Power Reactors (of the LFTR Type) Can Replace Coal!

Power Reactors of the LFTR Type
Power Reactors of the Thorium satisfy US energy needs!

Power Reactors Can Take over from Coal Fire Plants for 1.6 Trillion

As you will read, it would take only 1.6 Trillion of capital costs (2009 adjusted numbers) to convert each of the existing coal-fired plants to super-safe LFTR power reactors.

This document references a study was done for Austrailia, below are the calculations I used to reach the 1.6 Trillion capital cost of the conversion from coal to LFTR power reactors for the USA.

Converting existing power plants can be done at lower cost than any other alternative – we’re only changing the heat source, and using the rest of the old plant.  This includes the turbines, the switch yard, the power supply contracts – everything but the hot bit.  The conversion would then work out to three hundred dollars a kilowatt.”

 “Power Australia while producing merely 48 tons of by-product per year (12 bathtubs of valuable, reusable and recyclable by-product, for such uses as light bulbs, catalytic converters and jewelry)” just imagine with the rate of consumption of energy in the USA how many tons of commercially usable byproducts we can make!

Remaining coal fire plant life extended from 25 years to at least 80 years“. That keeps our investment for an extra 55 years over the coal fire plants!

I bet you can’t get that kind of life expectancy out of any other alternative energy! In fact, some estimates say the power reactors would last for 100 years!

Below are some numbers borrowed from the Australian study that was done on the cost per megawatt-hour for the conversion process of 150 MW power reactors. Remember our power reactors are around 500 MW in size. The numbers should work out similar to those found for that study the only real difference is we would use multiple power reactors for each coal plant. (See bottom  for the link to the Australian power reactor study that I reference)

Item ($ per megawatt-hour)

Cost Category Now Converted Difference
Capital costs 11.81 22.73 10.92
Decommissioning 0.00 0.011 0.01
Fuel 11.14 0.015 -11.125
Carbon permit cost 10.86 -4.840 -15.710
Operations & maintenance 4.28 6.2 1.92
Total 38.09 24.12 -13.98

 

typical (500 megawatts) coal plant burns 1.4 million tons of coal each year. As of 2012, there are 572 operational coal plants in the U.S. with an average capacity of 547 megawatts.

Coal generates 44% of our electricity, and is the single biggest air polluter in the U.S.

A Watt is a unit of power, that is, a measure of energy produced or consumed per unit of time. In this case it is 1 Watt = 1 Joule / 1 second.  A megawatt is a million watts. If we want energy use in a specific time period, we don’t want to measure it in Watts (which are POWER, the RATE of energy use, remember). The usual way to measure electric energy consumption (e.g. for your house) is kilowatt-hours (that is, how much power you consume in kilowatts times the number of hours you consumed it). For the US, we could use Megawatt-hours (1 megawatt = 1000 kilowatts).

Electricity consumption by 107 million U.S. households in 2001 totaled 1,140 billion kWh. The most significant end uses were central air-conditioning and refrigerators, each of which accounted for about 14 percent of the U.S. total.

But that’s only houses. Wikipedia tells us the US uses 4,104,900,000,000 kWh per year. We can divide by 365 to get kWh per day and by 1000 to get Mega Watt-hours per day. That is 11,246,301 MWh per day.

That’s a lot! Divide by 24 hours in a day to get hourly. That comes out to be 468595.875 MW per hour at a cost of $10.92 for capital cost per MW-hour. It would cost an estimated $5,117,066.955  per MW-hour to convert the current coal power plants to LFTR power reactors (liquid salt only power reactors.)

That translates to $44,825,506,525.8 roughly 45 billion per year, or over 80 years capital expenditure upfront would be 3,586,040,522,064 or 3.6 Trillion dollars.

That buys us 80 years of energy supply from power reactors!

That would be the cost to convert the whole US economy to LFTR power reactors if we supplied all US power from coal fire plants.

However, this is not the case, since coal is responsible for only 44% of our consumption and a very dirty percent at that.  That would be an 80-year investment cost of 1,577,857,829,708.16 or 1.6 Trillion dollars.

When I say investment cost. I mean an upfront cost. This represents an investment that represents only 13.3% increase in our debt and could very well save the planet. This could CONSERVATIVELY be amortized over 40 or 50 years since the power reactors will last for 80 to a maximum of 100 years.

In another article, I demonstrate how we could pay for the power reactors conversion and also for instituting air carbon capture technology.

Here is an article I wrote on A Cost Analysis of Air Carbon Capture.

The elimination of carbon output by using LFTR power reactors over coal-fired plants would return huge sums over the 80-year life of the power reactors in the form of carbon credits.  In addition, it would buy us fifty years to perfect nuclear fusion, if we continue to properly fund fusion technology.

We would save 25 dollars/megawatt hour which would save us a rather small but significant sum of 11.714 million on carbon taxes at today’s rate. This would offset the cost of added operations and maintenance cost which comes to 899,704.08 dollars/megawatt hours over the cost of coal-fired plants.

We could also make part of this plan a mandate that the worst and easiest to remove 10% of inefficiency from our infrastructure be removed. This would reduce the cost of this implementation by 63 billion dollars. This is 63 billion better spent removing the gross waste out of the system with a shorter term gain that will further spur the economy  while the planning for the power reactors conversion is being implemented and research is being conducted.

We could mix it with solar and the wind to recapture the remaining energy market that is not already based on alternative energies. However, we would not be forced to make huge investments in these areas until we perfect them and bring their costs per watt down to a seductive and competitive price. For solar, we will reach this goal within 10 years. In some areas, wind is already competitive, but wind and solar do not work on a 24-hour basis so the whole energy economy could not be converted over to these alternative energies since power storage is not yet economical. LFTR nuclear power reactors, on the other hand, do not have this limitation. LFTR power reactors could take over 42% of our energy economy and fill in when large surges of power are needed (they have a very high-temperature cycle compared to conventional nuclear power reactors (3 times the working temperature)).

(Don’t forget we are also significantly increasing the life of the coal fire plants saving us huge future construction costs.)

We could use new techniques for concrete manufacturing that increases its strength, durability, and longevity while absorbing CO2 from the ash of steel plants which is currently just wasted. This would serve to further increase the negative CO2 footprint of  LFTR power reactors.

Let’s Face it, Nuclear Power Reactors have a “Bad Name”

 We have had many scary events that contribute to a public wariness of nuclear power reactors.

There are four major categories of concern that I can think of:

  1. Nuclear Meltdowns of Power Reactors
  2. Nuclear Proliferation of Fissile Materials Produced in Power Reactors
  1. 10,000 Year Waste Problem of  Uranium-Based Power Reactors
  2. Digging and Refinement Environmental Impacts of Power Reactors

Nuclear Melt Downs

With the technology that is inherent with LFTR Power Reactors (Lithium Florium Thorium Reactors) nuclear meltdowns are NOT possible. They do not need a containment vessel and cannot explode because LFTR power reactors do not involve materials that can achieve a self-sustained reaction and do not work under pressures.

No Boom is possible!

Proliferation

Nuclear weapons fall into two categories

  1. Dirty Bombs

Conventional explosions are used to spread radioactive material

  1. Atomic Bombs

Fission is triggered using an explosive material to create a huge amount of destructive free energy.

A very small amount of material that is made during the fissile reaction of Thorium power reactors can potentially be used to create dirty bombs. HOWEVER, unlike conventional power reactors, this material is suspended and dispersed in a large amount of liquid and needs to go through a difficult refinement process. The material is about the same volume as the size of a coke can per MW of power. Please see my article for arguments against LFTR power reactors which goes into the tremendous difficulty necessary to refine this waste product into a material which can be used in this manner. It is much more difficult to create any type of bombs from this material than it is with Uranium based fission. However to kick off the reaction a small amount of spent Uranium is used to start the reaction since it does not sustain a nuclear reaction on its own.

In the process of its action, it consumes existing stockpiles of Uranium. It is such a small quantity of Uranium that the current stockpiles will last us for 10’s of thousands of years no need to create more for use in these types of power reactors.

10,000 Year Waste Problem of Uranium-Based Power Reactors

The half-life of the byproducts of current nuclear power reactor plants is 10,000 years! On the other hand, the half-life of the very small (less than .1%) byproducts of LFTR power reactors only lasts for 300 years! The waste of a conventional power reactor is around 95%!

Think of that, it produces .1% of the waste and it only lasts for 300 years!  The current storage places that are available would allow safe holding of all the byproducts that would be produced by the USA for eighty years without the need to build more storage sites.

At the same time, the LFTR power reactors would allow us to consume existing stockpiles of DANGEROUS fissile material without the need to create more stockpiles. We would be replacing the 10,000-year waste with shorter lived 300-year waste.Think of that, we can get rid of dangerous stockpiles we have already built up in a SAFE manner so that we won’t need to guard them for the next 10,000 years!

Back when they started the Manhattan project, they rejected the refinement of these elements for use in the public domain for energy production because the same process could not be used to easily refine fissile material to make bombs!

Back then, it made sense to use a process that could be used making bombs as well as for domestic energy production because they were in a race to make as many bombs as possible and they killed two birds with one stone.

See my article on Ulterior Motives: The Energy Solution Ignored Since 1942′

 

Digging and Refinement Environmental Impacts of Thorium Power Reactors

It’s a very simple fact; ONE mountain pass in the mid-west contains enough Thorium to satisfy 100% of the US Energy needs for 1000 years!  The amount of environmental damage from obtaining Thorium would far less than the environmental impacts of those caused by obtaining natural gas and oil.

The radioactivity of all the byproducts of coal that we are adding to the atmosphere is far worse than the radioactive hazards of LFTR power reactors!

The amount of refinement necessary to make Thorium useful is minor when compared with the refinements necessary to make Uranium fissile.

 

Money Saved From Eliminating CO2 by Using Thorium Power Reactors

The fact is that the cost of this fix will save us so much money over the next 50 to 100 years from the damages to our cities from global warming that in the end, we will all be thankful for the investment.

Remember our children and our children’s children will suffer the worst effects of global warming as they will be alive when it happens. Indeed, with the parabolic advancement of science that we soon will encounter in the next 20 years, many of the adult generation of today will be around when this happens as well as we make inroads to conquering heart disease, cancer, and the slow progress of aging.

I feel it’s important to continue investing heavy in most forms of alternative energies, especially solar, the wind, and nuclear fusion because they will become effective and profitable solutions that need no subsidies in the future. The Wind has already reached an economical point in some areas, and solar will be cost effective within 10 years while nuclear fusion will probably take another 50 years to develop.

Unfortunately, we do not have 10 years that we can wait to start reducing out CO2 output. We need to act now with solutions that are on cost par with COAL production before we put enough CO2 in the atmosphere that leads to the runaway effect of Arctic methane escaping into the atmosphere that has begun occurring already. Methane is 700 times a better greenhouse gas than CO2 and we will end up reaching the tipping point sometime in the near future where methane will be released into the atmosphere in huge quantities. So urgency is of the utmost importance.

Feel Free to check my math, and to post any comments or replies I am not infallible and debate is an intrinsic and wonderful part of being a free nation!

To see Alex Goodwin’s solution worked out for Australia which I have adapted to bring these numbers to life for the USA.

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