Friday, September 23, 2011
Interesting how all these "breakthroughs" all are just a mere two years from producing a working model. I think I have a 1976 magazine around here somewhere describing how a fusion reactor was just "a few years away".
I smell a scam. Just because there is promising hype around Liquid Floride Thorium Reactors, does not mean one is going to replace the V-8 in the next decade.
Not to mention that there are many, many more uses for petroleum than mere car gasoline.
Also, I'm not not a physicist or engineer (and neither is this writer; "When thorium is heated it becomes extremely hot?" Really?), but this system seems to presuppose the presence of enough electrical power to shoot a continuous high energy laser into the thorium. Where does that come from? I don't think this hypothetical system will produce more energy than it consumes, because I'm fairly sure that's impossible. So won't there have to be a supplemental power source after all?
And if this is so safe and efficient that a quarter ton engine can power a car for its lifetime, why isn't this already used for, say, nuclear power plants?
And most importantly, how much would all of this cost? Because if it isn't economical, it isn't replacing crap.
I tend to agree with Georgfelis.
Additionally, "oil" companies are entirely happy to be "energy" companies, if there is money in it. They don't have an especial attachment to petroleum. That also has been around since the 1970's - the accusation that the oil companies are somehow conspiring to keep some great idea off the market.
It was a major theme of Mother Earth News, back in the day.
Thorium is a fertile material that is converted to the fissile U233 in a LFTR. It can then fission, producing neutrons to convert more thorium into U233. Liquid fuel test reactors were operating in the 60’s. Safer than conventional reactors, they can be used to “burn” long life nucleosides produced in the existing Light Water Reactors.
Liquid fuel reactors have the potential to be very small, see the Aircraft Reactor experiment, but they are still just a heat source. So would this small reactor be a steam generator or a hot air turbine?
Nuclear power has the potential to provide the base electrical load for the country. It can also be used to generate hydrogen which can be catalyzed to produce just about any hydrocarbon you would like.
Energy is the linchpin and pivot point for every major step we have taken away from the cave and campfire. Presently our cars run on a liquid so volatile and dangerous it has pound for pound the explosive power of dynamite. We do need better, but I just don't see fueling a car with a single pellet inside of my lifetime, except maybe in the Jetson's reruns.
Off topic: Best book I've seen on industrial chemistry was Alchemy of Air , a very good and readable book concentrating on the Haber-Bosch process for creating fixed nitrogen (i.e. Ammonia).
From what I've read, thorium could be a great longer-term answer for producing electricity. We should be going balls out on R&D.
That's the real tragedy of Solyndra. $500 million would fund a lot of real research. What we could do with a trillion dollars, were it well spent.
I don't see thorium in cars. At this stage, it sounds like a silly distraction.
Echoing Georgfelis, "energy" may be the single biggest constraint on Man right now. Oil has taken us amazingly far in not much more than a century. Oil's not going away, but it's now become a constraint.
We need cheaper, better energy sources. But especially in Europe -- and more recently in the USA -- we're intent on developing alternative sources that simple reason would expose as absolute failures.