To generate electricity for a city of 1 million people for 1 year:___Mine 3,200,000 tonnes of coal - emit 8,500,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases and particulates - landfill 900,000 cubic metres of toxic/radioactive fly-ash.___OR___Mine 50,000 tonnes of uranium ore - emit no greenhouse gases - produce 24 tonnes of radiotoxic 'waste'.___OR___Mine 50 tonnes of equivalent thorium ore - emit no greenhouse gases - produce 0.8 tonnes of radiotoxic 'waste'.
This is my email to Martin Durkin on 11 November 2011. So far, it has gone unanswered.
Dear Mr. Durkin,
I am a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) advocate and host the only UK Blog on the topic "LFTRs to Power the Planet":http://lftrsuk.blogspot.com/
The history of this uniquely safe and affordable nuclear power-generating reactor is a Greek Tragedy because, had it been deployed 40 years ago when the technology was 90% proven on an operating reactor, the world would not be in the polluted mess it is now. Since LFTRs can be used for the manufacture of liquid fuels, Peak Oil would still be in the distant future as hydrocarbons would only have been used for the stuff we need and not just burned for energy.
Instead, it was side-lined in favour of the Light Water Reactor (LWR) which produced plutonium for bombs; Three Mile Island was a Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) plant, which is a one version of a LWR and Fukushima had the other version, a Boiling Water Reactor (BWR).
The story which needs to be told is that of Alvin Weinberg, under who's Directorship, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) was conducted; this operating reactor produced power from 1965 to 1969 and the design is the basis for what we now call the LFTR.
After working on the Manhattan Project, Weinberg joined forces with Admiral Rickover in designing a nuclear propulsion reactor for the Nautilus Class Submarines and it is he who invented and patented the LWR. However, when LWRs were being considered for civil power generation, Weinberg predicted the loss-of-coolant/meltdown accidents (since witnessed at Three Mile Island and Fukushima) and railed against their use. Instead, Weinberg championed the intrinsically safe Molten Salt Reactor (MSR - now LFTR) and for his troubles, in 1972 he was asked to resign from his pursuit of further MSR development at ORNL, by a Congressman in the LWR camp.
Worldwide deployment of low-cost, modular LFTRs, capable of being transported on flat-bed vehicles and container-ships are affordable by the developing world. LFTRs can supply all of the energy requirements of every individual on the planet (at developed world standards), for hundreds of thousands of years, from the near inexhaustible resources of thorium fuel. Thorium is so energy dense that the ground under your feet can supply energy more cheaply than any other fuel - Weinberg described it as "mining the rocks..."
There is no other form of energy supply that is less environmentally destructive and capable of worldwide deployment. We have to dream that the raising of the standard of living of the most deprived and deserving will solve many of the worst problems facing humankind.
This 40 year stasis of a solution to the world's energy woes has brought us to turbulent times of great inequality; if this is not the saddest 'Accident of History', I don't know what is.
Would you consider telling the story, in your much-admired fashion?