Sunday, January 3, 2010

Save the Uranium 233

Kirk Sorensen of Energy from Thorium has graciously granted me permission to post in its entirety his series of posts concerning the Department of Energy's planned destruction of its stockpile of Uranium 233, a material that is not only essential to the functioning of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, but is extremely valuable in nuclear medicine. The DOE plans to destroy the U-233 starting in 2012 as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce the amount of weapons-grade material. This is specious, for U-233 can only be used in nuclear weapons after undergoing an enrichment process vastly more complex than that for isotopes that are vastly more plentiful.

Please write to your elected representatives and urge them to take action to prevent the destruction of this valuable material.

From the EFT blog:

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Save the Uranium-233!

The Department of Energy has been engaged in a terrible effort to destroy--permanently--what might be the most precious substance on Earth: Uranium-233.

Why is uranium-233 so precious? Because in a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor, U-233 represents essentially unlimited energy. How can that be so? Because in a LFTR, U-233 "catalyses" the consumption of thorium, which is natural and abundant. Every kilogram of U-233 represents roughly a megawatt of power in a LFTR--forever.

This might sound like some kind of "perpetual motion" machine, but it's very much grounded in nuclear reality. U-233 is what thorium turns into when exposed to neutrons. U-233 is fissile, thorium is not. But thorium can capture the neutrons from fissioned U-233 and then replace the U-233 consumed.

So a LFTR, started on U-233, will burn through its original "start charge" fairly quickly, but will continue to form new U-233 at the same rate it's consumed. So after 1, 10, or 100 years, the same amount of U-233 is there as was there when the reactor got started.

That's how U-233 "catalyses" unlimited energy production from thorium.

Here's some images describing the inventory of U-233 that the DOE currently has at Oak Ridge National Lab.

One kilo of U-233 in a LFTR for a year: one megawatt*year (8,760,000 kilowatt*hours)

One kilo of U-233 in a LFTR for 10 years: ten megawatt*years (87,600,000 kilowatt*hours)

One kilo of U-233 in a LFTR for 100 years: 100 megawatt*years (876,000,000 kilowatt*hours)

The longer you use U-233, the more it's worth. Let's say electricity sells for a nickel per kW*hr.

One kilo, one year: half a million dollars.

One kilo, ten years: 5 million dollars.

One kilo, one hundred years: 50 million dollars.

Anyone else know of something worth $50M per kg?

But the DOE is determined to destroy this precious resource (and we have about 1000 kg of U-233) by mixing it with U-238 and making it worthless for future use. What's worse, they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make this precious resource into waste!

Why are we sabotaging our future by destroying U-233?

Call your congressman (especially if you live in Tennessee) and beg them to intervene!

Further discussion on the thorium-forum on this topic.


Sildenafil Citrate said...

thanks Laura and thank Kirk Sorensen for allowing you to post his series of posts concerning this topic about Uranium, they are very good!

Anonymous said...

it's obvious that the government wants to destroy it so they get money from people paying for electricity. instead of going for the greater good their going for the cash.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,
Did you know that none of the reactors in the US can burn U-233. Everything is set up to burn U-235 so that's going to be a lot of work and money to produce one. And, where would it be put? No one wants a reactor in their backyard.

The North Coast said...

To Anonymous 2

Uranium 233 is essential to starting and maintaining the thorium fuel cycle, as the articles I posted explain. At this time, at least three companies, notably Curt Sorensen's Flibe Energy, are working on developing the first commercial Liquid Fluoride Thorium reactors, which are based on the technology developed first by the late, great Alvin Weinberg, who developed the first civilian uranium reactors as head of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but who was deposed by President Nixon, who wanted a nuclear technology that could help in building weapons. The thorium fuel cycle does not help with that, and so we are 40 years behind in developing this safe, economical technology.

The LFTR will be an extremely safe and economical reactor that produces almost no waste and is many degrees safer than even the excellent new AP-1000 uranium reactor. These reactors will be small, come with their own containment vessels, and can be transported on an extra wide truck after being assembled at a factory. The technology involved is a radical departure from that of the big 1 GwH uranium fission reactors with their massive containment vessels and intrinsic safety issues, that we have had until now.

But if we destroy the stockpile of precious U-233, we might never be able to develop this technology, which could make a universe of difference in not only the safety of nuclear and the cost of producing it, but whether we are even to have cheap electricity available to everyone in the future of energy scarcity and fossil fuel depletion.

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