For The Blind Among Us: [Ok, That'll Include Some Of Those Folks We Love To Call "rednecks"]

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Fukushima is completely out of control and continues destroying the Pacific environment and yet there are still people out there looking for more of the same.....absolutely friggin amazing.

The proponents of this deadly technology have no plan whatsoever for dealing with any nuclear catastrophe and remain unable to save the planet from Fukushima, yet there are still people out there looking for more of the same....absolutely frigging amazing.

I recently came across a picture of Tokyo taken at night from the air. The place was all lit up in neon. Considering Fukushima I'm compelled to ask; do we really need to employ nuclear power to drive this kind of disgusting commercial excess?

Yeah, understandable but there is a compelling case made in the documentary I mentioned. You should watch it. I'd be interested in your opinion after watching it.

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The number one thing we should be doing is supporting nuclear power. I do what I can: recycle if at all possible, reuse and REDUCE (that's the big one) but really these things have a small impact - m

As usual, the author of this document is using a small part of the truth to make a spectacular headline. There is no equivalence to the amount of work done. The specific compound the author is compari

The daily show covering the United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology discussing climate change... Worth the watch...

Even Patrick Moore, formerly of Greenpeace, is a nuclear power advocate (also a AGW denier).

I guess I am on the redneck side.

Lol! Good old Patrick Moore!

Moore also says: a hotter earth would be ‘beneficial for humans and the majority of other species’ ...

I guess he lives on high ground?

Re the thread title: Oh well.... It's not as if there's anything at all I could say to - as you say - 'help my side of the argument'..... But it's an important issue, and I reckon it can't hurt to poke folks into re-examining their solidified opinions once in a while.

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The old, "follow the money" rhetoric vis a vis climate change is just so friggin sophomoric, in my view. As if there is some global entity, not even figuratively, actually LITERALLY a cabal of oil producers or some such, that stand to literally benefit from climate change. Please, stand down. There is no conspiracy. It's ridiculous.

If one believes that oil companies (I assume that is what you mean, Mitch, by "who stands to benefit") benefit by theoretical unlimited extraction of their resource, wouldn't it follow that if access to said resource were limited- morally and politically- through a fear-based campaign of climate change lobbying, that the price of said resource would increase? As it is and has been doing since The Debate started?

What I'm saying is, if you're the conspiracy type, then it is easy to flip your story upside down and propose that in fact fear of climate change BENEFITS the conspirators by restricting access to and driving up the price of their owned resources. It restricts new entrants and heavily favours incumbent large producers. Imagine if climate change didn't exist and, similar to the chronology of the nutritional "science" of cholesterol in eggs (it's bad, no wait, now it's good!) one day climate change is disproven and it is discovered that the oil and gas reserves under the ground are somehow toxic to the earth and must be extracted forthwith, in order to to save the planet. What then happens to the price of oil, if we must burn it all as quickly as it can be produced? It drops.

Ie. there is no conspiracy. Let the science figure itself out, and it seems that isn't happening anytime soon. In the meantime I'm with long timer insofar ad believing that we should conserve purely because it is virtuous to do so, not for fear of the ocean coming to a boil if we don't.

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And by let the science figure itself out I mean separate the debate from "is it happening?" (Yes) to

-who/what is causing it? (Not sure) and further;

-is it possible to even do anything about it, considering the absolute myriad- the thousands upon thousands of factors involved- in an ecosystem the size of an entire planet? (Debatable)

Reducing pollution improves air quality, reducing consumption conserves finite resources. Can it really be that simple? Why do we even have to debate those points at all?

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Hello Zan... A couple points if I may. First; Oil companies don't benefit from climate change, but they lose all hope of continued obscene profit making if demand drops as severely as it would, once everyone finally understands this isn't a conspiracy of scientists invention. [you see, I too can flash the "C" word, as if to discredit your commentary ;)] Nothing at all ridiculous there. Is there any other industry on earth that regularly posts such enormous profit? No 'hidden Cabal' nor conspiracy theories required, they're all there for all to see.

So what happens to them once we all realize the need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by huge amounts? After we've all decided the extra costs to develop clean global alternatives are necessary?

It's that simple.

Secondly... Fear of the ocean boiling? What on earth have you been reading!? No, there are some things to fear from the oceans though; not least of which is simply that, as sea levels rise, people are flooded out. The first few feet of increase puts an awful lot of people out of their homes. Acidity increasing is also a worry, in terms of the ability for the oceans to continue to support the kinds of life we seem to need to eat.

No, there is no conspiracy... unless you'd consider funding and otherwise promoting intentional disinformation campaigns a conspiracy?

Science has spoken. That's what they mean't to convey when they put out that "97%" statement. As far as the vast majority of climate scientists are concerned, the uncertainty is insignificant.

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I took a look at the trailer and immediately recalled seeing the film.

What can I say; I think the film is a product of an industry that intends to save & promote itself against the backdrop of some seriously threatening events, which just seem to keep on occurring regardless of all the calming promises made during the film. We should note; industry wide, all infrastructure is in nuclear terms, ancient.

The movie promotes the theme of perpetual population growth suggesting that without nuclear power the 'third world' won't be able to grow etc. It seems to me that there are a few other substantial organizational challenges in need of resolution before anyone should start thinking about arming Africa with nuclear power. In another case involving the third world; the proliferation / provision of nuclear power to India & Pakistan did little to serve the peoples needs, but did provide the war mongering Generals on each side with a large number of really big & nasty bombs; good work Canada / USA.

I have a close acquaintance that was one of the engineers involved with the original design of Pickering. Back in the early nineties a problem with reactor cooling tubes came to light for which no reasonable repair scheme existed. When the dust settled, the Ontario taxpayer was placed on the hook with respect to the final staggering repair bill. Anyway, I inquired with my acquaintance as to how they could have designed the place with such an obvious problem knowingly built into the reactor. The response; although they knew the tubes would fail and in spite of the fact the technology for repair didn’t exist, they believed the industry would find and develop it over the life of the cooling tubes. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as hoped; the industry stagnated and almost completely stalled, which resulted in a major slowdown in engineering and an almost complete absence of ongoing technological advances over the next few decades. Did I mention; on an industry wide basis, the nuclear infrastructure is ancient.

Back when reactors were first designed, a core meltdown was considered to be a doomsday scenario because the experts had no way of getting between it and whatever horror might come next. Today, a core meltdown remains the same demonstrably unsolvable nightmare it was when they brought this dangerous technology forward way back when. So then, how does / can industry respond when there are three China Syndrome events taking place simultaneously and no one has a clue what to do to bring the situation under control? They make films that spread bs about to reassure the masses that all is well and convince us that more of the same medicine is all that’s required to make all well again.

It’s only mho, but until the nuclear industry is able to find a way to save the world from the doomsday event they’ve already got us into while supplying us with ‘safe & cheap’ electrical power, I don't think the pursuit of more of the same can be justified.

Check out Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer and 1st operator at:

No offense to documentary film producers and it’s only mho again, but I think Mr. Gundersen’s background and qualifications alone make his opinion far more credible than ‘theirs’ could ever hope to be.

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There are other, non-uranium/plutonium nuclear solutions within reach.

Suggesting that nuclear necessarily has dire risks ignores the progress that has become available in the last 60 years. Thorium based molten salt reactors would require energy input to maintain the reaction, taking the concept of meltdown completely out of the equation. Fukushima would simply have stopped reacting when power was lost. Since molten salt doesn't boil, there is no threat of a radioactivity laced steam explosion.

In addition, the amount of waste material is a fraction of that from uranium reactors and has a much shorter half life (albeit still a few hundred years)... but Thorium reactors would be able to "burn" existing nuclear waste as part of their process, helping to solve our current storage problems.

It won't be in place in the next 10 years, but there is lots of high-power backing, including Bill Gates. However, if the fear card is played by drawing parallels with the old nuclear technology, it will, unnecessarily, take many more decades than that to get to a cheaper, safer, nuclear solution using a product that is plentiful and is currently just waste material from the production of rare earth ores.

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It's a bit frustrating reading this thread, once again composed of people with closed minds nattering at each other on a subject barely comprehended. And the latter characterization includes me, but, at the very least, I remain agnostic in conclusions, and cautious about hastening towards them.

Have to love this passage:

‘To conform to the approximate physical relationship between greenhouse gas concentration and temperature, eCO2 was converted to a radiative forcing value using the approximation f(eCO2) = 5.35 loge(eCO2/278) (Myhre et al., 1998). These relationships also imply that temperature (in a closed system) increases linearly with the radiative forcing value of an input, suggesting that a multiple linear regression is a suitable approximation for modelling the global mean temperature anomaly.’

“approximate,” “approximation,” “imply,” “suggesting,” “suitable approximation for modelling”...

Since when is the atmosphere a closed system?

And yet just about 100% certainty.

I'll see your one poorly-conceived statistical analysis and raise you 71 papers published in 2013 that demonstrate the sun controls climate, not man-made CO2:

Hello, Peter' - First, perhaps it shows a small sense of responsibility for the authors to state their methodology, that folks like you may challenge it. From a few of the studies in your data-dump:

.... However, the explanations of the so-called ‘warming hiatus remain fragmented and the implications for long-term temperature projections are unclear. Here we estimate the contribution of internal variability associated with the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) using segments of unforced climate model control simulations that match the observed climate variability. We find that ENSO variability analogous to that between 1997 or 1998 and 2012 leads to a cooling trend of about −0.06 °C. In addition, updated solar and stratospheric aerosol forcings from observations explain a cooling trend of similar magnitude (−0.07 °C). Accounting for these adjusted trends we show that a climate model of reduced complexity with a transient climate response of about 1.8 °C is consistent with the temperature record of the past 15 years, as is the ensemble mean of the models in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5). We conclude that there is little evidence for a systematic overestimation of the temperature response to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the CMIP5 ensemble ....

- or -

.... In this study, using the PMOD and ACRIM TSI composites, we have attempted to estimate the TSI index from year 1000 AD to 2100 AD based on the Least Squares Support Vector Machines, which is applied here for the first time to estimate a solar index. Using the wavelet transform, we analyzed the behavior of the total solar irradiance time series before and after the solar grand minima. Depending on the composite used, PMOD (or ACRIM), we found a grand minimum for the 21st century, starting in ∼20042004 (or 2002) and ending in ∼20752075 (or 2063), with an average irradiance of 1365.5 (or 1360.5) Wm-2±1σ=0.3Wm-2±1σ=0.3 (or 0.9) Wm-2Wm-2. Moreover, we calculated an average radiative forcing between the present and the 21st century minima of ∼-0.1-0.1 (or −0.2) Wm-2Wm-2, with an uncertainty range of -0.04-0.04 to -0.14-0.14 (or -0.12-0.12 to -0.33-0.33) Wm-2Wm-2. As an indicator of the TSI level, we calculated its annual power anomalies; in particular, future solar cycles from 24 to 29 have lower power anomalies compared to the present, for both models ....

- or -

.... The inferred correlation between the <GLOTI> and <aa(I:SSN)> is statistically important at confidence level cl > 99.9%, having a coefficient of linear correlation r = 0.865 and standard error of estimate se = 0.149 degC. Excluding the most recent cycles SC22 and SC23, the inferred correlation is stronger, having r = 0.969 and se = 0.048 degC. With respect to the overall trend in the <GLOTI>, which has been upwards towards warmer temperatures since SC12 (1878-1888), solar-geomagnetic activity parameters are now trending downwards (since SC19). For SC20-SC23, in contrast, comparison of the <GLOTI> against SC-length averages of the annual value of the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide (<MLCO2>) index is found to be highly statistically important (cl >> 99.9%), having r = 0.9994 and se = 0.012 degC for lag = 2 yr. On the basis of the inferred preferential linear correlation between the <GLOTI> and <MLCO2>, the current ongoing SC24 is inferred to have <GLOTI> warmer than was seen in SC23 (i.e., >0.526 degC), probably in excess of 0.68 degC (relative to the 1951-1980 base period) ....

ets. etc

It may well be that Mitch's study is flawed, but the authors have been open. Regardless, perhaps you can help me on a broader question. Which of the 71 studies refutes Kokic etal? Be patient with me, and likely most others here who won't read all 71 studies in detail (if available at all beyond extracts). If you know which ones, we'd probably appreciate not being assigned time-wasting searches. Many seem to investigate solar effects upon regional climates. Now really, I have not read of any assertions that deny that the sun affects our climate (in spite of the frequent implication of such nonsense from the denial community), but note that we cannot affect solar radiation, altho' we do have some influence on the amount of CO2 dumped in the atmosphere.

Spare the well-honed arrogance, tho'. I may be slow to appreciate it, but if your case is as compelling and obvious as you seem to think, I'll probably be bright enough to grasp it. And unlike some other minds here, mine IS open.

In the meantime, to draw an analogy, I will be inclined to tack away from the rocks to the best extent possible when she's blowing towards them, even if sailors can't control the wind, and founder in spite of best efforts, not even partially as a result of them. In our real world, forecasts may indeed turn out to be wrong, but until they do, it seems reasonable to attempt avoidance of bad case outcomes. Perhaps a bit like waging pre-emptive war. That's an entirely separate discussion of course, referred to only for the gaping asymmetry in peoples' inclination to commit resources (and even lives) to risk management/mitigation.

Another frustration. There's a bit of a groupthink here that AGW believers are wrong, but quite a variety of objection. Some others here reject your assertion that the planet has stopped warming, but dwell on a pointless quibble about a conceptually single cause. Thankfully, you are not in that camp.

As Choc says always turns into a linkfest. This opinion piece in the WSJ sums up my outlook.

I'm not convinced by all those scientists down there on the Wall Street Journal's editorial board (or OTOH the Globe's or NYT's for that matter). I guess for some it's credible that the right-wing press is keeping NASA, national science academies etc exposed as the stupid, sold-out patsies that they are. It must be comforting to know that they are qualified and equipped to adjudicate scientific disputes, and do it of course with ethics and motives as pure as the driven snow.

This "debate" is taking place almost exclusively in the non-scientific press, but credit where it's due, the deniers seem to be succeeding in popular opinion, popular opinion of course being an excellent jury for these matters.

But really, WHOGAS here. I have to hope, for the sake of my kids, grand-kids, their grand-kids, that the deniers are right, because you're all going to continue to indulge yourself in whatever pleases you. Including, and this mystifies me, some who claim to accept that there's a looming problem.

Cheers, IFG :b:

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IFG: the major problem I see is the absolute unwillingness of most deniers / believers to do anything on a personal basis so as to help improve things. Most rely on their rants against big oil, big etc. , anti Global Warming etc and expect someone else to do the heavy hauling. You have to wonder what / if any net result would be if all of us just cleaned up our own personal backyard. (see my earlier post about what can be done by an individual).

Many of the same folk rail against our political system but make no attempt to change it. For some reason they think withholding their vote will "show them"

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Your last item on your list......Carbon Credits.

This is the biggest scam to hit this planet ever. This is a huge money making scam plain and simple. Whoever buys into this crap is part of the problem not part of the solution. I still find it funny that my GPS on my bike tells me what my carbon foot print is. The Kg of carbon I put into the air on my bike, which gets great mileage, apparently weight MORE than the weight of the fuel I put in the tank. How is it possible to generate significantly more carbon than the burned hydrocarbon even contains in the first place. SCAM

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Your last item on your list......Carbon Credits.

This is the biggest scam to hit this planet ever. This is a huge money making scam plain and simple. Whoever buys into this crap is part of the problem not part of the solution. I still find it funny that my GPS on my bike tells me what my carbon foot print is. The Kg of carbon I put into the air on my bike, which gets great mileage, apparently weight MORE than the weight of the fuel I put in the tank. How is it possible to generate significantly more carbon than the burned hydrocarbon even contains in the first place. SCAM

I guess they are taking into account the amount CO2 produced by the rider, so you will have to cut back on your breathing. :Grin-Nod:

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Your last item on your list......Carbon Credits.

This is the biggest scam to hit this planet ever. This is a huge money making scam plain and simple. Whoever buys into this crap is part of the problem not part of the solution. I still find it funny that my GPS on my bike tells me what my carbon foot print is. The Kg of carbon I put into the air on my bike, which gets great mileage, apparently weight MORE than the weight of the fuel I put in the tank. How is it possible to generate significantly more carbon than the burned hydrocarbon even contains in the first place. SCAM

I'm not saying that the carbon credits system isn't a scam, but the mass of CO2 produced per unit of fuel is simple chemistry.

Why do carbon dioxide emissions weigh more than the original fuel?

Carbon dioxide emissions weigh more than the original fuel because during complete combustion, each carbon atom in the fuel combines with two oxygen atoms in the air to make carbon dioxide (CO2). The addition of two oxygen atoms to each carbon atom forms CO2, which has an atomic weight of 44 — roughly 3.6667 times the atomic weight of the carbon (12).

For example, subbituminous coal is on average 51% carbon, so the carbon in a short ton (2,000 pounds) weighs 1,020 pounds. The carbon dioxide emissions from burning a short ton of subbituminous coal are approximately 3,740 pounds, or about 3.67 times the weight of the carbon in a short ton of coal, and 1.87 times the weight of a short ton of coal.

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Share on other sites, Thursday 23 June 2011 16.52 BST

In a world increasingly aware of and affected by global warming, the news that 2010 was a record year for greenhouse gases levels was something of a blow.

With the world's population due to hit nine billion by 2050, it highlights the increasingly urgent need to find a clean, reliable and renewable source of energy.

India hopes it has the answer: thorium, a naturally occurring radioactive element, four times more abundant than uranium in the earth's crust.

The pro-thorium lobby claim a single tonne of thorium burned in a molten salt reactor (MSR) – typically a liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) – which has liquid rather than solid fuel, can produce one gigawatt of energy. A traditional pressurised water reactor (PWR) would need to burn 250 tonnes of uranium to produce the same amount of energy.

They also produce less waste, have no weapons-grade by-products, can consume legacy plutonium stockpiles and are meltdown-proof – if the hype is to be believed.

India certainly has faith, with a burgeoning population, chronic electricity shortage, few friends on the global nuclear stage (it hasn't signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty) and the world's largest reserves of thorium. 'Green' nuclear could help defuse opposition at home (the approval of two new traditional nuclear power reactors on its west coast led to fierce protests recently) and allow it to push ahead unhindered with its stated aim of generating 270GW of energy from nuclear by 2050.

China, Russia, France and the US are also pursuing the technology, while India's department of atomic energy and the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council are jointly funding five UK research programmes into it.

There is a significant sticking point to the promotion of thorium as the 'great green hope' of clean energy production: it remains unproven on a commercial scale. While it has been around since the 1950s (and an experimental 10MW LFTR did run for five years during the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US, though using uranium and plutonium as fuel) it is still a next generation nuclear technology – theoretical.

China did announce this year that it intended to develop a thorium MSR, but nuclear radiologist Peter Karamoskos, of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), says the world shouldn't hold its breath.

'Without exception, [thorium reactors] have never been commercially viable, nor do any of the intended new designs even remotely seem to be viable. Like all nuclear power production they rely on extensive taxpayer subsidies; the only difference is that with thorium and other breeder reactors these are of an order of magnitude greater, which is why no government has ever continued their funding.'

China's development will persist until it experiences the ongoing major technical hurdles the rest of the nuclear club have discovered, he says.

Others see thorium as a smokescreen to perpetuate the status quo: the world's only operating thorium reactor – India's Kakrapar-1 – is actually a converted PWR, for example. 'This could be seen to excuse the continued use of PWRs until thorium is [widely] available,' points out Peter Rowberry of No Money for Nuclear (NM4N) and Communities Against Nuclear Expansion (CANE).

In his reading, thorium is merely a way of deflecting attention and criticism from the dangers of the uranium fuel cycle and excusing the pumping of more money into the industry.

And yet the nuclear industry itself is also sceptical, with none of the big players backing what should be – in PR terms and in a post-Fukushima world – its radioactive holy grail: safe reactors producing more energy for less and cheaper fuel.

In fact, a 2010 National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) report (PDF)concluded the thorium fuel cycle 'does not currently have a role to play in the UK context [and] is likely to have only a limited role internationally for some years ahead' – in short, it concluded, the claims for thorium were 'overstated'.

Proponents counter that the NNL paper fails to address the question of MSR technology, evidence of its bias towards an industry wedded to PWRs. Reliant on diverse uranium/plutonium revenue streams – fuel packages and fuel reprocessing, for example – the nuclear energy giants will never give thorium a fair hearing, they say.

But even were its commercial viability established, given 2010's soaring greenhouse gas levels, thorium is one magic bullet that is years off target. Those who support renewables say they will have come so far in cost and efficiency terms by the time the technology is perfected and upscaled that thorium reactors will already be uneconomic. Indeed, if renewables had a fraction of nuclear's current subsidies they could already be light years ahead.

All other issues aside, thorium is still nuclear energy, say environmentalists, its reactors disgorging the same toxic byproducts and fissile waste with the same millennial half-lives. Oliver Tickell, author of Kyoto2, says the fission materials produced from thorium are of a different spectrum to those from uranium-235, but 'include many dangerous-to-health alpha and beta emitters'.

Tickell says thorium reactors would not reduce the volume of waste from uranium reactors. 'It will create a whole new volume of radioactive waste from previously radio-inert thorium, on top of the waste from uranium reactors. Looked at in these terms, it's a way of multiplying the volume of radioactive waste humanity can create several times over.'

Putative waste benefits – such as the impressive claims made by former Nasa scientist Kirk Sorensen, one of thorium's staunchest advocates – have the potential to be outweighed by a proliferating number of MSRs. There are already 442 traditional reactors already in operation globally, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The by-products of thousands of smaller, ostensibly less wasteful reactors would soon add up.

Anti-nuclear campaigner Peter Karamoskos goes further, dismissing a 'dishonest fantasy' perpetuated by the pro-nuclear lobby.

Thorium cannot in itself power a reactor; unlike natural uranium, it does not contain enough fissile material to initiate a nuclear chain reaction. As a result it must first be bombarded with neutrons to produce the highly radioactive isotope uranium-233 – 'so these are really U-233 reactors,' says Karamoskos.

This isotope is more hazardous than the U-235 used in conventional reactors, he adds, because it produces U-232 as a side effect (half life: 160,000 years), on top of familiar fission by-products such as technetium-99 (half life: up to 300,000 years) and iodine-129 (half life: 15.7 million years).Add in actinides such as protactinium-231 (half life: 33,000 years) and it soon becomes apparent that thorium's superficial cleanliness will still depend on digging some pretty deep holes to bury the highly radioactive waste.

With billions of pounds already spent on nuclear research, reactor construction and decommissioning costs – dwarfing commitments to renewables – and proposed reform of the UK electricity markets apparently hiding subsidies to the nuclear industry, the thorium dream is considered by many to be a dangerous diversion.

Energy consultant and former Friends of the Earth anti-nuclear campaigner Neil Crumpton says the government would be better deferring all decisions about its new nuclear building plans and fuel reprocessing until the early 2020s: 'By that time much more will be known about Generation IV technologies including LFTRs and their waste-consuming capability.'

In the meantime, says Jean McSorley, senior consultant for Greenpeace's nuclear campaign, the pressing issue is to reduce energy demand and implement a major renewables programme in the UK and internationally – after all, even conventional nuclear reactors will not deliver what the world needs in terms of safe, affordable electricity, let alone a whole raft of new ones.

'Even if thorium technology does progress to the point where it might be commercially viable, it will face the same problems as conventional nuclear: it is not renewable or sustainable and cannot effectively connect to smart grids. The technology is not tried and tested, and none of the main players is interested. Thorium reactors are no more than a distraction.'

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The title for the article you quoth, DEFCON, was

Don't believe the spin on thorium being a greener nuclear option

and was written by a writer for the Ecologist.

Despite your source's statement that big players are not interested, Toshiba and Westinghouse are key partners in a Thorium test currently underway in Norway.

From a human safety perspective, I guess the big question is.... (even under the current, uranium-nuclear system) what is the ratio of Kw per early death or disease attributable to nuclear vs fossil fuel? I would suggest that it is much higher death/disease rate for fossil than nuclear. What is the animal death rate between nuclear and wind? Solar concentrated is even credited with hundreds of bird deaths per day per facility ... a term they refer to as "smokes", I believe.

To their credit, the Ecologist published a rebuttal a few days later:

Response: don't dismiss the potential of thorium nuclear power

Bryony Worthington

1st July, 2011

Climate change is a challenging topic for the green movement. Environmentalists can take the credit for being amongst the first to sound the alarm when the rest of the world chose to ignore the gloomy pronouncements being made by the scientific community. Thorium – the theory is sound and potentially game changing – we need to see it put into practice, argues Labour peer and former Friends of the Earth campaigner Bryony Worthington

However, the range of people now concerned about the threat we face has grown hugely in recent years and so too has the range of solutions being put forward. Not all of them have found favour with the green lobby. It is easy to find reasons to object to things but if we are going to successfully decarbonise the global economy then we cannot afford to rule out too many technologies before properly exploring and assessing their pros and cons.

It is tempting to think that all nuclear reactors are the same, and by extension, to placeliquid-fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs) in the same category as existing solid-fueled uranium and plutonium reactors.

However, just as it is possible to abhor nuclear weapons but support the use of radioactive isotopes in lifesaving medicine it is necessary to differentiate between different forms of nuclear power. Most of the problems currently associated with today's solid-uranium-fuelled reactors simply do not apply to LFTRs powered by thorium.

We worry about a "meltdown" in a solid-uranium reactor because it can lead to the release of radioactivity. But many features of a LFTR make it inherently safer. A liquid fuel is the normal mode of operation, which means the reactor can be designed to automatically drain itself into a walk-away safe configuration in the event of a problem.

A well-designed LFTR won't require emergency power or human intervention to shut down safely. The fluoride fuel form doesn't react with air and water and traps potentially dangerous elements like strontium and cesium as chemically-stable salts. LFTRs achieve high temperatures at normal pressure, unlike water-cooled reactors which require operating at high-pressures leading to safety concerns.

We are right to be concerned about the risk of military proliferation, but thorium was rejected early in the nuclear age because it is vastly more difficult to weaponise. There are 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world and none are based on thorium or its derivatives.

Another long-lasting concern is the waste generated in today's reactors because they use less than one per cent of the energy in their fuel and generate plutonium as a waste product. But a LFTR uses thorium and burns it up nearly completely.

Even the miniscule amount of waste has beneficial uses in medicine and exploration. The fluoride fuel used in a LFTR is impervious to radiation damage, allowing us to recycle the fuel into another reactor when the current one finishes its useful life. We can also use LFTRs to destroy existing stocks of separated plutonium rather than waiting tens of thousands of years for it to decay away. LFTRs can use up plutonium or highly-enriched uranium from decommissioned weapons to get the fission reaction started and thereafter run only on thorium.

Yet another problem is that today's reactors need to be built big and only produce one product—electricity. But LFTRs can be built small and they can be distributed geographically – even to generate combined heat and power. They can also be operated in a responsive and flexible manner – thus complementing rather than competing with intermittent renewables.

We worry about the environmental effects of mining and processing uranium. But thorium is far more abundant than uranium and is being mined already in the search for rare-earth minerals for renewable energy generators. Thus we don't need new mining for LFTRs—actually much less—and we can use thorium highly efficiently.

Despite the many potential benefits, as things stand, generating energy from thorium remains unproven although R&D projects are being pursued in France, China and India.

In the UK eight sites for potential new nuclear reactors have recently been announced. We are poised to go down the same road pursued by the Conservative Government in the 1980’s when they announced a programme to build 10 new reactors.

In the end only one was built – late and massively over budget. But it cannot be denied that even that one station helped to reduce the UK’s output of carbon dioxide from electricity generation. This fact has lead to a reversal in fortunes for the existing nuclear industry but the problems with uranium-based technologies have not gone away.

To successfully reduce the risk of climate change we need to commericalise affordable, safe, flexible, long-lasting, low carbon sources of energy. We do not know yet if LFTRs fit the bill but they look extremely promising. It would be irresponsible to dismiss them out of hand before finding out. If the UK is serious about pursuing nuclear power, and it appears that it is, then we must include the pursuit of thorium power in this endeavour. On paper it looks like it may just save us.

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Thanks for the complete story Inchman.

I think it might be good for society if those pursuing the Thorium option were to ultimately work out the technical kinks, but for the time being, the objective remains a maybe. I posted a link to the Blacklight Power Inc. website, who's technology is obviously interesting to me. Who knows, but I do believe the future of energy will be related to hydrogen technologies, which I think represent a better option and are more worthy of public money for research purposes than anything involving radioactivity.

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While I agree that part of the future will be in hydrogen technologies, I don't think Blacklight Power's technology will be around. The guy says that he has circumvented quantum mechanics... something that no other (sane) scientist in the world has claimed.

If you do a search on "Blacklight scam" there are quite a few links and many skeptics. Some articles point to multiple unfulfilled promises by the principal at Blacklight over the last 15 years.

The skeptics on MSRs simply draw parallels to existing nuclear technologies and draw on the "fear factor" against nuclear. Very few deny the technology and many "green" people actually suggest that safe nuclear is a good alternative to fossil fuels while we wait for something else.

I can produce as much light as the demo in Blacklight's obscure jargon-filled demo by dragging a flint over sandpaper. Or dropping some metal through an arc welder, which is what he is using. I agree that H2O holds the potential to produce a lot of energy, but I don't think that Blacklight is doing it, especially when they are creating sparks to show to PV panels that are currently running at 18% efficiency.

A Thorium reactor was running at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for over 5 years 50 years ago, so the objective is more than a maybe, or a few sparks. One of the main reasons why the program was not expanded was because the US wanted reactors that would produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

And speaking of hydrogen, nuclear plants could be splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen while they are coasting during periods of low demand, essentially creating free propulsion and medical/industrial oxygen. In addition, because they create very high heat, they can be used not only for electricity production but for things like tar sands oil production without actually burning oil to extract oil. After all, we will never completely replace the demand for oil and oil products. You can't make plastics from hydrogen or water and liquid fuel will be the energy source of choice for aircraft for quite a few years.

There are still some hurdles to be overcome to make Thorium reactors viable, but that was also the case for powered flight in 1900.

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Thanks for taking a look.

How can we ignore the independent verifications of the science community? As far as applications go, I believe that Google is using an early version of either the Black Light technology, or another by a fellow named Rossi to power their HQ operations.

Aren’t the two technologies, Thorium & Hydrino, both about equal in their technical standing amongst a number of newer concepts in energy production?

And why the reference to ‘sane scientists’? Being the potential energy contained within a molecule of water is completely appreciated, I’d like to believe that we’d find any attempt to efficiently split the water molecule etc., a pretty desirable goal from at least the humanist’s pov. I mean, if not for the so-called ‘insane’ scientist that has been willing to get out of the box, we’d still be living on a world that existed as the center of the universe and managed by a priest like overlord. There are In fact, quite a number of Youtube videos through which the do-it-yourself projects including lawn mowers, motorcycles and even cars powered by water are proudly displayed by the home-tinkerer. There’s an online video too, I wish I could provide the link, of an MIT professor explaining the science of hydrogen extraction. My attention was captured by the Professor’s claim that the best application of the technology would be found with the turbine engine.

Anyway, maybe I’m too optimistic, but my hope for the future will remain with truly clean energy producing projects, which do not include the incomplete solar / wind projects that Ontario introduced.

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