Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I've studied this for years and haven't found any credible reason why we couldn't do this today.

But there are a lot of forces allied against Thorium in both the government, energy companies and the current nuclear industry.

Senator Hatch (R) Utah with support from Harry Reid (D) Nevada has introduced a bill annually for five years to fund $200 million to research to commercialize Thorium power. Yet every year the bill never even gets voted on.

http://hatch.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=releases&Cont...

What is stopping Google itself from funding this I don't know? Our country should make this a major initiative similar to the race to the moon and get us off coal, oil and gas.




I'm not sure if the following links refer to the same thorium architecture but in Germany there was a test-reactor and several rather hard to solve problems appeared

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THTR-300

http://juwel.fz-juelich.de:8080/dspace/bitstream/2128/3136/1... [50+ page PDF outlining the problems]


That was a pebble bed reactor which had issues with high pressure containment vessels and solid fuel. The reactors recommended in the video are molten salt reactors which do not have the same issues.


I think the issues were not only technical, as in P and fuel. The trouble was with those who were responsible for the pebble bed reactor project, and accountancy to the public.

The moment management knowingly blamed accidents on Russians with oversight from the authority, they played away their authority to the right of running such experiments: be it solid fuel or liquid.

People (rightly) assume, that the blatant lies were independent of the phase of the fuel

(AVR and HTR as separate projects make no difference in this respect either). And this is what is biting TEPCO: the series of "white" lies.


We could start scaling up research today, which we should, but it's a bit much to say we could start building Thorium power reactors today. Other reactor designs are far, far more developed and generally have had full-scale pilot reactors built and operated, the same is not true for Thorium reactors.


Another data point:

Even in India (which has 25% of world's Thorium reserves), it is a mystery to many, as to why the Govt. chose not to invest more heavily in Thorium based research, rather than going for traditional ones.

Edit: grammar.


Not sure how you figure that, India's whole research program is geared toward a pure-thorium future.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India%27s_three_stage_nuclear_p...


India seems to only go for technologies that foreign companies have developed. Guess why? Kick backs are a nice way of living the good life. This, even as recent hikes in fuel prices across the country are putting paid to the dreams of a growing economy.


You guys must be kidding: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nl5DiTPw3dk


I would love to see this being scaled up and put into production. I've been hearing about thorium reactors for the last 20 years.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_India

"The country is involved in the development of nuclear fusion reactors through its participation in the ITER project and is a global leader in the development of thorium-based fast breeder reactors."


Because uranium is cheap, so why bother? The price of nuclear energy is dominated by the cost of building the reactor, not the fuel.


Did you watch the video?

The reactors he presented appeared to be much simpler (so... they'd likely be cheaper).


As a nuclear engineer, I doubt it.


Sorry to say this but you have probably been deceived by the nuclear industry. First of all thorium is much cheaper (about 160 times I think), secondly it's far more abundant and third LFTR has a much better design.

The industry dismissed liquid reactors because of the problem extracting weapon grade material. Uranium based reactors where not as safe nor as cheap. During the cold war this made sense but not today.

It has also been about people protection their jobs. The uranium based industry can't say that something else is better because then they might lose their jobs. And who do you think the politicians ask when they want advice?


Sorry to say this but you have probably been deceived by the nuclear industry.

Or perhaps you've been swept up by the breathless prose of popular science articles?

As far from peak uranium as we appear to be, there is simply no need to explore alternative fuel sources. Fuel is not scarce. The capital (political and financial) to build infrastructure - both power plants and reprocessing plants - is.

In that climate, the (never-been-built-or-licensed) LFTR is only a game-changer if its construction (and licensing and R&D) costs are an order of magnitude lower than those of current-gen reactors. This I highly doubt.


Waste disposal/processing isn't cheap and Thorium produces significantly less waste than Uranium.


Thorium waste will be indistinguishable from Uranium waste for the next 100 years, from a public policy perspective, unless we first build a reprocessing plant.

(To be more specific, it's the absence of nuclides with mass number greater than 238 in Thorium waste that makes it less problematic than Uranium waste. These nuclides dominate the long-time, i.e. millenium, radiation profile of the waste. The short-time, i.e. decade/century, radiation profile of the waste is dominated by lower-mass-number fission products, abundant in both types of waste)

Reprocessing plants are extraordinarily expensive to build and operate, more so even than reactors themselves.


And thorium is bound to be even cheaper, as it's readily available in massive quantities.


Like I said, the cost of fuel doesn't matter. Fuel could be free, and a new reactor would still take forever to pay for itself.


But if you look at the design you will see that it's much more simple than a PWR. All calculations I've seen puts the cost of construction well below the cost of modern PWRs.

And the cost of fuel is still important, uranium isn't getting cheaper.


> All calculations I've seen puts the cost of construction well below the cost of modern PWRs.

And what calculations are those?


Google is not in nuclear energy business.

It would be better for all of us if Google stays focused in software development.


Google is in the renewable energy business. They have devoted well over $400Million US to solar, hydro, and wind power startups. They see energy as their biggest cost point in the next decade (powering data centers is not trivial).


Google is in search business.

I think focusing on power is a mistake for Google (unless founders are having fun toying with power).


Google is a pretty large and technically savvy advertising company that does search and a bunch of other things.

If energy costs are eating into their bottom line and they have the cash, why shouldn't they invest into new energy tech. Seems like a good business decision to me


"why shouldn't they invest into new energy tech"

Because amount of attention that top management have is limited.

Google would be better off if they focus on their core products.

For example, Search.


If Google has actually spent that much on renewables, then why didn't they give Bussard the measly $5M (or maybe it was $20M) for which he practically begged them, back on 11/09/06? He needed $200M, over 5 years, to build his fusion reactor, but only a small fraction of that to confirm some important experimental results which he had achieved just before the Navy cut his funding. He believed that he could get that confirmation, and that it would be enough to show that proceeding with the $200M investment would be prudent. I was quite sad to see that he died about 11 months later, having not achieved his dream, and having been reduced to begging at the end of his life. Google not only should have given him the $5M/$20M, but they should have been thrilled and honored to have such an intellect even speaking to them. Fuck Google's shortsightedness.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=FhL5VO2NStU http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_W._Bussard http://newmexico.watchdog.org/7104/fusion-energy-promises-yi...


http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/06...

$280Million just in june.

I don't know anything about Bussard, but seems like he unfortunately passed away before completing his research (which admittedly was underfunded). However I wonder if part of the reason for it being underfunded is that it promised power that was TOO cheap. Too cheap to profit at the same scale as coal etc.


The response said what is stopping google from 'funding' this, not 'creating' this. Of course, they would benefit too.


"Funding" requires focus too.


Enough focus to say, "Hey, good idea". I think it would be better for all of us if Google got any of the potential patents as well. Even if it isn't their main business.




Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: