Why we are still screwed….. Thorium or no Thorium!

26 04 2014
Kirk Sorensen

Kirk Sorensen

I recently had the pleasure of my son the physicist’s presence while my back was doing its thing and disallowing me from doing anything worthwhile….  Discussing our predicaments with this young man’s alert mind is very satisfying, even inspiring at times… what he has learned at University is truly fascinating.  Somehow we got on the subject of Thorium, which he seems to believe may have a future, as long as we can get around the extremely corrosive effects of Fluorine, an element bonded to the Thorium as Thorium Tetrafluoride.  Alex tells me the Chinese and Indians are onto the solutions….. time will tell.

I relayed my concerns to him that ‘unlimited energy’ might also result in ‘unlimited damage’, something he had not considered, but then rebutted by saying it could also result in ‘unlimited damage repair’, something I hadn’t thought about..!

Anyhow, to cut to the chase, no sooner had Alex left our place, along comes this (two hour – 400MB!) movie in my busy in-tray.  It’s way too long methinks, but I recommend you view the first half hour – after which you’ll “get it”, and then the last forty or so minutes which I thought were actually the best bits….. you will not believe your ears and eyes on the total idiocy that is occurring with regards to rare earths…….  One thing I found amazing was that he actually believes the powerful and the rich only oppressed the masses before ‘the enlightenment’ of the current era.  Exactly what does he think is currently going on..?  This segment also makes fleeting mention of the cost of employment….  which is why I believe we need to abandon money as we known it.  The very reason we have so much nuclear waste, this film claims, is down to money… it is simply uneconomical to deal it.  We must stop measuring the ‘worth’ of things in money, and return to the days when money was exclusively used for trading, and nothing else.

When I was young, I remember being promised energy so limitless and so cheap, no one would have to work.  Instead, we now have a government wanting to raise the pension age to 70 and enslave every last one of us to meaningless, unsustainable, and unsatisfying work.  The Matrix is alive and well in Joe Hockey..!  I don’t know how many times I have said that the Matrix need a reboot, but this film has more than convinced me I am right…..

I have to say, Kirk Sorensen is very convincing.  It’s a pity the film is so repetitive and so focused on Sorensen who is obviously passionate about the concept.  He makes all the right noises; we have to stop using fossil fuels, and renewables won’t cut the mustard, both of which I utterly agree with.  And the idea of actually removing CO2 from the air and turning it back into liquid fuel like petrol/gasoline and diesel certainly has appeal.  Though one aspect (CO2 extraction) is remedial, while the other (unlimited amounts of liquid fuel) could potentially see the deforestation of the Amazon through to its disastrous finale…….  There are even people apparently working on Thorium powered cars which they claim could run for a hundred years on 8 grams of Thorium, thereby totally bypassing making liquid fuel and/or storage batteries..!  Not even my son, however, believes that will ever actually happen…. that will have to be another discussion next time he visits.

jensenhedges_160I’ve been downloading loads of podcasts lately, which I listen to in my car (which has a far superior sound to my laptop!).  One in particular I found really compelling.  Derrick Jensen and Chris Hedges discuss What is it going to take for concerned and engaged citizens to finally feel as though some crucial threshold has been crossed—that our nation’s political system and the global corporate culture it both serves and feeds into will never represent them or serve their needs? Continuing along that line, what’s to be done once that realization has hit home, as it has for authors Chris Hedges and Derrick Jensen? Both Hedges and Jensen offer their ideas in this July 5 interview with Mount Royal University professor Michael Truscello.

As it happened, I listened to it almost immediately after watching the Thorium doco….. and between the last forty minutes of the latter and the discussion between Jensen and Hedges, I came away utterly convinced that Thorium will never stop collapse from happening.  It’s simply too late for solutions, and worse, the very people who are in charge of the Matrix are against applying solutions, whether they are Thorium or not, because such solutions removes their power and makes them poorer.  By the time we the people wrest this power and wealth from the owners of the Matrix, if ever, to redirect it to forming the new sustainable world we all crave…… the world will be in such a mess that instigating any remedial action will not be possible.

I thought the concept of the corporate world turning everything into commodities, from people to the natural world, particularly compelling.  Nothing gets done unless there’s money to be made, and frankly, Thorium is far too efficient (Sorensen claims 1 million times more efficient than fossil fuels!) for them to make profits from such an energy source!

Sorensen himself, unknowingly touches on this in the last forty minutes of his film.  He would, of course, be totally unawares of the issues we discuss here on DTM….  such is the power of specialisation.  Ask him where his money comes from, and I’m almost certain he would not have a clue.  Hopium rules…..

On a lighter note…… you may get a laugh over this;  I sure did!  Enjoy your weekend.




12 responses

26 04 2014
Alex Stasse

“Nothing gets done unless there’s money to be made, and frankly, Thorium is far too efficient (Sorensen claims 1 million times more efficient than fossil fuels!) for them to make profits from such an energy source!”

I can’t agree with this comment. Just because the fuel source is extremely abundant doesn’t mean there isn’t any money to be made in selling power this way. There may not be much profit to be made in SELLING thorium to power companies, but that doesn’t matter since there doesn’t exist a mine which can only extract thorium. Mines may allow power companies to come get it themselves just to get it out of the way.

And the fuel is only a small part of the cost of power production (otherwise renewable energy would be free!). The only way Thorium will ever be made cost ineffective is if there is another energy source which is cheaper that can fulfill 100% of our electricity needs, which I think you’ll agree isn’t going to happen.

27 04 2014
Mulga Mumblebrain

As Jevons noted some hundreds of years ago (well twoish)if you get more energy you get more consumption of energy and more ecological destruction (the last bit as far as I know didn’t concern Jevons). Techno-fixes always create more ecological destruction, of new types and old. The only hope is de-growth, perhaps in a circular economy that recycles everything and that aims at lower economic size, year by year. Easily affordable with the wealth on Earth, but only when it is redistributed away from the kleptocrats. So goodbye capitalism.

26 04 2014

“There may not be much profit” IS the point though Alex….. they care more about how much profit they make than what they make them from…..

27 04 2014
Mulga Mumblebrain

What’s wrong about making money from peddling cigarettes that kill half the addicts, or infant formula in poor countries that kills babies, or asbestos decades after it was known to be deadly dangerous, or depleted uranium munitions, or junk food to ensure children live shorter lives than their parents? That’s the essence of capitalism. Whatever it takes to make money, as much as possible, and to hell with the victims. The religion of the psychopath.

26 04 2014
Alex Stasse

You missed my point, which is that mines are already making a huge profit selling the rare resources they’re trying to get to and thorium is a waste product. It’s already just sitting around taking up space, there is no reason NOT to let someone come and take it away, even for free! It’s like free garbage removal!

26 04 2014
Capitalism IS the Crisis…. | Damn the Matrix

[…] I heard this film mentioned by Derrick Jensen at the end of that podcast I mentioned in Why we are still screwed….. Thorium or no Thorium! […]

24 05 2014
Eclipse Now

“Nothing gets done unless there’s money to be made” This is simply not true. The ACF returned billions of tons of water to the Murray Darling, Landline just covered the successful rabbit and mice removal from Macquarie Island (even though there still are some concerns about important local vegetation suffering from weather and disease changes), and many other important environmental programs continue despite Hockey & Co.

Environmental wars are fought, and damage repaired, sometimes in spite of the cost!

Indeed, the economics of fixing this might not be the problem at all. Economics is a tool: we’re just using it poorly. Please check out the first 10 minutes of this talk where the brilliant “Richard Denniss: Executive Director of The Australia Institute and Adjunct Associate Professor at the Crawford School of Economics and Government, ANU ”
He has some *great* material on economics. Richard slays various economic myths, and shows how the dreaded dollar can actually be used to steer our vast economies in the right direction. GDP, shmeedeepee. He just doesn’t care! Check it out.

Resource constraints stimulate new thinking and solutions. Watch Landline more. About half our fish comes from aquaculture: and the greatest problem there is the feedstock comes from bottom trawling our oceans and shredding *all* that by-catch into our fish farms. Not any more!
Fantastic new source of food:
* traditional aquaculture trawls the oceans for by-catch to munch up and feed to captive fish
* this system replaces ocean feedstock with microorganisms grown in nearby tanks
* Or it can be grown in the prawn farm’s own prawn ponds in the 6 month off season
* half the world’s seafood is farmed, so if we eventually replace unsustainble by-catch feedstocks with sustainably grown feedstock pellets, the oceans may get a chance to recover
* it increases marginal prawn farms to profitable prawn farms because the prawns grow 40% larger and are healthier
* increased health gains mean more prawns can be grown in closer proximity
* more prawns in each pond increases production & profits,=
* spin off’s not listed on the show but that I am considering are possible increases in our understanding of micro-plankton or algae growth for feedstocks for other industries.

Alex is right. If we *back* these initiatives, ‘unlimited damage repair’ is an option. We need to back Thorium, back National Parks, back carefully secluded seed banks and biological ‘arks’, and even back Integral Fast reactors (which the Thorium enthusiasts don’t seem to talk about in their constant ranting against uranium — as you know today’s so called ‘spent fuel waste’ could run the world for 500 years!)

And of course we must back the eco-city and architectural and cultural efficiency measures you know and love, and that my Phd sister-in-law has recently written about: dedicating the book to Tas who lost hope and took his life because of the memes he picked up from prophets of doom!

25 05 2014
waffler observer

Agreed; we should have started construction back in the 90s and 00s…
it should be made the top priority now,
even so, as Lowe suggests and the IEA and IIASA warn,
we could face Chernobyl-style events if proper precautions aren’t taken.

I’m partial to the new waves of solar collectors, and new nano techs (heading in the direction of Dyson/Drexler ideas), I’d like to buy as much time for this as possible, so as many people from as diverse a background can survive with the best quality of life possible — thats our ambition here in the long term.

I think it’ll be a close call indeed,
a character building experience for those who survive (and who knows, maybe harlan ellison and gene roddenbury weren’t far wrong)…

11 02 2015

AND of course we still have the thorny issue of the cost of decommissioning the CURRENT 400 odd nukes being so high, they alone could bankrupt the world before we pay for anything else…..

11 02 2015
Eclipse Now

If we had built today’s passive safety nukes at Chernobyl and Fukushima, the majority of people around the world wouldn’t remember those names! Also, with 500 years of energy wrapped up in ‘nuclear waste’ (the longer lived actinides), future LFTR and IFR companies will not have the financial burden of mining uranium once all that lovely nuclear waste is ‘bred up’ into fuel again! That means more profits = more money for decomissioning.
Lastly, the nuclear waste one human lifetime produces? A whole human’s energy requirements, cradle to grave, including synfuels for airlines and harvesters? 1 golf ball. 1 golf ball of waste for a whole human lifetime. This is the *real* waste after all the actinides have been burned away, the shorter lived fission products. And it only has to be stored for 500 years, and then it’ll be safe. The whole of Australia for 70 years would only produce a few Olympic pools of waste. If the reactor is on a geologically stable place, once the uranium goes in, I can’t see any reason why it ever has to come out. Burn it, store it, and 500 years later build over it!

12 02 2015

IF this was so…. WHY are they spending 67 bilion poubds in the UK to decommission Sellafield? WHY will it take 100 years? HOW will this even happen when in much less than 100 years there won’t be the FFs to even finish decommissioning Sellafield? And lastly, WHY are they extending the lives of all those old and decrepit power stations instead of building your miracles and using the waste therefrom?

12 02 2015
Eclipse Now

We don’t have active breeders in Western countries because of Clinton (and politicians like him in Australia). Clinton was frightened of the ‘P’ word (plutonium) and shut down the Integral Fast Reactor called the EBR2 which ran at Argonne Labs successfully for decades. It survived multiple Fukushima styled power outages.
It performed well, and bred fuel.
It was the prototype of GE’s PRISM reactor, the only power *source* humanity needs (if I had to pick one) to survive and prosper for a billion years. (It can produce so much power it can produce all the synfuels or charge all the EV’s or run all the trains, trams, and trolley buses we could ever want).
But… FUD killed the program.

But it’s not stopping them overseas.
The Indians are building their own 500MWe fast breeder.

China has their own EBR2 program

China will mass produce another variety of breeder cheaper than coal in just 8 years!

China is also *very* serious about my *favourite* breeder reactor, the LFTR (pronounced ‘Lifter’ = Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor)
– China’s thorium project was launched as a high priority by princeling Jiang Mianheng, son of former leader Jiang Zemin, in 2013
– 140 PHD scientists and $350 million, so far.
– 750 staff by 2015 but could be more
– Opens the floodgates for a massive, worldwide nuclear comeback once people understand how safe and reliable LFTR’s are

Thorium wastes are fairly long lived, but IFR’s eat those wastes down to the 300 year lifetime. Climatologist Dr James Hansen supports these reactors: get the free book by his friend Tom Blees here.

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