Finding sufficient energy is essential to all life. Humans have excelled at this, notably when they studied and overcame their innate fear of fire some 600,000 years ago. Until the Industrial Revolution they made do with energy derived, directly or indirectly, from the daily sunshine that drives waterpower, the wind and other manifestations including the production of vegetation and food. But, although better than for other creatures, human life was short and miserable for the population at large. The causes were the anemic strength of the Sun’s rays, averaging 340 watts per square meter, and its random interruption by unpredicted weather.
With fossil fuels, available energy increased, anywhere at any time. Life expectancy doubled and the world population quadrupled. For 200 years whoever had access to fossil fuels had world power. However, at the 2015 Paris Conference nations agreed that the emission of carbon posed an existential threat and that, sooner rather than later, this should cease.
Technology may be challenging and exciting, but it cannot deliver energy where none exists, today as in pre-industrial times. Writing in 1867, Karl Marx dismissed wind power as “too inconstant and uncontrollable”. He saw waterpower as better, but “as the predominant power [it] was beset with difficulties”. Today, the vast size of hydro, wind and solar plants comparative to their power reflects their weakness and destructive impact on flora and fauna – a point often curiously ignored by environmentalists.
If renewables are simply inadequate and fossil fuel emissions only accelerate climate change further, what abundant primary energy source might permit political and economic stability for the next 200 years? Natural science can say without doubt, the only answer is nuclear.
In 1931, Winston Churchill wrote: “The coal a man can get in a day can easily do 500 times as much work as the man himself. Nuclear energy is at least one million times more powerful still… There is no question among scientists that this gigantic source of energy exists. What is lacking is the match to set the bonfire alight… The discovery and control of such sources of power would cause changes in human affairs incomparably greater than those produced by the steam-engine four generations ago.”
He was right, but this transition requires adequate public education. In recovering from World War Two and its aftermath, the world lost confidence and demonised nuclear energy. This denial of an exceptional benefit to society has persisted for 70 years supported by bogus scientific claims around radiation and oil interests. But, aside from the blast of a nuclear explosion, nuclear energy and its radiation are safer than the combustion of fossil fuels, as confirmed by evidence from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Furthermore, nuclear applications in medicine pioneered by Marie Curie (such as the use of radiation to treat cancerous tumours) have been widely appreciated for 120 years.
Regulation around nuclear needs to be commensurate with actual risk, and it should be financed appropriately, with richer nations covering the costs for developing countries.
Fully informed, everybody should welcome the security of small, mass-produced, cheap, local nuclear energy plants dedicated to serving modest-sized communities for 80 years with on-demand electricity, off-peak hydrogen, fertiliser, industrial heat, and seasonless farming.
The only real challenges are in building a new generation with the relevant scientific knowledge and skills, and instilling public confidence.
Today we spotlight the most recent production from Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Tennessee, USA, (ORNL). The report is all about Molten Salt Fission Technology Powered by Thorium. This concise 54 page report is akin to the ORNL report produced 44 years ago in August 1978, entitled Molten-Salt Reactors Efficient Nuclear Fuel Utilization without Plutonium Separation and further extends the ORNL work reported in The Development Status of Molten Salt Breeder Reactors from August 1972. (It appears that August is the month of important reports by ORNL). This later behemoth 434 page report is the mother lode of information for all work done at ONRL regarding Molten Salt Fission Energy Technology powered by Thorium. Anyone looking at investing into this technology must make it a priority read – all of the work has been done before. The report can be found further below in this post.
Before we discuss the report, first we’ll discuss why it’s important to define new terminology for nuclear energy sector.
For generations massive amounts of negative press and target funding has branded the word nuclear as simply bad. And let’s face it. Nuclear Physics is complicated, and so conversations get complicated pretty quickly too. Let’s just look at the elements we can play with.
Out of 118 elements in the Periodic Table, 80 are stable having 339 isotopes, leaving 38 elements – those heavier than lead – as unstable. These 38 elements have over 3,000 possible isotope existent states. Hence thousands of unstable isotopes, lead to 10’s of thousands of combinations of decay, neutron absorption, and possible fission events, from neutrons both fast – high energy particles, and thermal – low energy particles, and then hundreds of other non responsive isotopes of non responsive elements that exhibit different behaviours over time and distance. For example water is better for absorbing fast neutrons and lead is better for thermal neutrons. Boron-10 absorbs neutrons, whilst boron-11 does not. Neutrons bounce off, are reflected by graphite, beryllium, steel, tungsten carbide, and gold (There are more too). OK, so the picture is clear – fission energy gets complicated very quickly.
Remember too, that this all started in a race to build nuclear weapons – not to make energy. Weapons should all be dismantled and destroyed. USA and UK should follow in the footsteps of South Africa who dismantled their last bomb in 1989. Today the USA and UK combined have enough firepower to destroy humanity entirely 150 times over. We are thankful that Molten Salt technology was pursued with such vigor precisely because it cannot make weapons. It only makes energy.
We call them Machines, not reactors. (By the way, there’s no reactions going on, and indeed in the core region fuel is “burned” according to the physics text books. In Fission, atoms are split, so “splitter” is the correct term!)
We say Molten Salt Fission Energy Technology – MSFT. Not anything else. Calling it LFTR ties the technology to a specific fluid-fuel type. Even the company FLIBE are considering changing the Beryllium metal to Sodium metal (the BE means Beryllium in their company’s name).
And Fission – Nuclear Energy – is effectively Carbon Free. Even Bill Gates knows this.
The latest ORNL report is excellent at defining the challenges already identified 50 years ago. The net result is that ORNL have made recommendations to modify the Flibe design thus eliminating any chance of weapons production from Molten Salt Fission Energy Technology powered by Thorium.
Some of these recommendations are:
Use multiple, smaller decay vessels for salt distribution for emergency shutdown events.
Install stringent material monitoring systems with tamper evident features for fuel processing.
Use batch fuel processing and not continuous for better inventory controls.
Recombine fuel elements to increase gamma activity of the fuel processing cycle.
Allow U232 production to increase hence increasing the self protection mechanism.
Eliminate the decay fluorinator entirely by allowing protactinium to decay in the fuel salt.
Remove physical access to the UF6 stream by have vessels immediately adjacent to each other.
These, and other recommendations, effectively define Molten Salt Fission Technology powered by Thorium as proliferation proof.
The latest ORNL report must be read in conjunction with a 1978 report, also by ORNL staff – and also released in the month of August – where proliferation concerns of the earlier designs where addressed. In that report the authors J. R. Engel, W. R. Grimes, W. A. Rhoades and J. F. Dearing allowed the build up of U232 to create self protection whilst still maintaining machine performance – “denatured”, as they called it.
Here is that report, Technical Memorandum TM 6413, from August 1978:
ORNL TM 6413 August 1978 Molten-Salt Reactors for Efficient Nuclear Fuel Utilization Without Plutonium Separation
Here’s one of the authors of that report – John Richard “Dick” Engel – shortly before his passing in 2017.
The following documents should also be read together with ORNL report 2022/2394 to ensure full understanding:
ORNL TM 3708 1964 Molten Salt Reactor Program Semiannual Progress Report for Period Ending July 31, 1964
This report summarized the work leading up to the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, that ran from 1965 to 1969 – the “most boring experiment ever. It did everything we expected it to do.”, said by Dr. Sydney Ball.
ORNL TM 4812 August 1972 Development Status of Molten-Salt Breeder Reactors
This is the report that ended in the program being shut down. The USD 1 billion funding request was too obvious to ignore and many people realised what impact this would have on existing business interests in energy.
EPRI collaborated with Southern Company on an independent technology assessment of an innovative molten salt reactor (MSR) design—the liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR)—as a potentially transformational technology for meeting future energy needs in the face of uncertain market, policy, and regulatory constraints. The LFTR is a liquid-fueled, graphite-moderated thermal spectrum breeder reactor optimized for operation on a Th-233U fuel cycle. The LFTR design considered in this work draws heavily from the 1960s-era Molten Salt Reactor Experiment and subsequent design work on a similar two-fluid molten salt breeder reactor design. Enhanced safety characteristics, increased natural resource utilization, and high operating temperatures, among other features, offer utilities and other potential owners/operators access to new products, markets, applications, and modes of operation. The LFTR represents a dramatic departure from today’s dominant and proven commercial light water reactor technology. Accordingly, the innovative and commercially unproven nature of MSRs, as with many other advanced reactor concepts, presents significant challenges and risks in terms of financing, licensing, construction, operation, and maintenance.
This technology assessment comprises three principal activities based on adaptation of standardized methods and guidelines: 1) rendering of preliminary LFTR design information into a standardized system design description format; 2) performance of a preliminary process hazards analysis; and 3) determination of technology readiness levels for key systems and components. The results of the assessment provide value for a number of stakeholders. For utility or other technology customers, the study presents structured information on the LFTR design status that can directly inform a broader technology feasibility assessment in terms of safety and technology maturity. For the developer, the assessment can focus and drive further design development and documentation and establish a baseline for the technological maturity of key MSR systems and components. For EPRI, the study offers an opportunity to exercise and further develop advanced nuclear technology assessment tools and expertise through application to a specific reactor design.
The early design stage of the LFTR concept indicates the need for significant investment in further development and demonstration of novel systems and components. The application of technology assessment tools early in reactor system design can provide real value and facilitate advancement by identifying important knowledge and design performance gaps at a stage when changes can be incorporated with the least impact to cost, schedule, and licensing.
Finally, a reminder. Why all the fuss about Thorium Molten Salt anyway? What did those giants of nuclear energy see starting way back in 1947 that we don’t see today? It’s because of this chart by ANSTO of Australia. It’s a little known – public – secret, that Australia, part of the Generation IV Forum, but ironically staunchly anti nuclear, is also one of the strongest countries in technology development for Molten Salt Fission Energy powered by Thorium.
We hoped you enjoyed this article, produced free for all advocates and students of Molten Salt Fission Energy powered by Thorium. If you like this work and want to see more, please support this work by going to our contributions page, where you can then find our Patreon account.
Because 33% efficient windmills only have 20-year lifespans, they must be rebuilt two times after initial construction to match the 60-year lifespan of 90% efficient nuclear power plants.
Here’s what an anonymous wind technician from North Dakota said about the usefulness of windmills:”Yeah, we all want to think we’re making a difference, but we know it’s bullshit. If it’s too windy, they run like sh , if it’s too hot, they run like sh , too cold, they run like sh . I just checked the forecast, and it’s supposed to be calm this weekend so hopefully not very many will break down, but hell man, they break even when they aren’t running. I’ve given up on the idea that what I’m doing makes a difference in the big picture. Wind just isn’t good enough.”
Organizations like the Sierra Club wear blinders that exclude wind’s defects, and when I or my associates offer presentations on the safety records and costs of the various forms of power generation, including nuclear, we rarely get a reply, and my Minnesota chapter provides a case in point.
Because of those blinders, they apparently don’t know that It will take 9,500 1-MW windmills running their entire life spans to equal the life-cycle output of just one average nuclear plant. Perhaps they don’t realize that those windmills, which last just 20 years, require far more steel and concrete than just one nuclear plant with a lifespan of at least 60 years.
As a result, the carbon footprint of inefficient windmills is much larger than that of a 90% efficient nuclear power plant.
Furthermore, the wind industry doesn’t know what to do with these 170-foot, 22,000-pound, fiberglass blades that last just 20 years and are so difficult to recycle that many facilities won’t take them.
A 1-GW windfarm needs 1300 tons of new blades per year, and because they cost USD100k each, that’s USD200 million every 18 years, or USD33.6 million per year per gigawatt created just for the blades – all this for a fraud that primarily relies on carbon-burning generators to supply the majority of their rated power that they don’t supply.
Those who guide the Sierra Club or Greenpeace, etc., should know that windmills require magnets made from neodymium, which comes primarily from China, where mining and refining the ore has created immense toxic dumps and lakes that are causing skin and respiratory diseases, cancer and osteoporosis. If they know this, why are they silent? If they don’t, they should.
Unlike windmill generators, ground-based generators use electromagnets, which are much heavier than permanent magnets, but do not contain rare-earth elements.
Here’s the problem: Accessing just those two elements produces tons of arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. And because the U.S. added about 13,000 MW of wind generating capacity in 2012, that means that some 5.5 million pounds [2.5 million kg] of rare earths were refined just for windmills, which created 2,800 tons of toxic waste, and it’s worse now.
For perspective, our nuclear industry, which creates 20% of our electricity, produces only about 2.35 tons of spent nuclear fuel (commonly called “waste”), per year, which they strictly contain, but the wind industry, while creating just 3.5% of our electricity, is making much more radioactive waste where rare- earths are being mined and processed – and its disposal is virtually unrestricted.
Windmills also use 80 gallons [300 litres] of synthetic oil per year, and because there are at least 60,000 US windmills, this means that the windmill industry requires 500,000 gallons [1.9 million litres] per year plus even more crude oil from which synthetics are derived.
We know that it takes several thousand windmills to equal the output of one run-of-the-mill nuclear reactor, but to be more precise, let’s tally up all of the materials that will be needed to replace the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear plant with renewables.
Dr. Tim Maloney has done just that, writing, “Here are numbers for wind and solar replacement of Vermont Yankee.
Let’s assume a 50/50 split between wind and solar, and for the solar a 50/50 split of photovoltaic (PV) and CSP concentrated solar power, which uses mirrors.
Amount of steel required to build wind and solar;
CO2 emitted in making the steel and concrete;
Land taken out of crop production or habitat.
To replace Vermont Yankee’s 620 MW, we will need 310 MW (average) for wind, 155 MW (average) for PV solar, and 155 MW (average) for CSP… Using solar and wind would require:
Steel: 450,000 tons. That’s 0.6% of our U.S. total annual production, just to replace one smallish plant.
Concrete: 1.4 million tons; 0.2% of our production/yr.
CO2 emitted: 2.5 million tons
Cost: about 12 Billion dollars
Land: 73 square miles, which is larger than Washington DC, just to replace one small nuclear plant with solar/wind….
Offshore windmills use up to 8 tons of copper per mW.
The Nuclear Alternative
a.) Replace Vermont Yankee with a Westinghouse /Toshiba model AP1000 that produces 1070 MW baseload, about 2 x the output of Yankee.
Normalizing 1070 MW to Vermont Yankee’s 620 MW, the AP1000 uses:
Steel: 5800 tons – 1 % as much as wind and solar.
Concrete: 93,000 tons – about 7% as much.
CO2 emitted: 115,000 tons [from making the concrete and steel] – about 5% as much.
Cost: We won’t know until the Chinese finish their units. But it should be less than our “levelized” cost. [Perhaps $4-5 billion]
Land: The AP1000 reactor needs less than ¼ square mile for the plant site. Smaller than CSP by a factor of 2000. Smaller than PV by a factor of 4,000. Smaller than wind by 13,000.
b.) Better yet, we could get on the Thorium energy bandwagon. Thorium units will beat even the new AP1000 by wide margins in all 5 aspects – steel, concrete, CO2, dollar cost, and land.“
Ten, 3 MW wind generators’ use as much raw material as a 1-Gigawatt nuclear plant (Think of their carbon footprints.)
PV electricity generation requires 10,000 pounds of copper per megawatt. Wind needs 6,000, but highly efficient, CO2-free nuclear power needs only 175, which provides a huge financial saving and the smallest impact on the environment.
This was the last episode in our series Unintended Consequences. It’s been a wonderful experience and thanks to everyone in our team. Everyone has done a tremendous effort to put it all together. 30 weeks has gone by too fast.
A special warm thanks goes out to Dr. George Erickson for creating all of this wonderful material in the first place.
Thank you Dr. Erickson.
Stay tuned for the next series where we promote key, factual information relevant to a world focused on producing clean, green, safe energy from Molten Salt Fission Technology powered by Thorium.
In their excellent Wind and Solar’s Achilles Heel: The Methane Meltdown at Porter Ranch, Mike Conley and Tim Maloney reported:
“Even a tiny methane leak can make a gas-backed wind or solar farm just as bad – or worse – than a coal plant when it comes to global warming. And the leaks don’t just come from operating wells. They can happen anywhere in the infrastructure… In the U.S., these fugitive methane leaks can range up to 9%.
“If the fugitive methane rate of the infrastructure… exceeds 3.8 %, then you might as well burn coal for all the “good” it’ll do you. All in all, the numbers are pathetic – some of the most recent measurements of fugitive methane in the U.S. are up to 10%. But the gas industry predictably reports a low 1.6%.”
The sediments in many of the world’s shallow oceans and lakes also release vast amounts of methane from frozen organic matter as it thaws and decomposes. When a Russian scientist searched the Arctic shores for methane, he found hundreds of yard-wide craters, but when he returned a few years later, they were 100 yards in diameter.
In 2014, N. Nadir, of the Energy Collective wrote, “The most serious environmental problem that renewable energy has is that even if it reached 50% capacity somewhere, this huge waste of money and resources would still be dependent on natural gas, which any serious environmentalist with a long-term view sees as disastrous.
“Natural gas is not safe – even if we ignore the frequent news when a gas line blows up, killing people. It is not clean, since there is no place to dump its CO2; it is not sustainable; and the practice of mining it – fracking – is a crime against all future generations who will need to live with shattered, metal-leaching rock beneath their feet, and huge amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere.”
Burning just 1 gallon of gasoline creates about 170 cubic feet of CO2.
Tim Maloney of the Thorium Energy Alliance argues that we should be conserving natural gas because methane is the primary feed stock for ammonia, and ammonia is used to produce nitrogen-based fertilizers, a shortage of which could cause starvation. In addition, closing nuclear plants and expanding “renewables” that require natural gas will substantially increase CO2 and methane emissions.
From THINKPROGRESS, Nov. 2017, “A shocking newstudy concludes that the methane emissions escaping from New Mexico’s gas and oil industry are equivalent to the climate impact of approximately 12 coal-fired power plants.”
Are you a journalist – or a student – looking for the inside on Molten Salt Fission Energy powered by Thorium? Well this page is for you.
We’ve been asked many times for a summary of resources or key people to speak with.
Are we biased? Of course we are. Read on and you’ll know why. You’ll probably want to Join Us too.
A Future Powered by Thorium is our objective. We are leveraging the billions of USD in today’s value and millions of hours invested over 50 years ago in a technology that is demonstrably superior to anything else we have today.
See this chart of energy density from an Australian government website. Everything else pales into insignificance when compared to MSR (Molten Salt Reactors)
Here’s a recent article from Germany we translated into Japanese. It contains a lot of information on China’s progress also. China is replicating the 1960’s USA program, publicly announcing 2011 investing USD 3,3 billion and 700 engineers for the work. This is not about reinventing the wheel, it’s just remembering what we’ve done before. Remember also China and Australia worked together to create a replacement for the super alloy metal “Hastelloy”. This super metal was created in the 1950’s in the USA for their advanced nuclear programs and is only made today by two companies in the world – one in the USA and Mitsubishi. Now China has an alternative.
The article also includes information on Japan’s molten salt project – FUJI.
Here’s a list of must-do-interviews for background on Thorium Molten Salt Fission Energy or subjects related, such as radiation safety, the effects of Chernobyl and Linear No Threshold theory.
Professor Geraldine Thomas Director of the Chernobyl Tissue Bank, the world’s preeminent knowledge base for all things related to the real effects of that industrial accident. Prof. Thomas is became staunchly pro-nuclear due to her directorship. George Monbiot – a former Greenpeace anti-nuc activist, and now no longer in Greenpeace and strongly pro nuclear – after an interview he also had with Prof Thomas he had as a writer for the UK’s Guardian.
Mr. Daniel Roderick Former President and CEO of Westinghouse and then Toshiba Energy Systems. Danny steered the sale of Westinghouse for Toshiba, securing a positive, multi billion USD outcome for Japan. Danny was also the leader of negotiations to secure USD 50 billion in funding for a new nuclear build in Turkey (derailed by the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey). Mitsubishi subsequently submitted (and withdrew) a nuclear build in Northern Turkey (Sinop). Rosatom (Russia) is now building a nuclear power station in the south of Turkey (Akkuyu).
Dr. Adi Paterson Dr. Paterson is the former head of ANSTO and an advocate of Molten Salt Technology. During his 9 year tenure at ANSTO, Dr. Paterson steered Australia to membership of the Generation IV forum, kind of the United Nationals for advanced reactor designs. This is no mean feat given Australia’s lack of much to do with nuclear energy.
Dr. Resat Uzman Director of nuclear energy systems at Figes AS, of Turkey. Dr. Uzman has more than 40 years experience in all things nuclear, Turkey and rare earths – the materials where Thorium is often found bound with.
Professor Berrin Erbay Senior lecturer and former dean of mechanical engineering at Osmangazi University, Turkey Prof. Erbay has been liaising with the professors in Japan for several decades. You can see one of her presentations on the status of molten salt technology in Japan here on Youtube:
Mr. Phumzile Tshelane Mr. Tshelane is a former CEO of NECSA South Africa, now holds various directorships across a wide range of industrial sectors. His position as head of a state owned nuclear technology development company gives him a particular view point on commercialisation of nuclear energy technologies.
Ms. Rana Önem President of the Thorium Student Guild. You should hear from someone who is dedicating their life to Thorium Molten Salt and who is just starting out in their career. You can see Rana interviewing Dr. Uzman here. Follow the links at the end of the article to see her role as president of the Guild:
An important subject to cover is linear no threshold theory – a fraudulent model of radiation management that, unfortunately, has spawned an industry of radiation protection and radiation safety keen on maintaining its own survival. This results in massive, unnecessary overspending on nuclear builds. Professor Edward Calabrese is a leading expert on this subject and you can watch a series of interviews with Ed here:
Together with Professor Jerry Cuttler, Ed presents clearly, laying out how LNT has demonstrably been proven false. (And consequently those that died at Fukushima died unnecessarily, as a direct result of inappropriately applying that theory).
Here’s the background on the Turkey Japan University (TJU). Our CEOs meeting with the Japanese Ambassador to Turkey in 2021 confirmed Japanese support for technology development of Molten Salt is easier should such work be included in the curriculum of the TJU. Early planning stages of the TJU can be seen here below. The vice president of TJU is a senior professor at the Tokyo University responsible for nuclear engineering.
The “only” obstacle to adoption of Molten Salt Fission Energy powered by Thorium is the incumbent energy industries. It’s a significant obstacle, and it would be naive to think otherwise. Operating much like the tobacco industry has done in the past, lobbyists and funding at all levels occurs to stymie any potential competitors.
It is predicted that the 7 Trillion USD per year fossil fuel energy market would shrink to only 1 Trillion per year with a society powered by Thorium. This is an obvious disincentive for incumbents to do anything but to obfuscate and delay.
You can see that obfuscation at work here with both Wired and the Bulletin in 2019 on USA presidential candidate Andrew Yang:
The half truths and lies are difficult, if not impossible, for the layperson to identify. We contacted one of Andrew’s advisory team members and confirmed Andrew supports Thorium Molten Salt, and was committing several billion USD to have USA’s energy footprint 100% on the technology by 2030. Technically very doable. Politically, not.
It is important to recognise the ecological and economic footprint of energy from Thorium (a substance as common as lead) as being much smaller than even Uranium. In the article link above (the Japanese translation one) there are three slides that demonstrate the significant benefits Thorium has over Uranium. These slides are repeated below.
The IAEA report TE1450 from 2005 is an excellent read. It says Thorium is not an issue and is a good prospect for energy – back in 2005. Once the physics is proven it doesn’t need to be “upgraded” every 6 months like an iPhone.
And yes, Thorium doesn’t explode. “Walk away safe” is a suitable term for Molten Salt Technology.
Attached below is a brief summary of “Why Thorium didn’t take off” by Bruce Hoglund, 5 November 2010. It’s an excellent starting point for data gathering and research – and not “Wikipedia”. Wikipedia was used as partial evidence why the United Kingdom should’t use Thorium for energy. Some 10 years ago in a UK government 1.5m GBP funded “study”, rubbished Thorium and directly contradicted the advice of the IAEA’s TE1450 report.
The information here is but the tip of the iceberg, however it gives an excellent starting point. There are of course, many, many others who can contribute considerably for a balanced and objective article or articles on Thorium for our energy future. And with today’s communications technology, such conversations are only but a few key strokes away.
Burning stuff is old tech. Star Trek technology is where we have to be now. Fission does that, especially Molten Salt Fission Energy powered by Thorium
Because windmills generate just 1/3 of their rated capacity, the rest is supplied by plants that primarily burn coal or natural gas – which is 90% methane, which makes more CO2. I repeat: methane, over its lifetime, is 20 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, but during its youth, it is 80 times worse – and the next ten to twenty years are years of deep concern. Gas companies love “renewables”.
Ground and satellite surveys reveal that huge volumes of “fugitive” methane are leaking from our wells and distribution system. According to WSJ and the pre-Trump EPA, “Natural gas explosions cause death and/or property damage every other day, and U S ”leakage” is equivalent to the emissions from 70 million cars.” (CNN 9-13-18: “1 dead, 24 injured in 30 natural gas explosions in three Boston area towns.”)
While we pollute our aquifers by fracking for methane in Texas and elsewhere to assist inefficient wind and solar farms, we are simultaneously flaring (burning) huge volumes of natural gas across much of the Bakken “field” in North Dakota because it’s “too costly” to pipe it to market.
Windmills are, in effect, glorified, heavily subsidized carbon-burners that needlessly create more of the carbon dioxide that we seek to avoid. Were it not for our misguided passion for inefficient renewables, we’d have less need for fracking and less of the environmental damage they cause.
Satellite images of oil and gas basins reveal staggering 9-10% leakage rates of heat-trapping methane. Because of these leaks, fracking accelerates climate change even before the methane it extracts is turned into CO2.
In 2015, thanks to a “discovered” email message from Lenny Bernstein, a thirty-year oil industry veteran and ExxonMobil’s former in-house climate expert, we learned that Exxon accepted the reality of climate change in 1981, long before it became a public issue – but then, Exxon spent at least $30 million on decades of Climate Change denial.
In addition, despite studies from Johns Hopkins that reveal an associate fracking and premature births and asthma, Pennsylvania health workers were told by their Department of Health to ignore inquiries that used fracking “buzzwords.”
And according to a 2014 UN report, atmospheric methane levels have never exceeded 700 parts per billion in the last 400,000 years, but they reached 1850 ppb by 2013.
In 2015, a Duke University study reported: “Thousands of oil and gas industry wastewater spills in North Dakota have caused “widespread” contamination by radioactive materials, heavy metals and corrosive salts, putting the health of people and wildlife at risk.”
When wind advocates promote the glories of wind power, they use numbers based on the windmill’s nameplate rating, its maximum capacity – as in a February 20, 2015 Earth Watch article, which said, “…the total amount of wind power available… has grown to 318,137 megawatts in 2013.”
But because wind power is intermittent, windfarms usually generate an average output of about 33% of their capacity, which is why 318,137 megawatts is very misleading, and 95,000 would be more accurate, perhaps even generous. Thus, when they say that windmills can supply xxxxxxx homes, they are usually talking about the cumulative plate ratings on the generators – the output under ideal conditions, not the average amount of electricity they really produce.
Neither solar nor wind can deliver the 24/7 “baseload” power that is provided by nuclear plants plus hydropower, natural gas, oil and coal. Of those five, only nuclear power plants (despite Chernobyl, a plant deemed to be “illegal” everywhere else in the world), have been safely delivering carbon dioxide-free power for more than fifty years. (Wind also can’t handle cold weather.)
Great Britain, faced with building 12 nuclear plants or the 30,000 1-MW windmills needed to provide an equal amount of power, chose nuclear. And Japan, which closed its nuclear plants due to post-Fukushima panic, has begun to reactivate them, which will reduce the thousands of tons of CO2 they’ve been dumping into our atmosphere by burning methane [‘Natural’ Gas].
Germany, which over-reacted by closing nuclear plants in favour of wind and solar, is paying almost four times more for electricity than nuclear France. And with its industries hurting, the Merkel government has begun to rethink nuclear power. While they debate, they are creating more CO2 by burning lignite, the dirtiest member of the coal family.
Germany “paid” for the top line of the following graph, but only got the dark blue spikes. The light blue area is primarily supplied by burning carbon, which worsens Climate Change. (Every megawatt of wind generation capacity requires at least another MW of natural gas or coal generation for backup.)
I understand why power companies cooperated with the rush to wind power. For one thing, renewables were demanded by a misinformed public led by many of the “green” organisations whose goals I support, but not their methods.
33% efficient windmills have received subsidies of USD 56 per Megawatt hour. In comparison, 90% efficient nuclear power, which critics say is “too expensive,” receives just USD 3 per Megawatt hour.
Even the wind companies and Warren Buffett admit that without the subsidies, they’d be losers: “…on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” (2014)
“Most cost estimates for wind power disregard the heavy burden of these subsidies on US taxpayers. But if Americans realised the full cost of generating energy from wind power, they would be less willing to foot the bill – because it’s more than most people think.
“Over the past 35 years, wind energy – which supplied just 4.4% of US electricity in 2014 – has received USD 30 billion in federal subsidies and various grants. These subsidies shield people from the truth of just how much wind power actually costs and transfer money from average taxpayers to wealthy wind farm owners, many of which are units of foreign companies….”
“Nuclear’s production tax credit (PTC) of 1.8 cents/kWhr is not indexed for inflation. PTCs for other low carbon energies are indexed. The PTC for wind is 2.3 cents/kWhr.
“Plants must be placed in service before January 1, 2021. Thanks to Nuclear Regulatory Comm. slowness, that practically eliminates any PTC for new nuclear power.
“Do you know about “renewable portfolio standards”? If government cares about young people and nature, why are these not “carbon-free portfolio standards”?
“This is a huge hidden subsidy, reaped by only renewables. There is a complex array of financial incentives for renewables. Incentives include the possibility of a 30% investment tax credit in lieu of the PTC, which provides a large “time-value-of-money” advantage over a PTC spread over 8-10 years, accelerated 5-year depreciation, state and local tax incentives, loan guarantees with federal appropriation for the “credit subsidy cost.
“Nuclear power, in contrast, must pay the full cost of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license review, at a current rate of USD 272 per professional staff hour, with no limit on the number of review hours. The cost is at least USD 100-200 million. The NRC takes a minimum of 42 months for its review, and the uncertainty in the length of that review period is a major disincentive.”
We are all paying hidden costs to prop up these inefficient, deadly “alternatives” that depend on methane [Natural Gas] to produce 70% of their rated power, even though the methane [Natural Gas] leakage from fracking and the distribution system are erasing any benefits we hoped to get by avoiding coal. Furthermore, the price quoted for a nuclear plant includes the cost of decommissioning, but it isn’t for the thousands of windmills or solar farms that only last about 20 years.
In fact, the deck has been stacked against nuclear power by “green” profiteers and carbon lobbyists who know they cannot compete with 90% efficient, CO2-free nuclear power. Still, despite the bureaucratic handicaps on nuclear power and the support given to renewables, nuclear power is financially competitive, as the following chart reveals.
It’s not just birds and bats that suffer. According to the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, “Just in England, there were 163 wind turbine accidents that killed 14 people in 2011, which translates to about 1000 deaths per billion kilowatt-hours.
“In contrast, during 2011 nuclear energy produced 90 billion kWhrs in England with NO deaths and America produced 800 billion kWhrs via nuclear with NO deaths.”
Why is it almost sacrilegious for the Sierra Club and its clones to rethink windmills, and why do they refuse to watch presentations that compare the records of their “green” alternative energy sources to the record of CO2-free nuclear power? Could $$$ be involved? (In 2012, TIME magazine reported that the Sierra Club secretly accepted USD 26 million from Chesapeake Energy – an oil company.)
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh report that 117 of world’s 200,000 windmills burn every year – far more than the 12 reported by wind farm companies. Even more throw their blades or have them torn off by climate change storms.
U. S. Insurance claims for 2018 reveal that blade damage and gearbox failures cost the industry USD 340,000 and USD 480,000 respectively. Claims associated with windmill foundations have averaged USD 1,800,000 per year, reaching USD 3,200,000 in 2018 due to extreme circumstances.
For examples of the opposition we encounter from many “greens” please see these excellent articles:
As mentioned near the end of Chapter seven – and repeated here for emphasis – when we include the positive medical data that was accumulated over thirty years from Pripyat and the region around Chernobyl, the worldwide death print for wind is 115 times worse than the death print or nuclear power, 340 times worse for solar, 3,000 times worse for natural gas and 27,000 times worse for oil.
Nuclear power is even safer than ‘benign” hydropower, which has a huge carbon footprint because of the energy needed to manufacture the cement in its concrete, and because reservoirs create large amounts of methane. (See Hydro’s Dirty Secret Revealed by Duncan Graham-Rowe.)
Furthermore, people who are forced to live close to windmills have complained of severe sleep deprivation, chronic stress, dizziness and vertigo caused by low frequency noise and inaudible noise below 20 Hz, known as infrasound.
Despite these problems, those who profit from selling, repairing and building short-lived, inefficient, wind and solar farms have no interest in replacing coal-burning power plants with highly efficient, environment- friendly, ultra-safe, Generation III+ reactors or Molten Salt Reactors that cannot melt down, cannot generate the hydrogen that exploded at Chernobyl and Fukushima – and can even consume much of our stored nuclear “waste” as fuel.
With these facts in mind, how can “environmentalists” support wind farms that require carbon-burning backup generators, have only a 20-year lifespan, are difficult to recycle and have larger death prints than nuclear power, which operates 24/7, has a much smaller carbon footprint, a 60-year lifespan, is 90% efficient, requires very little land, and kills no birds or bats?
Coming up next week, Episode 26 – Tilted Economics – Public Fund Pillaging
I was thrilled when the first windmills appeared on the Laurentian Divide near my hometown of Virginia, Minnesota, but a few years later, having noticed a significant amount of “down time,” I checked on wind power’s record with the help of my new associates in the Thorium Energy Alliance and discovered that the windmill industry had been selling more sizzle than steak.
During the “green” search for energy alternatives, which was guided by an “anything but nuclear” bias, the Sierra Club and others to which I once belonged took pains to define what was “renewable” and what was not. In so doing, they deliberately (and ironically), excluded CO2-free nuclear power, even though we have enough uranium and thorium to last 100,000 years.
Because those who profit from wind and solar said nothing about their carbon footprints, environmental damage, resource use, inefficiency, bird, bat and human deaths (death prints) and the need for huge subsidies, we drank their Kool-Aid, and now wonder why it’s making us sick. Well, here’s why, from many points of view.
Number 1 – Safety
Windmills kill 1 million birds and 1 million bats per year, even as insect borne diseases like Zika, dengue fever and malaria are increasing. (Bats can be killed by just getting too close to the low pressure area that accompanies each blade, which ruptures their lungs) How “green” is that?
Don’t these “environmentalists” care that, according to Science magazine, a “single colony of 150 brown bats has been estimated to eat nearly 1.3 million disease-carrying insects each year”? Shouldn’t they know that, according to the US Geological Survey, bats consume harmful pests that feed on crops, providing about USD 23 billion in benefits to America’s agricultural industry every year?
“North America lost 3 billion birds between 1970 and 2019” [ WSJ] but no one mentions windmills for contributing to this disaster!