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THE Thorium Thread (merged)

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: Thorium Remix 2009

Unread postby Dezakin » Mon 18 Oct 2010, 01:26:23

EnergyUnlimited wrote:
Dezakin wrote:They form equilibrium concentration because they form at low concentration. They're at worst annoying.
http://energyfromthorium.com/2010/06/20 ... n-poisons/

It is big annoyance.
Salt distillation would not be needed, if you don't have to remove neutron poisons other than Xe135.

There are other neutron poisons that form with much smaller cross sections yet aren't in equilibrium. If we could get rid of Samarium for instance then we have more neutrons to play with, which in thermal and epithermal spectra are always precious.
You can via brute force remove everything but the uranium using fluoride volatility of UF6 to my knowledge. I humbly bow to those more experienced in molten salt chemistry, but wasn't aware of any real showstopping problems with molten salt reprocessing. Things we'd like to do better sure.

I don't understand your argument.
Molten fluoride Thorium reactor converts Th232 into U233 (and a bit of U232).
Thorium doesn't form volatile hexafluoride like Uranium (and with some pain Plutonium) does.
Essentially you would isolate fissile isotope (and you may end up with excursion, if you try it in naive fashion).
However bulk of initial thorium input will still remain mixed with fission products (neutron poisons) and so you will have to dispose this thorium - antithesis of thorium breeder concept.

That's where some misunderstanding may be. In a two fluid breeder, there is no thorium in the core. You're probably thinking of one fluid designs (like the one prototyped at ORNL), which has much more complicated reprocessing. There's two separate fluids, the outer blanket which is thorium fluorides where the uranium is extracted by fluoride volatility, and the inner core which doesn't have any thorium in it.

The two fluid core and blanket design is my favorite for several reasons. First the reprocessing is much simpler of course. But the other is that in a two fluid design the outer vessel is insulated from most of the neutrons by the blanket, and so can be selected much more for its chemical compatibility with the salt rather than its resistance to neutron damage. I believe that you still have to be aware of different electrochemical potential between the core/blanket barrier and the outer vessel wall, but it does open up more options.

Another advantage is breeding doesn't explicitly require protactinium partitioning in a two fluid system, and so you can decide weather to do partitioning or pay for a larger salt volume.

The downside is the barrier between the core and blanket is in a hell of neutron radiation, and so there's some question on weather it will have to be replaced every so often.

Edit:

This is David Leblanc's exploration of the various molten salt reactor concepts, along with his modified geometry two fluid design for a full breakdown of the issues with liquid halide breeders. Its quite helpful, and I think you might enjoy it:

http://energyfromthorium.com/2007/08/23 ... t-breeder/

I'll forward your concern to the LFTR community forum relating to vacuum distillation material, as there are several chemists and nuclear engineers there with far more experience than I. I read something about tungsten being an appropriate tubing material

Would be nice if you let me know, what they think about it.

We have still some considerable problems with fabrication of bulk tungsten items (you will need long sections and significant diameters of tubing).
I don't know how relevant these can be though.

BTW,
Which forum do you have in mind?

Kirk Sorenson maintains a forum relating to liquid halide reactors:

http://www.energyfromthorium.com/forum/

There's some discussion of using tungsten tubing in this thread:

http://www.energyfromthorium.com/forum/ ... &sk=t&sd=a


There wasn't anyone pursuing liquid halide cooled reactors at this time besides the US, so there was no program to abandon. Much of the blame for abandoning this program lay at the feet of one Milt Shaw.

Indians are meddling with Thorium for quite a while.
It seems sensible to explore molten salts reactors in this context, but they didn't (please correct me if not true).

You may dismiss them, saying that Indians are stupid and don't know what to do, but I don't think it is that simple.
There may be more reasons...

I think that outside of the US, France, Britain, and the Soviets, the world has largely been following nuclear innovation rather than engaging it during the twentieth century. And yes, you could say I'm a bit disappointed in the strategic decision making of the Indians with regard to nuclear power. They should be willing to pay a 100% premium on uranium from their mines as a nonsignatory of the NPT, and recover it from the poorer ore grades in India, but they don't and uranium shortage in India is a worry.

Sure, this reactor is gaining awareness, but I think its going to take a large government investment to develop it, and that is at least a decade away.

I always wonder why it seems impossible for private corporations to invest these few $ billions?
This is not a lot for many firms.

I don't know about that. The timescales are awfully long for firms that want to see a return inside of a decade. I don't know what the solution is to encourage corporations to invest in very long term development. These large engineering challenges always seem to be driven by government. Maybe if everyone was forced to pay for the externalities of coal and natural gas...
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Re: Thorium Remix 2009

Unread postby EnergyUnlimited » Mon 18 Oct 2010, 14:21:13

Dezakin,

Thanks for your remarks regarding two fluids breeder.
I was obviously thinking about original 1 fluid, ORNL like design.
I have to read more about 2 fluid design to be able to discuss it further.
It seems to be a way forward comparing to 1 fluid design.

I will also read contents of Kirk's forum to learn more about prospects of thorium technology and related engineering issues.
Incidentally I consider this technology to be one of very few options left for us to mitigate at least partially developing energy crisis.
I do not expect it to allow preservation of anything resembling status quo but it certainly can help to provide basic electricity supply for long, long time, perhaps indefinitely.

However from perspective of this site (PO.com) it is easy to argue that thorium technology may show to be only a talk.
Perhaps it is viable but we are not paying enough attention to it while we are still in position to develop it.
There are still many engineering but also political* issues surrounding it.
Once we are forced to pay attention, there may not be enough capital left to proceed and crumbling industrial infrastructure may shut down a window of opportunity for many decades or indefinitely.
So time will show but IMO this horse is certainly not dead.

*U233, if free of U232, is a good weapon fuel, perhaps the best one in mankind disposal.
Suitable for high but also a very low tech weapon assemblies, simple enough to be made in someones basement.
Low critical mass, relatively low radiotoxicity, low concentration of unwanted free neutrons within its bulk etc.
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Re: Thorium Remix 2009

Unread postby Carlhole » Wed 20 Oct 2010, 11:33:35

PopSci: The Truth About Thorium and Nuclear Power

Thorium has nearly 200 times the energy content of uranium without creating plutonium—an ingredient for nuclear weapons. Is this the nuclear fuel of the future?

Talk of a large-scale U.S. nuclear renaissance in the post-Three Mile Island era has long been stalled by the high cost of new nuclear power plants, the challenges of safeguarding weapons-grade nuclear material, and the radioactive lifespan of much nuclear waste, which can extend far beyond 10,000 years. But a growing contingent of scientists believe an alternative nuclear reactor fuel—the radioactive metal called thorium—could help address these problems, paving the way for cheaper, safer nuclear power generation.

Three to four times more plentiful than uranium, today's most common nuclear fuel, thorium, packs a serious energetic punch: A single ton of it can generate as much energy as 200 tons of uranium, according to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Carlo Rubbia.
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Re: Thorium Remix 2009

Unread postby EnergyUnlimited » Wed 20 Oct 2010, 12:30:56

Carlhole wrote:
Thorium has nearly 200 times the energy content of uranium without creating plutonium—an ingredient for nuclear weapons. Is this the nuclear fuel of the future?

At best it contains ~140 times as much energy.
If you include burned U238 and MOX from reprocessing, it will be less than that.
It is also creating U233, good weapon fuel.
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Re: Thorium Remix 2009

Unread postby Dezakin » Wed 20 Oct 2010, 18:17:25

It can often be considered 200 times the energy in a liquid halide when considering the higher thermodynamic efficiency of higher temperature operation and losses in the once through cycle to enrichment tailings.

So a LWR would use about 200 times as much ore per GWe as a LFTR. Really its only a public communication argument in my opinion though, since uranium is plentiful enough and a small enough portion of the cost of nuclear energy that its not really an issue. The bigger wins in my opinion are lower fuel cycle costs, lower political costs, and most important, lower capital costs.

U233 is a terrible weapon fuel. Its got good neutronic properties, certainly, but the effort to produce it free of U232 is rather large. You have to run a very thermal spectrum to ensure low productivity, use full protactinium partitioning. Its simply easier to make Pu239 in research reactors than subverting a power reactor for weapons production. Perhaps a CANDU style reactor with online reloading could do it, but liquid halide reactors often have too hard a neutron spectrum to be appropriate.
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Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

Unread postby Carlhole » Wed 16 Feb 2011, 14:21:00

China bets on thorium

China has committed itself to establishing an entirely new nuclear energy programme using thorium as a fuel, within 20 years. The LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) is a 4G reactor that uses liquid salt as both fuel and coolant. China uses the more general term TMSR (Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor).


[There's a good 15-minute introduction to LFTR, here. WARNING: contains technical terms and scientific concepts. Renewable energy supporters may wish to meditate before and after viewing.]
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Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

Unread postby mos6507 » Wed 16 Feb 2011, 22:45:55

That's probably the smartest single move China has made to be ready for doom. Not sure they'll beat the clock, though.
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Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

Unread postby JRP3 » Wed 16 Feb 2011, 23:35:34

There is an even more informative and easier to follow 25 minute version.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHdRJqi__Z8
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Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

Unread postby Frank » Tue 22 Feb 2011, 10:22:04

Great link - thanks.
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Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

Unread postby kildred590 » Tue 01 Mar 2011, 01:29:32

As I understand it, Thorium does not change into Plutonium.
So its not economically viable, there's no "nuclear cycle", you can only use the rods once.
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Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

Unread postby JRP3 » Tue 01 Mar 2011, 09:20:10

You should probably do more research.
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Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

Unread postby rickmaltese » Thu 03 Mar 2011, 14:53:37

http://energyfromthorium.com
also has an excellent forum
http://energyfromthorium.com

also http://thoriummsr.com is a good source for related subjects

LFTR's are also known as TMSR's and more recently TFMSR's because that is what China calls them now that they have started building their own
that's Thorium Molten Salt Reactor TMSR and Thorium Fueled Molten Salt Reactor
and you'll find a variant of this from France because they have also experimented with this.
Main points
1. Proliferation safe - no plutonium byproducts - reason the original project was abandoned
2. No water needed - therefore smaller and cheaper to build
3. Many useful spinoff heat applications such as desalianization, hydrogen creation
4. Can run for years without human interaction (like a battery)
5. 200 times more efficient at producing energy compared to solid fueled reactors
6. They have been built before. (1958-1974) see ORNL (Alvin Weinberg) MSRE
7. Very small amount of waste remains 2% compared to 95% in traditional reactors
8. the main reason the NRC needs to be revamped, replaced, reformed whatever
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Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

Unread postby Dezakin » Thu 03 Mar 2011, 17:19:10

kildred590 wrote:As I understand it, Thorium does not change into Plutonium.
So its not economically viable, there's no "nuclear cycle", you can only use the rods once.

You don't understand it. Th232 is fertile in the same way U238 is fertile in the thermal spectrum. U238 absorbs a neutron and beta decays to Pu239 which is fissile, but isn't exactly a great fuel in the thermal spectrum. Th232 absorbs a neutron and becomes U233 (through beta decay again Pa233 then U233) and is different in that U233 is an excellent fuel in the thermal spectrum.

Further there aren't any rods in a fluid fuel reactor.
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Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire?

Unread postby Graeme » Mon 12 Sep 2011, 18:57:13

Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire? Possibly.

Last week, scores of thorium boosters gathered in the United Kingdom to launch a new advocacy organization, the Weinberg Foundation, which plans to push the promise of thorium nuclear energy into the mainstream political discussion of clean energy and climate change. The message they’re sending is that thorium is the anti-dote to the world’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges.

So what is the big deal about thorium? In 2006, writing in the magazine Cosmos, Tim Dean summarized perhaps the most optimistic scenario for what a Thorium-powered nuclear world would be like:

“What if we could build a nuclear reactor that offered no possibility of a meltdown, generated its power inexpensively, created no weapons-grade by-products, and burnt up existing high-level waste as well as old nuclear weapon stockpiles? And what if the waste produced by such a reactor was radioactive for a mere few hundred years rather than tens of thousands? It may sound too good to be true, but such a reactor is indeed possible, and a number of teams around the world are now working to make it a reality. What makes this incredible reactor so different is its fuel source: thorium.

A clutch of companies and countries are aggressively pursuing Dean’s dream of a thorium-powered world.

Lightbridge Corporation, a pioneering nuclear-energy start-up company based in McLean, VA, is developing the Radkowsky Thorium Reactor in collaboration with Russian researchers. In 2009, Areva, the French nuclear engineering conglomerate, recruited Lightbridge for a project assessing the use of thorium fuel in Areva’s next-generation EPR reactor, advanced class of 1,600+ MW nuclear reactors being built in Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamanville, France.

In China, the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and a clutch of Chinese outfits began an effort in mid-2009 to use thorium as fuel in nuclear reactors in Qinshan, China.


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Last edited by Ferretlover on Mon 31 Oct 2011, 17:10:45, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Merged thread.
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Re: Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire?

Unread postby steam_cannon » Mon 12 Sep 2011, 19:52:02

Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire? Possibly.
Thorium reactors offer a lot of hope towards a sustainable future. There is a great deal of difficulty in making one though Thorium Reactors are a proven technology since the 1960's. According to Wiki there are several reactors being built right now, one is a Thorium reactor in Odessa Texas as well as a reactor being built in India which will use Thorium as their primary fuel. China is now officially looking into adding the technology to their energy portfolio and Candida presently has a reactor capable of utilizing Thorium as fuel.

As I understand it Thorium is initially more expensive, but with rising prices with Uranium, Coal and Oil coupled with the long lifetime of Thorium fuel, Thorium is looking to be a better and better option. Any port in a storm.
"So people go out there and spend years of their life researching and applying strict scientific method, all in good faith, only to have their body of work discredited with sound-bite sized arguments in which they are accused of having some nefarious agenda." -mos6507
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Re: Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire?

Unread postby steam_cannon » Wed 14 Sep 2011, 09:38:15

On the other hand...

cephalotus wrote:The REAL problem with nuclear energy

GOT2BGREEN wrote:Actually the only real problem with nuclear energy is the wrong fuel was used from the beginning!
...
Both Chernobyl and Fukishima would never have occurred if they were fueled with Thorium instead of Uranium. India, Norway, and China are to be commended for their wisdom in choosing Thorium for their new generation of nuclear power.


Germany started to build a Helium cooled Thorium reactor (THTR 300) in Hamm-Uentrop in 1970. After several delays it started to produce electricity in 1985.
This reactor had huge problems with its reactor core based on 675,000 Thorium-"spheres" and was shut down after leakage of radiation (which the operating company tried to hide, typical behaviour of every nuclear company, I assume ...) and massive protests in 1989.

The plant is still very radioactive and it is planned to finish deconstruction in the year 2027, roughly 40 years after shut down. Currently it costs 6,5 million Euro each year to maintain the power plant.

Overall costs exceeded 4 billion Euro so far for only 2,9 billion kWh.

The first 2,9 billion kWh of photovoltaic energy have been much cheaper in Germany.

Germany also designed another Thorium based reactor system and tried to export it to South Africa (which failed: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100223/ ... 1008b.html ) and China, where a small power plant was built near Peking.

You can find more details at:
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kernkraftwerk_THTR-300
(text in German, but some references are available in English)

My opinion:
If your really believe in cheap and "safe" thorium reactors just go ahead and try. "We" did several decades ago and failed, maybe the Indian and Chinese engineers will find better solutions or maybe the will deal differently with the risks in that technology.

Nuclear is only cheap if you ignore the risks and the follow up costs, if you do, the economics of this technology are very different.

PS: afaik Norway has stopped its plans to build a thorium reactor in 2009 after a study from Statens Strålevern calculated the costs and risks of that technology:
http://www.taz.de/1/zukunft/umwelt/arti ... e-loesung/
(sorry, I wasn't able to find any news about that in English)


Translated article from Norway:
Thorium is not a solution

von REINHARD WOLFF Norway gives up plans to build a thorium reactor, after a study has shown. Safe and clean nuclear power is not with the fuel of uncleavable REINHARD WOLFF

Now Norway is so far. The local Radiation Protection Authority Statens Strålevern allow all plans for the construction of a thorium reactor, a rejection. Both Environment Minister Erik Sohlheim and Economy Minister Sylvia Brustad at the close.

The red-green government in Oslo in 2007 had been at Statens Strålevern commissioned a study. At that time, the strong lobby of thorium had started a debate about the supposed benefits of this technique, the state power company Statkraft initiated, to indicate interest for a reactor. Norwegen verfügt vermutlich über die drittreichsten Thorium-Vorkommen der Welt. Norway has probably the world's third richest thorium deposits in the world.

The Norwegian parliament has banned the construction of nuclear power plants 30 years ago by law. And it should remain under the present ruling of the Radiation Protection Authority probably. In their report Statens Strålevern examined the entire thorium fuel cycle from extraction to nuclear waste storage. Result: "Conventional reactors, regardless whether they are based on uranium and thorium fuel, lead to radioactive contamination of air and water, in both cases there is a significant accident risk, especially with regard to uncontrolled chain reactions and at worst a meltdown."

Reactors, which operate with thorium were so similar adverse environmental consequences and a similar risk as those with potential uranium fuel. Of thorium supporters just before the supposed safety as a core melt is brought into the argument field. The minerals from the radioactive metal thorium extracted Thorite is not fissionable. Thorium as fuel must therefore be supplied from outside neutrons to start the chain reaction producing energy and keep going. If this is set, it also stops the reaction.

According to the Radiation Protection Authority but does not mean that there is no risk of accident to a nuclear meltdown. Also for the removal of residual heat-functioning cooling systems were needed: "The probability of a meltdown is to be judged on uranium or thorium fuel immediately."

A thorium reactor while producing less and less long-lived nuclear waste than a nuclear power with uranium fuel rods. This is also more stable than conventional nuclear waste. But he radiates stronger, which complicates transport and storage.

The decisive point, however, the study shows that the thorium technology does not solve the nuclear waste problem. It adds even during operation of the reactor, a much higher radiation levels. Even the safety-thorium-use offer little advantage: Although only small amounts of plutonium fell on, and this is also for the production of nuclear weapons is not particularly interesting. But in the hands of terrorists could also thorium reactor for "non-peaceful purposes" are used.

The verdict is not much better for the hitherto existing only on paper thorium-concept Accelerator Driven System (ADS), a combination of a particle accelerator and a lead-cooled reactor from. It is true that the risk of a meltdown here really low, they say. The 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes of lead metal of his cooling system could absorb the residual heat from the core probably. But such a construction due to the combination with a particle accelerator as a whole is vulnerable. At the same time it will come to a radioactive contamination of the entire cooling system. There's also a completely clear whether this technique could be implemented in 20 or 30 years to economically acceptable cost.

"The debate should now be thorium is a closed chapter," Nils Bohmer, believes nuclear expert at the environmental organization Bellona, "Hopefully, the policy now busy with real solutions to the climate problem."
"So people go out there and spend years of their life researching and applying strict scientific method, all in good faith, only to have their body of work discredited with sound-bite sized arguments in which they are accused of having some nefarious agenda." -mos6507
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Re: Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire?

Unread postby Graeme » Wed 14 Sep 2011, 18:45:06

Steam, Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. Just saw this by chance, and looked for others.

Thorium Powered Cars

Those are the only options for transportation fuels most folks know about. They haven't heard of thorium-powered cars, for which a few people are working on prototypes.

Cadillac unveiled such a concept two years ago. And now Charles Stevens of Massachusetts-based Laser Power Systems has unveiled one as well.

According to the website txchnologist.com, owned by GE:

A 250-kilowatt unit (equivalent to about 335 horsepower) weighing about 500 pounds would be small and light enough to put under the hood of a car, Stevens claims. And because a gram of thorium has the equivalent potential energy content of 7,500 gallons of gasoline, LPS calculates that using just 8 grams of thorium in the unit could power an average car for 5,000 hours, or about 300,000 miles of normal driving.


energyandcapital

Future Tech: Tiny block of thorium could run your car forever

The Technology

World is moving towards more zero emission vehicles. Therefore, a lot of development is occurring in the field of electric vehicles. However, they do have the major problem of battery drainage and thus, its frequent recharging. People are reluctant to buy these because of their fear of being on a remote road with no power sources to charge their car batteries. A R&D company in Connecticut, USAF has come with the laser turbine technology to tackle this problem. The car powered with this technology can run throughout its life with only 8 gm of thorium. The technology combines thorium and laser plumbing technology that powers a steam turbine. They are claiming to build their first prototype by 2014.

What's new?

USAF revealed this brand new technology very recently. The technology will not employ any radioactive reactor. It is a high-energy generation by lasing thorium. The fission reaction delivers more energy than this technology, but thorium does not belong to class of fissile material. It needs a lot of processing before it can sustain any fission reaction. Moreover, the laser technology does not employ any neutron bombardment, thus it makes fission nearly impossible. It is also a cheap technology due to abundance of thorium. The IC engine will not require nuclear fission grade safety thus, making it cheaper


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Do you have any comments to make about thorium cars?
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Re: Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire?

Unread postby papa moose » Wed 14 Sep 2011, 22:40:54

He posts a nicely detailed refutation of Thorium power plants and you then need to ask what he thinks of the idea of sticking some thorium on the back seat of his VW and puttering around the autobahn at 160 kph waiting for a truck to rear end him?
I'll save you the wait, he'll be against it.
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Re: Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire?

Unread postby dutchcyclist » Wed 05 Oct 2011, 17:23:36

I dont know if its the biggest breakthrough since fire, but i do know it is the safest nuclear power option available. And as such it should be part of our solution to the peak oil problem.
But only in the form of LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactor) it is this save; THTR has already proven itself to be unsave.
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Re: Is Thorium the Biggest Energy Breakthrough Since Fire?

Unread postby Cog » Wed 05 Oct 2011, 17:34:11

I'm having a problem finding any thorium based commercial reactors in operation. Perhaps Graeme could help me out here on this miracle cure to our energy problems.
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