A Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) is today’s interpretation of the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor (MSBR) designed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the USA in the early 1970s. It operates at about 700 °C and heats a gas turbine, to power electrical generation.
desalination, potable water, electricity generation, waste heat, high temperature waste heat, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, LFTRs,
A Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) is today’s interpretation of the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor (MSBR) designed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the USA in the early 1970s. It operates at about 700 °C and heats a gas turbine, to power electrical generation. The temperature of the ‘waste’ heat extracted from the (recycled) exhaust gases of the turbine is at a sufficiently high temperature to be air-cooled and the reactor does not need to be sited near a large body of fresh water for cooling purposes. More importantly, the ‘waste’ heat need not be ‘thrown away’ but is hot enough to be used to desalinate brackish ground water or sea water, to produce huge quantities of potable water. Desalinated water, as a by product of electricity generation is virtually free, but a LFTR installation can be used purely for process heat, so all of the heat produced can be used for desalination. This would significantly increase the volume of potable water produced, for a given reactor size.
In countries or regions suffering drought or water poverty. Siting is independent of ambient air temperature; LFTRs can be sited at locations with conditions varying from tropical to freezing.
Eugene Wigner and Alvin Weinberg initiated the project, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, USA. The project was funded by the US Administration of the day. Alvin Weinberg directed the implementation of the project. Weinberg was there from the implementation of the project. Kirk Sorensen, through his company: Flibe Energy has ensured follow-up of the solution..
Flibe Energy are negotiating through the US military to provide ‘Base Islanding’ power units. Flibe Energy are open to approaches from any country or region, with water poverty issues, to invest in the first-of-a-kind LFTR. It is understood they are capable of manufacturing a small modular unit, say, 100 MWe in about 5 years. Contact Flibe Energy: http://flibe-energy.com/
More potable water – is as important as – less CO2. There can be few who doubt that most developing countries will spend their energy budgets on the cheapest and most readily available form of power generation – coal. Coal fired power stations need to be located near large bodies of fresh water cooling, to extract the waste heat from the steam turbines which drive the electricity generators. This heat is dumped into the cooling water, because its temperature is too low to do anything useful. At all times, CO2 is being emitted in significant quantities. The target of More Potable Water – Less CO2 is met with as near 100% efficiency as it is possible to get; far and away better than any competitive form of power generation.
The key outputs are:
- The use of otherwise waste heat, from the generation of electrical power, to provide significant volumes of ‘free’ potable water.
- Freedom from emissions of CO2, other than the carbon-footprint of the build.
- A lower capital and running cost per kWh than other methods of electrical generation including coal and ‘conventional nuclear’.
Since thorium fuel is cheaply and readily available worldwide, energy independence will relieve international and regional tensions. Since significant amounts of potable water will be readily available, this will also relieve internatiobnal and regional tensions. In the long term, thorium resources will be available for tens of thousands of years. There is sufficient quantities to supply all of the energy requirements of everyone on the planet at developed world standards.
It can reasonably be argued, from experience gained from the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE), first funded in 1960 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that the first-of-a-kind LFTR can go critical 5 years after funds are allocated. After a minimum 2 years full power equivalent operation, investment in the planning of production line facilities for (relatively) high volume production of transportable modular units (say 100 MWe) is needed. Construction of the facilities to begin 2 years after initiation, for production to commence 2 years later. 3 to 5 years from date of order, in coordination with site preparation, it should be feasible for a unit to connect to grid and/or desalination plant.
The rate of production depends on investment, but if Boeing can build one equivalent value airliner per day, there is no reason why this could not be an appropriate level for LFTR production.
Conventional nuclear (PWRs) are competitive with coal and natural gas for generating electricity. Also, it is half the price of onshore wind and one third the price of offshore wind. It can be reasonably argues that LFTRs will be less than half the price for the same rated output of PWRs, so they are by far the most affordable way of generating electricity. With desalination as (effectively) a by product, you then get twice as much bang for your bucks. All developing countries and regions requiring affordable power generation and/or potable water, will want LFTRs. They have the potential to drive out just about all of the competition, particularly when their zero-emissions value comes into consideration – then this applies to the developed world.
Locations have to have a suitable capacity road or rail infrastructure to site the size of modular unit selected. If water desalination is not required, LFTRs can be air-cooled, so they can be sited in arid regions.
Investment in human resources, time, energy and financial resources are less than any alternative form of power generation and/or potable water production. The political will needed is to persuade the electorate that this form of nuclear power is inherently safe and the amount of waste generated (0.8 tonne per GWyear) is only one thirtieth of that from a PWR. Also LFTR waste decays to background radiation levels in 300 years (not 300,000 years) and is safely and cheaply storeable.
Start-up companies, such as Flibe Energy, say they plan to have a demonstration plant available in 5 years, but this is likely to be for military purposes.
China’s Academy of Science announced a year ago that they were to persue LFTR development, but no target dates are forthcoming.
LFTRs to Power the Planet: http://lftrsuk.blogspot.com/2012/03/water-water-every-where-nor-any-drop-to.html Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to contact: Colin Megson, Leeds, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom.
If this technology is not made available to the developing world, over the next one or two decades they will commit £billion to affordable coal fired power stations. If they are then used for desalinating water from the electricity generated, the cost per litre will be 10 times that from LFTRs, implying that only one tenth as much will be affordable.