Thorium nuclear power trolls have a ‘cargo cult’ mentality

Cargo cult….let’s see…unwillingness to accept criticism (tick), form into a clearly defined group (tick), hostility to outsiders (tick), paranoia (tick), assumption that authorities can’t be trusted or are somehow wrong/misinformed (tick), lengthy and committal indoctrination procedures (such as watching preposterously long you-tube videos…tick!), heavy focus on recruitment (tick), promise of some massive pay off at some ill-defined (and easily deferred) future date (tick)….do I need to go on?

Thorium Trolls Hypnotise Environmentalists by D. A. Ryan  February 2, 2015, It is interesting how Thorium trolls  always complain about ad-hominem comments when such personal attacks are the preferred tactic of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) fans in responding to critics, is the pot calling the kettle black? And why is it you always run up huge blog strings attacking opponents? The (lftr)lady doth protest too much me thinks!

The vast majority of people contributing to LFTR research on these forums are merely cool-aid drinking bloggers, few have any relevant qualifications, nor experience. Even you’re deity Kirk lacks a PhD or indeed any relevant qualification in Nuclear physics. You cannot design a reactor over the internet, nobody will ever give them serious funding, licensing authorities will never sign off on anything and indeed you’re very tactics of trolling any attempt at a critique is precisely the sort of stuff to send sponsors running for the exit.

There are indeed some “real” scientist working on LFTR’s and Thorium research in general (oh! and btw Seaborg’s and Weinberg have been dead for over a decade! Material science has moved on significantly since then, check out chapter 3 of my post below). As an academic, I have access to the scientific literature, and the odd MSR related paper pops up from time to time (indicating that somebody somewhere is doing serious research on the topic…Kirk’s name’s never come up mind!), but the message from all of them is nowhere near as rosy as what you see on these blogs. I am reliably informed by people in the know (those being nuclear scientists with decades of experience in the field) that it would take many decades to get LFTR’s working and given the current level of research at present (concept stage), they cannot be sure that some hard and fast showstopper won’t emerge to kill the idea off in future. While I don’t identify any definite showstoppers in my post, I do note several potential directions from which one could appear.

Like I said, its a blue sky idea that simply may not work, more research (in labs mind!) is needed to answer the many technical questions. Powerpoint and photoshopped images aren’t much use. Hence why I favour focusing on renewable technology which already exists and is cheaper than nuclear energy also.

– $3 billion in funding in SA, got a reference for that? Last I heard the South Africans cancelled all such research and decided to focus on conventional LWR’s.
– The Chinese? They are raiding every bit of science worldwide that’s not bolted to the floor, so hardly a surprise. They are also trying out every possible idea they can. Why? because they are playing catch up with the west. If the idea works, in 30 years time they may have an alternative to western LWR’s (tho if you read my post you’ll see it will likely be a completely different beast to what LFTR bloggers are proposing). If not? well they get a couple of well trained post-graduates out of it and experience working with MS technology (useful for concentrated solar power tech!). Also, the bulk of Chinese thorium research is focused on existing gas cooled reactors, not LFTR’s, that’s more of a side show. Indeed as I recall from Zhang etal (2006) the Chinese HTR-PM (Gas cooled, not a MSR) will initially run on Uranium, tho backward compatibility with Thorium will be engineered into the design.
– My question tho, why is nobody in the Dept of energy worried about all this? Occum’s razor would say its likely because they know something the Chinese don’t (that they’re wasting their time!).
– If the MSR is such a great idea why did it only get 3 provisional’s, 1 observer and no signatories in the 2009 Gen IV report?

Cargo cult….let’s see…unwillingness to accept criticism (tick), form into a clearly defined group (tick), hostility to outsiders (tick), paranoia (tick), assumption that authorities can’t be trusted or are somehow wrong/misinformed (tick), lengthy and committal indoctrination procedures (such as watching preposterously long you-tube videos…tick!), heavy focus on recruitment (tick), promise of some massive pay off at some ill-defined (and easily deferred) future date (tick)….do I need to go on?

2 thoughts on “Thorium nuclear power trolls have a ‘cargo cult’ mentality

  1. Dear Christina

    Many thanks for writing this article. Some years ago, I was involved in the initiative for Thorium LFTR, and Dr Kirk Sorensen comes across as a persuasive advocate of such technology. Baroness Worthington (?) in the UK was also trying to encourage Thorium LFTR to the UK Government. However, I have myself had time to reflect on the Thorium LFTR technology, and with time have now taken a rather different view.

    A test reactor was operated for a limited time period at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the 1950’s/1960’s by Dr Alvin Weinberg and his tea,. It was a small reactor of very limited power and hardly representative of a large commercial power plant.

    Although Dr Kirk Sorensen would contest my view, there are many failure modes of a Thorium LFTR. In a two region design (central core, surrounded by a blanket region) of Thorium LFTR, failure of the dividing wall between these two regions would cause terrible problems, in view of the high gamma flux generated during operation. This dividing wall is subject to corrosion, netron embrittlement and thermal stress in operation.

    Whatever may be said to the contrary, Thorium salts are very corrosive in a molten state, and that is why Hastelloy-N and similar expensive materials have been proposed for Thorium LFTR. On account of the high neutron flux and corrosive materials in operation, a Thorium LFTR reactor structure would have a very limited operating lifetime. Hastelloy-N and similar materials are difficult and expensive to machine. Silicon carbide is potentially another material to use, and Silicon Carbide composites may be eventually a better choice.

    Thorium LFTR advocates argue that their reactor design is safe, such that, in an event of overheating, the melt plug at the bottom of the reactor will melt and allow the reactor contents to be drained to dump tanks. Until recently, little attention has been paid to the issue of thermal management of the dump tanks, but perhaps the Fukushima Dai’ichi disaster has made Thorium LFTR designers consider the issue more seriously. All very well, … but what if the drain tube with the melt plug becomes blocked by debris in operation? Seems like a single-point-of-failure.

    The Thorium :FTR reactor also needs to be provided with a noble gas environment within the reactor when in operation: what if a gas leak occurs and air enters within the hot reactor, and it is vented to ambient atmosphere?

    Any water leak onto the melt of a Thorium LFTR would cause an explosion and shower molten LFTR melt around within a reactor housing building.

    A thorium LFTR requires a continuous chemical processing plant along-side it to separate U233 and also other materials that are otherwise neutron grabbers. What if an accident or failure arises in this chemical processing plant? There has been mentioned to extract the U233 as Uranium Hexafluoride, derived by transmuting Thorium 232 from the blanket region; this is also highly hazardous if a leak occurs.

    Thus, when one delves deeper into Thorium LFTR, the prospects for this technology no longer appear very promising and are riddled with many practical technical problems. It is absolutely no “golden bullet” to the World’s energy problems in the view of many well-informed people experienced in nuclear technology. However, as you kindly point out, there are a lot of armchair Thorium LFTR enthusiasts who are blinded by the over optimistic presentation by people such as Dr Kirk Sorensen. In my humble view, investing in Thorium LFTR is a waste of money, and it would be better to place investment funds on other types of technology, that, in the long term, are much more realizable. In particular, LENR potentially offers truly clean limitless energy in small portable power units, whereas Thorium LFTR are large cumbersome items of equipment, especially when implemented as accelerator-assisted Thorium reactors (as proposed by Rossi et al.).

    Kind regards


    • Hey Timothy. Your comment has many useful criticisms. Seems like corrosion is something glossed over in many discussions.

      I’ve been trying to understand how these things work and why the design was not pursued. I have no knowledge or experience in this field.

      Regarding the drain plugs, can’t they have multiple drain plugs in case one gets blocked by debris? I suppose multiple plugs could all be blocked by debris. It sounds like ORNL had made tools to deal with such a situation, but the details are fuzzy to me so far.

      In any case, if this is a safer, more viable technology, somebody would have made or will make it work. Or maybe what will make it work hasn’t been invented yet.


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