The case for the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

Fission is Dead, Long Live Fission!

The LFTR Elevator Pitch

No water, no fuel rods, no unsafe waste. 100% fuel burn. Passive safety with no hi-tech pressure engineering. No weaponization. Technology tested at the U.S. Oak Ridge National Labs.

If you want the quick end of it, scroll down to “Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor”.

Why nuclear sucks

When I was a kid, my mother fed my brother and me iodine salts to bind the radiation from Tchernobyl. We turned out all right, but I was imprinted at an early age with the fearsome awe-inspiring power and risks associated with nuclear energy.

When I was a little boy we had this book called How Things Work. The cover sported a giant mammoth and every page was filled with blown-up easy-to-understand diagrams of how oodles of household items worked, everthing from steam irons to TV sets to microwaves to automatic hole punches, one page per item. Flipping through the pages you could quickly get the basic principle of how nearly everything worked. This satisfied my curiosity the way elementary school failed to do, and steeped in me the necessity for understanding a thing to be able to fully use and maintain it.

This curiosity did not go away with age, and when in the mid nineties internet came to our home I spent many hours researching everything from how to make bombs to jet engines.

As a young teenager with access to the net, I had a need to find real knowledge, which invariably means knowing how something works to the extent that you could assemble and make it work given the appropriate tools and materials.

To my surprise, nuclear today is basically super steam engines. I had one of those miniature steam engines in my room, the ones you run on firestarter briquettes and make the flywheel spin and hook up to a mini drill or mini crushing hammer. It was entertaining, but ancient and simple technology. I was disappointed and rejected fission atomics as a risky and uninteresting avenue of energy creation.

Safety of the old reactors

Traditional reactors are clunky, expensive and risky.

I told you what made it less compelling for me, but what makes nuclear energy so risky?

Don’t know if you know, but there is no chance of a supercritical reactor going kahBOOM like the Bikini Islands. Nope, nope. Put simply, it is not built like the bomb, and can therfore not make like the bomb.

So apart from the obvious and flawed associations with the hydrogen bomb, why was Chernobyl, Jersey Island and Fukushima such staggering disasters? I am not about to launch into an examination of human error-it is human to err-but what makes fission reactors fundamentally unsafe?

After all, the radiation released into the atmosphere by burning coal, the CO2 generated, the hydrocarbons and noxious oxides of burning oil are all causing the greenhouse effect and killing fish life and plants and animals and causing wars and …

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a clean, efficient way to power?

Today’s fission reactors are very safe in that the chance of failure is extremely low, but if the catastrophic failure happens, its effects are global in reach and massive in scale. Nuclear has a deservingly bad name.


To explain, let me walk you through a quick reactor assembly, the way GE and the other big nuclear corps design them:

There are uranium fuel rods, slid into a reactor core, flooded with heavy water under pressure. The fuel rods are radioactive, meaning they often release bits of themselves in fits of energy particles, which bounce off other fuel rods which causes a chain reaction which heats the water. The water boils, the steam is transferred to a heat exchanger which heats a coolant causing large low-pressure turbines to turn, generating energy.

Water fills three distinctly different roles here: Coolant, neutron limiter and energy conduit.

Coolant to slow down the reaction, dense neutron limiter to prevent the neutrons to fire too quickly and energy conduit to carry the energy towards the business end of the super steam engine.

Since the reactor is using water, it can’t go too hot since otherwise the water would turn into steam and not fulfill two of its roles. Water boils at 100C at sealevel, which is too cold for any useful reaction.

With pressure we can increase the boiling temperature of water. At the moment really, really good engineering can contain about 250 bar pressure which is the pressure one can experience at 2.5 km under water. This pressure gives us a boiling temp of about 250C.

Which means we can reactor, but only if we slow the reaction down to a grind. This means two things. Firstly we can only use about 0.01 percent of the fuel before having to elaborately discard the ‘spent’ waste.

Secondly it means danger of catastrophy.

Should something go wrong, like a runaway reaction (happened in Jersey and Chernobyl) or a reactor breach (Fukushima), the water turns to steam which is no good at cooling and limiting the reaction, as it is not dense enough. Steam also takes up space, and may blow up the reactor vessel if too much of it builds up which is why we need huge cooling towers, and why fission reactor buildings are so big-to contain the steam should the reactor breach.

Water is essential for life, we are over 70% water and so is the earth. Water plays a role in all ecological processes.

Should some irradiated poisonous water be released into the atmosphere it would instantly start taking part in that circle of life, with disasterous consequences.

We have really really good engineering to create many safety layers between the reactors and the ecology, but sometimes nothing is good enough, sometimes people fail, sometimes the bad water escapes.

Which is why I am against these reactors being built, even if engineering can make them safe the fundamental design relies on high pressure water which is inherently dangerous.

The safety aspect coupled with using soild, uncontrollable fuels unefficiently and wastefully is bad technology.

I am against building these, especially since there is a better alternative.

Fission is the new fire

In the Stone Age fire was not underatood, it was feared, and even now when humanity has profited greatly from harnessing the power of fire it is still a dangerous thing if done incorrectly.

Some want to jump straight to fusion, a nuclear process we have even less understanding and control over. No, if we want to harness fusion we must first master fission for peace.

There are roughly ten thousand thermonucular warheads on the planet and every year some aspiring nation is doing test blasts, despite even the first bomb ever built being utterly predictable down to the decimal places on the power of the blast.

If we want to move in the direction of disarmament and peace, of respect for nature and sustainability we need to give nations the security to protect and provide for their populace without the need to resort to consumerism and warmongering. This can be done only through abundant, local, cheap clean energy.

Hydroelectric is nice where there is plenty of water, useless in flat or arid land. Wind power is hard to maintain and can’t provide for cities and industries.

We cover the world with solar panels and we will have global warming and still we will have to rely on coal power for most of the power.

Fusion we cant even get to break even.

Safe thorium nuclear is the way to go forward.

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

What if I told u there was a way to harness energy that was abundant, easy and clean while at the same time safe and risk free?no, not cold fusion, that doesn’t work.

Proven 50 years ago at Oak Ridge National Labs, and it is not about using Thorium which is abundant, its about safe and efficient design!

Small, reliable, safe, efficient: The fuel is dissolved in liquid salts. The reactor operates at a higher temperature of 400 to 800C, much more efficient, and any waste has halflife of 50yr instead of 500yr.

No water, no pressure, no highbrow engineering. The heat exchanger can run real hot, powering more efficient hi-pressure turbines which are much smaller.

The nuclear product of the LFTR is not good for weapons, so they axed it at the Manhattan project. There can be no proliferation of weapons-grade material.

The reactor ran for 5 years. Political decisions kept it off the table when reactor designs were considered in the 60s and 60s. The designs were recently declassified.

The reactor burns all the fuel-all of it! Burn old nuke waste if you wish.

The reactor is load following, meaning that the reactor is self-limiting. The salt boils, and since the fuel is dissolved in the salt, this cases the fuel to be less dense, stopping the reaction.

It is easy to design a passive drain plug, which in case of trouble drains the reactor into inert compartments. That is passive safety!

LFTR creates gases and isotopes useful for industry and necessary for medical and space exploration. Mining Thorium yeilds as a byproduct rare earth minerals we need for semiconductors and research.

We can even burn nuclear warheads for energy, and why would we need the nukes if we remove the most compelling reason to wage wars?

We can have power too cheap to meter, no really. We can make self-sustainable cities, desalinate the seas, irrigate the desert, hydroponics in the arctic, CO2 capture, biofuels, power engines with ammonia, build nuclear batteries, airships, cheap clean forges, central heating, cooling, industry, agriculture, tech, space!

We can spend more time with culture, crafts, science, exploration and art, because we have water, food, heat, transportation and clean air to breathe on a planet that is not going strait to hell in a handbasket.

But, it’s never gonna happen cause noone will build it. Except the chinese. Good thing they are cause they need the energy, and alternatives are coal or war. GE and the other biggies are gonna protect their business model, gilette style: Selling fuel rods.

Thorium pellet beds are being examined by research facilities, but have all the problems inherent in water- and solid fule based reactors.

The nuclear giants are having trouble enough with public opinion. Oil companies have vested interests. Governments don’t like it when people have too much power. Regulation unpossible. And where is the profit in free energy?

If it’s going to happen it is up to us,

can we covertly build one on the cheap, open source style? show it can be done, then show everyone how to do it?

Preliminary Risk Analysis

In the worst case, the salt/fuel mixture builds up into criticality. This ‘hot spot’ is hard to contain or put away, however it is liquid, so must drain, so must loose criticality.

Uncontained/leaky reaction: Irradiates nearby stuff.

Leaks into groundwater.

Cools, becomes solid. May dissolve, into water if put into running water, in the event of for instance flooding. Can sediment.

Operator intervention/disassembly made hard due to hi-intensity radiation.

Gaseous buildup may suffocate those present if ventilation fails.

Externally-caused explosion/quake may expose core:subcritical, cooling solid salt will need new containment (high-density concrete or earth) or nuclear-waste grade containment can.

Serviceability is hampered by radiation.ideally designed for zero intervention, just monitoring.

Refueling and shield degradation. Buildups that clog the pipes? Harvest reactor byproducts by chemical separation.

Fuel processing: annealing, enrichment? Pulverization, practially solvable with robotics with shielded chips, catching systems.

Technical Details

U / Pu / Th F dissolved in BeF and LiF liquid salts at 400-800C as carrier for thorium fuel to burn 100% of the fuel (thorium) burns up atomic warheads needs a neutron source to start up (spent nuke fuel) no water, no pressure, no danger no waste, no proliferation, not deadly

pebble-bed power? meltdown proof! freeze tap accident security. reactor is load following with negative feedback heat exchanger for industry, desalination, turbine, bryden cycle: suck bang blow go

capital intensive reactors are no good :-(

small reactors: 100MW or less, 0.03¤ per KWH.

Th-232 + n →Th-233 (T½ = 22, 3 min) → β → Pa-233 (T½ = 27 days) → β → U-233

questions to answer:

* how to do maintenance without humans involved
  • robotics
  • 0 maintenance