How a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) works

Marshall Brain

With concern about global climate change and oil prices both peaking, people are looking for alternatives. Wind and solar are possibilities, but have problems with inconsistency. Traditional nuclear reactors are a proven technology but have perceptual problems with safety and waste products.

The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor has the potential to create a safer and less expensive nuclear technology for generating electricity. The promise is expressed in this video:

The following video is a compression of several longer videos on LFTR technology:

Here is one of the long versions if you seek completeness:

This article presents an interesting statistic:

the thorium present in mine tailings and in surface monazite sands, burning coal at the average 1000 MWe power plant produces about 13 tons of thorium per year. That thorium is recoverable from the power plant's waste ash pile. One ton of thorium will produce nearly 1 GW of electricity for a year in an efficient thorium cycle reactor. Thus current coal energy technology throws away over 10 times the energy it produces as electricity. This is not the result of poor thermodynamic efficiency; it is the result of a failure to recognize and use the energy value of thorium. The amount of thorium present in surface mining coal waste is enormous and would provide all the power human society needs for thousands of years, without resorting to any special mining for thorium, or the use of any other form or energy recovery.

A summary of how this technology works: 1) You start with a fluoride salt. In this reactor it will be heated so much that it melts. 2) You dissolve thorium fluoride in the liquid salt. 3) Thorium-232 absobs neutrons and turns info Uranium-233. 4) The Uranium-233 fissions and produces heat plus more neutrons.

The fission products are relatively benign and short-lived compared to those of a traditional reactor.

Advantages include: 1) There is no pressure - unlike traditional nuclear reactors which contain high pressue steam. So the reactor cannot explode. 2) The fuel does not need to be shaped into pellets 3) The reactor can add fuel and remove waste at any time 4) There are no weapon-grade materials involved 5) Thorium is abundant and most of it is used up in the reaction

See also: - The CANDU reactor - an interesting way to create nuclear power - Thorium-fueled nuclear reactors - Will MIT create fusion power?