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Khand-e mentioned that I should share my thoughts on thorium reactors in my primer on nuclear energy.  I swear I'm still working on the primer; it's 2,800 words and climbing; about halfway through the outline.

 

So, seeing as that's a ways off, I thought I would explain my reservations about thorium power.  You may want to watch Kirk Sorensen's presentation on liquid fluoride thorium reactors.

 

Nuclear fission relies on splitting actinide atoms.  There are two actinides which occur naturally on Earth; uranium and thorium.  Uranium on earth is about 99.3% uranium-238, and about .7% uranium-235.  Except for the tiniest trace amounts, all thorium on Earth is thorium-232.  Of these three naturally occurring actinides, only uranium-235 is fissile; that is, only it can sustain a nuclear fission chain reaction.

 

However, uranium-238 and thorium-232 can be transmutated, or bred into plutonium-239 and uranium-233, respectively, which are man-made fissile isotopes.

 

There's my first beef right there; it's very slick marketing to claim that thorium, which relatively few people have heard of or have any familiarity, will allow all these nifty reactor design features, but with one exception it doesn't.  This is because thorium must be bred into uranium before it will sustain a nuclear chain reaction!  Therefore, cool tricks like liquid fluoride cores don't require thorium fuel cycles.  Uranium-235 and uranium-233 have identical chemical properties, and the only molten-salt reactor ever built initially used familiar uranium-235 as fuel.

 

In fact, the only thing that thorium lets you do that can't be done with conventional uranium fuel cycles is the creation of a thermal breeder reactor.   Now, I don't want to downplay that; that's pretty damn nifty.  Combining the simplicity of a thermal neutron nuclear reactor with the capacity to breed fuel is very slick and useful itself.  Kirk Sorensen never mentions it in his presentations on the LFTR concept because his audience is a bunch of fucking peasants who have no idea what the difference between thermal neutrons and fast neutrons is.

 

That is the biggest problem with how Kirk Sorensen is evangelizing the LFTR; he's sullying himself with the stench of ignorant peasants, routinely coming into contact with the disgusting little vermin and sullying his credibility.  Even his blog, where he actually does a pretty good job of addressing some of the more technical problems with the LFTR design, is a writhing hotbed of peasant-speak:

 

"In nuclear engineering, the fancy term for this feature is the average logarithmic energy decrement per collision. And if that’s not fancy enough, they use a funny Greek letter that looks like a squiggle to represent it. I think the letter is actually called “xi”, but I prefer to call it “squiggle” since that’s what it looks like."

 

By Mitra, Huitzilopochtli, Kamapua'a and all other gods of upright manly virtue have some fucking pride man!  Peasants may be illiterate, sub-human slime, but they are aware of when you're talking down to them (that's why I never bother to hide it).  You are not making friends by calling ξ "squiggle."  You are not helping peasants to understand the math of neutron mean free travel vis a vis moderator atomic mass by calling ξ "squiggle."  Kirk Sorensen, you worked for NASA and you are an aerospace engineer.  You don't call ξ "squiggle" because you are retarded; you do not get to work for NASA and be an aerospace engineer if you are retarded.  In fact, there are many educated people who can't be arsed to remember the Greek letters.  They do not call them "squiggle" in public because it sounds retarded.

 

The reason he does all this embarrassing crap is that Kirk Sorensen thinks that the key to his glorious, nuclear-powered future is peasants.  That's why when he talks about the loss of steam pressure in a pressurized or boiling water reactor, he doesn't mention that this actually stops the reaction cold due to the negative void coefficient of reactivity in all such designs approved for operation in the United States.  Peasants don't understand what a "negative void coefficient of reactivity" is, and they would be terrified and confused if you ever mentioned the term to them.  This is why he doesn't mention that higher fuel burnup can be achieved in fast neutron reactors, even though his blog betrays the fact that he is perfectly aware of their existence.  He's got to keep the message simple, something that peasants can understand.  Thorium = good!  Old nuclear may have = bad, but thorium = good!

 

The tragedy of all this is that Kirk Sorensen doesn't realize that all his pandering will get him nowhere.  Masses of peasants cannot be galvanized into action to change the future.  Peasants are shiftless and lazy, and only too happy to wait and see what happens instead of taking action.  That's why they're peasants.  Peasants only join the revolution because they were forced to at gunpoint, or because the revolution was about to win anyway.  Kirk Sorensen is not forcing peasants to support liquid fluoride thorium reactors at gunpoint; ergo they are useless to him.

 

Kirk Sorensen was, tragically, misled into believing that you can achieve great things by being nice and agreeable and inoffensive.  The Carter Administration banned waste reprocessing and all the fast neutron reactors in the USA have been shut down?  No problem!  Using speculative thorium fuel cycles, we can get the advantages of fuel reprocessing and breeder reactors without using any of the verboten technologies!  Get some grassroots support for the idea, and soon the future will have clean, cheap energy and won't suck anymore!

 

No, no, no.  It doesn't work that way.  Your enemies are hippies, and while hippies fold like tissue paper when sprayed with oleoresin capsaicin or beaten with nightsticks, an army of hippies beats an army of peasants every time.  That's how useless peasants are.  If this LFTR thing ever gets off the ground in a serious way (and I would be tickled if it did), hippies will emerge from the filthy mud pits whence they are bred and descend on you.  They'll cherry-pick problems with your reactor design, and if that's too difficult, they'll make them up, and raise such a stink that your beautiful, thorium-powered future is strangled to death by regulatory tape before it even begins.

 

And that's the real reason thorium is going nowhere in the USA.  Hell, that's the real reason that nothing will go anywhere in the USA, until we do something about the hippie problem.

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I have precisely no detailed knowledge of how nuclear fission works, so I am unqualified to speak to the major content of this post.

However, as a (barely) qualified gene-jockey and grizzled GMO warrior I can personally attest to the fact that hippies are simply the worst. Further, I know from bitter experience that they simply cannot be placated, reasoned with or bargained with.

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Okay, so I'm working off my phone (power failure) with a baby on my lap. In any case, here is a quick rundown:

Hippies suck. They've essentially shut down GMO research in Europe (over 60% of all test fields get destroyed), demonstrating that terrorism works like gangbusters when you're sufficiently white and well-off. On that note, it's also a myth that hippies are some sort of sidelined underclass. The truth is that hippies were always the scions of the upper crust and think and act in ways that the romantic aristocrats would fully understand. Which also explains why so many of them wholeheartedly embrace population control and euthanasia to prevent those overbreedin' third worlders from sucking up mother earth's scarce resources.

As to their other relationships with the poors, hippies are generally much happier with dependance and 'noble' poverty than they are with development and investment. Which is one of the reasons why we still have a ridiculously destructive and predatory food-aid system rather than anything helpful.

Finally, a personal story: a few years ago, I was holidaying in the Cape during the fire season. At this time, there were two major events playing out in the area. The first was a series of massive fires in the Cape flats, which killed many people and left hundreds homeless. The second was a confused humpback whale which beached itself near Hermanus.

The latter resulted in candle-lit vigils and numerous, expensive attempts to return the poor addled creature to the sea. When it inevitably died, there was an outpouring of grief by the well-off hippies who had gone to light candles next to the beast.

The former resulted in shrugs.

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SJW is kind of a meaningless term, since it's used to shut down debate against basically anyone arguing against the socioeconomic status quo with little rhyme or reason. A lot of people who get called that most emphatically aren't neo-luddites who prefer a good view to alleviating human suffering and are petrified of any technology that wasn't mainstream in their childhood but will blithely accept anything from then.

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I get called one a bunch on imgur for getting pissed off with the continual anti-feminist circlejerk, does that count? Frankly though it's an awful term because it really doesn't specify any defining characteristic that actually properly distinguishes the people who outright suck and are too busy playing privlege power politics or people actually just trying to tone down the hate. So it's all too easy for people to throw that title around and dismiss your opinions because you don't match the in-group's accepted opinions.

 

Unlike hippies, which by definition are neo-luddite morons who'd rather empathize with animals than the poor because then they might be expected to actually do something to help humans.

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Okay, so I'm working off my phone (power failure) with a baby on my lap. In any case, here is a quick rundown:

Hippies suck. They've essentially shut down GMO research in Europe (over 60% of all test fields get destroyed), demonstrating that terrorism works like gangbusters when you're sufficiently white and well-off. On that note, it's also a myth that hippies are some sort of sidelined underclass. The truth is that hippies were always the scions of the upper crust and think and act in ways that the romantic aristocrats would fully understand. Which also explains why so many of them wholeheartedly embrace population control and euthanasia to prevent those overbreedin' third worlders from sucking up mother earth's scarce resources.

As to their other relationships with the poors, hippies are generally much happier with dependance and 'noble' poverty than they are with development and investment. Which is one of the reasons why we still have a ridiculously destructive and predatory food-aid system rather than anything helpful.

Finally, a personal story: a few years ago, I was holidaying in the Cape during the fire season. At this time, there were two major events playing out in the area. The first was a series of massive fires in the Cape flats, which killed many people and left hundreds homeless. The second was a confused humpback whale which beached itself near Hermanus.

The latter resulted in candle-lit vigils and numerous, expensive attempts to return the poor addled creature to the sea. When it inevitably died, there was an outpouring of grief by the well-off hippies who had gone to light candles next to the beast.

The former resulted in shrugs.

 

 

Holy crap, I'd heard about people destroying GMO test fields, but I didn't realize that the campaigns to do so were so extensive and coordinated.

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Much as I loathe siding with the Further Left, I have to agree with them that "terrorist" is basically the current code for "enemy".

 

They've got terrorists too if we stick with the definition of people who use violence and fear to further their political aims, although they tend to implicit violence, where their actions merely indirectly cause bloodshed. I tend to maintain the primary difference is how well the perpetrator sleeps however.

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  • 1 month later...

If LFTRs start getting a foothold, I'm curious how long it will take for the anti-nuclear crowd to start crowing about proliferation dangers.

 

Sure; it's an accepted fact now that you can't make a bomb with LFTR fuel because U232 contamination would hopelessly complicate matters.  Enrichment technologies powerful enough to remove the U232 would have to be so effective that it would simply be easier to make a bomb from scratch rather than using spent fuel.

 

This logic is (given current enrichment techologies) sound.  For now, people buy it.

 

However, it is equally logical to point out that making a bomb from spent fuel from a light water reactor is basically impossible for a similar reason.  Pu240 hopelessly contaminates the remaining Pu239, and any enrichment technology effective enough to separate the two could just as easily make a bomb from scratch.

 

This has not stopped anti-nuclear activists from claiming that there is a clear proliferation hazard from spent LWR fuel elements.

 

This is basically an addendum to the OP; hippies don't run on logic.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I hate peasant journalism so much.

 

In the entire article they make literally three correct claims:

 

1)  That thorium MOX has a higher melting point than UO2

2)  That thorium MOX has a higher thermal conductivity than UO2

3)  That there is a company in Norway called Thor Energy that is using thorium MOX in reactors.

 

Literally everything else they say is wrong.

 

Thorium 231 is not fissile.  While it's true that fissile isotopes are usually odd-numbered, not all odd-numbered actinide isotopes are fissile.

 

Obviously, thorium MOX does not "do away with uranium" BECAUSE THORIUM HAS TO BE BRED INTO URANIUM 233 IN ORDER TO PRODUCE FISSION AND I WILL KEEP SAYING THIS OVER AND OVER UNTIL THE FILTHY, MUD-LOVING FILTHY PEASANT SCUM IN THE POP SCIENCE JOURNALISM INDUSTRY UNDERSTAND THIS INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS AND SIMPLE FACT OH GOD I HATE PEASANTS SO MUCH I HATE THEM AND I HATE THE MUD THAT THEY WALLOW IN WHY CAN'T WE HAVE CLEAN MUD ALL THESE GODDAMN PEASANTS ARE POLLUTING THE MUD!

 

Yeah, read the whole thing, or don't.  It's horrible.  I hate peasants.  I hate hippies.  I hate them all.

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  • 6 months later...

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