Friday, June 08, 2012

Going Nuclear Over Thorium


From time to time I receive comments or emails that are interesting enough to serve as the basis for a post.  The following was received from Ben Robbins:

Love what I have read so far in your blog. In regards to US energy policy, I ran across a type of nuclear energy that uses an entirely different reactor design. It is called a liquid flouride thorium reactor (LFTR). LFTRs are a development of the molten salt reactor (MSR) experiment of the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The MSR was designed by Dr. Alvin Weinberg, who was the developer of the light water reactor commonly in use today. He foresaw that their would be a need for a safer reactor that generated very little waste, which is how the MSR was born. The MSR was fueled using plutonium and uranium. The LFTR takes it a step further and uses thorium, which is a very common element in the Earth's crust. It is also almost always found with rare earth elements (REE), which are used in everything from wind turbine generators to pretty much every electronic device. Here's a brief summary of LFTR's benefits: 
-Inherently/passively safe
-Reactor is much less complex as a result of its passive safety, so it is also much cheaper
-Scalable (can be increased in size, or decreased to fit, say, an isolated town or military base)
-Burns up nearly all of its fuel, unlike current reactors which barely burn up any at all
-Can be used to burn up existing high level waste
-Produces useful medical elements
-Produces plutonium 238, which is used by NASA for long-distance space exploration missions
-Thorium is a common element, and therefore inexpensive as a fuel
-Doesn't require a water supply to operate, so can be located anywhere
I won't take up anymore of your time, but I would suggest you watch about ten minutes of the following Youtube video featuring Kirk Sorensen, who is leading the effort to develop and deploy this technology.

My earliest posts mentioning Thorium reactors were:


Supporting Global Warming

MONDAY, APRIL 09, 2007

The French Were Correct... And Still Are
Thorium continues to be "just beyond the horizon" in terms of acceptance, but perhaps that horizon is getting closer.  The biggest issue is not so much the technology, but the social and political attitudes toward nuclear power which are grounded in decades old technology.  Those who consider themselves ecologically "green" are unwilling to admit that "renewables" are notoriously unreliable and costly and that the only "climate-friendly" reliable energy source is nuclear.  Of course, you have to have religious conviction that CO2 is "climate-unfriendly" to even worry about such things.


Capitalizing On The Energy Scarcity Myth [MAY BE SLOW LOADING, BUT A VERY GOOD ARTICLE] 
No Nukes - Energy Or Enervation

2012 IS HERE


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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)