Call from Sen. Charles Schumer to clean up contaminated nuclear plant in Hicksville

Schumer calls on agency to move ahead with steps toward nuclear cleanup  Nassau LONG ISLAND Newsday  January 19, 2015  By EMILY C. DOOLEY Investigating contamination at a former Sylvania Corning plant in Hicksville that processed uranium and thorium for nuclear fuel rods has stalled and Sen. Charles Schumer called yesterday on the Army Corps of Engineers to speed up the process.

He also pledged to fight for increased funding for the Army Corps program, which was created in 1974 to clean up contaminants from the nation’s early…[registered readers only]


Excerpted from: Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power, By Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd.
A Fact Sheet Produced by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Thorium may be abundant and possess certain technical advantages, but it does not mean that it is economical. Compared to uranium, thorium fuel cycle is likely to be even more costly. In a once‐through mode, it will need both uranium enrichment (or plutonium separation) and thorium target rod production. In a breeder configuration, it will need reprocessing, which is costly. In addition, inhalation of thorium‐232 produces a higher dose than the same amount of uranium‐238 (either by radioactivity or by weight). Reprocessed thorium creates even more risks due to the highly radioactive U‐232 created in the reactor. This makes worker protection more difficult and expensive for a given level of annual dose. Finally, the use of thorium also creates waste at the front end of the fuel cycle. The radioactivity associated with these is expected to be considerably less than that associated with a comparable amount of uranium milling. However, mine wastes will pose long‐term hazards, as in the case of uranium mining. There are also often hazardous non‐radioactive metals in both thorium and uranium mill tailings.

1. There is no “thorium reactor.” There is a proposal to use thorium as a fuel in various reactor designs including light-water reactors – the most prevalent in the United States – as well as fast breeder reactors.
2. You still need uranium – or even plutonium – in a reactor using thorium.
3. Using plutonium sets up proliferation risks.
4. Uranium-233 is also excellent weapons-grade material.
5. Proliferation risks are not negated by thorium mixed with U-238.
6. Thorium would trigger a resumption of reprocessing in the US.
7. Using thorium does not eliminate the problem of long-lived radioactive waste.
8. Attempts to develop “thorium reactors” have failed for decades.
9. Fabricating “thorium fuel” is dangerous to health.
10. Fabricating “thorium fuel” is expensive.

Naming 66 scientists sucked in today by Barry Brook’s pro nuclear propaganda

Just today, (15/12/14) Australia’s leading thorium nuclear promoter, Barry Brook released “An Open Letter to Environmentalists on Nuclear Energy”   No surprises here – the usual con job that nuclear energy can be the leading nethod of dealing with climate change.

What was a surprise to me, was the number of scientists willing to sign this piece of pro nuclear propaganda. Here they are:

1. Professor Andrew J. Beattie, Emeritus, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia.

2. Assistant Professor David P. Bickford, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore.

3. Professor Tim M. Blackburn, Professor of Invasion Biology, Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, University College London, United Kingdom.

4. Professor Daniel T. Blumstein, Chair, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles, USA.

5. Professor Luigi Boitani, Dipartimento di Biologia, e Biotecnologie Charles Darwin, Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy.

6. Professor Mark S. Boyce, Professor and Alberta Conservation Association Chair in Fisheries and Wildlife, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta,Canada.

7. Professor David M.J.S. Bowman, Professor of Environmental Change Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Australia.

8. Associate Professor Phillip Cassey, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Australia.

9. Professor F. Stuart Chapin III, Professor Emeritus of Ecology, Department of Biology and Wildlife, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA.

10. Professor David Choquenot, Director, Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Australia.

11. Professor Richard T. Corlett, Director, Centre for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China.

12. Dr Franck Courchamp, Laboratoire Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution – UMR CNRS, Université Paris-Sud, France.

13. Professor Chris B. Daniels, Director, Barbara Hardy Institute, University of South Australia, Australia.

14. Professor Chris Dickman, Professor of Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney, Australia.

15. Associate Professor Don Driscoll, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, The Australian National University, Australia.

16. Professor David Dudgeon, Chair Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China.

17. Associate Professor Erle C. Ellis, Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, USA.

18. Dr Damien A. Fordham, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Australia.

19. Dr Eddie Game, Senior Scientist, The Nature Conservancy Worldwide Office,Australia.

20. Professor Kevin J. Gaston, Professor of Biodiversity and Conservation, Director, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, United Kingdom.

21. Professor Dr Jaboury Ghazoul, Professor of Ecosystem Management, ETH Zürich, Institute for Terrestrial Ecosystems, Switzerland.

22. Professor Robert G. Harcourt, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia.

23. Professor Susan P. Harrison, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California Davis, USA.

24. Professor Fangliang He, Canada Research Chair in Biodiversity and Landscape Modelling, Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Canada and State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol and School of Life Sciences, Sun-yat Sen University, Guangzhou, China.

25. Professor Mark A. Hindell, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia.

26. Professor Richard J. Hobbs, School of Plant Biology, The University of Western Australia, Australia.

27. Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Professor and Director, Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland, Australia.

28. Professor Marcel Holyoak, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, USA.

29. Professor Lesley Hughes, Distinguished Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia.

30. Professor Christopher N. Johnson, Department of Zoology, University of Tasmania,Australia.

31. Dr Julia P.G. Jones, Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology, School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor University, United Kingdom.

32. Professor Kate E. Jones, Biodiversity Modelling Research Group, University College London, United Kingdom.

33. Dr Lucas Joppa, Conservation Biologist, United Kingdom.

34. Associate Professor Lian Pin Koh, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Australia.

35. Professor Charles J. Krebs, Emeritus, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Canada.

36. Dr Robert C. Lacy, Conservation Biologist, USA.

37. Associate Professor Susan Laurance, Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Studies, James Cook University, Australia.

38. Professor William F. Laurance, Distinguished Research Professor and Australian Laureate, Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science and School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Australia.

39. Professor Thomas E. Lovejoy, Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and University Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy department, George Mason University, USA.

40. Dr Antony J Lynam, Global Conservation Programs, Wildlife Conservation Society,USA.

41. Professor Anson W. Mackay, Department of Geography, University College London,United Kingdom.

42. Professor Helene D. Marsh, College of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research, James Cook University,Australia.

43. Professor Michelle Marvier, Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University, USA.

44. Dr Clive R. McMahon, Sydney Institute of Marine Science and Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia.

45. Dr Mark Meekan, Marine Biologist, Australia.

46. Dr Erik Meijaard, Borneo Futures Project, People and Nature Consulting, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.

47. Professor L. Scott Mills, Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program in Global Environmental Change, North Carolina State University, USA.

48. Professor Atte Moilanen, Research Director, Conservation Decision Analysis, University of Helsinki, Finland.

49. Professor Craig Moritz, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Australia.

50. Dr Robin Naidoo, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability University of British Columbia, Canada.

51. Professor Reed F. Noss, Provost’s Distinguished Research Professor, University of Central Florida, USA.

52. Associate Professor Julian D. Olden, Freshwater Ecology and Conservation Lab, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, USA. e:

53. Professor Maharaj Pandit, Professor and Head, Department of Environmental Studies, University of Delhi, India.

54. Professor Kenneth H. Pollock, Professor of Applied Ecology, Biomathematics and Statistics, Department of Applied Ecology, North Carolina State University, USA.

55. Professor Hugh P. Possingham, School of Biological Science and School of Maths and Physics, The University of Queensland, Australia.

56. Professor Peter H. Raven, George Engelmann Professor of Botany Emeritus, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden, Washington University in St. Louis,USA.

57. Professor David M. Richardson, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

58. Dr Euan G. Ritchie, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Australia.

59. Dr Çağan H. Şekercioğlu, Assistant Professor, Biology, University of Utah, USAand Doçent 2010, Biology/Ecology, Inter-university Council (UAK) of Turkey.

60. Associate Professor Douglas Sheil, Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway.

61. Professor Richard Shine AM FAA, Professor in Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney, Australia.

62. Professor Chris D. Thomas, FRS, Department of Biology, University of York,United Kingdom.

63. Professor Ross M. Thompson, Chair of Water Science, Institute of Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Australia.

64. Professor Ian G. Warkentin, Environmental Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.

65. Professor Stephen E. Williams, Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Australia.

66. Professor Kirk O. Winemiller, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and Interdisciplinary Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Texas A&M University,USA.

Note: Affiliations of signatories are for identification purposes, and do not imply that their organizations have necessarily endorsed this letter.

Nothing new about the “new” thorium designs – Oh but, there’s the MARKETING

The Atomic Weapons Establishment Funds almost Half of UK Universities

Oak Ridge National Lab Discusses Relationship Between Molten Thorium Reactor And Weapons:
By 1954, the Laboratory’s chemical technologists had completed a pilot plant demonstrating the ability of the THOREX process to separate thorium, protactinium, and uranium-233 from fission products and from each other. This process could isolate uranium-233 for weapons development and also for use as fuel in the proposed thorium breeder reactors.

Molten-salt reactor experiments continued at the Laboratory through the 1960s and into the early 1970s. In 1969, Keith Brown, David Crouse, Carlos Bamberger, and colleagues adapted molten-salt technology to the problem of breeding uranium-233 from thorium, which could be extracted from the virtually inexhaustible supply of granite rocks found throughout the earth’s crust. When bombarded by neutrons in the molten-salt reactor, thorium was converted to fissionable uranium-233, another nuclear fuel

In December 1960, the AEC directed the Oak Ridge Laboratory to “turn its attention to developing a molten-salt reactor and thorium breeder“. (Emphasis Added)
Further, as you can see, there is nothing really “new” about molten salt thorium reactors other than marketing. As in all fashion the same old stuff gets rehashed. We need new energy innovation and investment instead.

More Reading of Interest Regarding Thorium Reactors and Weapons Proliferation:

Thorium – no prospects as an energy source, but China might use it for weapons


“…………This level of collaboration is particularly surprising given the commodity involved and the nature of the enterprise. Although the protocol governing the agreement has provisions for sharing important breakthroughs with the international scientific community and prohibiting military or weapons-related research, information used for commercial purposes is excluded from any required sharing and is free of any restrictive conditions. And, frankly, it is highly doubtful that any mechanism for enforcing the prohibition on military research is realistic. Thus, China will have the opportunity to achieve a commercially dominant position in thorium development and investigate thorium’s potential to upgrade its military capabilitieswithout the U.S. deriving a benefit from either, leading some commentators to wonder exactly what is in it for Washington.
While this agreement seems like a no-strings-attached gift to Beijing, what are the U.S.’s motives for participating in this venture?  What might it expect to gain?  There are possible answers, but they require some assumptions. First, we must suppose that American decision-makers have determined that thorium is not, as some have argued, a quick and easy path to American energy independence, and that it would not be cost-effective, at least in the short term, for American nuclear efforts to transition to thorium research. Given federal budget limitations, then, the benefits of using federal dollars to pursue thorium as an energy source appear to be limited at this time……….
Although the U.S. might have been expected to share its thorium research with privately-owned American corporations and perhaps allied states rather than with a strategic competitor (and maybe it has), the significant scientific and engineering obstacles and the resulting high cost of developing thorium-powered reactors may require the sort of long-term commitment and resources that only another world power, like China, can provide. Since the U.S. is believed to possess one of the world’s largest deposits of thorium, it may want China to assume the short-term risk and attendant expenditure of resources with the intention of cashing in on its large reserves when (or if) China’s research turns thorium into a commercially viable energy resource.”…..

Thorium lobby’s misinformation is hampering rare earths industry

It’s anybody’s guess how long Thorium, with its “peacenik” aura, will take to get traction in corridors well-trodden by the US nuclear energy lobby, who have singularly shown zero interest in the blandishments of Thorium.

Thorium lobby thunder intent on hijacking rare earths’ coattails   Investor Intel August 12, 2014 by  Anyone in the Rare Earths space knows that Thorium frequently appears as an unwanted guest at the party. Explorers have worked on various ways to get around the issue. However there is a small group out there who we would call the “deniers”. They absolutely love Thorium. They are like Swedes liberated from the sauna in the dead of winter and would roll around in the stuff naked, if they could, to prove their commitment. While greater love hath no man to a chemical element than the Thorium crowd to their object of desire, the more measured amongst us realize that the mineral has been stuck for decades like a racehorse suffering a starting-gate malfunction.

What are we talking of here

Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90. ……..

Thorium is estimated to be about three to four times more abundant than uranium in the Earth’s crust, and is chiefly refined from monazite sands as a by-product of extracting rare earth metals……..

The application that gets Thorium’s boosters most hot and bothered is its use in alternative nuclear reactors. Canada, China, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have experimented with using thorium as a substitute nuclear fuel in nuclear reactors. When compared to uranium, there is a growing interest in thorium-based nuclear power due to its greater safety benefits, absence of non-fertile isotopes and its higher occurrence and availability. India’s three stage nuclear power program is possibly the best-known and best-funded of such efforts. Once again we see the sideline for REEs as the beach sands exploited for Thorium in India are also the source of its REE production. We might also mention in passing that Great Western’s Steenkampskraal mine in South Africa was really a Thorium mine in its prime, with the end-use being in X-Rays.

Having said that though, the reality has not measured up to the expectations with much talk of pebble-bed reactors and micro-reactors etc. not having led to any significant adoption besides India’s efforts with a home-grown resource.

A boondoggle by any other name…

Never let it be said that the US Congress is lacking in those suffering the legislative equivalent of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). The problem with this is that matters of great import (the US vulnerability on the strategic metals front) is oft confused by lesser worthy issues that have more strident (or generous) advocates. Thorium has gained quite a bit of traction and in the process has left prospective REE lobbyists having to try and differentiate themselves from a welter of (mis)information from Thorium’s advocates who have appropriated some of rare earths’ attractions for their own purposes by claiming that REEs and Thorium appear together, thus assistance to the Thorium industry must by implication help the REE crowd. This is bogus to say the least.

The main putsch of the Thorium clique is in the form of a piece of legislation under the moniker HR 4883. This bill advocates the promotion of heavy rare earth extraction and the storage of thorium.

The money phrase though is: “(5) Direct links exist between heavy rare-earth mineralogy and thorium”. Never let it be said that legislative agendas are subtle but this one is blatant piggy-backing. Then even more specifically it claims as its statement of policy: “It is the policy of the United States to advance domestic refining of heavy rare-earth materials and the safe storage of thorium in anticipation of the potential future industrial uses of thorium, including energy, as –

  1. thorium has a mineralogical association with valuable heavy rare-earth elements;
  2. there is a great need to develop domestic refining capacity to process domestic heavy rare-earth deposits; and
  3. the economy of the United States would benefit from the rapid development and control of intellectual property relating to the commercial development of thorium-utilizing technology”.

Reading between the legalese we see an attempt to stockpile Thorium, combined with an outreach to receive some sort of research funds to generate thorium applications. Pork-barrel is the word that comes most to mind. Indeed its groupies have even produced a video, but to say it’s gone viral with 1,400 hits would be over-exaggeration!

One of our deep throats in the REE space commented, “We are in an interesting position. Unlike others, we have a private-industry developed solution for our thorium that we have spent a good deal of time and money developing. We believe that HR 4883 attempts to have the Government develop a solution to a problem that does not exist while potentially benefiting a very select few and not the industry as a whole. A bigger concern is that it distracts legislators from focusing on Bills that could really benefit the industry, like HR761 and SR1600.”


Like the Norse god after whom it was named Thorium is prone to loud and intermittent booms before fading again into the night. Those who would hope to accelerate its destiny as the cure for all global ills seem reliant upon the US Congress for their salvation. Good luck with that… The more worthy REE sector have been waiting outside the Congress to be tossed some scraps for years (and they have military applications). It’s anybody’s guess how long Thorium, with its “peacenik” aura, will take to get traction in corridors well-trodden by the US nuclear energy lobby, who have singularly shown zero interest in the blandishments of Thorium.

The Thorium lobby is quite clearly intent on stealing the thunder (pardon the pun) of the Rare Earth lobby by coat-tailing on a more serious issue and trying to bathe in the strategic aura that REEs still possess. Frankly if their cause was so worthy they would be able to make the case for Thorium on its own merits rather than hijacking Rare Earths’ more evident virtues to give themselves momentum.

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) simply too dangerous -that’s why it was stopped

Perhaps these technical problems can be overcome, but why would anyone bother to try, knowing in advance that the MSR plant will be uneconomic due to huge construction costs and operating costs, plus will explode and rain radioactive molten salt when (not if) the steam generator tubes leak.    There are serious reasons the US has not pursued development of the thorium MSR process.  

Reports are, though, that China has started a development program for thorium MSR, using technical information and assistance from ORNL.   One hopes that stout umbrellas can be issued to the Chinese population that will withstand the raining down of molten, radioactive fluoride salt when one of the reactors explodes.

The Truth About Nuclear Power – Part 28 Subtitle: Thorium MSR No Better Than Uranium Process, Sowell’s law blog  July 20, 2014

Preface      This article, number 28 in the series, discusses nuclear power via a thorium molten-salt reactor (MSR) process.   (Note, this is also sometimes referred to as LFTR, for Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor)   The thorium MSR is frequently trotted out by nuclear power advocates, whenever the numerous drawbacks to uranium fission reactors are mentioned.   To this point in the TANP series, uranium fission, via PWR or BWR, has been the focus…….
I am familiar with the [thorium] process and have serious reservations about the numerous problems with thorium MSR
…….One final preliminary point: some of the nuclear advocates that push MSR lament the fact that, many years ago, thorium MSR lost in a competition with uranium PWR to provide propulsion for ships and submarines for the US Navy.   They say, wrongly, that Admiral Rickover chose uranium PWR over thorium MSR so that the US could develop atomic bombs.  What is much more likely the reason uranium PWR won is that the materials used for the MSR developed the severe cracking described below.   No Admiral in charge of submarines could take a chance on the reactor splitting apart from the shock of depth charges.
The Idaho National Lab MSR Description  (see drawing above)
The Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) system produces fission power in a circulating molten salt fuel mixture with an epithermal-spectrum reactor and a full actinide recycle fuel cycle. In the MSR system, the fuel is a circulating liquid mixture of sodium, zirconium, and uranium fluorides. The molten salt fuel flows through graphite core channels, producing an epithermal spectrum. The heat generated in the molten salt is transferred to a secondary coolant system through an intermediate heat exchanger, and then through a tertiary heat exchanger to the power conversion system. The reference plant has a power level of 1,000 MWe. The system has a coolant outlet temperature of 700 degrees Celsius, possibly ranging up to 800 degrees Celsius, affording improved thermal efficiency. The closed fuel cycle can be tailored for the efficient burnup of plutonium and minor actinides

Thorium’s Listed Advantages 

a) Fuel is plentiful because thorium is abundant
b) Fuel is cheap on a kWh produced basis
c) Molten salt reactor supposedly is safer, via a solid salt plug underneath the reactor that melts upon overheating if power is lost or some other upset occurs.   This allows the reactor contents, hot molten fluoride salts with radioactive thorium, uranium, and plutonium, to flow by gravity into several separate collection chambers to self-cool.
d) Low pressure reactor using molten salt – supposedly safer than a high-pressure PWR design.

Oak Ridge  MSR Test Project

a) The reactor was small, with thermal output only 7 MWth.  The reactor process had no steam generator and no electricity was produced.  It ran only a few months.

b) Metal that was used for contacting molten salt developed intergranular cracking; completely unsuitable for commercial reactor use.  see link

c) ORNL then developed (in 1977) an improved and very expensive alloy Hastelloy N for nuclear applications with molten Fluoride salts.   In tests, Hastelloy N with Niobium (Nb) had much better corrosion resistance to molten fluoride salts.

Future MSR designs and problems

a) The MSR design is much like a PWR design: each has a reactor, steam generator, and turbine/generator for the three primary sections.  However, as shown in the Idaho National Lab drawing above (INL), there are four loops in this design.  PWR has three circulating fluid loops: cooling water, boiler feedwater/steam, and the primary heating loop,  Yet, the MRS has a fourth loop, for radioactive molten salt for MSR.    Any MSR design that hopes to be economic will also be huge, likely in the 1000 MWe output size, to employ economy of scale.  This requires scaleup of approximately 500-to-1 compared to the ORNL project.   With a cycle efficiency of approximately 30 to 33 percent, the thermal output will be approximately 3500 MWth.   Scaleup from ORNL size by 500 times is an enormous challenge.   Note that scaleup with a factor of 7 to 1 is a stretch, yet such a factor (using 6) requires four steps (40, 250, 1500, and 3500) to use round numbers.   Each larger plant requires years to design, construct, and test before moving to the next size, and that is if the larger design actually works the first time.    It is also instructive (and very, very expensive) that the MSR design has a dual-compressor and heat removal fluid instead of the conventional steam condenser system.  Costs and operating problems for this design are much, much greater than for a PWR.

b) The materials of construction for a very hot molten Fluoride salt mixture will likely be extremely expensive, if made of Hastelloy N to prevent the widespread cracking found at ORNL.   It remains to be seen if even Hastelloy N will have a sufficient strength and thickness after 40 years of service.

c) Pumping the very hot, corrosive, molten salt mixture will require expensive alloy materials, and due to the salt’s density, high horsepower for pumping.   Also, pumping a hot molten radioactive salt requires sophisticated pump seals to ensure safety and prevent leaks.   As described above, the thorium MSR design will have four main circulating loops, while a PWR system has only three.   However, the cost for MSR hot molten salt circulation pump will be more expensive than the PWR pressurized water circulation pump due to the high-cost alloy required, and the almost double horsepower motor to drive the pump.

d) If a molten salt pump is not used, circulation can be achieved by a thermal density difference loop.  However, this also presents serious design and control problems.

e) The steam generator design presents a complex and likely insurmountable problem. Even if a successful design is somehow created, leaks of high-pressure water into the low-pressure molten salt are inevitable and will create all manner of hell. Havoc is too mild for the mess that will happen.   Water that contacts the hot molten salt will explode into steam, possibly rupturing the piping or equipment and flinging radioactive molten salt in all directions.   In addition, the steam generator’s material of construction also must resist the hot, corrosive molten salt.  The steam generator will also likely be made of Hastelloy N, which adds to the already high cost of the plant.   It is also notable that the INL MSR design has two heat exchangers for the steam generator loop, which decreases overall cycle thermal efficiency.   It does not increase safety, as water will leak into the molten salt.

f) Controlling the plant output, adding more fuel, and removing unwanted reaction byproducts, all are obstacles.

g) With the low thermal efficiency, MSR plants will require approximately the same quantity of cooling water as uranium fission plants.   That, as discussed previously in TANP, is a serious disadvantage in areas that are already short of water.


It can be seen then, that thorium MSR has few advantages, if any, over PWR.  They each have three or four circulating loops and pumps, however MSR will have much more expensive materials for the reactor, steam generator, molten salt pumps, and associated piping and valves.   There will be no cost savings, but likely a cost increase.  That alone puts MSR out of the running for future power production.

The safety issue is also not resolved, as stated above: pressurized water leaking from the steam generator into the hot, radioactive molten salt will explosively turn to steam and cause incredible damage.  The chances are great that the radioactive molten salt would be discharged out of the reactor system and create more than havoc.  Finally, controlling the reaction and power output, finding materials that last safely for 3 or 4 decades, and consuming vast quantities of cooling water are all serious problems.

The greatest problem, though, is likely the scale-up by a factor of 500 to 1, from the tiny project at ORNL to a full-scale commercial plant with 3500 MWth output.   Perhaps these technical problems can be overcome, but why would anyone bother to try, knowing in advance that the MSR plant will be uneconomic due to huge construction costs and operating costs, plus will explode and rain radioactive molten salt when (not if) the steam generator tubes leak.    There are serious reasons the US has not pursued development of the thorium MSR process.  Reports are, though, that China has started a development program for thorium MSR, using technical information and assistance from ORNL.   One hopes that stout umbrellas can be issued to the Chinese population that will withstand the raining down of molten, radioactive fluoride salt when one of the reactors explodes.

…….Links to each article in TANP series are included at the end of this article.