Thorium Nuclear Information Resources

UPDATE (2012/05/02): Added IEER’s Some Characteristics of Uranium and Thorium
UPDATE (2012/04/29): Added the UK NNL report! Thanks DARyan!

There is a rash of misinformation on the net about the supposed merits of the ‘new’ nuclear energy source on the block, thorium. I am sure that in a perfect world where nobody lies, thorium would be the perfect answer to the world’s energy needs as is claimed. This is unfortunately not the case.

Apparently, every time there is a new nuclear catastrophe, the thorium ‘miracle’ is promoted again as the ‘savior’ for the world. The Fukushima nuclear radiation catastrophe was not unique and the thorium misinformation artists have come out in droves. It’s the nuclear industry’s defense mechanism – create a new ‘safety myth’ that regular people can latch onto.

In reality, the thorium nuclear fuel cycle has been under development since the very early days of the nuclear industry. India, for example, has spent decades trying to commercialize it, and has failed. The US, Russia, Germany, and many others tried and failed as well. At best, thorium based nuclear power generation may be commercialized in a few decades.

I doubt it.

Fortunately, there are a number of independent trustworthy and expert sources of information on the internet regarding thorium nuclear. Here they are:

Last, but hardly least, I highly recommend anyone interested in nuclear energy to read DARyan‘s fabulous “A critical analysis of future nuclear reactors designs” which is an epic overview of the many different nuclear solutions the industry is trying to sell to society. Part 8 covers thorium, molten salt reactors (MSR), and LFTR technologies. Fanatical thorium ‘evangelists’ have taken special aim at the DARyan publications as evidenced by the various abusive comments on the blog. This critical analysis has also appeared in Green Blog.

As expert Jo Abbess states more clearly than anyone, thorium is “quite probably the most well-funded piece of astroturfing propaganda in existence.” Only through awareness and education can we hope to make rational decisions about our energy future. I recommend readers start learning about thorium nuclear from the articles above before making any decisions on the technology.

If anyone has any other good recommendations, I will add them to the list. Looking forward to your feedback 😛

40 thoughts on “Thorium Nuclear Information Resources

    • The “thorium trolls” are out! Consider Jo Abbess, or indeed my experience with these guys!

      Why is it that LFTR fans can’t take criticism? Do you understand how science works? Critical analysis is the life blood of science. Any scientific idea that is so flimsy it needs hordes of trolls to leap in and drown out any dissenting voices, isn’t science, its fantasy.

      “I’m not a scientist”….nor are many others involved in the LFTR cult! This
      might explain why those people who are scientists (see my links to the NNL below) don’t seem keen on the idea.

      • My own experience has been similar! The thorium cult, or trolls, or astroturfers are unable to deal with reasoned criticism of any type. Any criticism from a reliable source leads to a nearly immediate personal attack on the messenger. Similar to a number of real world religious cults!

  1. I, too, highly recommend reading the “SimplyInfo’s Thorium Not The Nuclear Savior Claimed” information– especially the clarifications and corrections, that is, included in many of the responses to that blog piece. Unlike the pdfs listed, at least this source allows for comments to address the numerous inaccuracies in the original material. Thorium is indeed a worthy alternative to the current nuclear power paradigm.

  2. Kevin, you seemed to have missed out the NNL’s (national nuclear laboratory) position paper on Thorium. One assumes that nuclear scientists might (vaguely) know something about “nuke stuff” and even they don’t seem keen on Thorium:

    Although admittedly, they’re report is low on detail (they seemed to be saying “trust us were nuclear scientists with white coats and big brains…and we smoke pipes”) but if even they give it the thumbs down you know this turkey ain’t going to fly!

    Now the LFTR fans will claim that the paper above doesn’t address LFTR’s. Actually, they do briefly mention the benefits of a Thorium reactor with a complete breeding cycle (i.e. like a LFTR), but then point out how unfeasible it is in the near term!

    Also the head of the NNL, Prof Howarth, specifically mentions (and turns his nose up at it) LFTR’s in a letter to a LFTR fan here:

    Further, my spies tell me that the NNL was asked to report on LFTR’s by members of Parliament who are pro-LFTR. They came up with a report that basically rubbished the idea, but that report isn’t out yet as, unsurprisingly said politicians don’t want it published because it would be hugely embarrassing for it to come out that they’d been taken in by a bunch of magic bean’s salesmen on-line!

    • Thanks so much! I had not read the NNL paper. To a layman like myself it seems quite damning:

      ”Based on NNL’s knowledge and experience of introducing new fuels into modern reactors, it is estimated that this is likely to take 10 to 15 years even with a concerted R&D effort and investment before the thorium fuel cycle could be established in current reactors and much longer for any future reactor systems. Therefore it is not envisaged that thorium fuel in LWRs will be established in the next decade, but could be feasible in the following ten years if the market conditions are conducive.”

      Every time I read or hear a nuclear project is going to take “10 or 15 years,” my brain automatically translates to “30 to 50 years, or maybe never.” For example, the Japanese Monju project has been perpetually a decade or two away for the past 40 years or so.

      I will add this wonderful document, and the letter to the list!

      • I’ve not actually seen the report, just heard rumours of it in the wings. Again, as the nuclear industry has a habit of only reporting successes and denying failures, and the UK government isn’t the most free with its info, you’re guess is aas good as mine.

        Either way, its pretty obvious the NNL are non pro-LFTR, nor Thorium.

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  4. Well in my opinion in a perfect world where nobody lies, or if you don’t like the word “lie”, where everybody stops desperately trying to ignore facts that goes counter to one’s hopes, there would also be quite a bit of uncomfortable truth coming out about /some/ of the renewable energies.

    Just to say I agree. Thorium today is a geek’s fantasy. Therefore ordinary nuclear ain’t perfect, even has some serious defaults, but it’s what we have today when large scale, on demand, not dependent on a very limited resource, energy is needed.

    • Thanks for your comment!

      but [nuclear is] what we have today when large scale, on demand, not dependent on a very limited resource, energy is needed.

      Actually, we have a number of choices for large scale, on demand, unlimited resource energy sources: wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, wave, biomass, and more. Wind or solar alone could power the earth in 2030 and beyond, many times over, forever and ever. These sources also have the added benefit of not potentially blowing up and laying waste to large portions of countries. I recommend you read research from Jacobson and Delucchi, or a number of others who have put together realistic plans for running the entire earth on in 2030 and beyond on renewable energy. This is not rocket science, IMHO.

      Also, besides being too dangerous (as Fukushima, Chernobyl, and other meltdowns showed us), nuclear is just too expensive, and too slow to build to make a significant difference in the ever growing climate change problem. As France has shown, nuclear can be built quickly if safety requirements of society are very low (like back in the 70s in France, Japan, or USA). Post Chernobyl and Fukushima, people are no longer happy with unsafe antiquated nuclear reactors that might have been built quickly. Countries like China might be able to pull off their planned builds via their ability to crush any public discontent with an iron fist – this (unfortunately for the nuclear industry) does not work in countries with democracy. Nuclear has had its chance for the past half century plus, and it has failed miserably to answer up to the expectations.

      Meanwhile, regarding thorium, when someone, somewhere builds an actual viable thorium reactor in the real world that really is everything the thorium ‘evangelists’ claim, I’ll be happy to eat humble pie. Meanwhile, thorium energy sources only exists in powerpoints, youtube videos, and in the minds of it’s proponents.

      Time to move on to a better future. Renewables are that future.

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  7. (The commenter apparently has a type of disorder/handicap which causes her (or him) to insert expletives every few words. Or she/he may have been drunk? Regardless, the vulgarities were edited. -kevin)

    Some articles in the links provided indeed offer a good criticism of the LFTR, but they are mixed with links to obviously f****** p*******a pieces full of s***** misinformation. For example:

    “PSR/IEER’s Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power”
    Debunked here:
    [pornography link removed]

    “SimplyInfo’s Thorium, Not The Nuclear Savior Claimed”
    The entire criticism is pretty much shown to be outright f***** or hugely misleading in the comments. I suggest you read them.

    “The Guardian’s Don’t Believe The Spin on Thorium Being a Greener Nuclear Option”
    Again, full of inaccuracies and outright f*****. Debunked here:
    [pornography link removed]

    DARyan‘s “fabulous” “A critical analysis of future nuclear reactors designs” critique of MSR is also full of mistakes. Debunked here:
    [pornography link removed]
    (part I)
    [pornography link removed]
    (part II)
    And word by word rebuttal here:
    [multiple pornography links removed]

    • (The commenter apparently has a type of disorder/handicap which causes her (or him) to insert expletives every few words. Or she/he may have been drunk? Regardless, the vulgarities were edited. -kevin)

      Another rebuttal of the DARyan ******** is here:
      [pornography link removed]

      I suggest you remove these, it only taints as misinformation all the other articles, which seems to offer some legitimate critique of the LFTR concept.
      [pornography link removed]

      • I did a search online and noticed that ‘Maslo’ is a very common name for pro-thorium posters. The ‘Maslo’ user comments are on a large number of comment boards on different websites. I guess this is his/her job?

      • The (lftr)lady doth protest too much me thinks!

        Kevin, I did warn you that these LFTR fan’s don’t respond well to criticism! Of course such behaviour is exactly why most serious scientists I know (both pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear) want nothing to do with them. They are, in effect undermining their own argument, but constantly harshing critic’s.

        I remember once seeing a video of Steve Chu (US energy secretary, pro-nuke’s) being confronted by a LFTR fan. You could by his body language he wasn’t comfortable…and was probably hoping the Secret Service guy’s were paying attention!

      • Hillarious!

        Perhaps one of those people who save others from cults can save the LFTRs? Or maybe it’s something that can be dealt with via medication?

        In any event, I am sure that LFTR cult will go down in history as one of those odd (and a bit scary) new techno-religious cults that happened before wide-spread renewable energy enlightenment occurred.

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  9. I was looking for serious critique on Thorium. Thanks for the documents. I read through them. The main counter-arguments are the same everywhere and to be honest not convincing.

    1. “It has never been done, therefore it’s impossible or very difficult to do. Some groups have been trying to make it work for decades and it doesn’t work.” — This is a very silly argument. Of course any new technology that has not been done yet feels unreal, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. We’re not talking about physical impossibility here like a perpetual machine, but technical challenges which with effort, creativity and persistence can be overcome. There wasn’t much funding or effort put behind this technology so far compared to other competing technologies, so don’t yet know what is possible. Just like we invented millions of things in the past and with time we will invent the cure for cancer and will have a quantum computer, we may also have safe, cheap and green thorium reactors.

    2. “Not safe enough. Still need Uranium. Still produces waste.” — In a perfect world we would have problems and risks at all. But this is not a perfect world. When you compare Thorium with other viable solutions (which doesn’t include solar panels and wind turbines unfortunately) it looks like Th has the lowest risk and least amount of waste. It doesn’t mean it’s zero risk or waste, but it’s better than others. Also, since it hasn’t been done yet how do experts know in advance what a not-yet designed reactor will perform in terms of safety and waste production? You can’t have counter-argument 1. and 2. at the same time.

    3. “It’s just a hype, don’t believe the spin.” — This is a cynical view and can be said about anything. We can say in similar fashion that the anti-Th movement is a hidden pro-fossil fuel group. We don’t always fully know who is behind the reports linked above. Some of them are coming from the same source actually, Dr. Arjun Makhijani, who is not really rational about this subject based on his book and his interviews. I could be wrong but to me it seems he’s very emotionally motivated to talk against anything that’s not solar, wind or efficiency related. Let’s look at the facts and let’s leave out all this emotional crap from the issue.

    I understand from the linked pdfs that there are several serious technical challenges, but that’s not a counter argument against the idea overall either. Look at what engineers can do today. We created the lowest temperature in the —universe— at the large hadron collider. We sent robots to Mars! Today we can do many-many things that were literally unimaginable just a few decades ago. The challenges Th faces are admittedly by the linked reports are not impossible to solve, just take a long time. But these projections are based on past efforts. Also, they do not take into consideration that our technological advancement is accelerating. Singularity combined with increased efforts may cut the conservatively projected timelines into half and we may have the Th plants running in less than 20 years.

    • Thanks for your feedback!

      I think the arguments are far more non-trivial than you have presented them. Without any intention of being rude, here is how I would restate some of the arguments:

      1. The opportunity costs of wasting limited resources, especially time, on chasing the holy grail of safe nuclear are too high. It may be possible to build it given unlimited resources, but we unfortunately do not have them currently. Maybe in another 100 or so years we can re-examine the problem.

      2. There is no requirement to use nuclear energy (thorium or otherwise) to solve the world’s energy problems. Renewable energy solutions exist today that are proven to be cost efficient, viable technologically, and safe for future generations. Renewable energy covers an entire spectrum of solutions including solar, wind, geothermal, wave, hydro, biomass, and other solutions. There is plenty of energy to work with from these solutions. Further, there are also enormous gains to be made via efficiency gains.

      3. Dr. Makhijani and many other experts are, in fact, well respected, authoritative, and extremely logical in their arguments. On the other hand the nuclear and fossil industries have a long history of misrepresenting safety, cost, efficiency, and health issues (amongst other issues). It is ironic that this is the case since the nuclear industry often tries to discredit critics by insinuating that their arguments are emotive when the opposite is the case in most expert examples.

      The major flaw with the nuclear (thorium or otherwise) argument is that nuclear energy is not required to meet the energy needs of the entire world, even after eliminating most fossil fuels. Perhaps half a century ago, this was not the case, but the world has changed over the past sixty years. It is time to move on, IMHO.

      Finally, to turn your own statement on it’s head, the “singularity” and increased efforts will allow us to move to a 100% renewable energy world far more quickly than the overly pessimistic time frames put forward by vested nuclear and fossil industry dependent countries. Germany’s energy revolution is proving this today.

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  11. Great resource. Thank you.

    Another ‘angle’ to this thorium cult is the chief priest – Kirk Sorensen. He is the world authority (according to the online faithful) and he has no formal qualifications (currently studying a Nuclear Engineering MS part time). He did land a job for just one year as ‘Chief Nuclear Technologist’ after he left NASA where he was a mechanical engineer working on launch vehicle design.

    That’s pretty impressive – being hired as a ‘Chief Nuclear Technologist’ when you have no nuclear qualifications and no previous nuclear experience. A cynical person might think someone wanted to manufacture some credibility for Sorensen.

    Still, you need to admire Sorensen for his ability to produce PowerPoint slides, Photoshop images and YouTube videos! I don’t think I’d hire him to build nuke technology that has eluded multiple countries for decades, but I would certainly hire him to run a propaganda campaign….

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  17. Thorium is yet another Black Hole that has taken billions in R & D and is nowhere near ready for prime time, unlike Solar (of all flavors)…
    … Is faster to install,
    … Costs less to install
    … Is ready for 24/7 power
    … Requires no decommissioning costs
    … And has no Nuclear RISK…

      • Gustav, I recommend you read up on the numerous proposals put forth by the large number of highly respectable experts in the field. I have placed a number of proposals in this post on 100% Renewable Energy on this blog. There are many strategies for geographically deploying solar over a wide area. The sun is always shining somewhere on half of the earth, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

      • No one with a clue is suggesting we rely on only solar PV
        and sit in the dark when then sun goes down. Obviously. There are
        many 100% renewable blueprints. Several countries are now moving
        towards it. E.g. Denmark: * OUR FUTURE ENERGY. “2050: All energy
        supply – electricity, heat, industry and transport – is covered by
        renewable energy.”

        Click to access our%20future%20energy.pdf

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