Thorium Remix – Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors – nuclear power tutorial

Um... why aren't we doing this already?
Um… why aren’t we flying Thorium-powered cars already? (Image: Wired.com)

Robert Llewellyn posted Thorium Remix, a 2 hour-long video on Google Plus recently and I’ve just sat down to watch it in its entirety.  In it, Kirk Sorensen explains Thorium, Liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR or “lifter”) and using Thorium as a fuel in addition to Uranium in existing nuclear power plants.

Apart from a few comments about solar and wind that I think are a bit dismissive, you can learn a lot from this video about the history and science of nuclear power.  And you’ll wonder why we haven’t got one of these already.  It is not so much a big global conspiracy that is keeping it down; the reasons for the direction the world took on nuclear power are lamer than that.

There’s also some good discussion about Fukushima Daiichi power plant. I was in Japan in October 2011 (I was originally going to be in Sendai on 11 March 2011) and there was still a lot of concern about the nuclear industry. When a radioactive source was found a few km away from me in Tokyo by a mother with a Geiger counter/dosimeter, the first reports wondered how such a strong source could have travelled 250km and what did this mean for areas closer to Fukushima. The source was bottles of Radium that had probably been it an abandoned shed since 1955. (In 1956, new laws about the safe handling and storage of Radium took effect.)

I also learnt more nuclear physics in these 2 hours than I did at years of high school and university.  What’s the correlation between half-life and how radioactive a substance is?  It is worth your time and effort to watch this video about a version of the future of energy.

As homework, it’s worth comparing these two terms:

  • Linear no-threshold that radiation is always considered harmful with no safety threshold, and the sum of several very small exposures are considered to have the same effect as one larger exposure (response linearity)
  • Radiation hormesis that low doses of ionizing radiation (within the region and just above natural background levels) are beneficial, stimulating the activation of repair mechanisms that protect against disease, that are not activated in absence of ionizing radiation.
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M7.3 tremblor could have been an aftershock from 3/11

Japan Times is reporting that the Japan Meteorological Agency said the 5:18 p.m. quake was likely an aftershock of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami [東北地方太平洋沖地震], the magnitude-9 quake that devastated the region on 11 March 2011 and warned of an aftershock from Friday’s temblor of up to magnitude 6 within a week.

A tsunami of up to 1 metre was detected around the coast of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima; the same prefectures affected last year.

Reports from friends in Japan were that the quake was a bit unusual; the motion was up and down and buildings swayed for some 3 minutes.

To cast your mind back to March 2011, here’s a visualisation of every tremblor above M3 during 2011.  Quakes with a Shindo damage rating of 5 or more [explained here] are also listed.  In the bottom left is a counter that shows that there were some 850 M3 or above tremblors from 01/01/2011 to 28/02/2011.

You’ll also note that there was a big quake on 9 March 2011.  When I first heard the reports of 11 March on Australian TV, I thought that they had only just caught up with old news.