Register UK – China has committed itself to establishing an entirely new nuclear energy program using thorium as a fuel, within 20 years. The LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) is a 4G reactor that uses liquid salt as both fuel and coolant. China uses the more general term TMSR (Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor).
A private company founded by Kazuo Furukawa, designer of the Fuju reactor, called International Thorium Energy and Molen-Salt Technology Inc (iThEMS) aims to produce a small (10 MW) reactor within five years. Furukawa is aiming for a retail price of 11 US cents per kWh (6.8p per kWh). The Capital of IThEMS is expected to increase to 50 million Japanese yen soon (US$600,000, but they need $300 million to push ahead)
Thorium Energy Conference- The Chinese announcement refers to a 20 year program, but rapid progress can be expected in the next 5 years towards a demonstration plant. China’s program is well funded but Japan’s is not well funded. Japan and other countries could be motivated to step up funding with true competition from China.
Since smaller thorium molten-salt power plant is easier to construct, we will develop the 10,000kW micro-mini thorium molten-salt power plant ‘miniFUJI’ within five years. This micro-mini power plant is planned as a local power plant to meet the high need of power supply for servers in information industry and for the stations of charging electric vehicles.
Thermal capacity 20 MWth Net electric generation 8.6 MWe Thermal efficiency 43 % Reactor vessel Diameter/Height 1800mm/2100mm Core Radius/Height 300mm/900mm Blanket Thickness 200mm Fuel Salt: Composition: 7LiF – BeF2 – ThF4 – 233UF4 71.5 – 16 – 12— 0.47 mol% Volume 45 liter Temperature inlet 560oC --- 700oC Fuel conversion ratio 0.58 Inventory: Fissile 233U 27 kg Fertile Th 650 kg Graphite 8,800 kg
Scaling thorium up to global scale
A Road Map for the Realization of Global-scale Thorium Breeding Fuel Cycle This describes a 5-7 year doubling time for the Uranium 233 that is needed to start the molten salt thorium reactors.
by Single Molten-Fluoride Flow (28 pages, by Kazuo Furukawa*, Kazuto Arakawa, L.Berrin Erbay, Yasuhiko Ito, Yoshio Kato*, Hanna
Kiyavitskaya, Alfred Lecocq, Koshi Mitachi, Ralph Moir, Hiroo Numata, J. Paul Pleasant, Yuzuru Sato, Yoichiro Shimazu, Vadim A.Simonenco, Din Dayal Sood, Carlos Urban, Ritsuo Yoshioka 2007)
The Thorium Molten-Salt Nuclear Energy Synergetic System [THORIMS-NES], described here is a symbiotic system, based on the Thorium-Uranium-233 cycle. The production of trans-uranium elements is essentially absent in Th-U system, giving nuclear proliferation resistance. The energy is produced in molten salt reactors (FUJI) and fissile 233U is produced by spallation in an Accelerator Molten-Salt Breeders (AMSB). This system uses the multifunctional “single-phase molten-fluoride” circulation system for all operations. There are no difficulties relating to “radiation-damage”, “heat-removal” and “chemical processing” owing to the simple “idealistic ionic liquid” character of the fuel. FUJI is size-flexible, and can use all kinds of fissile material achieving a nearly fuel self-sustaining condition without a continuous chemical processing of fuel salt and without core-graphite replacement for the life of the reactor. The AMSB is based on a single-fluid molten-salt target/blanket concept. Several AMSBs can be accommodated in regional centers for the production of fissile 233U, with batch chemical processing, including radio-waste management. FUJI reactor and the AMSB can also be used for the transmutation of long-lived radioactive elements in the wastes, and has a high potential for producing hydrogen-fuel in molten salt reactors. The development and launching of THORIMS-NES requires the following three programs during the next three decades: (A) pilot plant: miniFUJI (7-10 MWe): (B) small power reactor: FUJI-Pu (100-300MWe). (C) fissile producer: AMSB for globally deploying THORIMS-NES
How much uranium-233 do we need? Well, most of the studies done by Oak Ridge in the 1960s indicated that we could start a one-gigawatt thorium reactor with about 1 tonne of uranium-233. How much do we have right now? About one tonne. So we could only start one reactor, right? With uranium-233, yes, but we need to go about quickly “converting” our fissile materials into uranium-233 so we can start more.
We don’t have to limit ourselves to just uranium-233 to start these thorium reactors. We can use the highly-enriched uranium that we’re recovering from all of the nuclear weapons that we are decommissioning to help us. We can use the plutonium we’re recovering from those weapons. We can use the plutonium that’s been generated in our reactors over the last sixty years to help us. By using slowed-down neutrons and thorium, the startup power of this fuel is magnified by about 1000 to 1500% over a fast reactor.
a fast reactor that is a cousin to the liquid-fluoride thorium reactor, except it will be one that will use liquid-chloride salts that are chemically stable as a fuel and coolant, not the liquid-sodium-metal that is currently proposed. Again, just like other fast reactors it will take 5-10 tonnes of these transuranics to produce a gigawatt of power. So what have we bought by this approach? Just this—in these liquid-chloride reactors we will jacket the reactor with a thorium blanket and make new uranium-233 even as we are destroying plutonium. That means that for each year we burn plutonium, we’ll make enough uranium-233 to start a new LFTR. Compared to the fast reactor approach where you’re trying to breed plutonium to build more fast breeders, and it takes 20-30 years to produce enough new fuel in a fast reactor to start another one, we won’t be using these chloride fast reactors to start other fast reactors. We’ll be using them to make the fuel to start fluoride thorium reactors that use slowed-down neutrons.
With this approach, plutonium from weapons and reactor fuel will start about 70 chloride fast reactors. Each one will make enough uranium-233 each year to start 70 new LFTRs at a gigawatt each. That means that in less than 20 years we could have 1000 LFTRs online, generating all of the energy our nation needs, all the while we’re burning down and destroying the plutonium we’ve generated over the last 60 years for weapons and from reactor operation. Compare that to the standard fast breeder approach where in 20 years the 70 fast breeders we started have generated enough new fuel for another 70 fast breeders and you can see really quickly how fast uranium-233 and slowed-down neutrons can let you move ahead and replace coal and other fossil fuels.
So a country like say China that has Plutonium and highly enriched Uranium and was less concerned about using it, can start up a lot of Thorium reactors… if China was primarily concerned with making an energy transition off of coal which was killing almost one million Chinese per year from air pollution.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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