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Selling Thorium to China

Kirk Sorensen, formerly of Teledyne Brown Engineering, now of Flibe Energy

To: Claverton Energy Research Group
From: Jo Abbess
Date: 24 June 2011
Subject: “Don’t believe the spin on thorium being a ‘greener’ nuclear option”‏

Hi Clavertonians,

As you are, I’m sure, aware, context is everything.

I was so sure we’d escaped the clutches of the “Thorium Activist Trolls” a few years ago, but no, here they are in resurgence again, and this time they’ve sucked in George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and Stephen Tinsdale, all apparently gullible enough to believe the newly resurrected Generation IV hype campaign.

They should have first done their research on the old Gen IV hype campaign that withered alongside the “Hemp will Save the World, No Really” campaign and the “Biodiesel will Save the World, AND You Can Make it at Home” brigade. Oh, and the Zero Point Energy people.

I was, I admit, quite encouraged by both the Hemp and Biodiesel drives, until I realised they were a deliberate distraction from the Big Picture – how to cope with the necessity of creating an integrated system of truly sustainable energy for the future.

Hemp and Biodiesel became Internet virally transmitted memes around the same time as the Thorium concept, but where did they come from ?

Where does the Thorium meme originate from this time round ? I found some people took to it at The Register, where they spin against Climate Change science a lot – watch the clipped video :-

I would suggest that there are connections between the Thorium campaign and the anti-Climate Change science campaign, and I have some evidence, but I’m too busy to research more in-depth just now, so I’m not going to write it all up yet.

The key issues with all energy options is TIME TO DELIVERY and SCALEABILITY, and I think the option presented by the Thorium fuel cycle fails on both counts.

Yeah, sure, some rich people can devote their life savings to it, and some Departments of Defense (yes, Americans) and their corporate hangers-on can try selling ANOTHER dud technology to China (which is the basis of some Internet energy memes in my view).

Remember Carbon Capture and Storage ? The British Government were very keen on making a Big Thing about CCS – in order to sell it to the miscreant Chinese because (WARNING : CHINA MYTH) China builds 2 !! coal-fired !! power stations a week/day/month !!

THORIUM – A Brief Analysis
TIME TO DELIVERY – 20 to 50 years
USEFULNESS ASSESSMENT – virtually zero, although it could keep some people on the gravy train, and suck in some Chinese dough

The Tyndall Centre say that global emissions of greenhouse gases have to peak AT THE LATEST by 2020. We should be thinking about rolling out the technology WE ALREADY HAVE to meet that end.

Don’t believe the hype,


PS What other evidence do we have that the Thorium meme is most likely just a propaganda campaign ? Nick Griffin of the British National Party backs it, and the BNP are widely alleged to promote divisiveness…

6 replies on “Selling Thorium to China”

More bashing of Thorium without any any scientific basis, but this one even emptier than others. And the Ad-Hominem attack regarding Nick Griffith’s support is really the icing on the cake. This story is 100% worthless.

ok, I’ll bite..

What exactly makes you think that thorium is junk science? An analysis has to have evidence, after all, and you really haven’t provided any.

so – what’s your basis for the above conclusions?

OK Ed,

Did I use the term “junk science” ? I think not.

There is a great deal of difference between SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY. And there is even more difference between TECHNOLOGY and ENGINEERING.

Something that can work on the basis of an analysis from scientific principles may be impossible to be utilised by any particular technology. And any particular technology may work fine on the drawing board but be faced with a number of significant limitations in the real engineering world.

The Thorium fuel cycle can be validated theoretically, from scientific first principles, and there have even been some experimental reactors that confirm that this kind of nuclear power is feasible, given success in development of the engineering.

However, there are a number of limitations with the proposals that suggest that development of the engineering may take somewhere in the region of 20 to 50 years. And then there are a further bunch of limitations that suggest that it might not be possible to scale up the use of the technology to any large degree.

If the Throrium fuel cycle cannot be delivered within a 10 year time frame, it will not be useful in addressing climate change or the energy crisis we appear to be heading into.

If the Thorium fuel cycle technology cannot be scaled up, that is, widely deployed, that too would mean it is not useful in addressing climate change or the impending possible energy crisis.

It we clutch at this particular “new” (it’s not “new”) idea for energy engineering, we are clutching at straws.

We need to go with the energy technologies we already have to solve both climate change and the onset of any energy crisis.

Two further questions – exactly what technology will take twenty years plus? This is a generalisation that has been so repeated that it is taken as a mantra.
Second even if it takes a long time – if it provides part or all of the answer when it is on line surely we should follow it?
The only half reasonable knock down so far is on the proliferation argument which does look iffy but otherwise it seems sound – but with a time scale we at present cannot gauge
So why be so negative – I really dont get it.

So Mr. Jo, instead of being cynical what do you propose that we deliver in a 10 year time frame? Are you going to give me the whole renewable speel about solar, wind, and hydro? Most simpletons think that will work, but good luck supporting baseload power demands using sources that don’t produce power on demand. Nuclear needs to continue, and thorium should be part of the research and development no matter what you cynics think. There’s people who are much smarter than you doing much more important things than just saying “it can’t be done!”

Dear me Jo. I suggest you Google “China Thorium Molten Salt Reactor” and see what comes up.

On 25 Jan 2011 China’s Academy of Sciences announced it was funding development of the Thorium Fuelled Molten Salt Reactor. The person leading the program is Dr Jiang Mianheng, a vice president of the Academy and son of the previous President of The People’s Republic of China, Jiang Zemin.

The announcement also stated that China is seeking intellectual Property rights over this technology. The far more likely prospect is that the Americans, along with everyone else, will be buying this from the Chinese.

Please don’t take it personally if I say that I’m inclined to back China’s assessment of this technology’s potential than yours.

They give a proposed development time of 20 years but expect to have a working example in 5 years. I believe that China’s leaders are too shrewd not to have given themselves a good head start on this before announcing it to the world. Likewise, I expect their announced timeline has built into it, the intention of not alarming potential competitive efforts.

Through this, China stands to gain a secure supply of the safest, cleanest, most abundantly sourced energy in the world for the next 100,000 years or so at least. It will also have a lower carbon footprint than any renewable energy. China also stands to gain an unassailable economic dominance by using this and controlling the rights for everyone else’s access to it. Given what China stands to gain, I don’t think they are at all inclined to tolerate interference in their program from anyone.

In short, it really doesn’t matter what either you, I or anyone else thinks. China is going to do this.

Perhaps you’d like to write to Dr Jiang and his father and give them the benefits of you wisdom and analysis. My advice is to break the news that you think they too are trolls very gently. Face means a great deal in China.

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