A recent article on Watts Up With That, WUWT (see link) sings the praises of thorium-fueled nuclear power plants as the savior of the world. The article is by David Archibald, "a visiting fellow at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C."
Mr. Archibald could not be more wrong in his assessment - with one small exception, see end of this article.
|Thorium molten salt reactor schematic|
source: Idaho National Lab
As written in several articles on SLB, nuclear power in any form is hopelessly uneconomic, impractical and unsafe. see link, and link, and link. As a result, almost full subsidy from government is required for any nuclear plants to be constructed and operate (see link).
Mr. Archibald opines that fossil fuel will disappear "soon" and only thorium-based nuclear power will be available. He states that solar and wind will be unable to provide power, especially economic power.
He states that a 250 MWe thorium power plant would be the basis for new plants. This suffers from the same economy of scale problem that plagues small nuclear reactors (see link). He further makes the mistake of using overnight (estimated) cost for the fully installed cost of a plant. He uses $3,246 per Kw for overnight cost and a plant size of 250 MWe, then states the installed cost is $800 million each. The fact is, as written on SLB (see link), major industrial projects require far more costs than just overnight cost. The costs associated with material and labor inflation over time, and interest on construction loans can easily double or triple the overnight costs. Construction schedules, or time to construct, typically stretch far beyond initial estimates, with actual time from start to startup being 8 to 10 years or more.
Now, as to what Mr. Archibald got right. He correctly stated that coal will run out. His timetable is off by a couple of centuries, but he is correct that it will run out. As earlier stated on SLB, the facts that coal will soon run out, and coal presently provides almost one-half of the world's electricity present one of the biggest challenges of our times. Perhaps, it is the single biggest challenge.
The alternative to coal is not nuclear, as Mr. Archibald states, but the vast amounts of free, renewable, zero-pollution, reliable power provided by ocean currents, solar, and wind with appropriate energy storage. Note carefully, though, that ocean current power needs no storage. (see link)
I have not read the comments on Mr. Archibald's article at WUWT, but they are sure to be entertaining. And for the most part, very wrong.
Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2015 by Roger Sowell