Thorium, China, India, PIIGS Demographics

There is a curious shift in the world. Everything old is new again… and everything new is aging badly.

Not too long ago, the USA was a center of growth and innovation in the world. Leaders in manufacturing, creation of new designs, research to find ever newer technologies to explore and exploit. Now not so much…

China and India were old. Stagnant. Or worse, having a ‘great leap backward’…

Europe was chock full of young folk ‘yearning to breath free’, rushing to America.

But now fortunes wheel has turned.

Demographics in Southern Europe

I’ve talked about demographics before. And about the “demographic bomb” of the baby boomers in the USA expecting to retire, but not enough workers to support them, pay their pensions, medical care, change the bed pans, etc. There’s a similar issue brewing in Europe. But this article has an interesting point of view on it all.

Who will pay the bonds?

While the USA debt maturity (so far) is not too bad, that is, it is fairly short average maturity, the different countries in Europe each have their own maturity profile. Many government bonds (from all countries) are in longer maturities. Such as 30 year bonds. (Some up to 50 or more in the past.) So who will pay a 30 year bond? Not the 70 year old of today. Most likely not even the 35 year old of today (as they will be retired in 30 years… at least, they expect to be if in Europe).

Southern Europe: Beyond a Demographic Point of No Return
July 7, 2011

The absence of the devaluation option within the Euro mechanism requires a great deal more theater on the part of feckless and incompetent politicians who made their careers by dispensing borrowed money to their voters.

That is true for the moment, when the elder dependent ratio for Southern Europe stands at around 25%. Between 2020 and 2045, however, the infertility of Southern Europe will catch up with it, and the elder dependent ratio will rise to over 60%–an impossible, unmanageable number.

2020 is not that far away. 7 years? From 25% elder dependents ramping up to 60%? 2045 is only 32 years away. So 30 year bonds issued now will be repaid by whom in 2043 ? Hmmmm? The 50% to 60% who are trying to support the other half of the population while trying to get on with their own lives too?

That puts a whole different “spin” on the problems with Spain and Greece right now. Greece can’t do enough “austerity” over the next decade or two to in any way ‘fix’ that as the demographics are a ‘done deal’. Their excess promises of ‘retirement’ can not be paid. So they are hoping to borrow the money. But for the next 30 years? Or more? And they to whom will the bill be handed?

I ought to get population profiles for each of the countries of Europe to see just what each one is staring at. I’m just too far behind to do that right now.

Normally these are presented as an ‘Age Pyramid’ with men on one side and women on the other. At a glance you can see where the population stands. You can instead pick them up at this link:
which will bring up Greece, but you can then choose other countries.

The graphs look like this:

Greece Demographic Pyramid

Greece Demographic Pyramid

A very fast growing country will have a fat bottom to the pyramid. Few old folks on top, lots of grandkids a the bottom. A “mature” country is supposed to become more strait sided. This one looks like a fat snake with a big rat in it. That’s not good. That “bolus” of 30 to 50 somethings is expecting to retire and be supported by that skinny stem of kids below them. They can’ support their present (narrowing) retired population as it is.

Note that they COULD have more children if they got busy Right Now as they still have a modest number of 20 somethings. But wait a few years and even they can only increase the burden of ‘carrying’ infants and too many retirees. They may be already past the functional “point of no return”. Those two small white squares are on the 20-24 age bracket and say they have 2.7% women in that group. Another 3.3% up to age 30. That’s 6% in the most likely child bearing years. Not a whole lot (and they likely already account for some of the existing children below them).

At that point the character of these countries will change radically; they will be overwhelmed with immigrants from North Africa as well as sub-Saharan Africa, who will not have the skills or the habits of civil society to maintain economic life. And their economies will slide into a degree of ruin comparable only to that of classical antiquity. Perhaps the Chinese will operate Greece as a theme park. Spain, which can draw on Latin American immigrants, is likely to be the least badly off.

So will Greece choose to just become a new district of Turkey? A suburb of Libya? Somehow I don’t think they want that. But will they have a choice? Ireland and Spain could have “back migration” from The New World, if it got bad enough. Perhaps even Italy (though with some language issues). But Greece is looking at either ceasing to exist as a dominant culture inside their own borders, or suffering a significant economic trauma that makes the present troubles look like nothing.

The United States is nearly ‘strait sided’ in comparison. The UK in between. Germany, to me, looks even worse off demographically. While Turkey is a regular (if a bit narrow) pyramid and Egypt a very wide bottomed pyramid. Iraq is “scary wide” at the bottom. The world has a major “Muslim Winter” coming in just a decade or two.

In short, Europe may not be able to choose who just walks in and takes over. Will ’60 somethings’ drive the tanks to stop them?

I suggest spending a while at that site looking at various countries. Some, like Rwanda, are scary wide bottomed. Others, like France, quite reasonable. They tell you who will be running things, who will be having ‘retirement riots’, and who will be desperate for food and education aid.

It looks to me very much like Greece is on their way to cultural extinction, one way or the other, and with Germany not far behind. (WHEN Greece defaults on those German bonds, who will then pay for the old Germans retirement funds?) Germany has a wide block of 30-50 year olds working hard now, making extra cash. But in 20 years, they are 50 to 70 and starting to cash in those bonds. Who will be paying those Greek bonds for those “70 something” German retired folks then? Frankly, both those countries make the USA “Demographic Bomb” look like a firecracker at most.

Europe is in trouble, and it will get worse.

“Demographics is Destiny.”

Why would anyone buy a 30-year bond from any of these countries? By 2041, there won’t be enough taxpayers left to pay the coupons. And that raises a related question: what is time horizon of an equity investment in those countries? Although Standard and Poor’s calculates the duration of equities at somewhere between 20 and 30 years, that is a somewhat dubious estimation of interest sensitivity, not a measure of the horizon of expectations. Markets are notoriously short-sighted. But at some point markets must recognize that companies that have a rapidly-shrinking pool of workers as well as customers are in no position to earn profits. The real demographic crunch will start to hit in the mid-2020s, and it is possible that markets will ignore the inevitable demographic doom until then.

There’s little reason to expect European contagion to blow up the financial system today. But there’s also no reason to invest in those countries, except on a very opportunistic basis.

I think that kind of sums it all up.

China, India

But the interesting bit comes out of India and China. China does not show up as nearly as ‘skewed’ as I’d expected, and India is growing nicely, but not too much, in population. Still, China has a ‘narrower stem’. Over time, India will displace China as the large cheap labor market and both China and Russia will start shrinking with more retired than working. (Though for Russia it is only short of ages below about 15, so might still have a resurgence of kids.)

I think, though, that there is another more interesting marker of difference. Who is advancing new technologies, and in particular, new energy technologies, the fastest? Who is PLANNING for growth and making it happen?

So India, in particular, has a growing population (but not as crazy as Iraq where a click on 2065 on the population size graph to the right says it breaks 100 Million then… Not going to happen, you say? That’s just a bit over 50 years away. Many are already born and they expect to have a regular life too. Including families. So “something has got to give”… And their oil will be getting low by then.) But back at India. Are they doing interesting things to prepare?

Well, yes. They are building roads and infrastructure like crazy. (Almost as fast as the Chinese…)

All that takes energy to drive it. China is buying all the coal in can find. But India doesn’t have a lot of resources developed internally. It does have a big pile of Thorium, though. (As does China). Thorium can be used in many kinds of nuclear reactors.


This link has a wealth of interesting information:

India’s plans for thorium cycle

With huge resources of easily-accessible thorium and relatively little uranium, India has made utilization of thorium for large-scale energy production a major goal in its nuclear power programme, utilising a three-stage concept:
Pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) fuelled by natural uranium, plus light water reactors, producing plutonium.
Fast breeder reactors (FBRs) using plutonium-based fuel to breed U-233 from thorium. The blanket around the core will have uranium as well as thorium, so that further plutonium (particularly Pu-239) is produced as well as the U-233.
Advanced heavy water reactors (AHWRs) burn the U-233 and this plutonium with thorium, getting about 75% of their power from the thorium. The used fuel will then be reprocessed to recover fissile materials for recycling.

This Indian programme has moved from aiming to be sustained simply with thorium to one ‘driven’ with the addition of further fissile plutonium from the FBR fleet, to give greater efficiency. In 2009, despite the relaxation of trade restrictions on uranium, India reaffirmed its intention to proceed with developing the thorium cycle.

A 500 MWe prototype FBR under construction in Kalpakkam is designed to produce plutonium to enable AHWRs to breed U-233 from thorium. India is focusing and prioritizing the construction and commissioning of its sodium-cooled fast reactor fleet in which it will breed the required plutonium. This will take another 15 – 20 years and so it will still be some time before India is using thorium energy to a significant extent.

A well thought out, very large, Thorium fuel cycle. It includes the use of breeders and well proven reactor designs. The PHWR is the CANDU design. Originally from Canada, the Indians made a ‘knock off’ when folks started trying to tell them what they could, and could not, do or have. So much for “embargo” as a preventative of nuclear expansion…

We also see here a couple of ‘clues’ about why the USA and EU didn’t want Thorium to be common during prior decades. It takes a ‘breeder blanket’ of some kind to make Th into U233 to keep the process running. Essentially, making a reprocessing / breeding cycle mandatory and having folks skilled at making and extracting Pu and U233, along with concentrating them. Everything needed to make bombs. Which India did.

(Even a U233 bomb. Folks try to make it sound like the stuff can’t be used, but it about the same as Pu in ‘boom ability’, just more ‘hot’ to work with it. The USA made such a bomb too, though with a more mixed core.)

A key finding from thorium fuel studies to date is that it is not economically viable to use low-enriched uranium (LEU – with a U-235 content of up to 20%) as a fissile driver with thorium fuels, unless the fuel burn-up can be taken to very high levels – well beyond those currently attainable in LWRs with zirconium cladding.

With regard to proliferation significance, thorium-based power reactor fuels would be very poor source for fissile material usable in the illicit manufacture of an explosive device. U-233 contained in spent thorium fuel contains U-232 which decays to produce very radioactive daughter nuclides and these create a strong gamma radiation field. This confers proliferation resistance by creating significant handling problems and by greatly boosting the detectability (traceability) and ability to safeguard this material.

Then after a whole lot of other stuff, down near the bottom:

Weapons and non-proliferation

The thorium fuel cycle is sometimes promoted as having excellent non-proliferation credentials. This is true, but some history and physics bears noting.

The USA produced about 2 tonnes of U-233 from thorium during the ‘Cold War’, at various levels of chemical and isotopic purity, in plutonium production reactors. It is possible to use U-233 in a nuclear weapon, and in 1955 the USA detonated a device with a plutonium-U-233 composite pit, in Operation Teapot. Yield was less than anticipated, at 22 kilotons. In 1998 India detonated a very small device based on U-233 called Shakti V. However, the production of U-233 inevitably also yields U-232 which is a strong gamma-emitter, as are some decay products, making the material extremely difficult to handle and also easy to detect.

So it’s very bad for making bombs and nobody would ever want to do that… except the USA with 1950s technology and the Indians just because they could… Th breeds to U233 that can be chemically separated, much easier than enriching… Notice we made it by the ton? About 19 lbs makes a dandy bomb…

OK, that aside.

What is china doing?

China Announces Thorium Energy Project
1 February, 2011

The Chinese Academy of Sciences announced that it will finance the development of a programme to develop a Thorium Fuelled Molten Salt Reactor (TFMSR). This is first of four “strategic leader in science and technology projects” that the Chinese Academy of Science will be supporting.

The Head of the Chinese TFMSR programme is Dr Jiang Mianheng, Graduate of Drexel University, with a PhD in electrical engineering. His father Jiang Zemin, was the former President of the People’s Republic of China from 1993 to 2003. This gives an indication of the importance the Chinese Leadership attach to the TFMSR programme.

Well, at least he’s a graduate of one of OUR schools. In a way, we can say the USA is still important to the future of nuclear power…

High level backing. New design. Strategic Leader.

I wonder if it is too late for me learn Chinese.

But at least we built one first!

Molten Salt Reactors: The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (USA) designed and built a thorium-based demonstration MSR using U-233 as the main fissile driver. The reactor ran over 1965-69 and operated at powers up to 7.4 MWt. The lithium-beryllium-thorium salt worked at 600-700oC and ambient pressure. The R&D program demonstrated the feasibility of this system and highlighted some unique corrosion and operational issues that need to be addressed if constructing a larger pilot MSR.

There is significant renewed interest in developing thorium-fuelled MSRs. Projects are (or have recently been) underway in China, Japan, Russia, France and the USA.

With 1960s technology…

Per Japan, we have the Fuji effort. But Japan is presently thinking about maybe not doing nukes so much, so that effort is looking for funding before it does any more.

The fuel self-sustaining small Molten-Salt Reactor (MSR): FUJI-series MSR concept evolved from the Molten-Salt Breeder Reactor (MSBR)X-1,-2 based on “single-fluid molten fluoride fuel”, which was developed in the Molten-Salt Reactor Program(MSRP), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), USA among 1950-1976.

Note that it is a ‘concept’… But based on USA Tech! From the 1970s…

And those Russian and French plans?

A rational practical international developmental program has been proposed based on Japan-USA-Russian trilateral cooperation. During 1980s we had several cooperations with not only ORNL […]but also EdF […], Euratom […] Kurchatov Inst. […] etc.. The pilot-plant: miniFUJI X-11(about 7MWe) is suggested to be constructed at Russian Federal Institute of Technical Physics (ITP), Snezhinsk, Russia

So they’ve been talking around there “proposal> for a while and trying to find who can cough up some money.

But loads of tech info down in that rest of that paper.

What looks like a newer and neater bite at the apple here:

December 19, 2007
Fuji molten Salt Reactor

The Fuji Molten salt reactor is a japanese design that can run on thorium or a mix of thorium and Uranium or Plutonium. The project plan is to take 8 or 9 years to develop a miniFuji reactor and 12-15 years to develop a Fuji reactor. The R & D is mostly related to the details of the structural material and components.

Oddly, the page is festooned with ads to “Go Solar!”… It has other interesting reactors mentioned on the page to, so worth a look.

Several of the Fuji designs fit the IAEA definition of a small reactor that generates less than 300Mwe. There is interest in small reactors due partly to the high capital cost of large nuclear power reactors generating electricity via the steam cycle and partly to consideration of public perception, there is a move to develop smaller units. These may be built independently or as modules in a larger complex, with capacity added incrementally as required. Economies of scale are provided by the numbers produced. There are also moves to develop small units for remote sites.

The most prominent modular project is the South African-led consortium developing the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) of 170 MWe. In China, Chinergy is preparing to build a similar unit, the 195 MWe HTR-PM. A US-led group is developing another design with 285 MWe modules.

But at least the USA got third billing this time. Hey, we are “on the page!”… with “developing another design”… There follows a nice list of 11 folks / organizations with reactors “development claimed to be well advanced”. Has pictures and everything.

Fuji MSR

Fuji MSR

So overall, it looks like China is in the lead. From that earlier China story, what kind of timing?

The Academy stated that “The scientific goal is to develop a new generation of nuclear energy systems [and to achieve commercial] use [in] 20 years or so. We intend to complete the technological research needed for this system and to assert intellectual property rights to this technology”.

Whist the announcement refers to a 20 year programme, rapid progress can be expected in the next 5 years towards a demonstration plant.

This programme will place China at the forefront of development of truly competitive nuclear power suitable for large scale power production as well as supporting desalination, hydrogen production, and other high temperature chemical processing, due to the characteristics’ of TFMSR’s. The TFMSR programme will see China leading the world in the development and application of high temperature materials, and quite probably the use of the Brayton power generating cycle.

About 20 years. 2030+

About the time Greece is learning to speak Turkish and Italy is a Libyan colony. Got it.

Odds & Ends

Mulls the question over and links to:

Where we have the claim:

At anywhere from 10 to 300 megawatts, small modular reactors, like the Babcock & Wilcox design pictured above, are being touted by some as safer, cheaper and more scalable alternatives to large-scale nuclear power plants. And a whole litany of companies have unveiled designs and are lining up in the U.S. to apply for approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But that process could take a while. one company, NuScale Power, of Corvalis, Oregon, says in this energyNOW! segment, the earliest their reactor will be available is 2018.

Nuclear power from Oregon? Really? And in only 5 years. Now why do I think that is made from Unobtanium for Durability…

Been around since 2000…

But their history page says they have NRC lined up to do an approval process and have designs and everything, including funding.

NuScale has completed four pre-application meetings with the NRC to familiarize staff with the features of a multi-module plant. It was determined that the plant falls within the existing regulatory framework for light water reactors.
Fluor Corporation commits to making an investment exceeding $30 million in NuScale Power LLC., enabling NuScale to move forward with the backing of a major player in the global nuclear energy industry.

So maybe we’ll do something after all. On that “silicon valley venture cap starup” kind of path we do. Throw away past designs, start over, do something different and Rad, and all. Maybe even with 1990s technology (as it looks similar in concept to the Toshiba design). Tall cylinder stuck in the ground.

In Conclusion

I can’t help but project national character onto these efforts. The USA is doing lots of paperwork shuffles and maybe some kind of unexpected direction out of it.

We have “petition drives”

Thorium, converted into energy in a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR pronounced “Lifter”), has the potential to completely eliminate our dependence on fossil fuel based electricity generation… All the while releasing orders of magnitude less radioactive material into the atmosphere than coal and natural gas! No greenhouse gasses are emitted. And operating costs are projected to easily compete with coal.

Hey, easy peasy and done next week too! /sarc>;

If it’s trendy, launch a bunch of companies and look for funding. Like the one above, or this one (or a couple of others):

Kirk Sorensen believes firmly that safe nuclear power can contribute significantly to the world’s energy future – provided that reactors run on liquid thorium fuel rather than on solid uranium as they do today.

Showing the courage of his convictions, Sorensen has quietly launched his own thorium reactor company, called Flibe Energy, in Huntsville, Ala. He aims to have liquid thorium reactors operating within 5 to 8 years.

Sorensen says he wants to “redefine” nuclear, so that it deservedly takes on a clean and safe association, contrary to its long running negative place in popular opinion, as swaths of the public fear the hazards of nuclear waste and nuclear power accidents. The industry is fighting harder than ever to improve nuclear’s image after the meltdown earlier this year at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Yeah, man, and change the world… in less than 5 years. (Can the NRC even do paperwork review that fast?)

The Chinese are setting up a major plan, well staffed, a bit of over-complicated organizationally, but likely to work. A long time horizon, but well thought out and likely correct.

The Indians are being careful with their limited resources, taking a known-good path, and getting it done. Nothing too exotic, but improving where needed. (Though Pakistan has a demographic pyramid shaped like a ‘Hershey’s Kiss’, so likely to have some issues with the neighbor…)

Russians, French, EU, Japan all milling around looking for who has a money pot to dip into. Old people not wanting to risk much, but not wanting to be out of the game entirely.

But at least we know that in 15 or 20 years there will be a Chinese Thorium MSR running and that India will be set for electricity at low cost for the next 1000 years. Maybe they can even buy Greece and Italy. One each. Just supply enough young workers to pay into the retirement fund and we’ll put it on a “Reverse Mortgage” for you…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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27 Responses to Thorium, China, India, PIIGS Demographics

  1. R. de Haan says:

    Nice writing again but I really don’t see any problem with the availability of workers when we need them for new jobs. Thousands of economic migrants and refugees come into Greece from Turkish territory every week. They spread all over Europe with many of them well educated. As for manufacturing for now and in the future this is no longer a job maker at all. The 40.000 workers that carried the cargo onto the ships in the past now have been replaced by a single worker in an operating room. The entire harbor installations are completely computerized. So is any mass producing factory. Inless we destroy our technology base, workers are a dying breed.

    As for the Thorium Reactor: Just collect the money and build one. Private companies are now manning the space frontier so what’s stopping us?

    Some people think military drones in US airs pace will pose a threat to our freedom but in the mean time the number of private drones made based on open source technology is available at the web for free resulting in an impressive drone boom that completely exceeds thee military numbers. Private initiatives will soon take over government capabilities, especilly when a financial crises will collpase the entire government structure. Today many Americans have their own gun but it won’t take long before they have their own drone.

    As for India and China I see their future not too bright and certainly not as a threat to the US or the West. India has terrible rules and regulations and corruption is all over the place, just like China which I still see as a political experiment that’s on the brink of exploding any day.I only have to refer to the chinese ghost towns to make my case that china’s alledged economic strength is nothing more but mirage, a fata morgana that will pop as soon as the lanor prices ho up. We should have learned our lesson when the world was affraid that Japan would take over everything. Just look where Japan is today.

    As for productivity measured by the number of registered patents we should take a look at Israel. Small population, very clever and hard working people. It’s quality that rules, not quantitee.

    I really hope I have made my case.

  2. BobN says:

    Bill Gates was a big instigator in China’s Thorium development.
    Paul Allen involvement in Thorium.
    Jeff Bezos involvement
    I find it worth note when the big Money guys start putting their money into something.
    Here is a video or what I put a lot of hope in.

    There is also a very interesting design using Plasma fired from both ends into a thorium plug that looks very promising, but I need to do some back tracking to find the link.

    I believe Thorium reactors will appear, the money path looks promising.

  3. R. de Haan says:

    BobN says:
    8 January 2013 at 3:47 pm
    “Here is a video or what I put a lot of hope in:
    Just have a look at:
    It is unbelievable that a 2 million USD project to het the proof of concept could be a barrier.
    In the Netherlands the most successful crowd funding project last year was about financing a bloody wind mill for 3.6 million euros. All Focus Energy people need is a good PR guy/lady to get the money in the bank and bring their product to the market, What’s hoing on here? This is the cheapest way to crush the global warming doctrine, put the western traitors in government out of a job, the Arab Spring (winter) without steam and the Russian energy tycoons who hold a strong grip on Western Europe without a foot to stand on. This is a true revolution that could really change the world and it’s not happening. Now tell me why it’s not happening because it can’t be the money.

  4. KevinM says:

    The Greek population pyramid makes some dubious claims about longevity.

    Specifically it has more 100+ year olds than 80 year olds. I don’t think so. Especially if you factor in the negative feedback of the debt bomb on the health-oriented social programs required to stretch the golden years that way.

    Also the left side is too proportionate at old age. The 100+ crowd in the US is overwhelmingly female (white Notherner city ladies). Better odds of making it to three numbers in Boston (Helsinki) than Miami (Athens).

  5. KevinM says:

    Also I think its Ironic that the negative image created by that Greek population pyramid resembles a minaret. Subliminal message?

  6. DocMartyn says:

    Of all the nations demographic profiles, I would prefer the US over everyone else. Even the illegals crossing the southern boarder are going to come in useful; young fertile people with get up and go.

    The use of chlorides in molten salt reactors was always transformation. Chlorides allow you to make molten salt fast breeder reactors. However, chlorine-35/37 must be purified to chlorine-37 to reduce production of sulfur-36.

    Recently advances in laser isotope separation make large scale isotope separation of Cl-35 from a Cl35/37 mixture cheaper by more than one order of magnitude.
    Just from a chemistry side, working with chlorides is much easier than with fluorides.

  7. Crashex says:

    That video was made in 2007. So,……this year they’ll be doing the production prototypes.

  8. omanuel says:

    1. Thorium-based nuclear industries must be forced to face the problem of waste disposal up front, and not be allowed to accumulate waste products for future generations to dispose.

    2. Energy (E) is stored as mass (m) in the cores of heavy atoms, some planets, ordinary stars, and galaxies. The demise of Western nations is the natural result of an unwillingness to accept that reality – as bitter a pill for world leaders and leaders of the scientific community to swallow in the twentieth (20th) as it was for world leaders and dogmatic religious leaders to swallow the Copernican model of the Sun as ruler of the Solar System in the sixteenth (16th) and seventeenth (17th) centuries. But political power cannot change what is:

    _ 1. Neutron repulsion powers the Sun and fission reactors.
    _ 2. Neutron repulsion is the main source of solar energy.
    _ 3. The solar interior is iron enclosing a neutron-rich core.
    _ 4. Neutron-neutron interactions are powerfully repulsive.
    _ 5. The Sun generates and discards H to interstellar space.

    Solar energy is the same one that destroyed Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. Hiding that empirical fact created the false illusion world leaders and their science advisors understand the energy that sustains life and guides Earth’s ever-changing climate. Frightened world leaders formed the United Nations on 24 October 1945 to save themselves and society from possible nuclear annihilation and made an alliance with leaders of the scientific community to rule as gods, rather than to serve the public, by hiding the powerful source of energy that in fact powers the cosmos.

    ”Neutron Repulsion”, The APEIRON Journal 19, 123-150 (2012):

  9. adolfogiurfa says:

    @R de Haan: As for productivity measured by the number of registered patents …Those are patents of “official science”, as good as the one which supports “global warming”: That one is DEAD. You have electricity because of the genius of just one man: Nikola Tesla. Old paradigms will be replaced by the new paradigms and a new knowledge and new men in totally new countries that you ignore, will make the future.

  10. wizz33 says:

    Kirk Sorensen has a number of good talks on you-tube under Thorium Remix and Gordon.
    and i am following LPPX.

  11. FundMe says:

    China have built and run a small modular pebble bed reactor and tested it to destruction. They are now in the process of building two full scale reactors. The problems that the South Africans had was to do with the direct helium coolant driven turbine the Chinese just dropped the idea and went with steam

    “China’s HTR-10, a 10 MWt high-temperature gas-cooled experimental reactor at the Institute of Nuclear & New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University north of Beijing started up in 2000 and reached full power in 2003. It has its fuel as a ‘pebble bed’ (27,000 elements) of oxide fuel with average burn-up of 80 GWday/t U. Each pebble fuel element has 5g of uranium enriched to 17% in around 8300 TRISO-coated particles. The reactor operates at 700°C (potentially 900°C) and has broad research purposes. Eventually it will be coupled to a gas turbine, but meanwhile it has been driving a steam turbine.!

    So we should see these full scale HTR-10’s running in around 2014/5 perhaps. Once they have the build right expect to be buying them at Wal-Mart well withing our lifetimes.

  12. FundMe says:

    Sorry missed this bit nd just for interest they started building the full scale reactors in 2010 and had this to say about the prototype.

    “In 2004, the small HTR-10 reactor was subject to an extreme test of its safety when the helium circulator was deliberately shut off without the reactor being shut down. The temperature increased steadily, but the physics of the fuel meant that the reaction progressively diminished and eventually died away over three hours. At this stage a balance between decay heat in the core and heat dissipation through the steel reactor wall was achieved, the temperature never exceeded a safe 1600°C, and there was no fuel failure. This was one of six safety demonstration tests conducted then. The high surface area relative to volume, and the low power density in the core, will also be features of the full-scale units (which are nevertheless much smaller than most light water types).”

    sorry about the cut and paste but the link is to a vast summary of all of the small reactors that are currently under design and implemntation.

  13. P.G. Sharrow says:

    China and India have thousands of years of Bureaucratic experience in preventing their societies advancement. I have great faith in the ability of their bureaucrats to throttle the society that they manage. It is easy to direct catchup when there is a working model to copy. Not so easy to actually direct real advancement.
    For the first 100 years of the U.S. there was little bureaucratic control and the Americans went from a backwoods frontier to one of the most powerful and rich countries in the world. Now that the bureaucrats have taken control of most things, advancement has stopped. The only thing worse then No control of Greedy Evil Bastards is Too much control over everyone. In the end Greedy Evil Bastards take control of the bureaucrats to insure their own success.
    We don’t need them running our lives. pg

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    There are two meanings to the word “Nation”. A place and a people. Yes, the dirt of Greece will still exist in 2050, but the people will not be the Greek Nation… THAT is the problem. I have no fear at all that there will not be somebody on some dirt making things. Does not mean that Greece ceases to exist, nor that the “imported workers” don’t just pack up and move over to France when the “Greek Debt” comes due. That, too, is “the problem”.

    Per DIY Nuke. Well, I’ve thought about it. There’s this small problem of needing to carry a government or two around on your back while you do it… NRC owns you and decides what you can and can not do. That’s why it is being done somewhere else…

    So, just go to another country? Ask Iran how that’s working out for them…

    “Nuclear” is a controlled technology so you can only do what is permitted, where it is permitted, and with whom is permitted.

    (Frankly, I’d have my own nuclear heater if that wasn’t the case. I’m pretty sure I can make one that’s throttled with a particle beam and I know where the thorium sands live ;-) Ought to be only a little bit harder than making an old ‘tube type’ TV set or X-Ray machine… BUT, as I know it would be detected and then I’d end up in a ‘perp-walk’ – like that kid who made a tiny one with Americium – I don’t “go there”…)

    So if you are happy with the UN running things, and with Germany, Italy, and Greece all speaking Arabic and attending the Mosque while praying 5 times a day; just wait about one generation for the demographic trends to run their course and the “importation of labor” to finish. No problem.

    I almost bought a drone. They are being sold in the local geek shop for about $400 each. Camera included… IIRC.


    Thorium has become “trendy” and it is seen as “green” (and again with the promise of waste so low it doesn’t matter…. Gamma ray source, anyone?….)

    But yeah, it’s the poster child today. In part, IMHO, as it can consume the “waste” that was supposed to be going into Yucca Mnt. and is instead in water pools just like Fukushima – which I think folks noticed wasn’t all that great an idea….

    At any rate, I’ll take it by whatever path. Thorium is good. (As is U as is Pu as is… ) Even if it comes with mandatory enrichment, breeding, and reprocessing (but only the “good” kind… /sarc;>)

    As it’s already “out there”: For many years (about 25 now?) I’ve thought of Th as a ‘back door’ to a nuke. Run the Th through any of several reactor types, get U233, make bomb. The U extraction is chemical so “easy”. We have existence proof of the U233 working in bombs. You trade more gama rich assembly and shorter shelf life for very easy ‘enrichment’. (So easy it is done real time online in the MSR type reactors with online ‘purification’…) I think what has happened is that the Indian experiment is now so well known that “they” have given up trying to keep that path hidden. Anyone with a CANDU type reactor can do this (or several kinds of research reactors… as India did.)

    So to make a ‘home brew power source’, just get a neutron source and some Th sands. Let them be next to each other for a while. Every so often, extract the U233. When you have enough, make a ‘breeder core’ and wrap your Th around it. Keep this going until you reach criticality levels. Make sure you have neutron moderation, reflection, and parasitic absorption under control (not all THAT hard). It’s all just time, attention to detail, and materials selection (well… and a few other bits ;-)

    Look up “neutron canon” to see what it takes to make one. Ooops, my bad. Looks like they call them ‘neutron source’ now. We had a neutron canon at UC when I took physics. Guess they changed the name to protect the flighty…

    So one of them, some monzanite or thorite or sand from a Carolina beach… and time…


    Death is not linear with age. There’s a ‘threshold’ at late 60s to 70s. Make it past that, it’s a special cohort that tends to hang around a long time. So you get a wobble in the sides then.

    Also, at 100, we’re talking W.W.I era. That will have put wobbles in the sides that will persist as they move up to the top of the pyramid. A lot of dying then. But only certain ages… The Spanish Flue preferentially killed a young age cohort, leaving a ‘gap’ in the sides. So there ought to be a pinch about 1918-20 births and in those born in 1890-1900 who would have had those births, had they not died. (As rough date estimates).

    Note that the male side IS smaller (check the exact numbers at the site). I have no reason to think they are using anything other than the present census information. It doesn’t look at all odd to me. (There were plenty of ‘old men’ at the old folks home of my MIL and my friends MIL. Yes, SOME men die young, that’s why the male side is smaller, but those that don’t die tend to be the George Burns types. As you pass through 70ish, the women dying start to catch up… eventually the percentages are identical. Think about it…)

    The only subliminal is what you bring to the data. Look at a sample of other countries and you will see the shapes are all over the map, reflecting individual country histories.)


    Take a look on the site and they have ‘continent’ options. Pick S. America. It’s VERY normal. Nicely smooth sides and only slightly wider base. S. America looks like it has great demographics. (Individual countries may vary, so check first ;-)

    N. America isn’t too bad either. Our “Baby Boom” looks like a minor ripple compared to the E.U. nation ‘issues’. Looks to me like the EU is going to implode, one way or another, as “Demographics is Destiny” and their demographics are screwed skewed.


    They are selling the Th reactors as “waste” consumers… so not facing any ‘waste disposal’ issue, calling it a waste consumer. That will work for about one generation…

    @Wizz33: Oh boy, more input! (“Input, must have input!!” from No.5)


    Aye, now there’s the rub… Frankly, that’s a lot of why I’m in many ways “choosing not to participate”. If I make my own bread, I don’t care about their control of bread. Grown my own seeds, then they can take their GMO control plan and stuff it. Etc. etc.

    I do need to get a bigger garden somewhere, though. Or maybe I’ll make that hydroponic thing on the roof I’ve been pondering. I need a new roof ;-)

  15. John F. Hultquist says:

    E. M., you are such a cheery fellow. Again!

    I am more interested in the demographics=destiny story than in how the world will be powered in 2050. Demographics is a worry now. Take a look at this chart:

    Note the red bars are for 2010. The big bulge (cohort) of babies that came after the Korean “UN police action” (end July ’53) is just now about to swamp the Medicare, ObamaCare, and Social Security safety net. Our Gov. Gregoire (soon to be at the EPA) signed the Washington Exchange bill last March. Economically, WA is in better shape than many of the States but it will be no match for this convergence of demographics and unrestrained entitlements. All of this will become apparent in 2 to 3 years when all the costs kick in.

    They say all politics is local. Thus, about the time Greece and the rest of the EU begin to fall apart the individual states of the US will be internally focused on their failing institutions. I don’t think the developed world has leaders (anyone over age 35 in 2016) that can cope with either the internal or external issues, and certainly not both. GWBush tried to start the entitlement conversation in 2001 and it went nowhere. And that’s where it will stay.

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    @John F. Hultquist:

    Yes, that “rat in a snake” is the “Demographic Bomb” I talk about. Approaching detonation. I was rather worried about it … then I saw that the European countries are in way worse shape on the graph. Greece especially. (60% to be retired or otherwise ‘carried’? Yikes! That just will not happen. Germany expecting to redeem the Greek Bonds they are no funding just about then, to pay THEIR retirement? Just not going to happen. Way worse than the USA.)

    OTOH, I found out Latin America looks great. Much of the British Commonwealth isn’t too bad either. So the globe is much more manageable than I’d expected.

    FWIW, I expect that “immigration reform” will be used as “cover” to let in a flood of younger Mexicans who can be fleeced to pay for the social welfare state for a few more decades.

  17. j ferguson says:


    FWIW, I expect that “immigration reform” will be used as “cover” to let in a flood of younger Mexicans who can be fleeced to pay for the social welfare state for a few more decades.

    The dirt’s the same but the population changes. ‘Happened in Greece in late pre-historic, certainly in US many times, and in India, Asia-Minor, on and on. Nothing new, and likely a good thing in the long run. After all if the resident folk can’t keep the thing running, surely it makes sense to allow in a more vigorous gang.

    New Zealand seems be losing 5,000 people/month to Australia where they are going to participate in the resource extraction boom – miners making $200k/Aus. The loss to new Zealand is filled by Asian and English Immigration to net out at 4,000 annual loss.

    (As an aside, our recent stay in Bundaberg, Au was replete with stories of the ill effects on Gladstone (a bit farther north) which is a boom town, and the boutiquization of the place due to the contributions of the $200kers.)

    Clearly, the reluctance of our children to produce the cohort needed to support us into our deep dwindles can be made up by encouraging immigration of Latinos and Asians, here in the US.

    My worries about what China might do when they are forced to deal with insufficient working age folks to support the retirees were caused by fears of something radical – maybe warlike. but I think the reality may be for them to encourage immigration.

    What will the countries losing population by emigration do if this emigration causes them the same problem?

    i apologize if this is too much topic drift.

  18. omanuel says:

    Thanks, E.M. Smith, for keeping us abreast of the information Big Brother uses to try to control the world. That effort will fail. Only yesterday, NASA slipped this explosive information past censors.

    Breaking News: NASA scientists admitted yesterday that over a single solar cycle, extreme ultraviolet radiation (EUV): “the sun’s output varies not by a minuscule 0.1%, but by whopping factors of 10 or more. This can strongly affect the chemistry and thermal structure of the upper atmosphere.”

  19. Gail Combs says:

    I think what you will see in the USA is people like me making the decision to continue working as small business owners. Hubby is 70 and collects, I am eligible but do not. We think of retiring from our small business but just can not see what we would do with the extra time, so we work. Paring an accident or illness that takes us out I can not see us retiring any time soon.

    I think that is what you are going to see. People ‘retiring’ to a second job/business that they love. Hopefully that will ‘kick the can’ further down the road.

    What bothers me a lot more is the ~ 23% real unemployment figure. Couple that with the rest of the employment picture and it looks pretty crappy. The federal government employs 14.7% of the labor force where as manufacturing only employs ~9 %. Farming & Mining ~ 2%, Construction & transportation are each~ 3% So the entire wealth producing part of the economy is LESS than the bureaucracy! ALL the rest of the jobs are service jobs. Burger flippers and store clerks. Heck the category leisure and hospitality (bartenders and waitresses) employs more people than manufacturing does!

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    @J. Ferguson:

    The China chart: isn’t nearly as ‘bad’ as many of the others. Has 2 population ‘wings’ or ‘bumps’ that are not very large, really. They are at the 20 something and 40 something age groups ( so born about 1990 and 1970). The first “issue” doesn’t become a retirement concern until 20 more year, call it 2033, and even then there may yet e an ‘echo boom’ of new births from that 20 something group.

    Just not seeing a big problem in the present population structure chart. a 4.7% male vs 4.3% female ratio in the 20 somethings means that about 4 1/2 % of men have no “dance partner”, but that’s livable (and they can if needed import some brides).

    Frankly, Europe has far worse problems in one direction and both Africa in general and some Islamic nations have severe problems with lots of babies and not many adults. That only works if a lot of dying happens between birth and 30… That’s where the “problems” will show up. (Either as all those deaths; of if the deaths are avoided, as a huge population spike that likely can not be supported; so either emigration or wars.)

    The present births in China look like a fairly stable number (about 6% in each traunch, though with that ongoing gender bias) compared with 9% in the 20-something bulge and the 40-something bulge. So 1.5 “parents” for each “kid” (for now). Still, plenty of time for them to have another 0.5 kids in an echo-bulge. And 40 years to retirement. Just not seeing a big problem in our lifetimes. Yet.

    Per Australia: 200 k eh? Wonder if I could drive a mine truck… ;-)


    Downloading the full paper to see if it is different from the news blurb…

    It is a hopeful sign that they are looking at some things beyond The Magic Gas, but the presser looks like more “but it doesn’t do much, all hail The Magic Gas! – send more money for study.” We’ll see what the paper says.

  21. agimarc says:

    One of the problems with the Thorium liquid salt reactor was significant corrosion of the containment vessel. Appears there are new metals that mitigate that problem. The small nuke guys I know are in a running gun battle / argument over how severe that problem is. Economics may win out however, as you can burn Thorium or a Thorium / Uranium mix in existing conventional light water reactor design without any modifications. The pro-Thorium crowd believes they have a solution at the link:

    The problem with the smaller reactor designs is (as always) with the feds – specifically with the NRC. The NRC has two obvious problems. The first being that they are not charged with approving new designs or licenses in anything approaching a timely manner. So they tend to look at any request as a full employment request for them. Congress can do something about this, but in an age of crony capitalist for renewables, Sadly, I am not counting on it.

    The second problem is who is appointed to the NRC. The last Chairman was a guy named Gregory Jaczko, who was a staffer for virulently anti-nuke Ed Markey (D, MA). Jaczko also served under Harry Reid and was the point man for killing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility (illegally as it turns out) while Chairman. Jaczko was a real nasty piece of work who led the scaremongering on Fukushima. He eventually self selected out of the regulatory gene pool and had to resign. The lesson here is don’t populate your regulatory agencies with people who don’t like what they are regulating. You will end up with nothing being approved.

    Note that the requirement to store spent fuel rods on site is entirely a self-inflicted wound, brought to us by Jimmy Carter who shut down reprocessing in the US. There are a lot of fuel rods lying around, enough that should we make the decision to reprocess, it will take significant pressure off the need to mine new nuclear fuels. We also have the small problem of Obama’s Interior Department locking up a million acres of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from uranium mining for the next 20 years.

    Given the quiet sun and the impending Grand Minimum of solar activity in solar cycle 24 (current) and 25 (predicted), keeping things warm will become increasingly important. A small, 100 -300 MW class reactor in towns around 50 – 100,000 people will not only provide electricity, but sufficient heat to keep greenhouses warm. And I think we in the northern half of the nation are about to get reacquainted with the need for greenhouses to grow our foodstuffs. But you have to get the feds out of the way so the new designs can be built in a timely manner. Cheers –

  22. John F. Hultquist says:

    Thanks for the comments and link. I spent some time last spring reading about TLSRs so it is time for an update.

    I’ll start by headed off to read the /tag/corrosion article. However, solutions to major infrastructure problems seem never to be done in a timely manner. Further, the ones “in progress” and costing billions of $$ seem to reinforce the existing structure of our built environment. Two cases to back this up: Find and read about NYC’s Tunnel No. 3 – began in 1970 and to be completed in 2020. In Seattle an elevated viaduct was damaged in 2001 by the Nisqually earthquake. About now preliminary work to facilitate construction of a tunnel is set to start – estimated cost $4.25 Billion and completion in 2015. The Japan built boring machine is set to arrive in 2013. Result: reinforce the existing (historic) city pattern. Neither of these projects involves that scary “nuke” stuff that doubles costs and times. Coal plants are being shut this year. We are temporarily saved by natural gas. When will the first utility scale Thorium plant go on-line? Maybe the year 2025 +/- 3 years. Many of us in the generation Gail Combs mentions will not see Thorium except maybe a token demonstration.

  23. E.M.Smith says:

    @John F. Hultquist:

    Thorium is in use in India… so you could see one if you went there… ;-)

    Ever wonder why the ‘perpetual construction contracts’ line up with the contributor to the politicians?

    In California, after the Loma Prieta quake, the downed freeway in Oakland took decades to fix. (It was “fixed” by removal…)

    In the Northridge quake, they offered completion bonus money and late fees. The major freeway damage there was fixed way ahead of schedule and ahead of anything anyone said could be done.

    We could have LT reactors running in 5 years or less. Just can the NRC and offer a performance bonus / late fees.

    ( I know, not going to happen. But it means that when The Ice Sheet Cometh, we can.)

    Over on WUWT in one of the threads I was advocating for parallel track of Th into both MSR and BWR / LWR. Just for the reason that it lets the fuel approval and development proceed parallel with the MSR approval and development. Gets the “Th Guy” hired at the NRC. Gets “disposal” regs dealt with. Etc. Typical kinds of “schedule compression overlapping” behaviours. The “true beliver” in the LTBR was uninterested. Wanted the “someday a whole loaf” rather than the “faster and more likely for both”.


    Well, since we have more U than we need, and can get much more easily at cheap prices, I’m not really worried about a 20 year lock up near a national park / monument.

    Uranium can NEVER be made uneconomical:

  24. Chiefio is noticing that the USA’s ability to innovate is not what it once was. We no longer expect to lead in space exploration, nuclear power and some other important technologies.

    I say that the USA is susceptible to control by oligarchies. Oligarchies always resist innovation. For example, those who control the major sources of fossil fuels in the USA (and elsewhere) have enough political and economic power to block innovations that they fear (e.g. nuclear power).

    While petro-chemical oligarchies may be able to block innovations in the USA, there will be countries where they are less effective so these countries may become more effective innovators than the USA. As innovations blossom the balance of economic power will shift.

  25. BobN says:

    Here is a very good link on Fluoride Thorium technology, the first part covers the technology and the second part covers much of the politics. Close to the end they talk about competitive impacts.

    Its a bit long, but covers a lot of things.

  26. M Simon says:

    I’m 68 and am nominally retired, but I’m “working” at a new career. Writing.

    Energy? I like:

    Which the Navy is working on under the radar of the NRC.

  27. BobN says:

    Here is a link from another web site that talks about the divesting of investments in typical energy. I’m curious if anyone thinks this is real and what is the root cause. Obama has allowed China to get access to our oil and gas, is it tied in to what is happening.

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