We are two Irish film-makers producing a documentary about the potential of Thorium as a nuclear fuel. Ask us anything!
OK Reddit, it's nearly 3am here in Ireland so we'll have to say goodnight but we're really enjoying the discussion and will pick up any further responses tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who commented so far!
We are making a film about the potential of Thorium and its use in Molten Salt Reactors. We are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise completion funds.
This is an independent production and up till now we have been working on a shoestring budget. It's been a lot of fun!
An article about our documentary on the Irish state broadcaster's website was posted to /r/technology recently here.
Proof is here. Frankie will also will answering your questions as /u/frankie_fenton
This is a subject we are really passionate about. Ask us anything!
Des and Frankie
Well, I think the first thing to recognise is that there are governments and countries around the world who are actively trying to develop reactors based on Thorium. For example, China has announced funding for an experimental Molten Salt Reactor they expect to be built by 2017.
Anti-nuclear sentiment is high, but there is a real possibility that reactors based on Thorium can change that by becoming an acceptable type of nuclear power. For example, we interviewed Mike Childs of Friends of the Earth UK who said that his organisation had been against nuclear power from the beginning but that is no reason to be against newer, safer forms of nuclear power like a Thorium-based Molten Salt Reactor.
I've just graduated with a bachelors degree in Theoretical Physics from an Irish University, and am currently torn between pursuing either rocket science or nuclear physics. With regards the latter, specifically making efforts to have LFTR technology introduced and implemented in Ireland (unlikely to happen with this population, but perhaps the next generation will be more informed).
I imagine the hardest part of this won't be getting funding, or the engineering challenges, or the safety protocols, but convincing anti-nuclear people that new forms of nuclear power are in fact safe and viable. I want to ask what are the main reasons given by anti-nuclear proponents as to why they are anti-nuclear?
(Also I was so happy when I saw that other Irish people had an interest in this! I've met nobody so far in my studies who even knew Thorium could be used in a reactor, and I spent 4 years in the department of physics! You guys made my day :) )
Happy to hear it :)
Most of the anti-nuclear arguments we heard were categorical. Nuclear was bad because it was nuclear. Many people mentioned Chernobyl and insisted that people were still dying from the disaster. The official number of 64 deaths is widely believed to be a lie or the result of a conspiracy.
The most interesting people we spoke to were the people who were previously anti-nuclear but have changed their minds. This is largely due to the dire need for carbon-free energy and the realisation that nuclear plants in the West have a zero fatality rate and that of all the deaths at Fukushima due to the tsunami and earthquake, none was due to radiation poisoning. We spoke to several people who specifically mention Thorium reactors as the cause for their change of stance on nuclear power.
How are you planning on publicizing it, and how can I help? People need to know about it and and stop with the "omg it's dangerous" - far less risk associated with it than any current method with far greater energy. This can easily be the first major step in saving our planet.
Tl;dr how to make this popular?
Kickstarter has been a great way of getting the word out already and we've received some really great press as a result. We will have to wait and see about the best strategy to use when the film is complete but for now the best way to help is to talk about it and encourage people to donate on our kickstarter page.
The whole reason for raising funds is to create a finished product that will be suitable enough for film festivals (where we hope it will get picked up).
Thanks for making this documentary.
I'm anxious to see new nuclear technologies developed. After all, if fossil fuel production really starts falling, the fear and the NIMBY attitude most people show nuclear technology will give way to desperation for heat and food, at any cost. Barring massive advances in biofuels, only nuclear has real potential to replace the use of fossil power.
Thanks for your support!
Concern over the desperate need to replace fossil fuels was the motivation for us to make the movie in the first place. Most of the people we interviewed considered themselves environmentalists - the only difference was whether they supported nuclear power.
We hope this movie will challenge people's assumptions and allow them to see nuclear power from a different perspective.
One of the biggest hurtles in developing commercially viable Thorium reactors is the containment tank. That is the molten salts have a bad habit a eroding the containment facilities requiring a lot of expensive maintenance. Have you come across any viable responses to this problem?
Yes, we've heard this raised as a concern about the cooling loop rather than the containment tank. The consensus seems to be that materials science has advanced considerably since the experiments in the 60s and that some version of Hastelloy can be used without requiring excessive maintenance.
It will be interesting to see how much of an issue this is in the experimental Molten Salt Reactor being built in China.
What are the benefits of Thorium?
What are the downsides of Thorium?
What thorium promises, uranium is already delivering?
Will there be a need to have Uranium 233 for the purposes of first loading or kick starting a thorium power reactors? Or will any fissionable material do?
According to our interviewees, the benefits are numerous. First, Thorium is found all over the planet. It’s much more common than Uranium which is important because many people believe that Uranium production will peak in the near future.
Second, Thorium is what’s termed fertile rather than fissile. This means that by itself it is not very radioactive and in fact there are entire beaches made from Mozanite sands which contain Thorium. Thorium decays into Uranium as part of the fuel cycle so it only ever “produces” as much Uranium as is needed to keep the reactor going.
Finally, whereas you throw away about 99% of the Uranium ore mined during the enrichment process, Thorium is ready to use almost out of the ground. In fact, it’s already being mined when people are looking for other materials termed Rare Earths and it’s thrown away as a waste product!
As far as downsides go, our interviewees listed a few. To get the best use of Thorium it must be put in new types of reactors, none of which has been used on a commercial scale. This means that experimental research reactors must be built and many people say this is unnecessary given the next generation of Uranium-based reactors is almost ready to go.
Why aren't we using Thorium in this point and time?
Well, the first thing to say is that to an extent we are using Thorium.
There have been several major announcements from governments in recent years about Thorium research, e.g. China plan to finish an experimental reactor by 2017, India also has committed to a five-year research program to build reactors to exploit its massive Thorium reserves.
There are also several private companies, e.g. Flibe Energy and Transatomic, who plan to build experimental reactors in the next few years.
Despite this surge of interest in recent years, there are many who say that we would have commercial Thorium reactors by now had research not largely petered out after the 1960s. We're told this happened partly because Uranium-based reactors became the standard design first and partly because the plutonium produced by uranium-based reactors was required to build nuclear weapons during the cold war.
Do you need background music for your vid?
Yes! We'll be using a lot of music in the film. Budgets allowing we hope to be able to afford some copyrighted music which can very expensive. We also have some quality musicians providing their own songs.
How often do you guys get told that it's TH-orium and not T-orium because of your accents?
Ha! Quite a bit when we're outside of Ireland actually!
Although the LFTR looks amazing on paper, and early Oak Ridge research, it is quite a jump from the typical NPP. Do you think it would be more likely to see existing designs (CANDU in particular) be converted to a Thorium cycle as opposed to a LFTR new build?
Less interesting questions: The design you are focusing on in your movie, is that a brayton or rankine cycle? What sort of outlet temperatures and thermal efficiency can be expected?
There are a few companies, e.g. Norway's Thor Energy, who are converting existing designs to use Thorium.
We will more than likely see more of these but most of the people we interviewed felt that designs like LFTR had so many advantages over conventional designs that we would see research programs and private investment in them. One of the great things about making this documentary has been seeing their predictions come true.
We're making a film to appeal to as broad an audience as possible so we focus on MSRs but don't single out a particular sub-design.
Given that most governments (especially US and EU) are reluctant to invest in new research and upgrades right now, due to economic difficulties. How will you go about trying to get private companies to make the leap and invest in Thorium?
Well, the goal of our film is to raise awareness of the subject rather than try to convince private companies to invest, but it's a good question about what circumstances would persuade private companies to do so.
Our interviewees mentioned the regulatory environment in the United States as an impediment at present. Molten Salt Reactors, for example, are a very different type of reactor to the ones usually approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This means that they themselves have a learning curve just to say whether a reactor design is safe and this leads to a reluctance on their part. As regulators in other countries tend to look to the US regulations as a gold standard, this means that private companies around the world face the same problem.
One of our interviewees, John Kutch, formed the Thorium Energy Alliance specifically to try to change the regulatory environment in the United States.
What is the plan to have as many people see the film as possible? Sundance or Hot Docs - type film festivals, a la Pandora's Promise? To be played in movie theatres?
We'd like to tour it round as much as possible. Film festivals are the best way of doing this. It's there that broadcasters and potential distributors would pick it up. After that we are keen to release it to libraries, universities, schools, whoever wants it and make it available online for download. Movie theaters can be tricky but we'd obviously love nothing more than to have it on the big screen.
How can thorium be a better fuel source, and what isotope would be the more stable one to use and why?
Thorium 232 is used in the fuel cycle. We talked to people who say it's better to use than Uranium because it is much more common, doesn't require enrichment and is already being thrown away as a waste product when mining for other things.
We interviewed a lot of people who are proponents of using Thorium in Molten Salt Reactors. This is a very interesting reactor design that was used experimentally in the US in the 60s. Unlike the Pressurised Water Reactors that are common today, this design operates at atmospheric pressure and use a liquid fuel which brings many safety advantages.
Thank you for this work guys! I am a huge nuclear power advocate and have been looking forward to this documentary for a long time! Keep up the great work!
Thanks for your support!
Thank you HanSolo. We hope you like it!
If thorium reactors are so great, as internet advocates keep yelling, then why aren't govts and companies rushing to build them ? Why does there have to be some kind of advocacy for them ?
I don't really care one way or the other about thorium. I just think it's a bit suspicious that there has to be some lobbying effort for them.
This is probably the question we hear asked most about Thorium: if it's so great then why aren't we using it already?
What's interesting is the answer to this question has changed as we've been making the film. At the beginning people would say we're not using because Uranium-based reactors got there first and because the US needed plutonium to build nuclear weapons.
Now, the answer is that we are using it to an extent. Governments, e.g. China and India, have put major funding into Thorium reactor research programs and companies, e.g. Flibe Energy and Transatomic Power, have been formed with credible reactor designs and received serious international attention.
Will it be on Netflix?
We're exploring many channels of distribution. There's a lot! Netflix is definitely one of them.
How large would a refinery/factory be for this new nuclear fuel be?
Actually, Thorium is different from Uranium in that it can be used almost right out of the ground without the need for enrichment. Thorium has to be mixed with a salt to be used as fuel in Molten Salt Reactors but we didn't ask questions as to the size of a facility that could produce it.
I imagine the size would depend on the amount of fuel the factory is expected to produce.
Im a recent graduate of mechanical engineering from UL, and nuclear energy is a major passion of mine and throughout my final year a wrote and researched numerous reports on thorium based on a video "thorium in 5 minutes" by kirk Sorensen. As small a country as Ireland is how small of a plant would be needed to power Ireland itself and if there is any help I can give ye let me know! I believe that Ireland would be self sufficient on thorium if we got over the dogma that surrounds nuclear energy.
That's great to hear. We've interviewed Kirk a couple of times for the documentary.
Just as a rough estimate, Irish power stations had a 6GW capacity in 2010 which could in theory be provided by 12 of Transatomic's 500MW reactors.
What byproducts and risks result from thorium reactors?
Well, it depends on which type of Thorium reactor we're talking about.
Molten Salt Reactors are the focus of our documentary. The waste products from these are a tiny fraction of what is produced from a Uranium-based plant and they remain radioactive for a vastly smaller amount of time.
The risks from these reactors are also considerably smaller. For example, quite a few of our interviewees said that the Fukushima disaster wouldn't have happened had that been a Molten Salt Reactor as when the tsunami knocked the power out the reactor would have shut down automatically and the fuel drained safely into an underground tank.
A huge benefit is that these reactors can consume existing stockpiles of nuclear waste as fuel. This makes them especially interesting to the United Kingdom which large stockpiles and no reactors to consume them.
I love the Irish. I wish I was Irish.
All dreams start somewhere.
What is your favorite Irish slang word? Also, can you Riverdance? P.S. My family owns an Irish Pub in Philadelphia's Irish neighborhood.
Maybe stocious? As in we'd love to get stocious in your family pub :)
How did you get into the subject of Thorium?
From reading this article in wired magazine http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/ff_new_nukes/
What potential does thorium have as a nuclear fuel? Feel free to respond in the form of a documentary.
A lot of funding has gone into fusion power, Iter is expecting to start up around 2019 and if their experiment is successful they expect commercial fusion reactors to be in place within 50-60 years. Since thorium reactors need to be developed and that will also require time and money, do you think governments have to make a choice now between fusion and thorium?
That's a great question. We started making this documentary on the principle that if the planet is to support maybe 10 billion people by 2050 without contributing to global warming we need to get energy from wherever we can.
We don't think Thorium-based fission and fusion need be mutually exclusive - both should be researched!
Do you acknowledge that there is not an anti-thorium conspiracy, but instead only market forces?
None of our interviewees believed there is some sort of conspiracy against the use of Thorium in nuclear reactors. We don't believe there is one either.
thank you :)
Do you have any expertise on molten salt reactors or nuclear engineering in general?
I have a background in Mathematical Physics which helps a lot with understanding the technical concepts.
We've done huge amounts of research for this project and have learned everything we can about renewable energy, nuclear power and Molten Salt Reactors on the way. We want to understand these subjects completely so we can explain them simply. The glasses don't lie - we're nerds!
I am assuming you have seen Into Eternity. I found it very interesting because it is not a simple activist documentary as one would expect from the topic, like the dime-a-dozen types that make up the vast majority of these movies. In contrast, Into Eternity, although not technically complex, is actually a good film.
What is the story you are trying to tell? I already know a bit about thorium and its potential. What else will I get out of your film?
Which documentaries serve as your inspiration? Which are your favorites?
I loved Into Eternity. Very interesting noir feeling around the whole show. I loved the part where they discuss languages and symbols of the future. It just hits you that we have a very real responsibility for our descendants and the mess we leave behind. I have many favorite docs. I like Adam Curtis a lot. Off the top of my head I loved the "Fog of war", the old school "Man with a movie camera", "Hell and back again". Last years "Five broken cameras" was great. Too many to mention, I'll stop to be polite!
Ok I'll go first. In fairly simple terms why should anyone care about thorium as a fuel source?
Put simply the energy crisis. We started making this film because we are concerned that we may not be prepared for the inevitable population burst over the coming years. There is now a growing amount of people who believe that thorium as a fuel source is key to dealing with this problem.
I don't know too much about Thorium at all but from what I've read, it sounds almost too good to be true. I figure I probably was reading off a very biased source. Are you going to focus on both the positives and negatives of using Thorium? I remember reading about it and being confused as to why this hasn't been pushed more.
If you don't cover both sides then you haven't made a documentary; you've made a commercial. We, of course, can't say for certain whether this technology will work or not but we wouldn't be making this documentary if we didn't think it was worth R&D funding.
Saying that, we wouldn't be honest to ourselves or to our audience if we didn't try to find and analyse opposing voices. We have done, but the most interesting voices in the film are the voices of compromise - something that we've termed "enlightened environmentalism".
Which possible new fuel source sounds the most like if a Bond villain had invented it?
Heh, it is one of the cooler-sounding elements :)
Big fan of the potential of thorium. Also a composer. Would love to contribute to the project in that regard if possible. Either way, way to go.
Cheers alphafive! You can contact us via our website www.thoriumdocumentary.com/blog/ and kickstarter page.
Hey guys! Do you think Ireland will ever adopt thorium as a possible fuel source? We dont have any energy supplying reactors but there is a 'experimental' reactor in UCC, IIRC. If the answer is no, will the documentary still be screened in Ireland?
We did an interview with a lovely man called Robert Hargraves who promotes thorium reactors as a means of making energy cheaper than coal. We do burn coal in Ireland however we are mostly a gas run country. It's highly unlikely Ireland will see a commercial reactor in the near future though. And yes, the film will definitely get an Irish screening.
I recently wrote a technical paper about the struggle of making a move towards nuclear energy with our ignorant reliance on coal being and the social stigma of nuclear as two main argument points. It was really eye opening to confirm and be reassured as I did more and more research on the topic, and I did mention in a section how Thorium is even greater a step for us to make.
My question is, what venues or direction can I take to help this movement? Ultimately I would love to be working in Thorium power, in some way (from mining to manufacturing to watching pressure gauges - any). I'm an Energy Systems Engineering student currently but the program is basically an infant in comparison to what I expect to need to work at.
You lads are fighting a good fight. Keep it up! The next big boost to the Earth's development or even a new type of industrial era is waiting!
Thank you revivemorrison. If you wanted to get involved in the world of thorium i'd start by messaging one of the many bodies on the internet involved in educating and discussing it. There are many discussion forums online these days. Failing that I would recommend attending thorium conferences (like we did) in order to meet many of the friendly people who are involved. They are always looking for students to ask the difficult questions! Thank you for your encouraging words.
The most Irish question possible: what school did yous go to?
The one with the broken projector stuffed full of mala. :)
How long until we see a reasonably sized area being powered by a Thorium reactor?
It's really hard to say as there are a lot of variables. Most estimates are that an experimental reactor will take five years to build. This corresponds to the timeframe for the experimental reactor the Chinese are building which should be finished by 2017.
Once an experimental reactor is proved viable most countries will require regulatory approval before reactors can be built on a commercial scale. This process in the US can take up to a decade.
For these reasons, many people we interviewed consider China to be the most likely first country to provide civilian nuclear power with a Thorium reactor. They estimate this could happen within a couple of decades.
Yessss. YESSS. FINALLY.
What was the very first step you took making your doc? First interview, sort of thing? Has approach evolved since then?
The first step was (after des read that wired article) doing a little research on the internet, finding Kirk Sorenson and contacting him. By luck he was coming to London to what later turned out to be a thorium conference. That's where we started filming. Approach has stayed the same. There's a lot to be said for a nice email.
So when can I build one of these reactors in my basement?
The good people over at /r/thoriumreactor might have some tips for you :)
What's your response to an article like this?
We spoke to a lot of people, some of whom are in the nuclear industry and some of whom are grassroots Thorium advocates but didn't get the impression of the monolithic "nuclear lobby" depicted in this article. Most people within the nuclear industry we spoke to had either not heard of Thorium or thought it was unnecessary due to the Gen IV Uranium reactors already in development.
For this reason, it's hard to give credence to the idea that this "nuclear lobby" are somehow using Thorium reactors as an excuse to prolong the life of existing plants or to build the Gen IV plants.
I would also question the sources used in the article. For example, Dr. Peter Karamoskos is quoted without credentials as saying Thorium reactors can never be commercially viable. His profile shows that his experience is in Nuclear Medicine which has nothing in common with Nuclear Power save the name. This feels disingenuous.
We started making this documentary to find out whether Thorium reactors were worth researching. Almost by definition this means that there are unknowns. Stating categorically that they will never be commercially viable is as fallacious as saying they will definitely be commercially viable. My feeling is it's simply too early to talk with the kind of certainty present in this article.
Oh my gosh, I would die to do this with you guys. If there's any way another filmmaker like me can help (by the time I get my first paycheck, the kickstarter will end), let me know.
Glad to hear you like it! Its pretty exciting. You can contact us via our website www.thegoodreactor.com via facebook, kickstarter or twitter if you would like to help.
What do you see as the benfits of a molten Salt Reactor design over a pebble bed reactor design? As both can use thorium as a fuel, I would only see the safty and efficency as the primay factors. Both Molten Salt and pebbel bed are safer than light water recator designs, which are the only designs I have seen fail previously.
Well, exactly as you say - safety and efficiency :)
Pebble bed reactors are safer but they use solid fuel and can still melt down. If a Molten Salt Reactor overheats the liquid fuel expands, the distance between the atoms increases and physics forces the reactor to go sub-critical. If power is cut the freeze plug is no longer kept cool and the liquid fuel drains to an underground tank.
Waste products can also be removed much easier from a liquid fuel - in Richard Martin's phrase it's like getting fizz out of cola.
What's your biggest obstacle?
Our biggest obstacle is not having the funds required to get this movie to festivals :)
What can Thorium be used for? (I know nothing about it but have heard of it a few times)
Lamps, medical isotopes and apparently powering the world with clean energy for many many years!
Will it be as thoughtful and professionally orchestrated as this piece of classic Irish cinema?
I am a massive fan of fatal deviation. Our editor has actually been working on an excellent documentary about that film. It looks really good!
Good luck reaching hippies and hipsters. It's solar and wind or bust with them.
I'm not so sure about that. I think people are becoming more and more open to listening (at the very least) about solutions to problems on the horizon. I think if more knew what it was they are against and why, they might be more open to discussing alternative methods of generating energy.
Should ITER be successful, do you think that MSRs will exist alongside Fusion, or will one supplant the other?
My feeling is they can exist alongside. We haven't seen one type of fossil fuel win out or the renewable energy market gravitate to, say, solar rather than wind power.
Location, resources and power demands all dictate which of these energy sources are chosen in a particular scenario and I think were fusion reactors to be built on a commercial scale we would see a similar division of labour.
I read about this in Wired a few years ago. When do you think we could possibly see the first thorium reactor in the US?
We first learned about Thorium through that article too! We've interviewed the author, Richard Martin, who has since written a book on Thorium called Superfuel.
It's really difficult to say when we might see a commercial Thorium reactor in the US. There are several companies who plan to build one but the process is heavily dependent on approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commision who are reluctant to approve what is a very different design than they usually regulate.
The Thorium Energy Alliance are working to improve the regulatory environment for Thorium reactors by educating government officials and academics about Thorium reactor designs.
At this point it looks likely that the first commercial Thorium reactor will be built outside of the US. If this happens, the country who builds it may set the pace for Thorium reactor regulations in the same way the US does for Uranium reactor regulations today.
What are your concerns about the change in nuclear policy in the united states over disarmament versus the cold war era nuclear programs that made the historic switch from thorium development at national labs to uranium development?
Also, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. please tell me you are doing your research on that technology.
P.S. I spent last fall semester doing intensive (and cited) research on the pros and cons of thorium, if you'd like, I would love to send it to you!
Please do, we welcome any and all input on our website.
Many people we talked to expressed concern that the current regulatory environment in the United States doesn't support real innovation in the nuclear industry.
For this reason, most people believe the first commercial Thorium reactor will be built outside of the United States. It would certainly be a shame if the country that invented this technology weren't the first two exploit it commercially but most people we talked to just want to see the technology developed - who does it is a secondary concern.
Will you be covering historical Molten Salt Reactors, like the air cooled HTRE series and MSRE?
The Molten Salt Reactor Experiment is certainly covered as it is the thing that distinguishes Molten Salt Reactors from other untested designs and thus proves its potential.
The Aircraft Reactor Experiment gets a brief mention as historical background but we didn't see a reason to go into detail.
Are either of you nuclear physicists?
We are not but there's lots in the film.
I can't wait until it is finished, I'd love to see it. Please let me know how I can help you guys in any way.
Thanks! Spread the word! That's the only way we'll reach our goal on June 21st.
Are any of you looking for a composer? I would be happy to help!
Thank you for your interest. You can contact us via our website www.thegoodreactor.com via facebook, kickstarter or twitter.
Hopefully you guys got Kirk Sorensen. He may not have given the best Ted Talk ever but he sure knows his shit.
We have indeed. Check out our trailer and our kickstarter video.
Frankie, any relation to the great Tony?
No. Ive a feeling Fenton is not his real name. But, that's not to say that he isn't the single greatest influence on my life.
What a very interesting topic to base your documentary on. You've clearly researched this thoroughly. On a side note from the usual questions, will you be requiring a composer for your documentary? I'm looking for work to increase my portfolio of composition and fully understand your budget restraints. Keep it in mind guys and good luck!
Hiya Grieverao, if you would like to send us any information via our website http://www.thoriumdocumentary.com/blog/ Thanks for your good wishes!
As a Nuclear Engineer, I hope fervently that your film does well. I long to see prudent decisions made for our world's nuclear future. As a point of interest, why Thorium specifically? Is it the proliferation concern?
Thank you! Why thorium? Many reasons. But really thorium represents such a good example of a technology that's been sitting in the corner of the garden shed just gathering dust. We are under some serious pressure to solve the problems of the near future and there are many people who believe this could be an answer to a lot of them. It's also controversial and incredibly interesting to us!
is brea liom scraggle?
As in the game or the light growth of facial hair?
If we have Thorium deposits in Ireland would you say that our government will be competent enough to hold on to a decent amount of the profits or will it just happen like last time where it was an under the table corrupt deal with shell with the corrib gasline where we only got a tiny amount of the profits and shell got the vast majority of it?
Thorium is so common it's hard to see it becoming as valuable as the gas in that pipeline any time soon.
How do you plan on dealing with the politics of the situation? Our representatives will need to get on board to receive some sort of federal funding, but People will be less likely to change over even though LFTR's are our best option for power.
Well, we're just making a film so luckily we don't have to get stuck into the politics of the situation :)
John Kutsch formed the Thorium Energy Alliance to do just this. We met him in Washington DC where members of his organisation were doing a tour of the House of Representatives to spread the word about Thorium.
I wonder if you could do a thorium reactor in the style of a Toshiba 4S modular reactor? It seems like modular reactors are the wave of the future for remote areas as fossil fuels start to run out.
Yes, in fact proponents believe that Molten Salt Reactors can be mass produced in a factory rather than a custom build on-site. They operate at atmospheric pressure which lends itself to a simple modular design.
As someone who has done a small presentation for school on this, I'm really hoping you guys succeed, this is definitely something more people should be educated about!
Thank you mokhu. We are at the same thing! Thanks for your encouraging words.
Thanks! Well done on the presentation. We know better than most how hard it is to convey details about Thorium in an accessible manner :)
Would be nice if you also could add the question of how to dispose of the nuclear waste produced in already running nuclear powerplants. As well as the waste produced in future thorium reactors. And maybe the total cost for a new reactor + the demolishing of it when not working anymore. You should look into the nuclear reactor that was closed in Estonia( I think) as a part of them entering the EU ( that was the same type of reactor as was in Chernobyl). There is an excellent documentary called the 100.000 year problem, you could probably find it somewhere : http://eurovisionshowcase.com/programmes/a-100-000-years-problem
Thanks, if you're interested you might enjoy a film produced by Dogwoof Productions called "Into Eternity" by Michael Madsen. Its quite nice too.
So past due, hurry up.
I know right? Working as fast as we can.
I have read how great thorium reactors but never anything from the American or other government energy policy makers about them. What is preventing them from becoming the focus they appear they should be? Are there any major negatives that need to be overcome?
Inertia of the existing nuclear industry was a big area of investigation for us. What is it that prevents change in the nuclear industry? Why can't the country that has 5% of the world's population but 25% of its patents and 40% of its leading universities revolutionize nuclear?
We found that the biggest obstacle wasn't innovation. There were plenty of people and companies willing to attempt this revolution. The problems reported to us were the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's reluctance to authorise fundamentally different reactor designs combined with a general "any nuclear is bad nuclear" perception in public.
How are you?
Excited to be talking about a subject we're passionate about :)
Based on the research you two have done and the people you've talked to, what would you say are the most useful ways the "average joe" can help promote, push forward, or contribute to this technology? Energy production is one of those topics that piques my interest and I read a lot of literature about it. I'm convinced that Thorium is that next stepping stone for humanity's energy needs.
Well, for us the most important thing is raising awareness - we don't know whether this technology will be commercially viable but it's promising enough to merit serious R&D funding. That's why we started making this documentary.
The most immediate way you can help is to become backer of our Kickstarter campaign. Apart from that, getting the word out in any way you can (including making your own documentary!) is the best way to inform the public about this. We want this to be a topic discussed in the bar and over the dinner table.
What is your favorite piece of Irish Literature? I adore the Irish and their rich history.
Ulysses, if for nothing else than Molly Bloom's soliloquy :)
How long do you think before the first Thorium reactor comes online?
I'll paste my answer from another comment:
It's really hard to say as there are a lot of variables. Most estimates are that an experimental reactor will take five years to build. This corresponds to the timeframe for the experimental reactor the Chinese are building which should be finished by 2017. Once an experimental reactor is proved viable most countries will require regulatory approval before reactors can be built on a commercial scale. This process in the US can take up to a decade. For these reasons, many people we interviewed consider China to be the most likely first country to provide civilian nuclear power with a Thorium reactor. They estimate this could happen within a couple of decades.
Jesus, how much time did you spend in Western Plaguelands?
I've a house out by Sorrow Hill I sometimes frequent.
What do you think the way we (Ireland) don't use nuclear energy
I think there are a few reasons Ireland doesn't use nuclear energy.
First, Sellafield is just across the sea and there is a general feeling in Ireland that management of this facility has been substandard, for example the 2005 leak of radioactive waste that wasn't discovered for nine months.
Second, Ireland doesn't actually require that much energy - about 4GW. A standard nuclear power plant is very expensive to build for a country this small.
One of the things we find so interesting about Thorium is that there are compact reactor designs that our interviewees believe can one day be produced in a factory. There are companies today that are attempting to achieve this. These relatively cheap, factory built reactors start to look a lot more affordable for a country like Ireland.
I was talking to my brother, he is a chem eng, about Thorium reactors and why they weren't around yet. He said that if you get past economics of it that the liquid fluoride is super corrosive and that it would just est through system parts. Is this true and if so has it been solved or would you just have a lot of upkeep?
Just to repeat what Des said earlier: " we've heard this raised as a concern about the cooling loop rather than the containment tank. The consensus seems to be that materials science has advanced considerably since the experiments in the 60s and that some version of Hastelloy can be used without requiring excessive maintenance.
It will be interesting to see how much of an issue this is in the experimental Molten Salt Reactor being built in China."
Do you address the weaponization potential of U-233?
We touch on atomic weapons yes.
What is your favorite element?
Thorium! But this here is pretty cool if you're trying to make up your mind still.
I'm glad a documentary like this being made, and in Ireland no less! Good work guys!
My father was an engineer/scientist heavily involved in the nuclear industry. He spoke of the potential of the Molten Salt Reactor but always said they would never become mainstream in his lifetime.
As a young Irish person it really disgusts me the way the older generation stubbornly clings onto their archaic notions of the world and force that onto us younger folk. They don't realise that they'll be dead, and with that they will leave behind a mess that they were too stupid/afraid to tackle. So I for one hope your documentary can change some older minds and help make up the minds of those that are on the fence, although I think you'll have a hard time getting the Joe Duffy brigade to open their ears.
Well, the reality is it's not just the older generation - anti-nuclear opinion exists all over the age spectrum. The converse of course is that young people like you - as well as plenty of older people - support nuclear power.
We started making this documentary on the principle that we just don't have time to debate what should replace fossil fuels. We need to start developing replacements now. We've talked to quite a few people that share this view, most interestingly people who were previously anti-nuclear but changed their minds due to the urgent need to combat global warming. This documentary strives to find that common ground.
you state that you are not making a technical film about thorium and are focusing on the human story. however, to me it seems like the major obstacle with thorium is a big misunderstanding of its technical issues. How are you hoping to resolve this misalignment between what's needed and what you are providing with your film?
Great question. When we say "technical" we mean we're not making a lecture-style film that gets lost in technical detail.
We want to appeal to as broad an audience as possible and to do this we focus on the human story, i.e. that we have a planet full of people who all need energy to get on with their lives, that there is an enormous conflict between this our basic need for energy and our basic fear of damaging our environment, and that the very human instinct to create may well have provided us with a way to resolve this conflict.
Once that grounding is there, providing a technical explanation of the potential solution is both necessary and justified. Part of the reason we are asking Kickstarter for completion funds is to pay for the animation and archive footage required to explain the technical concepts in an accessible fashion.
Tayto or King Crisps?
Does anyone ever not reply "Tayto"?
What exactly is Thorium? I remember I read an article about it in Wired a few years back, but I forget what it actually is.
EDIT: Also, do you think its possibly to make thorium powered vehicles?
Thorium is an element that is remarkably common on earth and can be used as a fuel in nuclear reactors. It has many advantages over Uranium, including the fact that you can pretty much use it out of the ground and don't need to throw away 99% of what's mined as happens during the Uranium enrichment process.
There is more information in our Kickstarter video and on Wikipedia.
We haven't seen any serious proposals for a Thorium-fuelled car but the pictures do look pretty cool :)
I'm Irish as well and I was wondering what are the chances of us being the first country to build the first commercial sized Thorium reactor ever? Zero?
I think given our relative small size and the fact that other countries, specifically the US and China, have a first-mover advantage there is little chance we'll be the first.
If it does happen, I think it will be the result of an EU-level project with Ireland chosen as the location from a selection of member states.
What are some of the drawbacks of thorium?
The main argument we heard were that the next generation of Uranium-based reactors will be ready to go before Thorium reactors can be commercially viable. We were told these reactors will have many of the safety benefits of Thorium reactors.
How much does the Thorium industrial complex pay you to shill for them?
This is a Kickstarter-funded documentary.
With antinuclear sentiment seemingly increasing, and a lack of reactors ready to implement a switch to thorium, what are the odds that thorium will ever actually be deployed within our lifetime?
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