Does anyone know anything about this? Normally I'd just turn the page, but this is the Skunk Works they're talking about.
Apparently it broke in four or five news sources yesterday, including Aviation Week, which is another one I never brush off. This text is from the SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) Daily Briefing:
"Lockheed Announces Plans For New Compact Fusion Reactor Concept.
lab planned to unveil a new concept nuclear fusion reactor in 10 years received significant attention from business, energy and technology news outlets...."
cleaner and more powerful than much larger, current nuclear systems
also be small and practical enough for applications ranging from interplanetary spacecraft and commercial ships to city power stations. It may even revive the concept of large, nuclear-powered aircraft that
abandoned more than 50 years ago because of the dangers and
Well, as far as I know, the controlled-fusion experiments have been done with deuterium, which is non-radioactive, for more than 40 years. When I co-owned a job shop in Princeton we made half our living by making parts for the Princeton Plasma Physics Tokomak reactor. That was a magnetic-containment project, too, and it fused deuterium.
But this is some kind of enormous advance in containment, and possibly in ignition. I haven't followed it for years but this sounds like a very big deal.
I've talked to my friend the physicist and he thinks that Lockheed doesn't actually have a working system yet but there have been "better than break-even" reactions done by various projects. It's said that fusion is only ten years away, and they have been saying that for fifty years...I guess it must be difficult. I do hope I see it in my lifetime and it's not pure politics.
Fission reactors have come a long way with new designs and fuels that show huge potential but it's all politics.
Thorium-cycle is just a variant of the fission fuel cycle. Had some advantages in reprocessing over Pu but since Carter nixed allowing any licensing of any reprocessing whatsoever, it's been over since then.
We had Thorium cycle designs in design at B&W when I was there in the
60s that could have delivered then if utilities had wanted to go that route. Of course, w/ the uncertainty looming, nobody wanted to take a chance (and they were proven right to not have done shortly thereafter).
Its been ten years in the future for the last 50 years.
LFTR/MSTR is proven, and only needs commercialization. Can use thorium, "spent" nuclear fuel rods (which still have
nuclear warhead material, solving those problems as well a generating cheap energy. From studies done, it appears to be practical to design a small rail possibly road transportable modular unit that can directly retrofit existing powerplants eliminating coal fired boilers, and making considerable numbers of smaller power generating stations again economically viable.
The PRC is known to have an intensive LSTR/MSTR program in operation as does India.
Unfortunately, that's not the way the world works. Laws/regulations/restrictions are implemented as knee-jerk over-reactions to some world event. Lobbying groups amplify/twist those events to get laws passed in their favor.
You can't get 'em undone.
We had an unfortunate roadside death. Before you could say boo, there were numerous new laws on the books. I'll stop short of saying that ANY death is allowed...but... one person out of the 40,000 other roadside deaths is a tiny drop in the bucket that started a flood of new legislation.
Just try to get it repealed...what? you want to kill the children?
Same goes for the tax code and the regulations on food.
One deranged kid shoots up a school and they want to take the gun out of my safe.
I live 20 miles from a fusion reactor that was decommissioned, primarily due to anti-nuke FUD. Needed some repairs and those had become prohibitively costly due to additional restrictions implemented since its inception. The utility and government just defaulted on the bonds and walked away.
The lobbyists made our bed...we gotta lay in it.
These days, you don't get approval for anything that doesn't fart unicorns and butterflies. But you can kill progress for any reason...and most are.
The promoters, lobbyists, marketeers, and scientists paid by the thorium consortium have overstated the bennifits and understated the risks. They have also published outright lies to push thier possition.
For some reason the salesmen forget to mention that in1955 the united states detonated a nuclear device that used fuel derived from a thorium reactor that operated at oak ridge national labs form the 1950's to the 1970's. "Operation Teapot".
Claim: thorium reactors do not produce plutonium, and so create little or no proliferation hazard.
Response: thorium reactors do not produce plutonium. But an LFTR could (by including 238U in the fuel) be adapted to produce plutonium of a high purity well above normal weapons-grade, presenting a major proliferation hazard. Beyond that, the main proliferation hazards arise from:
a.. ? the need for fissile material (plutonium or uranium) to initiate the thorium fuel cycle, which could be diverted, and
b.. ? the production of fissile uranium 233U.
Claim: the fissile uranium (233U) produced by thorium reactors is not "weaponisable" owing to the presence of highly radiotoxic 232U as a contaminant. Response: 233U was successfully used in a 1955 bomb test in the Nevada Desert under the USA's Operation Teapot and so is clearly weaponisable notwithstanding
any 232U present. Moreover, the continuous pyro-processing / electro-refining technologies intrinsic to MSRs / LFTRs could generate streams of 233U very low in 232U at a purity well above weapons grade as currently defined.
Claim: 100% of the thorium is usable as fuel, in contrast to the low (~0.7%) proportion of fissile 235U in natural uranium.
Response: Thorium must be subjected to neutron irradiation to be transformed into a fissile material suitable for nuclear fuel (uranium, 233U). The same applies to the 238U that makes up depleted uranium, which as already observed, is plentiful. In theory, 100% of either metal could be bred into nuclear fuel. However, uranium has a strong head start, as 0.7% of it is fissile (235U) in its naturally-occurring form.
Claim: Liquid fluoride thorium reactors generate no high-level waste material.
Response: This claim, although made in the report from the House of Lords, has no basis in fact. High-level waste is an unavoidable product of nuclear fission. Spent fuel from any LFTR will be intensely radioactive and constitute high level waste. The reactor itself, at the end of its lifetime, will constitute high level waste.
Claim: LFTRs can 'burn up' high level waste from conventional nuclear reactors, and stockpiles of plutonium.
Response: if LFTRs are used to 'burn up' waste from conventional reactors, their fuel now comprises 238U, 235U, 239Pu, 240Pu and other actinides. Operated in this way, what is now a mixed-fuel molten salt reactor will breed plutonium (from 238U) and other long lived actinides, perpetuating the plutonium cycle.
Claim: Thorium and the LFTR offer a solution to current and medium-term energy supply deficits.
Response: The thorium fuel cycle is immature. Estimates from the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory and the Chinese Academy of Sciences suggest that 10-15 years of research will be needed before thorium fuels are ready to be deployed in existing reactor designs. Production LFTRs will not be deployable on any significant scale for 40-70 years.