15 Mar 2014

20 Dec 2013 (Reuters) – Scientists in Shanghai, China are attempting a breakthrough in nuclear energy: reactors powered by thorium (an alternative to uranium) and cooled by molten salts Project is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a government body with close military ties that coordinates China’s Science-and-Technology strategy. The academy has designated thorium as a priority for China’s top laboratories and has a budget of $350 million budget. Surprisingly, it is pursuing this aspect of its technology game plan with the blessing/help of the USA.

China has enlisted a valuable American partner for its thorium push: Oak Ridge National Laboratory; That is where the USA government produced the plutonium used for the USA’s first A-Bombs, and laid important groundwork for the commercial and military use of nuclear power; As it happens, The Oakridge Tennessee lab helped pioneer thorium reactors. The Pentagon, and the energy industry later sidelined this technology in favor of uranium for political reasons (explained later on).Thorium’s chief allure is that it is a potentially far safer nuclear fuel for civilian power plants than uranium. The element also has military applications as an energy source in naval vessels. The technology’s immediate appeal is that both Chinese and American scientists agree that thorium reactors have the potential to be much more efficient, safer and cleaner than the Uranium fueled NPPs in service today.

A USA congressman unsuccessfully sought to push the Pentagon to embrace Thorium technology in 2009, In a further twist, despite the mounting industrial/strategic rivalry with China, there has been little or no protest in the United States over Oak Ridge’s nuclear-energy cooperation with China. Robert Hargraves physicist and thorium advocate. Says:“The U.S. government seems to welcome Chinese scientists into Department of Energy labs with open arms,” He and other experts note that most of the U.S. intellectual property related to thorium, is already in the public domain. At a time when the U.S. government is spending very little on advanced reactor research, they believe China’s experiments may yield a breakthrough that provides an alternative to the massive worldwide consumption of fossil fuels.

MOLTEN SALTS REACTOR (MSR)TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED The Chinese plan to cool/moderate their experimental thorium reactors with molten salts. This is sharply different from the Pressurized light Water-cooling systems used in most uranium-fueled nuclear plants. Fang Jinqing, a retired nuclear researcher at the China Institute of of Atomic Energy.said: “If a thorium, molten-salt reactor can be successfully developed, it will remove all fears about nuclear energy…The technology works in theory, and it may have the potential to reshape the nuclear power landscape, but there are a lot of technical challenges.” Jiang did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement posted on the Chinese Academy of Sciences website, he said China and the United States “should boost mutual trust and carry out complementary and mutually beneficial cooperation in the study of thorium-based salt reactors, hybrid energy systems and other cutting edge science and technology.” At last year’s Shanghai thorium conference, Jiang described how clean nuclear power would allow China to make a “revolutionary move towards a greener economy.The bet on unconventional nukes, he said, explains why China is the first one to eat a crab” – citing an old Chinese proverb about the individual who dares to make a discovery important to civilization.

CHINA TRYING TO GO “BACK TO THE FUTURE” to the mid-1960s, when Oak Ridge successfully operated a reactor with fuel derived from thorium and cooled with molten salts. The lab also produced detailed plans for a commercial-scale power plant. Despite considerable promise, the thorium test reactor was shut down in 1969 after about five years of operation.

THE DIE WAS CAST AGAINST THORIUM MUCH EARLIER In the early 1950s, an influential U.S. Navy officer, Hyman Rickover, decided a water-cooled, uranium-fueled reactor would power the world’s first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus. Rickover was instrumental in the 1957 commissioning of a similar reactor at Shippingport, Pennsylvania – the world’s first nuclear-power station. At the time Admiral Rickover was a towering figure in atomic energy, and became known as the father of the “U.S. nuclear navy”. With the launch of the Nautilus in 1955, a course was set that is still followed today, with most of the world’s nuclear power generated from this type of reactor. Rickover had clear reasons for his choice, engineers say. The Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) was the most advanced, compact and technically sound at the time. More importantly, these reactors also supplied plutonium as a by-product – then in strong demand as fuel for America’s rapidly growing arsenal of nuclear warheads.  

THORIUM IN USA POLITICS Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), introduced legislation in 2010 calling on the U.S. government to share its thorium expertise. The unsuccessful bill said it was in the USAs “national security and foreign policy interest to provide other countries with thorium fuel-cycle technology, because doing so would produce less long-lasting waste and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation”. Even though Oak Ridge has been free to proceed, Thorium research was effectively shelved when the Nixon Administration decided in the 1970s that the USA nuclear industry would concentrate on a new generation of uranium-fueled, fast-breeder reactors. for a range of technical and political reasons, not least the public’s fear of nuclear plants, these new uranium reactors had yet to come into widespread commercial use. More recently, Joe Sestak, a former USA congressman and retired two-star admiral, failed in an effort to get the Pentagon to reconsider thorium in 2009. “It is very hard to effect a change in something that has been established for a long time,” he added that he was unaware of the extent of cooperation between the USA and China on thorium technology.

WHAT DOOMED THORIUM RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT? Kirk Sorensen, president of “Flibe Energy”, a privately held thorium-technology start-up based in Huntsville, Alabama said: “The short answer is that uranium was good for bombs and thorium wasn’t,“. Sorensen, a former NASA engineer, has plans to build thorium-fueled reactors for commercial use in the USA. Sorensen has been instrumental in reviving global interest in the groundbreaking work of the late nuclear physicist Alvin Weinberg.

URANIUM CARTEL: KILL THE MESSENGER! American nuclear physicist Alvin Weinberg, led research into thorium and MSRs when he ran Oak Ridge from 1955 to 1973; Unfortunately, he was eventually fired for his persistent thorium advocacy, but he had some powerful supporters. In his last scientific paper (published shortly after his death in 2003). Nuclear-weapons pioneer Edward Teller called for the construction and testing of a small, thorium-fueled reactor. Oak Ridge remains the ancestral home of this technology. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) lab still has a small research project under way on the use of molten-salt coolants for uranium-fueled reactors. DOE is also funding related research at the Universities of California, Berkeley, the University of Wisconsin and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

GREAT BRITAIN NOW WANTS THORIUM POWER FOR ITS NAVY During 2012, top British naval engineers proposed a design for a thorium reactor to power warships. Compact thorium power plants could also be used to supply reliable power to military bases and expeditionary forces.

USA MILITARY HAS WEAK REASONS TO STICK WITH URANIUM NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS (NPPs) Although Thorium also has military potential for the USA, the world’s most powerful military is reluctant to pursue alternatives to its uranium-fueled reactors, simply because it has operated them successfully for almost six decades.

USA/CHINA LIASSON Jiang Mianheng,( son of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin), and an Electrical Engineer trained at Drexel University in Philadelphia, visited Oak Ridge in 2010 and brokered a cooperation agreement with the lab. The deal gave the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which has a staff of 50,000, the plans for a thorium reactor. In January 2011 Jiang signed a protocol with the USA DOE outlining the terms of joint energy research with the academy. Jiang told a conference on thorium in Shanghai last year that the China’s thorium project “is 100 % financed by the (China) central government…The protocol stipulates that intellectual property arising from the joint research will be shared with the global scientific community. It excludes sharing commercially confidential information and any other material that the parties agree to withhold. The pact also specifically rules out any military or weapons-related research…All activities conducted under this protocol shall be exclusively for peaceful purposes”. Jess Gehin, a nuclear-reactor physicist at Oak Ridge, says the pact allows the two sides to share information about their research added:“The Chinese are very aggressive, and very determined to move forward with this technology…Right now we agree that we should meet routinely, maybe a couple of times a year.”

CHINA’s THORIUM PROJECT IN A NUT-SHELL Project is very ambitious, and well underway Beijing’s long-term goal is to commercialize the technology by 2040, after building a series of increasingly bigger reactors. The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics is now recruiting nuclear physicists, engineers, project managers and support staff, according to a regular stream of job advertisements it publishes online. Its team is expected to expand to 750 by 2015 and eventually include 1,000 researchers. A director at the Shanghai Institute, Li Qingnuan, and other senior researchers are wooing top young talent across China to join the project. After lecturing on molten-salt reactor technology at Sichuan University in April, Li invited students from the audience to apply for positions at the institute, according to a report on the university’s website. China’s sprawling network of nuclear-research and industrial companies, are gearing up to attend in early June 2014.

THORIUM AND SALTS CONTRACT ISSUED The China National Nuclear Corporation The body overseeing all Chinese civilian and military nuclear programs, has announced that state-owned China North Nuclear Fuel Company had signed an agreement with the Shanghai Institute to research and supply Thorium and molten salts for the experimental reactors. The push into thorium is part of a broader national energy strategy. The government wants to reduce its dependence on coal-fired power plants, which account for about 80% of the nation’s electricity but have darkened/polluted its skies. Nuclear energy is a big part of the plan: China’s goal is to generate 58 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2020, an almost five-fold increase from 12.57 gigawatts today.

CHINA SEES THORIUM POWER AS A HEDGE against the fact that it has 15 conventional nuclear reactors online, and 30 more under construction. Even so, energy authorities are also investing in a range of different technologies for the future, including advanced PWRs fast-breeder reactors, and pebble-bed reactors. China has little uranium but massive reserves of thorium, and are attracted to Thorium as a source of cheaper/safer nuclear power. The fuel could be used to power Chinese navy surface warships, including a planned fleet of aircraft carriers. China’s nuclear submarine fleet has struggled with reactor reliability and safety, according to Chinese naval commentators, and thorium could eventually become an alternative.

Thanks to Reuters 20 Dec 2013 story >


THIS IS A VERY GOOD STORY Mainly because it refreshes our memory of where the USA thorium program had its genesis, met its demise, and the people/politics at large that led to our 100+ Merchant Nuclear fleet of uranium fueled mainly LW-PBWRs From Admiral Rickover (1950s), to Oakridge Labs/1955-1973 (Physicist Alvin Weinberg), to 1970  Pres. Nixon, decision to choose Uranium NPPs as a rich source of plutonium for the cold war, to 2010, and the failed Hatch/Reid which was DOA. in the Senate. It has been a long time, and many fallacious reasons, used to derail a good project which might have already saved many lives worldwide. We should welcome China’s initiative to return to thorium, for NPPs, and wish them well for the sake of all humanity. On the other hand, we worry that their $350,000 budget is way too low for such an ambitious project. By comparison, in today’s economy, it takes about $10 bn. and 10 years to usher a Uranium LW-PBWR (the most common kind). Cost and time (cost of capital) are the main reasons these “transnuclear Spent- Fuel generators” are not being built as before. Speaking as an American, I feel envious the USA is not doing as much nuclear research as China. Sharing past thorium technology may count in important ways, but only if the brokered deal to share in developments prevails.

It is natural for all ambitious nuclear project managers to feel their approach to thorium NPPs is the best. It may be, but we won’t know that until other thorium technologies are tried and compared for their salient characteristics./relative economies. I believe the Chinese Government know that, and is leaving the door open to world and Intra-China competition.  They know that there are already working models of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium reactor (LFTR), in some variants.  India too has a dire need for more energy, and is a burgeoning technical talent/industrial capacity in bloom. Let us hope, that at least in this enterprise, our world needs and climate warming, will override the greed and corruption present in all societies. SUCH FOLKS SHOULD REMEMBER WE ALL LIVE IN THE SAME PLANET, AND IT IS THEIR DUTY TO HELP SAVE IT, OR GAIN ALL AND WIN NOTHING! THORIUM POWER COULD BE OUR SALVATION, BUT ONLY IF WE COLLABORATE TO ACHIEVE IT.


The Chinese central government is accelerating completion of a Thorium cycle reactor to 2024 because of dire need. Smog is killing them. They have the advantage of free access to experimental results of the USAs Oakridge experiments (and an actual working reactor for five years) in the 1960s when Dr. Alvin Weinberg, was chief of Oakridge Labs. As the Chinese are finding out :These projects are beautiful to scientists, but nightmarish to engineers. Nor are different Thorium fuel cycles alone in China’s quest, they are also investigating some “futuristic” (never have been tried) steam generators. We commend this article to your reading because it illustrates colorfully the many benefits of thorium fuel over the U-235 reactors now on line everywhere. > (This is “must read” if you are interested in energy matters.).

Edward Oliver Gonzalez (gonzedo)

March 15, 2014 at 9:11 PM Comments (0)


5 Mar 2014
WASHINGTON, 03/03/2014: THE “TIER 3 EMISSION STANDARDS” WERE RELEASED TODAY for gasoline fueled vehicles. The Standard will also seek the production of cleaner gasoline that will significantly reduce harmful pollution, and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling energy efficiency improvements in cars and trucks The cleaner gasoline, and vehicle standards are an important component of the administration’s national program for cleaner combusting  cars and trucks, Existing fuel efficiency standards currently in place are already saving new vehicle owners at the gas pump. The new Standards are based on extensive input from the public and a broad range of stakeholders, including public health groups, auto manufacturers, refiners, and states. Diesel fueled vehicles will be covered by a different new standard.

THE “TIER 3 STANDARDS” seek to reduce vehicular tailpipe emission pollution (smog)where people live and breathe, by reducing known harmful emissions along streets and roadways  A target reduction of 70 % in particulate matter (soot) and virtually eliminating fuel vapor emissions. Additionally, the standards will also seek to reduce vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as Sulfurous and Nitrous Oxides (NOx) emissions, and benzene by up to 30 %. The program will also reduce exposure to pollution near high traffic roads where more than 50 million people live, and work, or go to school EPAs ADMISSION OF EXISTING “RIVERS OF SMOG” ON/ NEAR HIGHWAYS AND BY-WAYS IS AN AUSPICIOUS BEGINNING.

WIN, WIN, WIN:  EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.said:“These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment, and a win for our pocketbooks…By working with the auto industry, health groups, and other stakeholders, we’re continuing to build on the Obama Administration’s broader clean fuels and vehicles efforts that cut carbon pollution, clean the air we breathe, and save families money at the pump.”

ESTIMATED QUANTIFICATION OF EMISSIONS The final fuel standards should reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 % – down from 30 to 10 parts per million (ppm) in 2017. Reducing sulfur in gasoline enables vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently. New low-sulfur gasoline will provide significant and immediate health benefits because every gasoline-powered vehicle on the road built prior to these standards will run cleaner, thus reducing smog-forming Sulfurous and Nitrous Oxides (NOx) emissions, and sundry other pollutants. by 260,000 tons in 2018. We noted no mention was made about Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions.  When we start by burning petroleum (Hydrocarbon) products we are on the wrong track – let us hope not for long.

EPA ESTIMATED HEALTH BENEFITS: In 16 years, (by 2030), up to 2,000 premature deaths, 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children,(HOW ABOUT ADULTS ?) 2,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits, and 1.4 million lost school days, work days, and days when activities would be restricted due to air pollution on high-traffic roadways. It is estimated the average American spends more than one hour daily traveling on such roads.(THESE PROGNOSTICATIONS SEEM HIGHLY UNDERSTATED)

ESTIMATED FINANCIAL BENEFITS The final standards are expected to provide up to $13 in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards, more than was estimated for the proposal. The sulfur standards will cost less than a penny per gallon of gasoline (on average) once the standards are fully in place. The vehicle standards will have an average cost of about $72 per vehicle in 2025. The Tier 3 Standards support efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot; and aids their ability to attain and maintain science-based national ambient air quality standards to protect public health, while also providing assistance / flexibilities for small refineries, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance. The final standards will quickly (?) and effectively cut harmful soot, smog and toxic emissions from (gasoline fueled) cars and trucks. The Obama Administration’s actions to improve fuel economy and reduce Green House Gases(GHG) from these same vehicles will also result in average life-time fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 The fuel economy and GHG standards covering model year vehicles from 2012-2025 are projected to save American families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs. Total financial health-related benefits in 2030 are expected to be between $6.7 and $19 billion annually.(PRETTY BROAD RANGE -FUZZY CRYSTAL BALL ?).

CALIFORNIA, A TREND SETTER The final standards will work together with California’s clean cars and fuels program to create a “uniform nationwide vehicle emissions program” that enables automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states. The standards are designed to be implemented over the same timeframe as the next phase of EPA’s national program to reduceGHG emissions from cars and light trucks beginning in model year 2017. Together, the federal and California standards will maximize reductions in GHGs, air pollutants and air toxins from cars and light trucks while providing automakers regulatory certainty, streamlining compliance, and reducing costs to consumers.

EPA EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT “SMALL REFINERIES” To meet the Tier 3 cleaner gasoline standards necessary to reduce tailpipe emissions and protect public health, the agency has built in flexibility and adequate time-lines for refineries to comply. For those refineries that may need it, the program would provide nearly six (6) years to meet the standards; To provide a smooth transition for refineries to produce cleaner gasoline, the program is structured to allow the industry time to plan for additional investments; Additionally, EPA will consider providing special considerations to small refineries by offering compliance assistance in cases of extreme hardship, or unforeseen circumstances.

BROAD INDUSTRY SUPPORT EXPECTED EPA conducted extensive outreach with key stakeholders throughout the development of the rule, held two public hearings in Philadelphia and Chicago, and received more than 200,000 public comments. The final standards are based on input from a broad range of groups, including state and local governments, auto manufacturers, emissions control suppliers, refiners, fuel distributors and others in the petroleum industry, renewable fuels providers, health and environmental organizations, consumer groups, labor groups and private citizens. For the official EPA release see>!OpenDocument

NOTE: Above document was redacted from the original, in the interest of enhancing clarity and as necessary (in our opinion) to elucidate Tier 3 New Standards.


The USA-EPA is saying to gasoline refineries, and new vehicle makers: You all come -,now hear! (in Texas talk) Or.What ? That is the question. We all know that to be persuasive it is sometimes necessary to “accentuate the positive” In this case, EPA has tried to quantify the benefits, and the necessity to human health for this changes to our gasoline refinery, as well as vehicular equipment but…OH WHERE, OH WHERE, DID EPA GET THEIR CRISTAL BALL ? In any event, some of the required changes can be regarded as lofty goals, others too slow in coming. It is clear that EPA is willing to “cut-slack” to some refiners (penultimate par.). but, who is a “small refinery”, or business enterprise, and who will decide if it applies? We all already know, don’t we? In all fairness, most world auto makers have contributed significantly, (under the circumstances), and are probably ready to improve their vehicular pollution controls ever more in the interest of competitiveness.

PETROLEUM REFINERIES WILL BE THE MAIN DETERRENT TO THESE NEW STANDARDS. When EPA speaks about their need for new “capital improvements” they read: “Spend more money” and folks these industrialists are exceptionally greedy, slow to change, and indifferent to the airborne , and other pollution they create. Pray say: what will they do with even more pollutants removed from the crude? What do they do now ?- As little as possible

Hell! remember the “Keystone Pipeline”travesty they are trying to impose on the USA mainland? It is no longer needed (we now have sufficient USA produced crude), and the heavy crude they offer is more like tar, more explosive, more toxic and much harder to refine. Add to this, the airborne pollution exacerbation to our Texas coast (Corpus Christi north to Beaumont TX). It is already intolerable, and adding the Keystone Tar-sands crude would produce toxins the likes of which Texas has never known. This is no exaggeration!. I resent having the USA become Canada’s (or anyone’s) gassy asshole. I trust Pres Obama will veto approval of the Keystone Pipeline. Mr. President:“The eyes of Texas are upon you” –literally. The USA EPA Admin Ms. Mc Carthy can be relied upon to do NOTHING! >

WE LIKE THE NEW STANDARD Tier 3 standards are a step in the right direction for the petroleum, and Automotive Industry, and should pay for their cost many fold. We certainly cannot argue with that, or the necessity for change; We further believe they will bring about many national health improvements, reduce health maintenance costs, improve national productivity, and set the USA as an example to the world of what must be done (among other energy considerations) to make a. significant contribution toward GHG reduction and our President’s Climate Action Plan.

Many emerging and heavily industrialized nations such as China, India, Indonesia, and Mexico all have experienced fist hand the noxious effects upon their population(specially in large cities) of unbridled air pollution. It is a people killer. We all need to do something – FAST

Edward Oliver Gonzalez (gonzedo)

March 5, 2014 at 1:49 AM Comments (0)