Barriers and Drivers to Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor Technology

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1 Barriers and Drivers to Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor Technology Case Study of The Netherlands in a European context A Technological Innovation Systems Approach Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement of the degree Master of Business Administration of the International Business School of Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen Towards the award of Master in International Business & Management and the award of Master of Arts in International Business Jorrit M. Swaneveld Date: December 2014 Supervisor: Dr. E. Dommerholt Co-Marker: Dr. S. Patnaik Word count:

2 Contact Details Author: Jorrit Machiel Swaneveld Hanzehogeschool St. Nr.: Anglia Ruskin University St. Nr.: Private Lector supervisor: Thesis Supervisor: Co-Marker: A. Manickam Dr. E. Dommerholt Dr. S. Patnaik II

3 The main thing wrong with nuclear energy is that an awful lot of people are afraid of nuclear energy, particularly since the accident at Three Mile Island. I am not exaggerating when I say that our Western society, for reasons that are unclear to me, suffers from massive hysteria. Once we have overcome that hysteria, we can look forward to a second nuclear era in which we can fully enjoy the not inconsiderable advantages of nuclear energy. Alvin Weinberg , p.1052; p.1055; p III

4 Preface The following thesis on the subject of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) technology is a continuation of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences previous research on LFTR, carried out by L. Pool for his BBA Thesis. Technological Innovation Systems theory is applied on an embedded case study of The Netherlands with the intention towards generating a generalisation for the EU context. Please find information on the scope and purpose of this research in the Abstract or the Introduction. This study is commisioned by the International Business School Groningen Lectorate and supervised by Anu Manickam in this regard. Moreover, Dr. E. Dommerholt functions as the thesis supervisor and first marker. The co-marker of this study is Dr. S. Patnaik from Anglia Ruskin University. The thesis is written in a way that allows educated novices to understand the content of the study. A background in nuclear physics is not required. IV

5 Acknowledgements I would like to thank my supervisors; Dr. Egbert Dommerholt & Ms. Anu Manickam for granting me the opportunity and freedom to explore this topic. Their support, feedback and suggestions have been a valuable contribution to this research. I also have to thank Lucas Pool for introducing me to thorium molten salt reactors. Our discussions on LFTR have been both enjoyable and interesting. I would also like to thank all interview candidates who have consented to be interviewed during this research. Special gratitude goes to Dr. C.A. De Lange for his knowledge on the political climate, which has proven to be invaluable. Also the expertise of the interviewed MSR experts is much appreciated. Finally I would also like to thank my friends, family and anyone else who has supported me throughout the research. Especially Annisa Andhini has my thanks for her emotional support and time to proof read my report. Moreover, I should thank Ayesha Nabila for being my InDesign guru. V

6 Abstract This research is concerned with Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR); a molten salt next generation nuclear technology which utilises thorium as a fuel. LFTR offers many advantages over uranium-fuelled reactors in regards to safety, waste, proliferation resistance, fuel supply and feasibility. According to nuclear experts, the technical challenges of LFTR are not insurmountable. LFTR could play an important role in the energy transition. Despite LFTR s potential, it is only marginally developed in Europe. There are historical reasons (weapon production and breeding) why uranium was preferred over thorium, but these do not explain why thorium is currently not being developed. So why is a potentially valuable technology not pursued? This thesis explores barriers to LFTR innovation by mapping the technological innovation system (TIS) of this emerging technology. The thesis chooses to focus on the governmental structure in The Netherlands as a case study but with the aim of generalising it to the EU. The study finds that there are barriers within the Technological innovation System (TIS). The first is a lack of awareness and knowledge in both the general public and the government. Moreover, insufficient funding is given to LFTR since Dutch policy is aimed at renewables and not nuclear. The latter is likely related to anti-nuclear sentiments with the people and enforced by NGOs. However, all of these factors are interrelated. There is also an absence of actors for LFTR; no advocacy groups exist and no entrepreneurial activities nor market formation take place. Furthermore, the uranium industry is not concerned with alternative fuels as they risk obsoleting the existing uranium infrastructure. Similar situations likely occur, in varying degrees, within other EU member states. Despite this knowledge creation drives innovation and creates positive expectations for MSR technology. Research groups can counter the widespread lack of knowledge and awareness by forming an international confederation and lobby group aimed at diffusing scientific knowledge to the public, politicians and NGOs. It is possible that this solutions brings about a science and technology push motor to innovation. This thorium super network should strive to be scientific, independent and can ensure funding for future molten salt reactor research projects. However, generalisation of the findings towards all European nations is difficult due to different national energy policies. Consequently future research should be done in assessing the TIS in other European countries. Further research aimed at LFTRs feasibility and overcoming technological and social barriers is recommended. VI

7 Table of Contents Definitions and Abbreviations 5 1. Introduction 7 2. Literature Review Thorium energy and LFTR What is thorium fuelled nuclear power? What is LFTR? The benefits of LFTR LFTR efficiency and nuclear waste Safety of LFTR Availability of Thorium Cheaper Proliferation Medical: The cure for cancer? The Challenges of LFTR The molten salt mixture Beryllium and lithium Start-up fuel Cost effectiveness concerns MSRE clean-up process Current Developments of LFTR What is an Innovation System? What are Technological Innovation Systems? What is included in a TIS Structures of a Technological Innovation System Actors Institutions Technologies Relationships and Networks System configuration System Failure Infrastructural failures Institutional failures Hard systems failure Soft systems failure Interaction failures Strong interaction failure Weak network failure Capabilities failures Absence of actors TIS dynamics Seven system functions Framework 41 1 Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

8 3. Methodology Methods and research philosophy Case Study Protocol Interviews Answering the research questions Findings and Discussion Research centres system slice How are the research centres being funded? Government system slice Prioritising investment Awareness and knowledge base of the government Who should invest? Self-fulfilling prophecies Scepticism and insufficient knowledge: The energy market system slice People & the public opinion system slice Lobby groups and NGOs system slice System failures: a summary of the finding Weak network failure Absence of Actors Soft Systems failure (Institutional failure) Infrastructural failure Strong network failure in the uranium industry External barriers & drivers Knowledge as a motor to innovation Re-exploring TIS theory: prerequisites to innovation Conclusions and Recommendations Recommendations 79 References 81 Appendix I: Moir s cost analysis of a MSR 87 Appendix II: History - Why MSR s were forgotten 88 Appendix III: Current MSR experiments 89 Appendix IV: Societal effects of radiophobia 91 Appendix V: Thorium fuel cycle and waste 93 Appendix VI: Five system components explained 95 Appendix VII: Entrepreneurship in TIS Dynamics 96 Appendix VIII: LFTR misconceptions at the NIV 97 Appendix IX: Case study protocol 99 Appendix X: Research planning 105 Appendix XI: Interview protocol Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

9 Appendix XII: Interviews 108 A: Expert interviews 110 B: NGO interviews 118 C: Political interviews 130 D: Research Groups interviews 148 Appendix XIII: information and statements 159 List of Figures: Figure 1: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) and LWR 11 Figure 2: Conversion rate 13 Figure 3: Cost estimate of 7 salt reactor proposals 15 Figure 4: MSRE clean-up 20 Figure 5: Innovation System definitions 23 Figure 6: Boundaries of a TIS 26 Figure 7: Five system configuration of a TIS 31 Figure 8: Seven system functions of a TIS 37 Figure 9: Events as indicators of system functions 38 Figure 10: TIS performance based on system functions 39 Figure 11: Research Framework 41 Figure 12: Research Questions 48 Figure 13: LFTR TIS sans relations, networks and dynamics 50 Figure 14: Universities and Research centres system slice 53 Figure 15: Government system slice 59 Figure 16: Recap I: the government slice 60 Figure 17: Energy market system slice 62 Figure 18: NGOs and the people system slices 65 & 68 Figure 19: Recap II 66 Figure 20: Recap III 68 Figure 21: TIS structure 70 Figure 22: Table of barriers, drivers and failures in the system 71 Figure 23: Potential science & technology push motor for LFTR 73 Figure 24: Cost analysis of a MSR 87 Figure 25: Arguments disputing the LNT 91 Figure 26: Reasons for radiophobia 92 Figure 27: LFTR s U-Th (closed) fuel cycle 94 Figure 28: Five system configuration components 95 Figure 29: Change record 99 Figure 30: Data collection by research question 101 Figure 31: Gantt chart 105 Figure 32: Table of interviews Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

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11 Definitions and abbreviations The following list consists of important abbreviations but also basic definitions of recurring terminology used in this paper. Many of the basics of nuclear physics are unfamiliar to the audience of this paper. Hence some of the basics, as were explained in the previous Hanze University of Applied Sciences thesis on LFTR by Lucas Pool, are once again explained or quoted from this paper. Atoms: Atoms are made up of positively charged protons and neutrally charged neutrons, together they are the nucleus. Negatively charged electrons surround the nucleus. What kind of material an atom is, is decided by the amount of protons in the atom s core, or nucleus, which gives the atom its atomic number. Pool, 2013, p.21. Dollar: United States Dollar. EU/Europe: European Union. Europe is defined in this research as EU member states. Elements: pure substance made up of only one type of atom (e.g. lead, iron, uranium or thorium). Fission: core process in nuclear energy production. The nucleus of an atom is hit with free neutrons, causing them to split and start a chain reaction. FLiBe: Molten salt mixture which consists of Lithium fluoride and beryllium fluoride (LiF- BeF2). In situ: in situ refers to the chemical reprocessing of the salt mixture that happens on site within the process (reactor vessel) without having to stop or transport the molten salt. Moreover new elements are also formed and fissioned in situ (e.g. u-233 through breeding) IBS: International Business School, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen (NL). IS: Innovation system. Isotope: different forms of the same element, with different amounts of neutrons (e.g. Uranium-232 and Uranium 233) but same amount of protons in the core (Pool, 2013). kwh: Kilowatt-hour, a measure of electricity (generation). Lector/Lectoraat: Professorship/university research centre. LFTR: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor; the nuclear energy technology utilizing thorium as explained in this paper. In papers, LFTR is commonly written without the adjective the, grammatically it should say; the LFTR. Since this is not the norm, this paper occasionaly uses LFTR in sentences without the. Lock-in: lock-in refers to an undesirable static situation in which an incumbent technology has become so entrenched in structures that there is actually little room for innovation. Suurs, 2009, p18 from Unruh LWR: Light Water Reactor; dominant technology used to generate energy from Uranium, consisting of PWR s and BWR s (boiling water reactors).these are the vast majority of the normal nuclear reactors. Meltdown: When the temperature of fuel rods in a LWR increase too much, for example be- 5 Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

12 cause they are insufficiently cooled, the solid rods will melt becoming a liquid. MSR: Molten salt reactors, a family of thorium based reactors with a molten salt mixture. NIS: National Innovation System. Neutron Moderator: A neutron moderator s function is to slow down fast neutrons, because neutrons that are too fast are not useful for sustaining the nuclear chain reaction. - Pool 2013, p. 25. Nucleus: atomic core, containing protons and neutrons. PWR: pressurised water reactor, a type of LWR (Hargraves, 2012). Radioactivity: Some atoms have an unstable nucleus, which means the nucleus is prone to decomposition and forming nuclei with a higher stability. As it decomposes, energy and particles are released which we call radiation, and this process of decomposition is what we call radioactivity. There are 3 types of radiation: Alpha radiation, which consists of a stream of positively charged particles, Beta radiation, which consists of a stream of negatively charged electrons, and Gamma radiation which consists of high energy photons. Pool, 2013, p. 21. Renewables: in the EU renewables include wind, solar, hydro-electric, tidal power, biomass as well as geothermal energy. Renewable usually means there is an infinite source. In a way, nuclear reactors can also create an infinite supply of fuel, by closing the loop or (closed fuel cycle) breeding. SIS: Sectoral innovation system. Sustainability/sustainable development: Brundtland definition: Stands for meeting the needs of present generations without jeopardizing the ability of futures generations to meet their own needs in other words, a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come. It offers a vision of progress that integrates immediate and longer-term objectives, local and global action, and regards social, economic and environmental issues as inseparable and interdependent components of human progress. EU commission, Sparging: Running a gas through fluid to separate dissolved gasses or fission products from the fluid, e.g. Helium bubbling. Steam explosion: The water (in a LWR) is kept at very high pressure to raise its boiling temperature, so it can reach a higher temperature (and carry more thermal energy), without turning into steam. If the pressurised coolant water escapes, a steam explosion occurs. The high pressure artificially increased the water s boiling temperature, so when this pressure is lost its boiling temperature suddenly drops. Water that remained liquid at a temperature far above 100 C before, now turns to steam instantly at its present temperature, causing it to expand greatly and creating an explosive reaction. Pool, 2013, p. 33. TIS: Technological innovation system. Transmutation: When the nuclei of radioactive atoms emit radiation, they are emitting protons, neutrons, and electrons. Because they are left with fewer protons, neutrons, or electrons in their nucleus they change into a different isotope of the same element (different amount of neutrons), or even a different type of element (different amount of protons). Pool, 2013, p. 21. Vitrified waste: Storage method in which the waste is stabilised and turned glass within a stainless steel container. 6 Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

13 1. Introduction Climate change and the continuous depletion of fossil fuels is a tremendous contemporary problem in our society. A sustainable energy transition is required to supply the world with clean and sustainable energy. Uranium nuclear power is CO2 neutral but faces much criticism. However, nuclear power can also be generated using thorium as a fuel. Thorium (TH90) is a largely unknown alternative to uranium based nuclear fission. Thorium is readily available and can be found almost anywhere in the earth s crust with large concentrated deposits throughout the world. However, there are currently no commercial thorium reactors operational. This thesis is concerned with a specific reactor design, the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). LFTR based energy offers a safer and potentially cheaper alternative to uranium based energy. Additionally, thorium produces cleaner energy (up to 99.9% less long term nuclear waste) and is more efficient. While uranium may run out in the next years, thorium could supply the earth s future energy demands for thousands of years. It is therefore a more sustainable (non-renewable, albeit closed fuel cycle) alternative energy source that can help solve problems such as the current reliance on fossil fuels and its associated risks such as climate change, energy crisis, safety concerns and pollution. LFTR technology may revolutionise the world economy at its best by offering cheap and abundant semi-sustainable energy while limiting risks. Insufficient research has been made into the cost of thorium energy. However, the current theory and speculations indicate a price below uranium based nuclear power and even below coal energy. Industry power and world power can thus shift depending who holds this competitive advantage. The characteristics of LFTR and Thorium are further discussed in chapter 2.1. This IBS thesis continues to build on last year s research by Pool (2013) on thorium energy and more specifically the LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactor) technology. The previous study investigated if the claims of LFTR were valid, and confirmed the many positive aspects of LFTR technology. However, the question then occurs; given the advantages of LFTR, why is LFTR not utilised or developed? Historically, thorium was neglected because it was not suitable for nuclear weapon production and it was uncertain if it could function in fast breeder reactors, more on this in Appendix II. Yet this does not explain why the technology is still locked-in and not developed in a time where nuclear disarmament is prevalent and breeding abandoned. It is possible that LFTR is currently not further developed due to obstacles in its innovation and development process, besides the identified historical reasons. The main research question aims to identify these drivers and barriers to innovation from a Dutch perspective, generalising towards a European theory. The research questions may be unclear or too technical to some readers as they are based on the innovation systems approach, which is further discussed in chapter 2.2. Main research question: What are the drivers and barriers to the development of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor technology within its European Technological Innovation System? Sub question 1: What is the current (national) governmental structure of the LFTR technological innovation system? Sub question 2: Within the (governmental) TIS where do barriers and drivers to innovation occur and from which actors, institutions, networks and technological factors are they derived? Sub question 3: Which system failures can be identified in the LFTR TIS based on the identified barriers and drivers to innovation? 7 Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

14 The objective of this study was to identify the factors that are limiting the development of LFTR. In essence, why is LFTR is not being developed? To reach this objective and answer the research questions, the research uses technological innovation systems (TIS) theory developed by Suurs (2009) in accordance with the requests of the IBS Lectoraat, which is the commissioner of this study. TIS theory looks at the factors surrounding a technology and can identify drivers and barriers to the innovation process of a technology and identifies actors, institutions, technology and networks as a system around the development and innovation of a technology. Within this approach a tight scope is established, focussing on the most important actors, institutions and their networks related to the technology (LFTR) within the governmental structure of the TIS for the Netherlands. Given the research limitations not all relevant factors can be taken into account (chapter 3.3.). A framework based on the literature review and previous research has been created and is visualised in chapter 2.3. This thesis uses the Case study method as a research approach. It is designed as a single case study (EU) with an embedded case study of The Netherlands. The embedded case study helps to generalise the findings for the EU. More on Case study research and the protocol is found in chapter 3 and Appendix IX. The answer to the research question supports organisations (e.g. entrepreneurs, businesses, the government and NGOs) in making informed decisions, policies and strategies. The thesis does this by examining what goes wrong in the innovation system and where it occurs, effectively filling a knowledge gap. This thesis puts the topic of thorium into to the attention of people. Awareness and (correct) knowledge on LFTR was found to be lacking in many important policy makers (including politicians, ministries and NGOs) in The Netherlands. More on the findings and conclusions can be found in Chapter 4 and 5. The findings are written as a narrative and uses the personal pronoun we. In this event we means the reader and the researcher, as the researcher takes the reader by their hand on a journey where the researcher guides them through the story. Lastly, the thesis serves decision makers by providing correct information about LFTR. Moreover, it serves as a platform for future LFTR research and for applying TIS theory on different technologies and topics. 8 Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

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16 2. Literature Review The following sections discuss the literature used in this research in order to establish a framework. The literature review explains what the liquid fluoride thorium reactors and thorium entails. This is relevant because it involves the context of the problem and also covers technological barriers and drivers. Furthermore, it will discuss the characteristics of LFTR and the advantages and disadvantages of LFTR over Light Water Reactor technology. The second part of the literature review discusses the creation of a framework by explaining what innovation systems and technological innovation systems are, why they are valuable for this research and how they can be applied to the research to answer the research question. 10 Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

17 2.1 Thorium energy and LFTR The LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactor) is one of several reactor designs that allow for the generation of nuclear power from thorium. This chapter aims to give a brief explanation of what thorium is, what the LFTR is and what its benefits and limitations are What is Thorium fuelled nuclear power? Thorium is a chemical element discovered by Swedish chemist Jons Jacob Berzelius in 1828, who named it after the Norse god of thunder, Thor (Bentor, 2013). However it was not until 70 years later that scientists discovered that thorium was a radioactive element (Bentor, 2013). Thorium as an element has 90 protons at its core and looks like a silver-white soft metal with properties similar to lead (Pool, 2013). Thorium, being radioactive (it has an unstable nucleus) is suitable for power generation through a process called nuclear fission. During this process a nucleus of an atom is hit with free neutrons, which split in smaller nuclei and more free neutrons that proceed to hit nuclei of other atoms, causing a chain reaction. During this fission process energy (heat) is released, which is used to drive a turbine connected to a power generator (World Nuclear Association, 2013a) What is LFTR? Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors are a type of molten salt reactor (MSR). MSR s use a molten salt mixture as a fuel or coolant, or both. The LFTR design consists of a core and a blanket, both of which contain the previously mentioned salt mixture with thorium added to the blanket and uranium to the core. The core generates heat (which can be converted in electricity through the Rankine or Brayton cycle) and causes the thorium-232 in the blanket to turn into uranium-233. This process, in which the element of thorium turns into other elements, is called transmutation (Pool, 2013). Through this process thorium can change into other elements along its decay chain, for example: protactinium, neptunium, plutonium and the aforementioned uranium (Hargraves and Moir, 2010). Figure 1: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) and LWR (Hargraves & Moir, 2010) 11 Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

18 Unlike the Light Water Reactor, LFTR uses a liquid salt mixture as fuel and has no control rods. FLiBe is commonly regarded as the optimal salt mixture, which consists of lithium fluoride and beryllium fluoride (LiF-BeF2) hence the name FLiBe (Pool, 2013). The boiling point of this mixture lies at 1430 C (Ingersoll et al, sd), thus the liquid can remain at very high temperatures without turning to steam (Sohal et al, 2010). Moreover the mixture also slows down fast neutrons, which are not useful for sustaining the nuclear chain reactor, and thus serves as a neutron moderator (Carpenter, 2003; Pool, 2013; Sorensen, 2009). Another important contribution of the mixture is that it s not solid but liquid, making it easier to separate useful and unwanted by-product of the fission process (Hargraves, 2012). Comparatively, solid fuel is hard to manipulate when it is in the core and traps unwanted fission by-products (Hargraves & Moir, 2010; Hart, 2011; LeBlanc, 2009) The benefits of LFTR The following sub-chapters summarise the benefits of LFTR technology as compared to conventional LWR technology. The next chapter also discusses the technological challenges LFTR still faces in its development. It must be noted that nuclear energy in all forms is CO2 neutral by the same measure other sustainable and renewable energy sources are considered CO2 neutral (not taking the supply chain into account) LFTR efficiency and nuclear waste One of the most problematic characteristics of nuclear power is the generation of radiotoxic waste products and the associated environmental costs of operating the LWR. Tons of nuclear waste is produced (NEI, 2013) that has to be stored in safe locations for thousands of years. Due to the environmental cost of this seemingly inherit characteristic of nuclear power, it forms a key argument against the use of this method of energy generation. However the LWR and LFTR technologies differ significantly in regards to the generation of waste. To highlight the differences we will first look at the LWR waste characteristics and compare them to LFTR. The Light water reactor (LWR): Conventional uranium fuelled light water reactors use solid uranium fuel rods. Through the generation of heat and radiation in the reactor core these fuel rods are damaged and have to be taken out after several years of operation. As such the fuel rods are discarded after having only been used for 3-5% (or less) of its energy potential. However, to make things worse one of the by-products of fission is the noble gas xenon-135. This gas slows down energy production by absorbing free neutrons, which disrupts the chain reaction during the fission process, as these neutrons can no longer hit nuclei of other atoms (Pool, 2013). The combination of these components makes for a relatively inefficient energy conversion. Moreover, the removed fuel rods and long-lived transuranic by-products of the fission process need to be stored for tens of thousands of years as nuclear waste (Hargraves and Moir, 2010). Examples of these by-products include plutonium, americium, neptunium and curium (Ibid.). The LFTR: Unlike the LWR, the LFTR does not suffer radiation damage, due to its ionic bonds (Pool, 2013). As such the fuel does not have to be removed until it has been fully used. Furthermore, the by-products of the fission process can remain in the fuel mixture until they too undergo the fission process and are effectively burned up (Hargraves and Moir, 2010; Hart, 2011). LeBlanc states that MSR reactors such as LFTR can even be used to burn up existing nuclear waste from LWR s (2009). Several authors, including Dr. Kloosterman confirm this (Hargraves, 2012; Pool; 2013; Sorensen, 2009). The LFTR design uses a liquid fuel mixture, as opposed to solid fuel rods, which allows for easy extraction of fission by-products such as xenon-135 (Hargraves, 2012; Pool, 2013). Xenon literally bubbles out of the liquid fuel mixture (through sparging) and is then unable to disrupt the chain reaction (Hargraves and Moir, 2010; Hargraves, 2012; LeBlanc, 2009; Pool, 2013). Naturally, this gas has to be captured, tritium is also expected to be captured this way (Hargraves, 2012). 12 Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

19 The LFTR is regarded to be more efficient at converting fuel into electrical energy, partially because all the fuel is burned up but also because the thermal to electrical energy conversion rate is 45-50% as opposed to 30-35% for LWR (Hargraves & Moir, 2010; Juhasz et al, 2009). The aforementioned combinations amount to a much higher conversion rate. As such Hargraves graphically illustrates the conversion rate from raw resources to waste products in figure 2. The figure clearly shows that the thorium fuel cycle uses 1 ton of thorium entirely and converts this into a ton of waste products, most of these are fission products (Hargraves and Moir, 2010; Hargraves, 2012). Out of this waste, 83% is considered stable1 within 10 years while another 17% is considered stable within years and finally tons of transuranic waste (e.g. plutonium) remains, which has to be stored for a very long time (Hargraves and Moir, 2010; Hargraves, 2012; Juhasz et al, 2009). 0.1% of these transuranics is likely not fully burned in the reactor as the chemical waste processing is not perfect (Hargraves, 2012). LFTR waste radiotoxicity would be 1/1000th compared to pressurized water reactors (Ibid.). On the other hand, the LWR requires much higher quantities of fuel resulting in much more waste. Pool exemplifies this by stating that a 1000MW plant would produce 100 grams of plutonium waste per year compared to 290 kilogram of plutonium per year in a comparable LWR as confirmed by Dr. Kloosterman (Pool, 2013; World Nuclear Association, 2014a). The LFTR can also be used to recycle actinide waste such as plutonium or depleted fuels (2014). Vitrified nuclear waste cannot be used says Dr. Kloosterman (2014). As such the remaining 100 grams will eventually be fissioned if it is recycled leaving no long lived nuclear waste (Kloosterman, 2014). However the short lived fission products are similar. More information on waste and the thorium versus the uranium cycle can be found in Appendix V. Figure 2: Conversion rate (Hargraves & Moir, 2010). 1: stable means the radiation level has reached background radiation levels or natural levels, making it safe to put back in the ground (Pool. 2013). 2: Dr. Kloosterman estimates 500 years (Pool, 2013). 13 Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

20 Safety of LFTR The LFTR is considered to be safer as it does not run the risk of either steam explosions or meltdowns due to its design and inherit characteristics. A steam explosion cannot occur because water is not used as a coolant nor is the reactor under pressure, which allows water to have a higher boiling temperature, as it is in a LWR. As such when pressure drops, so does the boiling temperature, causing the water to instantly turn to steam. In LWR s there exist safeguards to contain and regulate the explosion, which are unfortunately costly to construct, such as the concrete dome (LeBlanc, 2009). Moreover a meltdown cannot occur. Meltdowns occur when the reactor core is not sufficiently cooled, causing the fuel to melt. A meltdown can occur because power is lost to the pumps that cool and circulate the coolant to prevent a meltdown, meanwhile the backup generators also fail, for whatever reason, to take over this function, causing a shortage of coolant (Pool, 2013). The molten fuel is naturally highly radioactive and can be released into the outside environment by burning through the protective layers present in the reactor (Matson, 2011). The fuel in the LFTR is already molten and is designed to operate as such. Furthermore, the LFTR has several safety features that protects against unwanted temperature increases. First of all like some modern LWR s, LFTR is self-regulating (the so called negative temperature coefficient of reactivity). When the temperature rises above a certain level, the fuel will expand, reducing the area of neutron absorption that in turn decreases fission rate without human intervention (Hargraves and Moir, 2010; Juhasz, 2009; LeBlanc, 2009). The second feature of the LFTR is the frozen salt plug. The plug is situated at the lowest point in the LFTR piping system and is kept frozen by a fan. If power to the reactor were to be lost, the fan would stop cooling, causing the plug to melt. The liquid fluoride fuel will then flow out of the reactor core and into a safe containment basin (Hargraves and Moir, 2010; Juhasz, 2009; LeBlanc, 2009). It is clear from the differences in design that a LWR requires power to safely shut down the reactor (otherwise meltdown and steam explosions may occur) while a LFTR requires power to prevent a safe shutdown (Pool, 2013). Therefore in case control is lost, the LFTR will automatically and safely shut down (Ibid.). Sorensen even states that the first MSR prototype at Oak ridge would be shut down over the weekend by the scientists by figuratively pulling out the plug (Sorensen, 2009), demonstrating its inherit safety feature Availability of Thorium Thorium is estimated to be three to four times more abundant than uranium and can be found in most rocks and soils (LeBlanc, 2009). The World Nuclear Association estimates world thorium reserves at 5.4mln tonnes with large (concentrated) deposits in India, Turkey, Brazil, Australia and the USA (2013b; Sorensen, 2009). The reserves are enough to power the world for thousands of years (Juhasz et al, 2009) says Dr. Kloosterman, Delft University of Technology (Pool, 2013). While thorium based energy is finite, it is much more sustainable than other fossil fuels, even compared to uranium which has reserves for the next 100 (Foro Nuclear, 2011; NNL, 2012) to 230 years (Fetter, 2009). It is for this reason that thorium can be referred to as a sustainable energy source, while in reality it should be labelled as a finite sustainable energy source. In addition to reserves on earth, there are also thorium reserves discovered on Mars (NASA, 2001) and the Moon (Nature, 2011; Sorensen, 2009). As such Sorensen, an ex-nasa employee and nuclear scientist, judges thorium to be a suitable fuel for powering lunar stations (2009). 14 Jorrit Swaneveld 2014

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