust to ambient air rather than bodies of water. This means that MSR/LFTR plants can be placed anywhere & can deliver waste heat to processes such as desalination & fuel production from atmospheric Carbon & Hydrogen (CO2 & water): http://tinyurl.com/28pcvns http://tinyurl.com/25mgqkd
An ongoing concern with present LWR power is radioactive waste disposal. The MSR/LFTR has no spent fuel, because nearly every atom of fissile material is consumed inside the reactor. The Jaopanese FUJI Project, for instance, indicates that a full, 1GWe LFTR, run for 30 years, would produce under 100 lbs of wastes that could not be sold for medical or other uses. And, its production of Plutonium would be under 10lbs, most usable by NASA for missions neyond Mars. These are 4% and 0.1%, respectively, of the waste left by an LWR over the same period. And if mining waste were included, the benefit of LFTR use would rise by orders of magnitude.
Finally, valuable products, not available otherwise, are part & parcel of LFTR operation & chemistry. For exasmple, 213Bismuth only arises in the final decay stage of 233Uranium, and it forms an essential anti-cancer agent when linked to antibodies. A similarly critical medical isoptope is 99Molybdenum, which is used for millions of body scans each year. More general needs for Tritium & 3Helium are limiting fusion science & Homeland Security. All such isotopic products are in shortening supply due to their sources n older reactors now reaching end of life. An MSR/LFTR makes these easily, and its liquid fuel allows chemists to work with their favorite substances -- liquids & gasses.
Liquid fuelling not only makes a better, safer reactor, it makes a more efficient & profitable one as well -- a 1GWe MSR can make about $4M worth of Tritium per year.
How: Feasibility of proposal
If more detailed models or spreadsheets are useful in demonstrating your proposal’s feasibility, please send them to email@example.com, and they will be reviewed and linked to your proposal.
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old order of things, and lukewarm defenders in those who may
do well under the new.” – Niccolo Machiavelli.
Machiavelli often gets a bum rap -- he was in fact a learned, serious student of man and cared for mankind. His words above just signal his awareness & sharing of real human weaknesses. We’re the species with both opposable thumbs & obdurate minds – the “not invented here” syndrome, for instance. Or, the "If it's so good..." question -- answered by reminding the questioner of how well governements work & asking the person to look at his/her very modern phone/computer keyboard & explain: "QWERTY...". Why MSR was defunded in 1974 in favor of bombs then gets a response like: "Typical!"
So, this proposal's tasks will meet every class of interest & concern: scientific, business, environmental, financial, political & psychological -- see the What section above.
Overall global economic and environmental governance framework...
As a nuclear-energy initiative, this falls under the IAEA and international treaties. Because the MSRdesign has already operated at ORNL ro several years, the technology itself is stable & well understood, even with regard to detailed chemical processes** -- "Fluid Fuel Reactors", Addison-Wesley, 1958 and "Molten-Salt
Reactor Chemistry", W. Grimes, 1969. The regulatory standards, however, will be different from those now imposed by NRC & duplicated in most of the world. This is an expensive task for US DoE or other foreign regulators. The economics of MSR/LFTR technology is itself much better than that for present LWRs, matching fossil-fuelled power easily, especially if fossil-fuel emissions, extraction costs & waste are fully accounted for. Present estimates are at or below the standard estimate for coal-fired power of $2/Watt: "Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors". R. Hargraves & R. Moir. American Scientist, July-August 2010.
Mechanisms for financing required investments...
This is a continuation what DoE's Gen-IV MSR reactor effort has designated as desirable. The Gen-IV class includes 5 other reactor types, variously related to advantages of both molten salt and fuel breeding. However, only one (not MSR) has significant, funded effort ongoing. Thus funding will require specfic DoE & Congressional approriation, if work is to be done by the US givernment. Other sources are actively being sought by groups who may wish to assist with this proposal. Thus it may well be that resulting progress will occur across country bounds, with various business & researcher involvement. Organizing this is one of the main actions listed for the proposal to move forward.
Role of new energy technologies and technology transfer...
Most significant technology is in the public domain, as represented by the ORNL archives.**. However, there's great opportunity for physical & chemical R&D investment, to optimize MSR/LFTR efficiency & materials and to modularize oprations that are part of overall system management. These include fuel & salt chemistry, product extraction, optimizing reactor architecture & the power module driven by core fluid (e.g., turbine design choices). Much industrial-grade processing gear supports an operating MSR.
Political, educational, or media interventions that can facilitate the transition...
These tasks are key to fulfillment of this proposal & have been assigned as specific actions to groups of indviduals, at universities & companies, expert in conveying new technology to varied audiences. Despite the fact that the MSR is decades old, it's still "nuclear power" and that in itself raises a broad set of questions and sensitivities. Since the clear goal of Weinberg's ORNL group was safe nuclear power, and the operating result of their work realized much of that goal, the technology indeed has vaklidity that can be conveyed to any audience, even if they're not happy with the present state of commercial nuclear power around the world.
Vision of the future under this proposal
Vision: Abundant power & water anywhere on Earth that lasts for millennia. (That we already successfully addressed much of the technology 40 years ago helps).
Future directions for US reactor research are dependent on the DoE’s Advanced Reactor Program, specifically the 6 Gen-IV choices for R&D -- MSR is one of these. It's also dependent on Congressional funding of NRC staffing to develop new regulations & specifications for new reactor designs. Moving these processes along is part of this proposal's purpose. However, the rest of the world doesn’t sleep and needs power and water at least as much as we do (e.g., China builds a new city the size of Chicago every several months). So, given China’s recent (March 2011) announcement of clear plans to follow on from ORNL’s MSR research, we may well see India, Brazil and others quickly follow, particularly those countries advantaged in Thorium.
The tragic events in Fukushima Japan, in fact, augur for new directions in nuclear-power-system design, as advised in 1962. Perhaps the US Congress & DoE will change course & emphasis enough to accelerate the Gen-IV MSR plan. It will serve all countries well to quickly move to LFTR demonstration projects. Economists often talk about our world’s imbalances (food, water, energy, incomes…). Access to
abundant power & water is an agreed-upon key to bettering those imbalances.
Any country embarking on the MSR/LFTR path, will accrue benefits to all levels of society. In paticular, the range of science, engineering, chemistry & other technical jobs inevitably expands -- education in nuclear technology that's largely stagnant now suddenly becomes vibrant, attracting young people into good educations & jobs designing & building systems that will be seen as vital to human society. The construction & management of new power systems for new purposes beyond generation will offer remarkable business & employment opportunities. And, to serve all these new/expanded needs, universities will experience their own growth. Overall, this proposal offers huge societal benefits.
At the practical, population-needs level, the ability to deploy power & desalination everywhere, at costs less than coal, has revolutionary benefits. We know the cultural benefits of reliable power, but water is now in such shortening supply atound the world that its availability may be more imortant. Consider that Pakistan & India share the Indus Basin, which provides food & water to both countries. Pakistan dislikes India's dam construction in the region. Both countries are nuclear powers. If water became an inexpensive issue, peace might become more realistic in the region -- any region.
The societal benefits of environmentally safe, abundant, cheap, lasting power, via MSR/LFTR, seems likely to be as important a human discovery as any. It certainly appears to be a necessary part of sustainable living as world population continues to grow.