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Thorium Could Wean World Off Oil In 5 Years

Hits: 21765 | Rating: (2.8) | Category: Science | Added by: CrakrJak
Page: 1 2 3 Next >   Jump to: Bottom    Last Post
Linkenberger
Male, 18-29, Canada
 1166 Posts
Sunday, September 19, 2010 8:06:31 PM
When I start my country, this is what I'll use.

Angilion
Male, 40-49, Europe
 11513 Posts
Thursday, September 16, 2010 2:31:46 PM
CSP also makes for rather pretty power stations.



That's an unaltered photo of a CSP station in Seville. Straight up, that's how it looks when it's running, beams of light and all.

Angilion
Male, 40-49, Europe
 11513 Posts
Thursday, September 16, 2010 2:24:39 PM
Harking back to renewables, Rubbia's in that too.

He's done some work with concentrated solar power, which works very well in very sunny areas with a lot of space. It's cheap, low tech and easy to make. It's basically just mirrors focusing sunlight on a tank of liquid, which creates steam, which drives a turbine. Same ideas as current power stations, just a different means of creating the steam. On paper, you could power most of the world that way - huge CSP plants in deserts, HVDC lines to transmit the electricity over thousands of miles without much loss. All of Europe and Africa could be powered from the deserts in north Africa, for example - you'd lose 10% going all the way to Norway.

It's small at the moment, but it scales very easily. There's a 1GW plant awaiting approval in California - that's a serious power station.

Angilion
Male, 40-49, Europe
 11513 Posts
Thursday, September 16, 2010 2:13:18 PM
Then it will happen. On the other hand the fact that it has not happened already suggests that it is more expensive or that the technical specs are not a fully worked out as some might be suggesting.


The latter. It works in theory and experiments confirm it, but there's a long way between that and a working power station. Rubbia has the brains for it, but development takes time and money. Stacks of money - properly equipped labs for nuclear experiments don't come cheap. That brings politics into it.

As it stands, India will be the first country to have these. It won't be cheap to buy them from India - they'll rightly see it as a good source of the income they badly need for development.

CrakrJak
Male, 40-49, Midwest US
 17174 Posts
Thursday, September 16, 2010 1:16:43 PM
dang007: It's new, There are very few neutron particle accelerators right now. Prototypes will have to be made and tested, But the technology already exists. Unfortunately such funding is politically based, So it takes time. But with enough letters written to congressmen and enough proliferation and education about the idea those obstacles can be overcome.

dang007
Male, 30-39, Southern US
 590 Posts
Thursday, September 16, 2010 10:57:59 AM
>>>Thorium is currently expensive only because it's very rarely wanted. If it was mined (as opposed to being thrown away as an inconvenience when mining for other stuff) it would be very cheap. <<<


Then it will happen. On the other hand the fact that it has not happened already suggests that it is more expensive or that the technical specs are not a fully worked out as some might be suggesting.



Angilion
Male, 40-49, Europe
 11513 Posts
Thursday, September 16, 2010 8:54:45 AM
Cost is not the biggest issue in this case, though. It usually is, but not in this case. Thorium is currently expensive only because it's very rarely wanted. If it was mined (as opposed to being thrown away as an inconvenience when mining for other stuff) it would be very cheap.

The running costs of one of these reactors would be a tiny fraction of the running costs of a comparable oil, coal or current nuclear power station. Partly because the fuel is cheaper, partly because you need so much less of it, partly because it produces far less waste to process and partly because the power station itself would be smaller, simpler and therefore cheaper.

dang007
Male, 30-39, Southern US
 590 Posts
Thursday, September 16, 2010 8:25:34 AM
The biggest issue is cost. To switch to a more expensive fuel, everyone in the world needs to switch at around the same time otherwise those that switched early will be economically crippled. This is why transition to alternative fuels is slow, they are all MORE expensive than oil. The issue is NOT lack of supply, we know NOW how to make liquid fuels from biosources and if needed could get switched in a few years, but it costs more than oil and if we did it and no other country did we would be at a significant economic disadvantage. We know NOW how to produce electricity from wind, water, solar, and nuclear sources, but they cost more than coal and natural gas. (Some hydroelectric is on par.)

CrakrJak
Male, 40-49, Midwest US
 17174 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:54:33 PM
Angilion: It's still a lot less likely. In fact, The only country to make a U 233 bomb was the US. After they tested it, They never made anymore.

Angilion
Male, 40-49, Europe
 11513 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 6:43:53 PM
Well, that got cut off suprisingly early:

A great deal of detail - see section 6.2.1.3 U-233

Angilion
Male, 40-49, Europe
 11513 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 6:42:47 PM
Do you know how long it would take to make enough U-233 for a bomb this way? It is going to be possible in some amount of time.

If you keep the energy of the neutrons to below ~6MeV, which is trivially easy to do, you eliminate the main cause of the production of U-232, resulting in almost pure U-233. If you do it right, you get U-233 with U-232 contamination as low as 5 ppm U-232 and that can be worked with. You're not going to want to pick it up, but you can work with it using simple (i.e. cheap) precautions. That's assuming you can't find people willing to risk their lives for whatever the cause is, which is a rather bad assumption.

Overview

A gr

CrakrJak
Male, 40-49, Midwest US
 17174 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:48:11 AM
Angilion: The thin layer of the Uranium 233 on the surface of the Thorium wouldn't be enough to make a bomb with. It takes 60% more Uranium 233 to make a bomb than Uranium 238. That is just not an efficient way to make a bomb.

Also, The Thorium fuel cycle recycles the lower Actinides and produces Uranium 232 which can not be chemically separated from Uranium 233 and has several decay products which emit high energy gamma radiation. That gamma radiation kills electronics and thus makes it unusable in a bomb. From there, The waste Uranium 232 decays after 69 years into Lead and is no more radioactive that coal ash.

That's a far shorter and more manageable half-life than the Uranium-Plutonium cycle we use today.

Angilion
Male, 40-49, Europe
 11513 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 9:46:14 AM
ethanol made from hemp plants would do it today


No, it wouldn't. Not even close. You're talking about growing enough plants to make enough alcohol to replace all oil for fuel use and all other forms of fuel for electricity generation.

That's *all* vehicles and *all* power stations.

It's not possible, not even if you are willing to destroy entire ecosystems by monocropping for fuel generation (which is already happening, by the way). Your plans would kill many millions, maybe billions, of people directly by starvation because you're growing fuel crops everywhere instead of food and potentially kill almost everyone by destroying ecosystems to such an extent that most animals die and it all goes pear shaped.

And even then, it still wouldn't be enough.

Hemp isn't even particularly suited to alcohol production.

Hemp advocates like you are harming hemp advocacy, not helping it.

Angilion
Male, 40-49, Europe
 11513 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 9:36:54 AM
CrakrJak:

I was aware of the potential benefits of Rubbia's work several years ago when it first made the mainstream media. They are obvious to anyone who's read up about it. You don't need to tell me them again.

What uncritical advocates of his work do need to do is address the glaring security issue of having relatively cheap kit that can be stuck in an ordinary building and which converts an extremely common material (Thorium) into a stable material that can be used to make nuclear bombs (Uranium-233).

ruthless1990
Female, 18-29, Europe
 3016 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:19:34 AM
for real? awesome :D

Phestizio
Male, 18-29, Eastern US
 59 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:05:01 AM
ethanol made from hemp plants would do it today
but who cares if hemp can make paint plastic clothes anything made with wood its illegal and would only take out big business altogether letting us little people live in peace ...hmmm

Ozmose
Male, 30-39, Midwest US
 441 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:01:24 AM
We still use telegraphs?

NitroJunkie
Male, 70 & Over, Africa
 766 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 7:39:08 AM
Old news.

Hammersley19
Male, 18-29, Europe
 12 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 4:01:13 AM
"Thorium could wean the world off oil in 5 years"

Oil is used for more than just power generation. It is used in fertilisers/pesticides, which is the only thing maintaining our current population size. It is also used to make plastics and other synthetic materials.

Still, sounds like a great advance!

CrakrJak
Male, 40-49, Midwest US
 17174 Posts
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:47:46 AM
Angilion: What is so cool about Rubbia's energy amplifier is that is economically profitable, It won't need large government tax breaks or subsidies. Including the initial investments of making the reactor, Buying the Thorium, Upkeep and Payroll; The cost per kilowatt hour of electricity will still be lower than natural gas and coal power. The technology already exists, Only prototypes need be made and tested. After that, They could be made in factories (like locomotives are), Shipped to installation sites, And setup.

Angilion
Male, 40-49, Europe
 11513 Posts
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 9:53:17 PM
That means there's a s**tload of it


I've been looking for more precise numbers. There aren't any, because it's so common nobody has bothered. They chuck the stuff away at the moment - it's just in the way. Couple of millions tons is a bottom end estimate, and that's without really looking for it. At a push, you can get loads more from the sea.

So yeah, a pooload. Maybe we'd run out by 3000AD, oh noes!

Lastly, if anyone could find some more links and official studies to support this article I would like to know. Otherwise I'll just assume that it has no "official" scientific evidence for it. (however it does sound very interesting and promising)


I plowed through a document a while back detailing how it works, but that was offline and years ago. Most of it went over my head anyway - it was for scientists.

Rubbia won the Nobel prize for physics, so he certainly has the credentials.

CrakrJak
Male, 40-49, Midwest US
 17174 Posts
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 9:11:58 PM
slayer50515: CERN document on the Rubbia Energy Amplifier.

Kryptonite
Male, 18-29, Canada
 89 Posts
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 8:48:23 PM
Could you expect any less from the element named after Thor?

slayer50515
Male, 18-29, Eastern US
 990 Posts
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 8:36:20 PM
"Furthermore, nuclear fuel is a finite quantity, much like fossil fuels are. It might be good as a stepping stone from oil to solar power, but it's just that. "
You didn't even read half the article. Please GTFO.

A. "...a fistful of thorium could light up London for a week."
B. "Thorium... is so abundant that it's almost an annoyance.

That means there's a s**tload of it and that it takes very little of the thorium to generate a lot of power. It may be a "stepping stone" but it sure is a pretty drating good one.

I'm also be interested in what emissions are caused by the reaction. (other than the U-233)

Lastly, if anyone could find some more links and official studies to support this article I would like to know. Otherwise I'll just assume that it has no "official" scientific evidence for it. (however it does sound very interesting and promising)

Angilion
Male, 40-49, Europe
 11513 Posts
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 8:27:34 PM
Yeah, I'd be concerned about that U-233 "by-product". We have a dickens of a time trying to figure out what to do with our current nuclear waste product.


The U-233 produced isn't the by-product. It's the stuff that's actually used for fuel in the reactors.

Much of the current nuclear waste product could be used as fuel in these reactors, so you deal with that problem too.

Furthermore, nuclear fuel is a finite quantity, much like fossil fuels are.


Yes, but there's so much of it that it doesn't matter. A thousand years is more than long enough to develop something better. Economic fusion, maybe. Or something no-one has even dreamed of yet.

It might be good as a stepping stone from oil to solar power, but it's just that.


No, it isn't. If it works and the security issue isn't an issue, it's a very long-term solution.

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