THORIUM | Robert Hargraves | Talks at Google

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THORIUM | Robert Hargraves | Talks at Google

MALE SPEAKER: Dr. Hargraves has written articles and made presentations about the Liquid Fluoride Thorine Reactor– or LFTR, as we affectionately call it– and energy cheaper than coal, the only realistic way to dissuade nations from burning fossil fuels His presentation, “Aim High,” about the technology and social benefits of LFTR, has been presented to audiences at Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth College, Thayer School of Engineering, Brown University, Columbia Earth Institute, Williams College, Royal Institution, the Thorium Energy Alliance, the International Thorium Energy Association, Google– at Mountain View in both 2009 and 2010– the American Nuclear Society, The President’s Blue Ribbon Commission of America’s Nuclear Future, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences With co-author Ralph Moir, he has written articles for the American Physical Society Forum on Physics and Society, “Liquid Fuel Nuclear Reactors”– that was January 2011– and “American Scientist,” “Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors,” July 2010 Robert is a study leader for energy policy at Dartmouth Ilead He was chief information officer at Boston Scientific Corporation, and previously a senior consultant with Arthur D. Little He founded software firm DTSS Incorporated while at Dartmouth College, where he was assistant professor of mathematics and associate director of the computation center He graduated from Brown University with a Ph.D In physics in 1967, and Dartmouth College, AB mathematics and physics in 1961 It is with appreciation that we welcome Robert to speak to us here today Thank you [APPLAUSE] DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Well, besides the climate crisis, we have an economic crisis Here’s an example of it in India You can look at that picture and see that the Indian economy is not doing particularly well You also notice that they are collecting biofuels, which is not really an environmentally friendly activity The other thing to notice is that that’s not a great source of energy And another thing to notice is that these are all women– women who are quite under-employed in this country So there are a lot of problems that are encapsulated in this photo that we want to try to address First thing to notice, though, is government debts It’s not just the US that has a debt crisis It’s many of the nations on earth have a growing debt compared to their gross domestic product It’s not just us How do we solve that problem? We have the risk of default on the debt We have a potential risk of inflation, if we all print more money GDP might contract, destruction of people’s savings, and the collapse of the welfare state in Europe There are solutions that are proposed The conservatives and Republicans generally say, let’s cut back on spending That’s the way to solve the debt crisis The more liberal economists would say, well, let’s spend more money and get us out of this situation by sparking economic growth with deficit spending Or perhaps we should devalue the dollar and export more But that doesn’t work if all the countries do that That’s a zero-sum game So what can you do instead? One example is productivity growth And you all in the IT industry should remember the Y2K crisis During that crisis, which was caused by people worrying about the two-digit year number not being enough, and causing failures and control systems and so on, many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were scared So they invested tons of money in products like Google’s system Or SAP for enterprise-wide software to control everything from personnel to purchasing to production control, bills and materials– the whole package, in multiple locations, multiple currencies In fact, that investment paid off It did increase GDP It’s one of the factors that was responsible for the growth in economic productivity in the US in the early part of this century So what about the idea of productivity growth to cheap energy, instead of new software? Cheap energy can make a big difference We’ll talk about that Meanwhile, we have a few crises sitting in front of us

We have the iconic polar bear, symbolizing global warming We have world population growing from perhaps seven billion today to nine or more We’re running out of food The fish in the ocean are largely depleted– at least the large ones that we like to eat And don’t forget we have wars over natural resources This is a picture of a war in Kuwait, where Iraq invaded for oil and then burned the oil wells on the way out So the competition for natural resources– particularly, energy is a problem Coal emissions in the US, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and according to the local Cambridge Clean Air Task Force Group, says that there are 13,000 deaths a year from respiratory illnesses caused by inhalation of small particulates, 2.5 microns in diameter and less There are perhaps a half a million or a million such deaths in China and other places where the particulates are even larger In the case of global warming, my concern mostly is food production This is an example of the Rongbuk Glacier in India, decades apart In one case, we had lots of ice flowing down In the other case, it’s nearly dry The glaciers are the source of summer meltwater that enables agriculture to thrive year round in these places The loss of this kind of water supply is a threat to food supply worldwide Now, that’s my biggest take on global warming This is a chart of data that was compiled by the CIA On the horizontal axis are, for each nation in the picture, the number of children per women birthed, on the average And on the vertical axis, the gross domestic product per capita, which is very closely related to income One of the things you should notice, just looking at it instantly, is that the stable replacement rate of about 2.2 births per woman is only exceeded in the poorest countries in the world Those countries that are relatively well off from a GDP per capita point of view have a sustainable, or diminishing, birth rate So prosperity is an important stabilizer for population If we look closely here, we notice that that occurs at somewhere around $7,500 per year, gross domestic product per capita That’s the number we’d like to get to If we could do that, it appears we could really stabilize the earth’s population Why? Because women who are in prosperous countries have time to get off their chores, time to relax, time to go to school, time to get jobs, time to have money of their own and exert the independence they need to control births Prosperity has cut the birth rate Prosperity is also largely dependent upon energy Now, energy’s not the only component to make a prosperous nation We need good government We need the rule of law We need education But we also critically need energy And, specifically, we need electric energy– the kind of power you need for refrigeration, for commerce, for transportation, for safety, for machine tools Everything depends upon that rather useful form of energy, electric power And here, it’s about– again, about 2,000 kilowatt hours per capita seems to be a number that is associated with the level of prosperity needed to control population For comparison, the US is off the chart here We’re at about 12,000 kilowatt hours per person Canada, 14,000 And occasional countries have even more electric consumption But somewhere around 2,000 kilowatt hours, or 600 watts average power per person, seems to be a number that suggests achieving the prosperity for stable population The other thing to notice is that prosperity depends upon cheap energy This is a “Wall Street Journal” chart And the arrows pointing down to the vertical bars

indicate when we’ve had recessions And there’s an indication that when oil prices spike, there’s a strong correlation with diminished economic performance Several economists tried to model the economic behavior as a function of labor, and capital, and energy, and so on And their conclusions are that if you were to take a big world economy and inject, for free, about a dollar’s worth of energy in the form of oil into it, you can increase the productivity of the whole economy by about five to one We still have cheap oil It can’t stay cheap, though Here’s the total investments of the major oil companies over the last 10 years or so It’s quintupled! So if you’re spending that much money to explore for new oil, the prices have only got to go up Now, developing nations know full well that electric power and energy are critical to their economic development And so they are desperately seeking to get new energy sources Coal plants– there are something like 1,400 gigawatts of coal plants in production around the world today And although we kind of think in the US we are diminishing that number, as we pass laws and the coal plants shut here– some of them– the number of coal plants worldwide, under planning, is going to double It’s going to be another 1,400 watts of power, doubling CO2 emissions So that’s the reality of the projections worldwide What we do in the US is not so important, compared to what the developing nations are going to do A lot of people say, well, we ought to pass carbon taxes and get the developing nations to not burn so much energy But the developing nations like China say, wait a minute The US and the OECD nations gained their prosperity by cheap energy from burning coal Now it’s our turn How can you say that you achieved your prosperity, and we can’t? Here’s this CO2 emissions per capita of the United States– a little over 1,000 tons per person China says, well, we’ve only done 76 tons When we get to 1,000, we’ll talk about it And that same story will be repeated in India, Indonesia, and so on Economics is a powerful force I like Fareed Zakaria He’s got a book And he tries to point out the importance of economics And a very mundane thing is change economics and trade over the last few decades And that’s the container The container ship has made world commerce possible– inexpensively, without pilferage, in a standardized form That trade takes place between a whole network of 250 nations So the occasional bilateral treaty we sign to stop some sort of behavior we don’t like about energy doesn’t matter much Economics always works around these things Economics is the most powerful force, not politics We need energy cheaper than coal We tried politics to contain CO2 But nations resist carbon taxes Even a wealthy nation, like the United States, will not pass a carbon tax And yet, we have conferences where people go and talk about how to have a political agreement to pass carbon taxes And here are all some of the recent failed conferences that led nowhere And yet, we keep trying to do that again We need energy cheaper than coal That’s the only way we can stop people from burning coal Provide them with a more attractive and more economical alternative A lot of people say, well, why don’t we just cut back on our power use? We’re gluttons here We’re using too much energy And perhaps we are In the US, we generate and use about 434 gigawatts of power on the average, throughout the year So let’s suppose that we are really good and we cut back our electric power use to half of that And then the rest of the nations in the world who want to achieve that good standard of living we have in the US also achieve that level of use per capita That’s the projected electric power consumption

for the world, if that scenario I described is true So again, what we do in the US is important, a little bit But what the earth depends on mostly is what the rest of the world does, because there’s so many people there We need energy cheaper than coal, again Now, in the book, I went through a little scenario to do a very crude model of the costs of electric power from various sources And this is going to summarize these things I break costs into three components– capital cost recovery for the investment in the power plant, the fuel it takes, and the operations cost and so on Now, given an investment in a power plant like a coal power plant, a brand-new costs on the order of $2.80 for capital investment for every watt of capacity that that coal plant will have So we want to convert that capital cost to the expense of recovering that capital So we want to know what is the equivalent payment to achieve that $2.80 investment And you have to learn a little bit about present value, if you haven’t done that The question is, would I like $1,000 now? Or would I like a penny an hour for the next 40 years? The answer to that depends upon the discount rate you choose And people can argue about that I picked, in this example, 8% But you can do the math any way you like And I also picked a lifetime for most things of 40 years In the case of coal plants and nuclear power plants, I picked a capacity factor– that is, the time it’s running– of 90% That is, you only get your penny back when the plant’s actually running Doing that, the math is really easy Because $2.80 per watt investment turns out to be 2.8 cents per kilowatt hours So the math is easy OK, we’ll use that I model In the lower left of this screen is the only running plant that actually has the ability to capture CO2 It’s an integrated gasification combined cycle It’s the kind of power plant that burns coal in oxygen, instead of air So there’s no nitrogen oxides in the fuel, or no nitrogen It makes it easy to extract the CO2 from the exhaust stream, because it’s only water and CO2 But it was very expensive to build There’s only one been built That cost was about $4.76 per watt, just for the capital cost of the plant, without storing the CO2 anywhere Just in the last week, we saw announcements in the “MIT Technology Review” of two new plants in Louisiana and Canada that have a capital cost in excess of $9 per watt, just to get the CO2 out, not to dispose of it So carbon capture and storage, which has been touted by the coal companies as clean coal, is economically infeasible Natural gas– that’s the current darling A couple of things here One is that the capital cost for natural gas power plants is relatively low, on the order of $1 per watt, for the capacity And the fuel, right, today is relatively cheap Fuel has been as low as $2 or $3 a million BTUs And now it’s up to five, about And that number– 2.8 cents a kilowatt hour– is the contribution of the fuel cost Again, I just said operations cost in this really simple model are $1– a penny per kilowatt hour You can do better But, I mean, that’s to maintain the generator, and the power station, and the transformers, and all that sort of thing That’s not unreasonable Again, a simple model Couple other points, though– one is that most of the gas plants in the US are the ones that were designed to do peaking That is, to come online fast, speed up the power, and generate electricity And their efficiency is only about 30% That is, 30% of the potential thermal energy for burning the fuel is converted into electric power Whereas the fancier ones that are combined cycle that have the gas turbines, for which the turbine heats water to make steam in a secondary generation scheme, are about 60% Much more so– a bit more expensive to run, a lot more conservative of fuel, but they

take hours to start up, as opposed to minutes So they’re not used for backing up wind power They’re used as energy sources They’re pretty good So that’s the situation with natural gas In the case of wind, it’s very hard, because you read all the newspapers about how cheap it is and how it keeps dropping OK, my approach was to try and find out what the total capital investment was to create a wind farm Not the wind farm after the subsidies, after the renewable energy credits, after the capital tax writedowns, and so on Try and find out the real cost, the total cost– because it doesn’t matter who paid From a society point of view, or from a global point of view, it doesn’t matter whether it was the taxpayer, the rate payer, the bondholder– whoever put the money in The question is, as a society, we need to do the right thing Because we’re talking about a global problem So find out that total cost, if you can Here’s some cost estimates from the EIA– the Energy Information Agency of the Department of Energy, which is usually pretty good Their example is $2.44 a watt But if you look at the price for the Deepwater Horizon– Deepwater Wind farm, off the coast of Rhode Island, that was $7 a watt Right nearby, Cape Wind is $5.80 for watt Their capacity factor is only 30%, though So to do the capital cost recovery, remember, we only would cover that capital cost when the wind is generating electricity So you have to divide that capital cost by .03 in order to figure that out Now– AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] number for the table on the left? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: I think so I think that’s the number I picked The Cape Wind cost of the utility, as a sort of a reasonableness check, is in this range They signed contracts with the utilities in Massachusetts They have an escalation cause And they’ll go up to $0.24 an hour, if that happens So the model’s not crazy It’s about right All right So electricity– same idea Here’s that Ivanpah plant at Brightsource, is the company OK, there again, capital cost recovery– figuring out, in this case, I think I used 25% percent capacity factor We have to look in the book $0.22 a kilowatt hour Fuel is cheap Ops are about a penny Again, here are some examples of capital costs And here are some examples of contracted power costs, but for which the company sells power to the utilities So the utilities have been bludgeoned by law and public utilities into purchasing wind power and solar power at the prices– OK– were the first priority And thereafter, go and buy natural gas, or coal, or nuclear, or whatever And here again are some prices that are being paid today AllEarth is– I don’t know if [INAUDIBLE] is up and running AllEarth is getting paid $0.30 a kilowatt hour Remember, coal is about 5.6%, nuclear typically around $0.06 today Biomass– people say, well, that’s renewable Let’s try that OK, so I looked again at some examples of what these units cost to build And here are a couple examples The fuel, well, delivered to the plant is those numbers I called up and I found out what it costs to buy tons of wood And put it in a plan Figure out how many BTUs you get out of the wood And run through the efficiency calculation And we get fuel costs about $0.47 a kilowatt hour So again, the total– $0.09 So my conclusion is, green energy is not cheaper than coal Here’s a summary of what we just covered, right– on the far left, coal Gas today is a little cheaper than coal That’s why coal use has been diminishing somewhat And we can probably see that happening for a few more years But the others are more expensive Again, the reason the press reports their cheapness is because of unstated subsidies For example, AllEarth renewables in Vermont– the capital cost of that plant was paid for 30% by the federal government as a tax credit Not only that– the tax credits, by special exemption, were not paid at the time the taxes were paid They were paid upfront, in advance

The state of Vermont gave a 30% capital tax credit to that organization They get a $0.24 per kilowatt hour production tax credit They get priority on the grid They can always sell it The utility must take that power whenever they can And so on And they get $0.30 a kilowatt hour for the electricity they do sell So here’s my calculation Do your own When you’re curious, try and find out what the plant costs Figure out what the capital cost is, really And spread it out over the lifetime and capacity factor of the plant So here’s carbon intensity of the electric power sector worldwide It hasn’t changed a bit So I say, green doesn’t work Can nuclear work? Well, back to nuclear for a second Alvin Weinberg is a guy who patented– or was co-patentor– of the light water reactor that was used originally in Rickover’s submarine, and today in all the US power plants and most of the ones worldwide Rickover was a dynamic and forceful and obnoxious person who managed to get it installed in the submarines and also was tapped by Eisenhower to lead the domestic nuclear power program And he basically took the same design and was going on an aircraft carrier, put it in a shipping port in Pennsylvania And that was the seed for all of the power plants, nuclear power plants that were built there after Not only that– the Navy was training admirals and generals– not generals, admirals and captains and so on– to run these nuclear power plants And it was a source and supply of skilled nuclear technical people to run the power plants on land But what about yesterday’s solid fuel nuclear reactors? Can they compete with natural gas? Last year, this plant, out of the blue, shut down They said their operations costs alone were such that they couldn’t make money competing against natural gas, which surprises me I’m still flabbergasted why it was so expensive At that time, gas was about– was making 4.3 cents electricity They couldn’t do it, even incrementally They shut the plant And once you shut it, it’s basically gone Right locally in Vermont, this plant is shutting down at the end of the year Same argument– can’t make money So what about the new power plants, the new generation 3 plus plants that Westinghouse is now building? Two in Georgia, and two in the Carolinas That plant costs $6 per watt of capacity So it looks to me like it’s going to generate electric power somewhere around $0.08 a kilowatt hour Well, remember coal is about $0.56, so that’s kind of tough So that doesn’t look too promising yet, unless we can get the cost of those points down Which, by the way, China is Westinghouse is building those same plants in China, and their capital cost for the first ones are $2 per watt, not $6 So there’s something different about the costs in the US Those of you who like Bill Gates and his investments in TerraPower– remember, he’s building a kind of a power plant, which is cooled by liquid metal It’s a so-called fast reactor In the US, that program was called integral fast reactor at one time This is a PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimate of the cost of power from that Gates would say he’s aiming to compete with other nuclear power plants But it’s certainly not cheaper than coal So we need innovation Let’s look at the space program as a source of cost innovation SpaceX– remember Elon Musk, right? And things like PayPal, and SpaceX, and Tesla, and all those good things He saw a cost-innovation opportunity there, because of the shuttle complexity And because of the fact they used 1970s technology Now, that kind of rings a bell when you think about light water reactors in the United States So what he did was assemble a small team with low overhead and design an entirely new rocket engine And do it quickly Between the time of incorporation and the first rocket flight was only six years The SpaceX Falcon, which is their first product, flew for $443 million– compared to the NASA estimate for what it was going to cost NASA to do it if the government did that project at $1.44 billion

So he’s proving that sometimes there is a technical cost-innovation opportunity What about liquid fuel reactors instead of solid fuel reactors? That’s my idea This is a picture of a liquid fuel reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory It’s a lot of pipes, and the reactor in the sort of top middle, on the right a little bit Oak Ridge started this way back in 1953 This man, Richard Engel, is still a consultant in this area He, at that time, was putting together a water reactor That is heavy water that had dissolved in a uranium sulfite salt And it generated electric power, as a power plant Had all the things about stability and so on that we like They couldn’t make it really big enough to generate commercial power But that was their first adventure in liquid fuel reactors Thereafter, Weinberg– the guy who invented the light water reactor– also was the director of Oak Ridge and a designer and promoter of the molten salt reactor So, in this case, the liquid was not water It was salt that was melted And the salt was a fluoride– fluorides of lithium, or beryllium, and so on– picked because they have low atomic numbers And picked because the fluoride– fluorine doesn’t absorb neutrons So they ran a reactor way back in ’54 at a red-hot temperature A current reactor is what, 300 degrees centigrade or so? This is quite hot So the proof of concept worked Later on, after a lot of machinations, they tried to put together one that was going to be more commercially oriented and that also worked in that time period Here’s kind of how these things work Here’s a chart of the nuclides The horizontal axis is the atomic number, the number of protons The vertical axis is the atomic weight, the number of neutrons plus protons Right in the middle of the chart, you see the U-235 symbol for fission But if we look up at the top, on the 238 line, you can see that uranium 238, which is 96% of all the uranium that’s in a power plant reactor today That uranium, when it absorbs a neutron in that blue arrow symbol, it becomes U-2– I’m sorry It becomes U-239, which is unstable And over a period of days, it decays, finally to become plutonium 239, which is a fissile material And that fissile material, in turn, fissions and generates heat and power in a reactor Few people realize that in today’s power reactors, we’re not only fissioning uranium 235 A third of the power at the end of the fuel cycle is from plutonium We actually manufacture and burn plutonium right in the solid fuel reactor In the same scheme, Weinberg and crew pointed out that thorium 232, when irradiated in the same scheme, becomes uranium 233, another fissile material So there’s another avenue and has a technical reason why that’s sort of convenient And that is, it can happen at low neutron energies So that’s what’s happening Now, we can actually design one of these reactors So this is a kind of a busy diagram OK, so that big, yellow circle is meant to be the reactor, a liquid pot or vessel And there’s a lot of reactions that go on inside there At the top left is an example of a U-233 fission which releases neutrons And those neutrons have a couple of purposes One is they can promote something like U-238 to become plutonium 239, which could be fissioned and make power, just as the U-235 or anything else can release neutrons when fissioned and promote 232 thorium to becomes fissile U-233 So it’s a good scheme It’s very– relatively inexpensive to construct It’s a highly proliferation-resistant scheme of things, more so even than today’s reactors And I’m a fan of this reactor today, because I think we can build it relatively inexpensively It will run for decades, before eventually you

have to change the salt Meanwhile, at the top left, there’s a waste-separator thing And some of the fission products, like Xenon, tend to absorb neutrons and impede the reaction There’s a scheme in these kinds of reactors to remove some of the fission products on the fly, in the liquid That’s the reason why liquid fuel reactors are attractive And that is, the online quick processing makes them relatively inexpensive I say that that kind of reactor has the potential– $3 per kilowatt hour– to undersell coal Why? One is– I looked up some estimates that had been done over the past decades for building these kinds of plants And I just promoted them up to the current, I think, 2012 dollars And they’re in the range of about $2 a watt capital cost recovery I’m sorry, $2 a watt capital cost– that range So we’re in the ballpark But the technical reasons have to do with, principally, the molten fluoride salt Now, the name of my book starts off with thorium, because it’s a short word But the real technology key is the liquid fuel form The fuel, again, is, again, fluorides of lithium and beryllium Fluorine, lithium, and beryllium all have low atomic numbers Good moderators, they slow the neutrons down, enabling reactions Uranium is just dissolved in that molten salt The salt, of course, has good heat transfer The reaction is taking place right in it And so you use that molten salt through a heat exchange You’re external to the reactor vessel to get the energy out The whole thing is an atmospheric pressure There is no– you know, a current light water reactor is pressurized to, maybe, 150 atmospheres of pressure So we have a containment building around it, just in case that vessel ever explodes somehow That’s never happened But we still have a safety factor, because of the atmospheric pressure of the radioactive materials Another nice feature of this project is that there’s an overheat protection that was designed into the original reactor And that is a pipe, you can see, that would drain the salt from the reactor vessel itself into a specialized drain tank And that pipe is plugged with salt that is kept cool with just a fan that blows warm or cool air on it So that, if the thing were to overheat, or the electric power were to fail, or something of that nature, that freeze pipe– freeze plug– would just melt And the liquid would drain out into a configuration which can’t be critical There’s no propulse of pressure to spew radioactive materials everywhere We’ve talked about that And the places are typically designed so that if there was a vessel rupture, or pipe rupture, or something, the molten salts should spill out and be contained on the floor of the containment Now, the other point is that it’s a low-mass project This original motivation was to design a jet engine for an airplane So the first reactor designed– second one designed was about 1.4 meters in diameter It was a beryllium sphere And they’d actually started to build that unit But they decided not to do it The motivation was to have Strategic Air Command bombers circling Russia for months at a time, never refueling, powered by these kind of engines But eventually, the ICBMs we had were able to supplant bombers And we had nuclear submarines at sea with missiles on them as well So this project never got much beyond the first prototype experiment on the ground, and this design, for which they did build that beryllium sphere and started on it Compare that to what’s going on in China right now You know, the construction costs are pretty high This, just the dome itself, weighs, what, 780 tons They’re moving big pieces of equipment around The same thing’s going on in Georgia right now, where they’re building two more power plants– again, Westinghouse’s design Another point here is that the high temperature of these reactors generates power much more efficiently

than the lower temperature of today’s pressurized water reactors So we can actually cut our water use, because we’re so much more efficient at converting high-temperature energy to electric power And there are versions of this that will actually work with– Is that picture complete? Not really, is it? Hmm –with just air cooling You can do that Another thing that’s happening right now is a lot of investment at Sandia, particularly in the super-critical CO2 turbines Super-critical CO2 is a kind of a– just think of a liquid, of CO2 And you keep compressing it And it becomes, at certain temperature and pressure, a kind of a liquid that’s compressible And you can make a very efficient device to convert thermal energy to mechanical energy to generate power with it Plenty of it around In the US, 500 tons just would run the whole US electric power system for a year There’s plenty of it My point is that smaller reactors can actually be produced in a production line Today, we have Boeing aircraft that can make a $200 million aircraft every day We know how to do that And making aircraft is sort of the same We have the same issues about safety, about materials, about thermodynamics All those things are controlled, and result in quality production The other point here is that, if you’re producing something out of a production line, you have the benefit of a learning curve The concept here is that when you double the number of units produced, you reduce the unit cost by a certain percentage called the learning ratio Typically, it’s around 20% In the electronics, high-tech IT industry, it’s been about 50% OK, and University of Chicago was conservative in their estimate of 10% in the nuclear industry But even so, that makes a tremendous difference in cost, when we get to producing thousands of units, instead of two or three, in a production environment Again, we could make a– certainly, a $70 billion a year industry, just by producing these units Suppose we were to do that, one a day We could actually cut down the– by replacing coal plants, the emissions from coal in a period of about 40 years So just by replacing one a day It’s possible to do that The other things that we can do with high temperatures from these kinds of plants are have new kinds of fuels So, in this example, we’re pointing out that, although you know about electrolysis to make hydrogen from water, there’s also a thermal way to do it by making it very hot and using a couple of catalysts– iodine and sulfur, or copper and chlorine– to create hydrogen, making use of that high temperature Not electric power, necessarily The Honda Clarity you can buy today runs on hydrogen And there are a half a dozen hydrogen cars that you can buy Hydrogen is OK as a fuel But you’ve got to compress it in a tank in order to do it So it doesn’t– you don’t get as much fuel in a car as you would with gasoline But we can also combine hydrogen with these kind of elements in order to make liquid fuels George Olah wrote the book about the methanol economy He’s a big promoter of that Ammonia, surprisingly, is a good fuel You have to control it Dimethylene’s a substitute for diesel fuel This car’s been touring Europe It’s an ammonia-powered car Suppose you wanted to make carbonation fuels, like gasoline Because we know how to use that Where do we get a carbon source that is environmentally friendly? That is, other than getting petroleum out of the ground and burning it We want a renewable sort of carbon Where can we get something like that to make these products? One is thought to be taking it out of the air And people toy with this all the time And the economics of it are sort of marginal, at best We’re thinking that with really cheap energy from this kind of reactor, it might become economically feasible

But that’s again a Sandia project, well thought of Just recently, the Naval research laboratories demoed their process for getting CO2 out of seawater, rather than air There’s a lot more CO2 per liter in seawater than there is in air And that makes it an efficient thing So they’ve done that and demonstrated how to make fuel And the point here is that the Navy has experience with nuclear power They know– and they’re looking strictly– they’re looking very deliberately– to using this kind of extraction technology to make jet fuel at sea from seawater and nuclear power And it’s not a long way off We’re talking within the decade This demo skid does work And it’s been demonstrated And, in fact, just as a game, they flew a model airplane with the kind of fuel that they manufactured this way So they’re pretty pleased about that Again, biomass is a source of carbon You can get it from farming And if we burn that, and it goes in the air, it gets reabsorbed and comes back in a lot, to the land So it’s a zero-impact cycle But I say, well, don’t burn it Just use it as the source of the carbon atoms you need to make the hydrocarbon fuels We can make a ton of fuel from 1.7 tons of biomass Around the world, we use a lot of dung, right, and other sorts of products, in order to make fuel Same idea Instead of burning them, we could use them as sources for carbon for synthesis World cattle dung– and people in India collect that But it’s very labor intensive to collect it I have to point out that we have a collection process here already So that could be cheap Again, back again to the benefits A dollar more energy can spark our economic growth, increase our natural productivity, allow tax revenues to rise, maybe improve the government’s debt situation Again, low cost is critical That’s the thing we have to watch, all the time One of the reasons I’ve been interested in the denatured molten salt reactor is to get that cost down low In my books and other talks, I’ve talked to all these benefits from the liquid fuel nuclear reactors All these things are possible to do But I’m suggesting now that you kind of put it off, until we get the economic case solved If we can get economic liquid fuel nuclear reactors sold and being produced in mass production, then we get a chance to having them be accepted worldwide and delve into these other opportunities to make use of that inexpensive power Again, economics always wins in the long run China is under way They’re building these units This guy on the left is the son of the former president, Jiang He’s got $350 million allocated to projects And he has 400 people working on it right now, trying to build a molten salt cool version, a sort of stair-step version, by that date And a molten salt reactor, per se, in 2020 Recently, that’s been accelerated Here’s a slide that Jiang used in his talk He points out the crisis in China today And that is, air pollution has become terrible And the people are very upset about it So his project has been goaled to going into commercial production in 2024 Of course, China’s trying one of everything, right? They’ve got big dams and four kinds of nuclear reactors and so on But they’re pursuing this intensely today In the US, today’s environment, we can’t do that We really cannot All the rules and regulations of the NRC are very specific to the light water reactors we have And they’re being very difficult There’s no sort of overview risk-informed, performance-based regulation It’s “comply with this rule.” And that’s how the whole system works Cost-benefit analyses, which are used even by the EPA, are not used in the NRC The NRC says safety is paramount We make no cost-benefit trade offs That’s the mental attitude going in The idea of the nuclear quality assurance technology, and rules, and so on is quipped that every nuclear reactor design has to have a paper that outweighs the reactor

A lot of the quality and assurance issues have been substituted for by paperwork And so it’s quite a difficult thing to do in the US TerraPower, Gates’ company, has given up They’re in China, trying to do the preliminary work Of the four or five ventures that are in the US today, trying to do molten salt reactor research, only one says they want to try and do it in the US The EPA, again, has a problem with anything that has to do with radioactivity There is sort of a concept of as low as reasonably achievable, in terms of limiting radioactive exposure to people And so, the problem with that is it’s created a sort of a horror or fear of radiation that’s been endorsed and encapsulated in rules and regulations that make it– again, it isn’t so much the technology and the limits But the sort of the attitude of people and so on that makes it hard to get plants licensed or research done So that’s the situation we have in the US Probably this work’s going to come to fruition outside the US So that’s my summary Low-cost clean energy from liquid fuel nuclear reactors has two great potentials One is to improve the economics of both the industrialized world that could use a little shot of GDP boost It could also improve the lifestyle and overcome the poverty of the developing world without increasing pollution And help us solve our energy and climate crises Thank you I’m open to questions AUDIENCE: So I think what I saw in your presentation here was that you’re basing the estimated cost of these molten salt reactors based on the cost for a bunch of experimental reactors projected out to [INAUDIBLE] analysis Are there reasons why we think that the commercially produced reactor– one that was continuously running on a experimental one– would actually be cheaper to run, and cheaper to build, than [INAUDIBLE] light water reactors? What are those reasons? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: The question is that the presentation cited some old research papers about the costs Is there any reason to believe that in today’s world, that might happen to make the costs as low as I suggested? I have one friend who’s done a lot of design work, ex-MIT guy who’s within the last three or four years designing our nuclear power plant production facility And he’s come up with numbers of $0.03 to $0.05 per kilowatt hour for a denatured molten salt reactor that is in a design that he’s right now still got under wraps But yeah, I’ve seen the papers, seen the calculation So it’s feasible Again, it all depends eventually upon what are all the sudden rules and regulations that come into play, if your work is suspended for two years while there’s a hearing or something of that nature that drives the costs up very rapidly So his estimates are in what I would call a rational regulatory environment So that’s what we would have to achieve as well, in order to get those costs in line AUDIENCE: And I have a sort of related question, which is, I think you agree that in the US, given how people feel about nuclear power today, we couldn’t build a reactor that wasn’t obviously much more safer than the light water reactors we’ve built in the past Are there reasons to believe that a molten salt reactor wouldn’t potentially be safer? One of the [INAUDIBLE] seems to be it also would be cheaper DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Yeah The question is, why would the molten salt reactor be safer than the light water reactor? First thing I would say is that the light water reactor accidents have generally been few and not quite as devastating as you might think, beyond the Chernobyl issue So compared to other energy sources, the nuclear power, to date, has been quite safer, in terms of loss of life So it’s a good source The molten salt reactor is designed with all the experiences people have had about passive safety and so on So again, it isn’t so much that it’s molten salt It’s that molten salt enables good engineering with fewer

systems and able to achieve the passive safety that’s needed So, you know, we won’t know until we actually build them and test them thoroughly But I would say universally that people who are designing these believe that to be absolutely correct Please AUDIENCE: Let’s say that, in 10 years, the people doing [INAUDIBLE] finally have a breakthrough And they achieve net positive fusion energy How would you compare the liquid fuel fission reactors to potential, say, a Tokamak-designed fusion reactor? Do you think we would actually have a world with both of those? Or do you think that if fusion ever comes, it will end up just supplanting all the fission designs? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Well, I think if fusion comes, great But it’s going to be quite a while, in any case The Tokamak designs are still– people are working hard on There’s a big project, ITER, in Europe We have that facility in California And then we also have private ventures in New Jersey, using, what do they to call it, non-neutronic approaches– proton on beryllium, I think So there’s some potential for something to happen there Most people don’t think it’s going to happen But it does, wonderful If we have two sources, great I don’t see the downside to fission that a lot of people do AUDIENCE: You mentioned that this molten salt reactor is less conducive to proliferation But I didn’t quite follow why DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: I didn’t cover that in a talk But there’s a lot of comments that have been a bit overstated People say, oh, you can’t make a bomb out of it, and this and that Well, you know, you can’t make a bomb out of a light water reactor It sits there like a plant But if you have the technical skills– like they did in India or South or North Korea, and so on– you can figure out how to make a special kind of nuclear reactor that generates, say, either plutonium 239 from uranium 238, or generates uranium 233 from thorium 232 You can do that by building a special-purpose reactor to build material for nuclear weapons, in both cases Now, the hangup with the thorium-uranium cycle is that it also creates uranium 232, which is a hazardous material in the sense that it decays quickly and is likely to injure or kill the people working on the weapons fabrication So it’s a little harder to use the thorium U-233 cycles to build nuclear weapons that way So I would say the denatured molten salt reactor is highly proliferation resistant But nothing is– anyone with enough money and enough technology, enough science, could do that But the other evidence is that the US did try to build a U-233 weapon way back, I don’t know, 40, 50 years ago And they did one test and they were unsatisfied and never did again So that’s the only technical evidence I have for it So the answer, again, in summary, is you can build a nuclear weapon out of almost anything, if you have all the skills and money and expense But even developing nations, like India, Pakistan, North Korea, and so on, were able to build nuclear weapons with the technologies that exist today So my suggested hurdle is that you only build reactors that are no more proliferation resistant than the one we have today, as we don’t want to increase the probability that someone can build a bomb But we can’t eliminate it, because we have all these paths that are in there already Please AUDIENCE: You showed a table of costs that compared various forms of energy as actually produced today in real plants, and then compared this thing that we don’t yet do that you’d like us to develop So I’m curious how they compare to a few other technologies that we don’t yet do today, but people want to develop in wind and solar and other renewables DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Now, your question is, what other technologies are there that I ought to be looking at in that table? Is that the question? AUDIENCE: Yeah, like, most of those were today’s cost And then you added this one at the end, which is, here’s one we could develop And I wonder how it would compare to other things that you could add DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Well, you’re talking about things like hydro, for example I didn’t put hydro in the table because we really can’t expand hydro very much It’s a nice source It’s relatively inexpensive It’s not very polluting

It’s renewable It’s green It’s good But there aren’t too many sites left to do a lot of hydro Geothermal, I didn’t put in, because it’s not that expandable There aren’t that many sites where you can get enough geothermal energy out So I tried to pick just the examples that I thought would produce enough electricity to make a difference AUDIENCE: Sure No, that’s not exactly my question My question is, you know, here’s the cost of wind, as done right now Here’s the cost of solar, as done right now Here’s the cost of nuclear, as done right now None of them do it OK, here’s the cost of a different way of doing in theory that could be cheaper But isn’t there a different way of doing, you know, solar, that could be cheaper, that people could also develop within a decade? Are there things like that on the horizon? How do they compare? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: I see The question is, why didn’t I sort of project the future costs of wind and solar and see if it might not be cheaper? And, like I said, I haven’t got a good answer to that, except to say, for example, in the case of solar power And it’s pretty clear right now that photovoltaic is going to outrun the concentrated solar It’s going to be less expensive And there is a lot of improvement in the cost for photovoltaic panels It’s down now to $1 a watt for the panel But the panel is only a part of the plant And so the costs for the mounting, for the heliostats to follow the sun, all those kinds of things have brought the costs up to the numbers I’ve suggested So maybe there’s some opportunity to reduce costs there But again, in the case of solar and wind, we also have the storage problem We don’t have energy storage So we need to have some kind of backup power at all times for those Go ahead AUDIENCE: I gather as an unstated conclusion of the talk that somehow what’s going to happen in the future is that China is going to actually develop this technology and start sending it back to us en masse, right? You know, here’s your two-ton, you know, power-generation thing You can buy it for this much And here, you have it, right? Go get it Here And so how do you develop here in the States? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: No, you’re right China has been notorious at capturing intellectual property In the case of the Westinghouse arrangement, Westinghouse is building four AP 1000s in China But China required Westinghouse to surrender all IP to that product And the deal they have is that China is allowed to build power and export power plants that are 1.4 gigawatts and up So the AP 1,000 is a Westinghouse product The AP 1,400 is a China product So they have the rights to do that And they intend to, I think In fact, one of their power companies just went public So the same thing would happen with the molten salt reactor AUDIENCE: So that makes it like [INAUDIBLE] to actually make it easier, in the sense that there is some energy rights and energy technology rights happening And unless, you know, similar to the space technology rights, right, that cannot facilitate new laws and regulations to make this go forward DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: So I didn’t quite understand this question You said is it now between the technology race and the energy race But what is the question? AUDIENCE: Is that something– is that a simple message that could be sold to politicians as a reason to change regulations that we’ve tried? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: I’m trying I have a whole other topic I’ve been working on called radiation is safe within limits And at the end of the talk, you can pick up one of these little brochures I’m trying to get the public to understand the difference between the real harm from radiation and the regulatory rules that deal with it But I don’t quite know how to get the politicians to agree yet AUDIENCE: So I think the thrust to this argument is that the thrust of your talk seemed to be very fatalistic China’s going to do it And that’s the end of it, without an exhortation that we should do something to better change that, which is, I think, perhaps we all expected to hear AUDIENCE: If somebody’s going to– sorry If somebody, you know, in China or anyplace else is going to invent this reactor, and it’s going to work, and it’s going to be cheaper than coal– [INAUDIBLE]

take over the world? Why not be optimistic? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Right, good point If we’re trying to solve the world’s CO2 problem, does it matter whether China solves it or the US solves it? AUDIENCE: Yep AUDIENCE: The reactor with which I am somewhat familiar is the research reactor at MIT And they’re routinely getting spreads, shutdowns, emergency shutdowns due to various monitoring glitches and all sorts of things they’re doing for tests And the model that you showed a sketch of is dumping a liquid-only-when-hot fuel into a tank for it to solidify in, as far as I can tell It seems that would be burdensome to go back into operation after such a shutdown Is that something that, as far as you know, has been looked at? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Sure, they’re looking at all that I’m sure that the design would try to keep it warm First of all, it’s got– it has a lot of fission product decay It’s going to take a long time before that salt would get cool enough to actually become a solid And you’d probably want to have some external heating there to keep it from getting solid, because it would make it hard to restart with some salt in all the pumps and things So it could be quite a problem– AUDIENCE: Excuse me I’m sorry As you pull off the cap, whenever safety is established, and dump it back into the reaction chamber, effectively? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Well, you have to repump it If it all solidified, I don’t know how you’d get it restarted But yeah, those kinds of issues are up front with all the people who are working on those projects AUDIENCE: But so did you mention that China is spending, what, some hundred million dollars a year or more building this design reactor? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: This design reactor has a budget of $350 million for the first five years That was up until a few months ago, when it was given a new spike of funding– I don’t know what it is– with the objective of speeding up the development I don’t know what the answer to that is We could learn Jiang himself is going to talk at the American Nuclear Society meeting in Reno I think it’s next week Please AUDIENCE: I saw an article in “Wired” magazine a couple of years ago It really excited me about this stuff And one of the things they talked about was, well, at least when I see nuclear plants now, they’re all right next to the ocean They’re above ground They’ve got giant cooling powers They kind of mentioned that they’re kind of big terrorist targets Like if terrorists had a bunch of planes, they’d crash them into all our power plants We’d be kind of out of luck for a long time But no one [INAUDIBLE] And they mentioned that some of these thorium reactors– maybe the molten salt [INAUDIBLE] ones– they could be buried, sort of to protect them from, like, airplanes, I guess But they also mentioned that they could be made smaller Like each city could have one, sort of keep it buried and run for kind of a long time Just kind of seal it up and use the power for a long time Are those two benefits to these? Can they be buried? And can they be much smaller? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Yes, they– the question was, how do you protect these kinds of plants against terrorist attacks from airplanes and so on? Can they be buried? And the answer, ever since 9/11, is that people are very concerned about that So even the AP 1,000 reactor design is capable of withstanding an aircraft crash It won’t collapse the dome, nor the big tank of water that’s at the top of it Many of the small, modular reactor designs, like the one being built, were proposed by new scale or by BW, and are designed to be underground power plants, for that kind of reason And my co-author, Ralph Moir, had a paper with Teller that designed and showed an underground molten salt reactor plant So, yes, they can be underground And that seems to be the strategy that a lot of new reactors are going to follow AUDIENCE: And smaller reactors, right? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: And smaller reactors, yeah I’m proposing smaller reactors principally– well, a couple reasons They’re easier to cool in a situation where you have no external power, like we had in Fukushima And, you know, they’re cheaper There’s less investment up front, less risk capital for the utility for the first two or three of these plants And because you get the benefit of mass production We have a big engineering controversy constantly going on about the economy of scale and bigger and bigger plants But the bigger plants sometimes bring new problems to bear So if you give up economy of scale, you also get, in return, the economy of the learning curve, because you’re going to produce more units So I think the smaller units are going to win out Go ahead

AUDIENCE: Me? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Sure AUDIENCE: Yeah, Bob, a question on your chart showing the kilowatt cost per kilowatt hour of the various alternative Is there any attempt to include the transmission costs? Or are transmission costs not relevant? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: I did not include transmission costs They can make a difference, if you are thinking about powering the US with renewables from long-distance power sources– something like, figure a penny per kilowatt hour per 1,000 miles of high-voltage DC transmission Keep that number in the back of your mind when you’re trying to design these things Please AUDIENCE: Right Is the nuclear waste produced by these plants different in some sense than waste produced by light water reactors? DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Is the nuclear waste different than the waste produced by light water reactors? Yeah, it’s quite different The light water reactors’ waste is in the same fuel form it went in, so fuel rods that are then to be disposed of at some future, undetermined place The molten salt reactor can continue to operate and consume a lot of the sort of actinides– the heavy uranium– the heavy elements, like plutonium, americium, californium, well, and so on So the long-lived heavy metal, radioactive products continue to be consumed Now, when you finally stop the reactor, you’re going to have some of those left So the amount of that waste per kilowatt hour that was generated is lower But you’re still going to have that kind of waste to deal with at some point In addition, both kinds of reactors generate the fission products– that is, the cesium or iodine or whatever it is, xenon, strothium, and so on, that you’ve heard of– which come from splitting those big, heavy nuclei of uranium and plutonium Both kind of reactors generate the same kind of fission products But the decay time for those is on the order of a few hundred years before they’re really more or less benign for handling So the answer is, there’s less of the waste per kilowatt hour generated– less of a long-life waste per kilowatt hour generated, about the same amount of waste per kilowatt hour generated for the fission products that have the shorter lifetimes AUDIENCE: So, if we were to, say, try and replace as much of the coal and natural gas power infrastructure with liquid thorium reactors instead, how much would we still need in the mix to provide peak and on-demand power? Because I’m assuming even the smaller thorium plants won’t be able to come up on demand to respond to the grid DR. ROBERT HARGRAVES: Yeah, the question is, would you need some kind of peaking plants in addition to the nuclear power plants, because they are slow to respond to demand changes? Well, the current plants are slow, basically because they were designed that way And they could have been designed to be more responsive But they haven’t They are designed to recover all their costs at full power So the owners of those plants don’t want to turn them down Now, the newer plants will have the same issue, in the sense of, can we– do we want to turn them down? The owners will say, no, I want to keep generating money So that’s the real issue You can engineer it to make it go– turn it down pretty easily The plants do what’s called load following That is, if you diminish the load on the power plant by turning off the lights or breaking a pylon and ruining the load on the plant, the ability to dissipate heat disappears The temperature of the reactor goes up And the physics of the reactor designs shuts it down, or slows it down That same principle means it automatically does load following So you can indeed have these plants run at a lower speed and not require backup from, say, natural gas, or something like that Thank you