msrBy / January 8, 2015 / When most people think of nuclear power, they think of thousands of barrels of waste that no one can touch or do anything about. They look for ways to keep the waste out of their backyards. They think of crusty old domes near their homes or freeways that could go off any day now.

As mentioned before in several articles on this blog, I’m a big, big fan of thorium as fuel for nuclear reactors. The thorium molten salt reactor has been demonstrated as a very safe technology back in the 60s by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Note that back then, there were zero private enterprises investing any time or effort in thorium as a fuel for power plants. Instead, a lonely team in a government agency took up the challenge and made a few megawatts for their own use. I find it very interesting how innovative some government agencies can be, NASA in particular.

It seems that more than a few people have noticed that effort back in the 60s and are now replicating it. If you’ve been exposed to this video of Kirk Sorensen touting the virtues of the thorium molten salt reactor, you may have also found his company, Flibe. The video is 5 minutes of your time and well worth the watch. In a nutshell, the thorium molten salt reactor could give us the clean energy we need now at a fraction of the cost and about 1% of the waste of the uranium light water reactors we’ve been using since Nixon pointed us in that direction.

Now it seems, a company is developing modular, shipyard construction of thorium/uranium power plants that use molten salts for fuel. Better still, they believe that they can make power cheaper than coal, the power source of choice among developing countries. Those developing countries have 1400 coal power plants in the works each delivering about a gigawatt of power. That is a whole lotta carbon going into the atmosphere if they go through with their plans.

What company is doing this? Martingale with their ThorCon reactor. They are developing a thorium molten salt reactor that is built in modules, helping to reduce the costs of construction. Instead of building a powerplant that is designed to last for several decades, they are making the components easy to replace and upgrade.

One really nice feature is that the design is walk-away safe. If the reactor overheats, the fuel drains into a cooling tank. The entire safety system is passive, so that even in the worst case scenario, there is no meltdown to worry about. The fuel is already liquid and the reactor is designed to remove the fuel from the reactor, automatically, without human intervention if something goes wrong.

Martingale plans to bring its first reactor to market by 2020. That is a short 5 years away. To put this in perspective, we have enough thorium on the planet that we’re just not going to run out of it in our lifetimes. Kirk Sorensen estimates that thorium could power our civilization for 5,000 years. That could bring about a lasting peace without the endless fighting over oil. Why? Thorium is rather evenly distributed around the globe save for a few large deposits here and there. Bonus: 1 ton of thorium replaces 30 billion barrels of oil.

If thorium power is widely adopted, much of our demand for coal and oil would disappear. Cars would become electric and the Arabs and Israelis can both take a hike. We could focus on other things like, oh, I don’t know, building a thriving middle class? Using some of that energy to remove the carbon from the atmosphere? How about water desalination? A universal recycler?

This is a revolution in the making. It will take time, and it can be done with no new technology. Every feature of this modular reactor is a known quantity since it’s been done before. One other thing I like about Martingale is that they believe in public disclosure to provide for rapid improvement of the technology.

Like I said before, I don’t believe in the gloom and doom about global warming. I believe that we are capable of powering our civilization and restoring our planet to the way it was when we found it (mostly), for our children and their children. Avoiding or reversing global warming is no longer a question of technology, it is a question of political will.

SOURCE: The Digital Firehouse

Did you like this? Share it:
By Broc West| 11 Comments | Featured, News


  1. I’m very interested in the thorium reactor technology but I know there are dissenting views on it’s promises and safety. I’m 100% with you on every point, including the global warming scam- although climate change is quite real and climate extremes of every type are in overdrive, but having nothing to do with CO2- I just think if you want to promote thorium reactor you owe it to the readers to shoot down the thorium skeptics. I personally think LENR (aka cold fusion) is the future. There was a recent breakthrough at MIT as concerns that technology by the way. But if you’re right about this I’m all for it. The damaging effects of fossil fuel extraction and consumption, including the wars and dirty geopolitics, are killing us. No global warming needed. It’s just that TPTB are quite happy with the status quo, and with the world’s entire infrastructure built on fossil fuels, it’s definitely an uphill climb for significant change. Anyways I really hope you’re right, I can’t recall the arguments against thorium but I hope you follow up on this and answer the critics.

  2. There’s a lot of “too cheap to meter” in this article.

    If these thorium molten salt reactors were so great, would’t this technology already be in commercial use? What’s the catch?

    • There is no catch. The technology is sound. The MSR has been a feasible, commercially viable, weaponization-resistant design since the early Seventies.

      It would close every coal mine in the US, every railroad, and obviously every bank that loaned money to those hydrocarbon barons.

      But bitter experience has shown that capitalism isn’t exactly conducive to progress. That’s why a neocon Republican Administration buried the MSR – because it’s always about the Money with the Right-wingers. Actually, it’s always about babying the few WITH the Money as far as they are concerned. You don’t see Obama telling everyone to “just keep quiet about this one.” But that’s exactly what Kissinger and Nixon did.

      The MSR is so far ahead of LWR technology! It is the kind of technology that even the “criminal” weapons states should be being forced to commercialize – Israel, North Korea, etc. Those countries would actually have friends if they weren’t standing ten feet to the right of Boehner… Again, there’s no catch. Thuggish politicians and their hydrocarbon cabal are the only barrier to immediate MSR deployment. I recently saw an American Congressman slip up on TV and actually thank his fellow Right-winger for “spreading nice rumors” about him. Rumors aren’t needed. That’s the Republican method: lie and spread rumors.

      Having said all that, there are differences among MSR designs; and with eighty percent of the world’s future power supply up for grabs, there is room for more than one design. There are fast MSRs and thermal ones. Some designs use Chloride salts, others use Fluorides. Some reprocess online, some do it off-site in batches, and some (fast) ones hardly remove any fission products at all.

      They CAN deliver the juice “too cheap to meter”. Not a rumor.

  3. No nuclear plants have been ordered since 1978. How, EXACTLY, did Nixon point us in this direction?
    And we all know, Presidents have all been puppets since 1913, except JFK, and he was murdered.

  4. Since when did this become a pro-nuclear webpage? Since Japan put legislation through constricting the information allowed to be published about Fukishima, this page has become corrupted.

  5. The problem with thorium is replacing neutrons that leak out. It takes two neutrons to make Thorium – Uranium 233 to split. The fission produces two neutrons. I have an idea to use tritium as a neutron source. Bubble Tritium through the Thorium salt and there are neutrons.

  6. Look for the Government, ask for support.
    Primary reason, the first, second and third will of bankrupt.
    Primary reason, the first, second, third, fourth level of government standards. A good deal more money will be spent getting to standards right vs. research. The research will also need to go thru government standards vs. government research standards (a by-pass standards). “A potential 50 MWH heat source” that comes of an assembly line”, that calls for ONE WINNER. But the true winners will be the ones that can adjust to everything that has a relative cheap source of 800c heat.

  7. I have to admit Im not convinced primarily from a safety point after reading many articles both pro and con for thorium. You cant deny that the design of the new MSR style reactors is far superior to what is currently in use but it still has risks when an accidents occur as highlighted recently on this blog
    Sure if nothing were to go wrong its a great medium compared to whats being used now but looking at the damages 30 years on from Chernobyl that we might say is somewhat contained, to Fukushima that is nowhere near being contained, I just don’t think Nuclear is the answer

  8. RE: “I have to admit Im not convinced primarily from a safety point ”

    You have not studied the technology. There’s no high pressure steam to explode. If the reactor overheats it shuts itself off without human interaction. There’s a drain tank and the device shuts itself off. LFTR is only technology capable of solving our energy crisis. But it doesn’t matter what you think because the Chinese and Indians still listen to scientists. The Chinese and Indians will have working reactors within 5 to 10 years. The Chinese will mass produce millions of LFTR reactors. They will be everywhere. This is because Thorium is as cheap to mine and as plentiful as lead. It’s everywhere.

  9. Nuclear reactors made with uranium and not thorium because U.S needed the byproduct of weapons grade plutonium for bomb manufacturing which thorium can’t give them .this is the real and only reason why thorium is not used.


    People died because of the tsunami wave, & being moved, none from radiation.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *