COP-out 21


Recognizing that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries, and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.

This is strong stuff “a potentially irreversible threat to the planet”… And the remedy….

54. Further decides that, in accordance with Article 9, paragraph 3, of the Agreement, developed countries intend to continue their existing collective mobilization goal through 2025 in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation; prior to 2025 the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of USD 100 billion per year, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries;

OECD GDP on a PPP basis was $47.5 trillion in 2013. $100 billion represents 0.2% of GDP. I have reached the conclusion, and I may be wrong, that the OCED has pulled off a diplomacy and propaganda coup wrong footing the UN, Greens and developing nations. Let’s face it, if OECD governments really believed there was a grave threat to the planet they would be throwing a Hell of a lot more than 0.2% of GDP at developing economies – at least I sincerely hope they would be. Hence I surmise that the OECD official summarisation is that the planetary risks are slight. Below the fold I have pulled out a few headlines of the agreement.

Article 2

1. This Agreement, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by:
(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate- resilient development.

Article 4

1. In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Article 7

1. Parties hereby establish the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the temperature goal referred to in Article 2.

Article 9

1. Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.

Article 20

1. This Agreement shall be open for signature and subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by States and regional economic integration organizations that are Parties to the Convention. It shall be open for signature at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 22 April 2016 to 21 April 2017. Thereafter, this Agreement shall be open for accession from the day following the date on which it is closed for signature. Instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession shall be deposited with the Depositary.

Article 28

1. At any time after three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notification to the Depositary.

Some Thoughts

This seems to be a toothless accord designed to provide thousands of bureaucrats and lawyers with jobs. A specific goal of keeping temperature rise below 2˚C with only a vague plan on how to achieve it. Individual countries come up with their own plans that will be monitored by armies of bureaucrats, but if the countries don’t like the way things are going they can simply quit.

While it is difficult times to re-introduce the concepts of peak oil, gas and coal, it remains a fact that these are finite resources and that technology cannot for ever be relied upon to access the decreasing grades of resource that remains. Deeper, thinner, more remote coal seams. Deeper smaller, oil and gas fields. A thermodynamic limit determined by ERoEI will be met one day where too much energy, effort and money is required to access a dwindling resource and economics will lead us to choose alternatives like nuclear and perhaps solar. I know this will sound crazy to some, but will we really be producing 100 Mbpd oil in 2099? I don’t think so. Our use of fossil fuel may decline at some point this century regardless of Paris.

And the long term trend in surface temperatures, that remains intact, is about +0.5˚C per century. It seems possible that temperatures may warm by another half a degree by 2099, without Paris. Perhaps a bit more as the activity of 7 billion + souls weighs on the planet. The structure of the global temperature record seems clearly linked to natural cycles in the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation, that will one day soon switch to cooling mode.

HadCRUT4 temperature data oscillate around the liner regression (solid red line). Subtracting the linear regression from HadCRUT4 de-trends the data as shown in the next graph.

De-trended HadCRUT4 compared with the AMO index that is based on de-trended NA SSTs. AMO index from NOAA

Time is not on the side of climate science. For every year and decade that passes, sceptics can check the forecasts against reality. One of the more important data sets is the satellite  record of lower troposphere temperatures that continue to diverge from the continuously adjusted surface temperature record. HadCRUT3 was on a flat, slowly rising trend (+0.18˚C per century). HadCRUT4 is on a much more steeply rising trend of +0.59˚C per century. With a stroke of the brush, the pause was written out of history.

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66 Responses to COP-out 21

  1. Dave Rutledge says:

    Hi Euan,

    Thanks for the summary. For coal, a lot of us have said over the years that when China peaks, the world may peak. Is this happening now?


    • Euan Mearns says:

      Dave, it could easily be. The industrialisation of China was a moment in history that has passed. The urgent need for energy expansion led to the commodities super-cycle that led to great expansion of capacity that is now in surplus.

      China has dreadful problems with air pollution. And while CO2 has probably yet to kill anyone, smog I guess will kill thousands in China every year.

      I think their coal industry operating eye balls out was not sustainable. And now China probably has more options. Gas from Russia, nuclear, 3 Gorges hydro and yes new renewables. And so right now it is perhaps less urgent for China to push for more difficult coal and to opt for other “better” solutions.

      Peak coal in China will of course go down as a triumph of Paris – need to make sure that the population knows it began two years before.

    • Dave
      Another take on this is how quickly one thinks that the other BRICS and some other developers will expand coal. India certainly will do but South Africa probably not so much.

      But what SA and China probably signify is that once coal is in, it is hard to dislodge. Thus we will probably see a coal plateau or at least small declines.

  2. Dave, my take-away message from COP21 is that China is now getting serious about leading the world in low carbon technologies, including nuclear. They see a business proposition which is potentially lucrative, long term, clean, high-tech and thus able to generate much greater wealth than sweat shops.

    They perceive that it is in their interest to push the many small nations, eg in Africa, where their influence is strong, toward reducing carbon emissions and buying Chinese renewables and nuclear power generation and Chinese transmission components, all delivered by “free” trade guaranteed giant Chinese design-construct-operate-maintain corporations.

    China is travelling fast down the pathway to new reactor designs, including construction of new breeder reactors, while the rest of the world is stalled (eg France’s EDF, Japan’s Toshiba/Westinghouse, which are cash poor and whose clients are few and far between). Germany has removed itself from the nuclear playing field – a spectacular own goal. Korea shows some promise. Rosatom is probably going to take decades to shake off the post-Chernobyl blues and to establish, perhaps, a corporate image apart from that of representing an increasingly beligerent and untrustworthy Mother Russia.

    When, not if, the Chinese plan works, our kids will need to learn Mandarin in order to serve their new masters.

    To answer your question: China will use every tool at its disposal in order to make damned sure that fossil fuels peak world-wide and soon.

    • Willem post says:

      When you mentioned Rosatom, you are way off.

      Rosatom has an order book of about $300 billion, including about 40 reactors in at least 10 countries, with more orders being negotiated.

      Turnkey overnight costs are about $5 to $5.5 million per MW.

      Just google for the info.

      Chernobyl was a military reactor not a utility power production reactor.

      • Willem Post says:


        Russia, at the 2015 Atomexpo, announced, at the start of 2015, Rosatom’s foreign portfolio totaled $101.4 b, of which $66 b was reactors, $21.8 b was contracted sales of EUP and SWU, and $13.6 b was sales of fabricated fuel assemblies and uranium.

        In September 2015, it was announced, the Rosatom foreign portfolio had increased to about $300 billion, including projects for 30 reactors in 12 countries! Russia’s turnkey, nuclear power plant contracts in various areas of the world typically are at about $5.0 to $5.5 million/MW.–Nuclear-Power/

        • Point taken re Rosatom’s order book, thanks. So China and Russia are both better positioned to claim any increase in the nuclear power market than the western suppliers are.

          I’m not so sure that Chernobyl is a military reactor. I had considered it to be a dual purpose reactor with the emphasis on power production and the capacity to produce plutonium. Either way, that ancient design is not about to be repeated. My point was that the incident did not enhance the reputation of Rosatom or of Russia.

          • Willem Post says:

            That ancient design was a one off, NOT at all like those in utility power plants of Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, etc.

            That Rosatom has a huge order book for utility power reactors indicates absolutely NO damage to its reputation, in fact, the EU and world atomic energy agencies rate Rosatom’s reactors among the most reliable.

            All that info is available from the internet, i.e., there is no need to make uninformed statements.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      John, Agree with most of but not all you say. Willem has corrected you re Rosatom. And it was the West that destabilised Ukraine. Russia had nuclear weapons stationed in Crimea. Does anyone seriously believe “our” best interests would have been served by letting these fall into the hands of rebels? And it was NATO that shot down a Russian jet over Syria.

      I’m not sure China will set out to displace all fossil fuels, but displacing coal with nuclear electricity may certainly be part of their agenda. Its curious how the new battle lines may be drawn. The OECD looking to wind and solar. Russia and China looking to nuclear + breeders. Its quite clear who is going to win.

      • Willem Post says:


        Here is the World Nuclear Association proclaiming Russia the leader in fast breeder reactors.–nuclear-power/

        The BN-800 unit first started up in June 2014, with first power to the turbine in November 2015. It is essentially a demonstration unit for fuel and design features for the BN-1200, or as Rosatom said in September 2015: BN-800 has been created for testing elements of closing the nuclear fuel cycle rather than electricity generation.

        In June 2015 OKBM said it had completed development of repair documentation and primary repair technologies for BN-800 Beloyarsk 4, as well as special tooling to allow for remote cutting and removal of large equipment, such as pumps and heat exchangers, around the reactor pressure vessel. This was all to be tested on site by the end of 2015, and the reactor restarted in August. It was restarted for the third time in November 2015.

        Electricity to be produced by Beloyarsk 4 was included in the production target of Rosenergoatom for 2016, so it is expected to achieve some sort of commercial operation then. Power supply contracts have been signed.

        Europe, the US, and Japan, etc., are at least 5 to 10 years behind, while playing with wind and solar.

        • David McCrindle says:

          It is good news that the Russians have commissioned BN800. Perhaps we will be buying BN1200s in 20 years time.

          In the West we already know how to build LMFBRs (Phenix, FFTF and PFR (here in the UK) demonstrated how to build them and how to get good fuel performance etc). Unfortunately most of the people involved are now retired. However to go to the next step you have to really commit. You need specific fuel production facilities and, for breeding to make any sense, specific reprocessing facilities. You can’t reprocess PFR fuel in THORP, for example. This means that you need to commit to a fleet to make it work economically. Given our current regulatory framework, that is not going to happen until we are desperate.

      • Thanks for great update Euan-really value your work. Just a wee point on Ukraine (as one who has business interests there and visits twice a month for the last ten years).Also speaking as one who has twelve conscripted employees fighting the Russian backed separatists right now. It was the desire of the vast majority of Ukrainian people which drove the move towards EU and NATO, it is a Russian born myth that it was driven by the West. When faced with a choice of partner who would you choose? Remember the drive to Independence, Orange Revolution and Maiden were all about reducing Russian influence and looking jealously towards Poland’s trajectory as opposed to their own corrupt Russian puppet governments eg Yanukovich. Crimea was in the hands of a national government in Kiev backed by the people of Ukraine before Russia invaded NOT separatists.The seperatists are Russian backed and wouldn’t disobey Putin’s directives.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Keith, I’m happy to stand corrected on this, but it is rather a grey zone. In the bigger picture I think it has been wrong and a mistake of the west to allow NATO to expand eastwards to the Russian border. By all means economic union but not military union. And I think it is a mistake of the west to insist that artificial countries like Ukraine must remain “united”. And Crimea historically was part of Russia. I seem to recall we fought a war with Russia over it. Gifted by a Ukrainian to Ukraine.

          If you have a country where one half hates the other democracy quite simply cannot work.

        • willem post says:

          Here is some history regarding Crimea that is readily available from the internet. There is no need to rely on the biased views of Kiev folks regarding Ukraine and Crimea.

          1569 – 1667….Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569 – 1795*). At its maximum extent included most of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, including Moscow.
          1612…………….Moscow liberated from PLC occupation; “Time of Troubles” ended in Russia.
          1667…………….PLC ceded Kiev, Smolensk, and eastern Ukraine lands to the Tsardom of Russia (1547 – 1721)
          1667 – 1775….Russo – PLC war, which lasted 108 years. Result: By treaty, the Ukraine lands, which did not reach to the Black Sea at that time, were ceded by PLC. They were divided by the Dnieper River; Western Ukraine lands were ceded to the Hapsburg Empire and eastern Ukraine lands stayed as a part of the Russian Empire (1721 – 1918).
          1783…………….Russian Empire annexed Crimea, after numerous wars with the Ottoman Empire.
          1793…………….Russo – Ottoman Empire war (1787 – 1792); Treaty of Jassy in 1792; Annexation of Crimea recognized; Lands on the east bank of the Dniester River between Ukraine and the Black Sea, including Odessa, etc., ceded to the Russian Empire.
          The Dniester River became the western border of the Russian Empire after the Hapsburg Empire swapped western Ukraine lands for Galicia in 1793; The Imperial Navy, created by Potemkin, stationed in Sevastopol. This shows Ukraine never had anything to do with Crimea until 1954. See below.

          Crimea, ruled by the Crimean Khanate Tatars from 1441 to 1783, became a Vassal of the Ottoman Empire in 1478. Crimea became a center for slave trade; at least 2 million Russians and others were sold as slaves to the Ottoman Empire over the years. The Russian Empire annexed Crimea in 1783 after numerous wars with the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire agreed to the annexation in 1793, after another war.

          Khrushchev arbitrarily transferred it to Ukraine in 1954, WITHOUT CONSULTING WITH, OR GETTING THE APPROVAL OF THE CRIMEAN PEOPLE; Khrushchev’s early career was in east Ukraine. In January 1992, the Supreme Soviet of Russia questioned the constitutionality of the transfer, accusing Khrushchev of treason against the Russian people, and said the transfer was illegitimate. A situation similar to Nixon unilaterally transferring the San Diego Area, with a US naval base, to Mexico!

          Before the violent coup in Kiev in February 2014, Russia had a treaty with Ukraine, which allowed Russia to station up to 20,000 Russian military personnel in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, at that time its official title, as recognized by Russia and Ukraine. This URL has a detailed list of what was allowed, BY TREATY.

          At the time of the vote for Crimean independence, about 22,000 Russian military personnel were in Crimea, according to Ukraine sources, about 16,000, according to Russian sources. Some of Russian forces, local police and militia kept the Ukrainian armed services confined to their bases, and kept oligarch-financed battalions from entering Crimea to prevent them from interfering with the peaceful elections.

          As reported, heavily armed “green men”, wearing no emblems, became visible to help ensure peaceful elections; these “green men” might have been stationed in Crimea, or had been recently brought to Crimea from Russia. That does not qualify for the Western press statement “the elections were held under the guns of thousands of Russian troops”, as if the people were herded at gunpoint to the polls.

          On March 11, 2014, the Crimean Parliament adopted declarations of independence.

          On March 16, 2014, the people in Crimea overwhelmingly voted to be part of Russia; 82% of the electorate voted, and they voted 96.7% in favor of joining Russia! About 90% the Tatars and about 40% of the Ukrainians abstained. It surprised Russia, so many Ukrainians voted for independence! Crimea had about 1.959 million people in early 2014; Russians 1.35 (69%), Ukrainians 0.40 (20%) and Crimean Tatars 0.21 (11%).

          On March 18, 2014, the Treaty of Accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation was signed.

          On March 20, 2014, the Russian Duma ratified the Treaty.

          Just after the coup, the Kiev Junta had announced Ukrainian would be the only official language in Ukraine, but after Crimea became a part of Russia again, the Crimea Parliament immediately declared there would be THREE official languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar.

          The Crimean people will be economically much better off than they were under a succession of corrupt Kiev governments, as they avoided all the hardships of Donbas Region (Luhansk and Donetsk). Also, the monthly salaries of members of the armed forces and government workers, including firemen, policemen, teachers and medical personnel, and the pensions of 677,000 retirees, 32,400 of them Russian armed forces veterans, will be gradually increased by an average of about 100% to bring them up to Russian standards.

          Average pension was 6,000 rubles ($168), will be 10,000 rubles ($281).
          Average salary of 200,000 government workers was 12,500 rubles ($351), will be 30,000 rubles ($842).

          NOTE: Russia spends about $5 billion/yr. for salaries, various social programs, improve infrastructures, and economic development for Crimea’s 2 million people. It would take Kiev about $110 billion/yr. to make a similar effort for the other 44 million Ukrainians!

    • gweberbv says:

      Maybe China is the only place on the planet where you find an environment, that allows to build up a sustainable nuclear technology chain. At least they can be expected to bring a few NPPs online each year which should be much more efficient and promising with respect to technological learning curves than to build a single NPP every 10 tens years or so.

      If nuclear power has a bright future within the next decades, it will for sure be in China.

  3. Peter Lang says:


    Thanks you for you post. I appreciate all the work you and Roger Andrews put into doing excellent analyses and preparing excellent posts for your web site.

    However, I think your opening paragraph does not properly represent the true cost of the policies, nor does it mention that its all cost for little benefit – none of it will make any significant difference to the climate. All this is helping to lock in costs of $1-2 trillion per year for no significant benefit according the Bjorn Lomborg, one of the most rational voices around.Bjorn Lomborg says:

    Using the best individual and collectively peer-reviewed economic models, the total cost of Paris — through slower GDP growth from higher energy costs — will reach $1-2 trillion every year from 2030.

    Removing the impediments that are impeding progress on this is where all the effort should be:

    • Graeme No.3 says:

      Peter Lang:

      It doesn’t lock anything in. As soon as the global cooling from oceanic oscillations/ cooling sun etc. become apparent in public polls then the politicians will head for the exit. They will suddenly realise that to continue the stupidity will merely encourage speculation among the population about the load carrying capacity of lamp posts.

      • Peter Lang says:

        Hi Graeme No3,

        As you know I greatly appreciate your comments and the enormously relevant experience you bring to these discussions. I don’t always agree with everything you say, and this is one of those times.

        It doesn’t lock anything in.

        True it doesn’t lock anything in. However, the problem is that the “very high HDI” countries like Australia have a high proportion of rich people who are prepared to spend money on supporting the Greenies’ religion. The governments of these countries are competing to make the largest commitments to emissions reductions. They are ramping up spending on near useless renewables and other equally useless policies. The funding wasted on useless policies will slow global GDP growth. Lomborg estimates the increase in energy costs alone will shave $1-2 trillion per year from global GDP growth. That means more poverty for longer, more useless handouts, more conflict and all that increases the economic losses.

        9.7 million people from around the world – nearly half from the poorest countries – have voted in the online UN poll to say what is most important to them. Climate ranks dead last. However, the details of how different groups voted is interesting. Compare the ranking of the importance of climate change in the very high HDI countries with the ranking in countries with lower HDI. Only the very high and high HDI countries rank climate change above last. The higer the HDI the higher climate change ranks. (scroll down to the relevant chart).

        It’s also interesting to compare the education levels of the Australians, Americans and British that voted. The proportion of voters who completed only primary school or high school are much higher in Australia than in other very HDI countries – where most voters competed a higher level of education. Perhaps Australian school teachers have been telling their pupils to vote …. after ‘educating’ them on how to vote of course.

        As soon as the global cooling from oceanic oscillations/ cooling sun etc. become apparent in public polls then the politicians will head for the exit. They will suddenly realise that to continue the stupidity will merely encourage speculation among the population about the load carrying capacity of lamp posts.

        I’ve been involved in energy and climate policy one way or another for 25 years (including preparing Australia’s policy position for the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and I’ve heard that argument far many times to count. It’s like arguing a deeply held religious belief will die out soon or that suddenly the world will wake up and recognise that nuclear power is the best, safest, cleanest, option to provide most of the world’s electricity.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Peter, I empathise with this point of view, but, would suggest that its incredibly difficult to estimate the cost of policy failure. Looking at Europe, we do need to reduce reliance on imported energy. The choice is between new renewables or nuclear. I of course whole heartedly support improvements in efficiency. Efficiency leads to greater wealth. There are multiple reasons for economic malaise in Europe – the EU, the €, high energy prices, too much debt, energy policies to name but a few.

      And I’m with Graeme in believing that the scam will be exposed as the climate stubbornly refuses to change in a direction that has been predicted. Come 2030, the world will be looking back at this era with incredulity. The N Atlantic is looking rather cool. The AMO will shift some time soon.

      The UK government is already saying one thing while doing another. Political change will sweep all this BS away.

  4. Willem Post says:


    One reason the conference was quickly ended with an “agreement”, is the last 2 weeks of the year is partytime in Paris.

    People from all over stay in hotels, etc., to shop, wine and dine and celebrate Xmas and New Year’s, which brings big bucks to the Paris economy.

    There was no room for the people involved with the conference, PLUS the year-end visitors.

    It would have been better to hold the conference in February or early March.

    Europe’s investment in RE has been declining since mid 2011 to about $10 b in the 1st qtr of 2015.

    Any new effort to implement COP-21 would need about $$40-50 b per qtr. Where would THAT money come from? Quantitative Easing by the ECB?

  5. You seem to be saying that GDP represents money that can be spent by governments. That’s not true, of course, so 0.2% of GDP may seem paltry (and, as an absolute amount, it is) but it’s not a particularly helpful way of stating the fund. Most governments seem to run a deficit and, so, an increasing debt. Extra spending either means cutting spending elsewhere or borrowing more. The percentage of GDP, by itself, has little bearing on how governments view the importance of the issue.

    • Willem Post says:

      That world renowned economist Dick Cheney, said: ” Deficits do not matter”, sure, until they do as in the PIGSII, etc.

      The US, EU and Japan are on quantitative easing life support. They are in no shape to save the world.

      China is doing what it does to contain political unrest due to air pollution, etc., plus it does no look good for tourism, as with LA about 15 years ago.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Mike, its common practice for Governments to express their spending as % of GDP. 10% on defence, 20% on healthcare, 0.2% on saving the planet from destruction 😉

      • Hah. Put that way, you have a point! And I agree that saving the world does not seem to be a real concern of politicians, they are more into appearing to try to save the world. By the way, typical military and health expenditures are a small fraction of your finger in the air numbers, but I get your point.

  6. John, my take-away message from COP 21 is quite the opposite. China, which is already the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (by far), has reserved her right to increase CO2 emissions up to 2030. Everything else is either rhetoric or what you could call a natural urge to economize.

  7. Gaznotprom says:

    Think both sides have been covered by the propaganda.
    Sceptics have claimed nothing really important has been achieved.
    The changers have claimed a milestone has been reached – the dumb & dying mainstream media have parroted that meme as well.

    We shall see, but I’m afraid the uk will continue with a self destructive path none-the-less and for now double down on ‘fighting’ climate change – idiots!

  8. This has been a very interesting comments string. I might not agree 100% with the contention that the purpose of the Chernobyl reactors is/was military, but so what? The important thing is that here, on this thread, we have people actually trying to explain their views.

    This is an exciting time for those of us who have a long history in energy markets and engineering. Not so very long ago, I led in China the technical post tender negotiations for design, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance etc of a new power station, with the eventual preferred contractor being a Chinese firm, the design being essentially to Chinese standards and the client a western corporation and the site a foreign country. That was an eye-opening experience.

    Some have stated that, because there is material somewhere on the internet to support their case, that somehow ends the matter – it does not, but I respect and enjoy their opinion.

    But this is not about me or what I might think.

    China is one of the very few serious contenders for the role of nuclear power supplier to the world. Russia is also in the race.

    What chance is there for OECD nations, with their baggage of overdesign, safety paranoia and so forth, against pragmatists from China and Russia?

    Peter Lang has long argued, here and elsewhere, that the bureaucratic delays, the economic imposts of over-the-top regulation in the cause of “safety” and other diseconomies are killing prospects for nuclear power in the western world. He is correct to do so.

    What can we do to avoid a situation where we and our children must learn mandarin, for otherwise we will need to communicate with our superiors through an interpreter? Or learn Russian… the question is the same.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      John, I try to host a high level and civil discussion. Not always easy and the blog is occasionally heavily moderated.

      The nuclear safety issue and its cost is a very interesting subject that I am keen to learn more about. I think Hinkley is a very bad deal struck by Ed Davey who I guess is anti-nuclear. To be held up for ever more as a shining example of how expensive and impossible it is to build nuclear. Rolling back safety and costs is no simple task, especially with nuclear. But a start seems to have been made. Osborne has allocated funds for nuclear expertise. And Rudd has said the dangers of nuclear are over-hyped.

      Syndroma has clarified the issue on Chenobyl. I have always been led to believe that Chernobyl was a military reactor until Syndroma corrected me. Its also interesting to note what he says about the need for a continuum of development and expertise.

      The OECD seems destined to run from time to time on windmills while China and Russia and their trading partners run on nuclear, eventually breeder reactors.

      What to do? For a start the world needs to be dragged back to true science and not the current diet of junk. And a major education exercise of public, politicians and press needs to be carried out. That is one of the aims of this blog – can’t say I’m succeeding so far.

      I once enquired about a job at the Uo Greenburgh to be told there was no research mileage in Torness B and Hunterstone C. Academia has to bare quite a lot of the responsibility for the precarious state of our electricity system.

      • Euan, many thanks for your generous assistance. The first article you referenced was indeed new to me and most informative. The comments thread is also great reading. My background is coal fired power. I’m still getting my head around much of what I read on your excellent site.

        • Peter Lang says:


          If you haven’t already seen theses, this thread and the 24 threads referenced at the end (especially some of the last half dozen or so) are interesting:

          I’ve read some good stuff in the past few days. The things that have influenced me most are:

          Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity System This is an excellent analysis. It really explains the most important issues about the electricity system and the costs of decarbonising with various technology options and mixes of them. Nothing much can be done for less than £70/t CO2 carbon price.

          The Advanced Nuclear Industry . Nearly 50 organisations in US and Canada exploring new, “innovative” nuclear designs – most are not water cooled. All private sector funded. Clearly they see an opportunity ahead.

    • Leo Smith says:

      I’d rather learn chinese or russian than arabic..

    • gweberbv says:


      have you learnt the Arabic language because of vital oil supply from Saudis et al.? Have (Western-)Germans learnt Russian because if vital gas supply by Russia? Will somebody learn Madarin in the future because the NPP next door was constructed by Chinese companies?

      China is a huge market with signifikant growth potential in almost all sectors. And it is embedded in an even bigger market with even bigger growth potential (South-East Asia). Of course, companies that have a strong base in this environment will have advantages. Be it car manufactorers or the suppliers of power plants.

  9. Syndroma says:

    RBMK (Chernobyl) reactors are not military in any way. 11 RBMK reactors are still operational in Russia right now. And there are still people in Rosatom who feel sorry the design fell from grace after Chernobyl. The reactors have some advantages over VVERs in fuel enrichment and operational modes. There were plans to upgrade the design to 2-5 GW per reactor, since the power of RBMK is scaled easily. But none of this will be greenlighted now due to bad publicity.

    The BN program, on the other hand, is flourishing. It is based on 35 years of operation of BN-600. And it wasn’t an easy walk either. But all the problems and incidents helped the development of tools and methods to safely work with molten sodium. Now everyone in the reactor hall of the BN-800 knows what to do with a sodium leak. And since basic operational procedures are refined, work can be concentrated on more exciting things like innovative fuel compositions and improving breeding ratio.

    The BN-1200 project is a further improvement in commercial aspects of a fast breeder reactor. It lacks many systems which make sense for a research installation but have no place in a commercial facility. But all of this is possible only because of the previous designs and experience. If one wants to build a BN-1200-like project skipping BOR-60, BN-350, BN-600 steps – it’s a recipe for disaster. Financial at least.

    China has CEFR now. If China follows Russian path, they’ll have commercial fast breeder in a couple of generations.

    • Syndroma says:

      And if you’re interested in what ways BN-1200 can be different from BN-800, here is a comparison of steam generators:

      I just want to show you that it takes many iterations to design a successful nuclear reactor. VVER/PWR designs have arrived to that state, breeders have not. And one cannot just skip steps. If you want your own fast neutron reactors, you have to start right now and make a commitment to it for a generation at least.

      • willem post says:


        “The BN program, on the other hand, is flourishing. It is based on 35 years of operation of BN-600”.

        In 2016, Russia will have the BN-800 fast breeder plant, at part-of-rated output, feeding the grid to fulfill signed power supply contracts.

        It looks to me, to be viable, China would need to go through the sequence you mention and would likely do so; Russia may help China.

        However, any nuclear wannabes in the US, EU and Japan are behind, say 20 years, and are still having backwards momentum, whereas China and Russia have had forward momentum.

        They rather keep playing with wind and solar, while advising China and Russia to build out renewables.

      • robertok06 says:


        “If you want your own fast neutron reactors, you have to start right now and make a commitment to it for a generation at least.”

        Alas!… don’t forget the politicians, the pseudo-environmentalists, and the ideologues (sometimes the same person fills the three descriptions)… Superphenix in France has validated practically all aspects of liquid-Na-cooled breeder reactors… like the Soviet/Russian counterpart has done with the reactors you’ve mentioned… but all of the knowledge of Superphenix is lost forever now… let’s hope in the Russians and Chinese… Europe-land is dead for nuclear… we are too rich now, can’t live without throwing away our money installing useless PV panels and turbines.

        • RDG says:

          If breeder reactors actually made economic sense, Japan would be very interested.

          But the reality is there is not a reactor design of any kind that makes economic sense. None of the Gen 4 reactors are worth a spit. And the SMR hype is beyond pathetic: nuclear reactors as washing machines coming off an assembly line, yeah right.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Perhaps you would like to provide some facts, values and details to back up your “flyby” comments?

    • willem post says:


      You are correct. This site shows 11 RBMKs are still in operation. There is a Chernobyl-2 plant which is a military plant.

      Those 11 plants are later designs and have received upgraded design features over the years, just as have US reactors, and likely are deemed safe to operate, otherwise Russia would shut them down. VVERs are the current standard.

  10. “an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions”

    OK then, here’s my plan.

    Hydro-electric / Geothermal / tidal where appropriate

    Land-based wind turbines

    Offshore wind turbines

    Solar power for local supply, recommended where there’s winter sun

    Solar power for long-distance transmission supply (for example, Namib Desert -> Europe, Atacama Desert -> North America, Nepal / Tibet & Australia -> Asia)

    Pumped-storage hydro for energy storage with on-land generation

    Undersea hydrogen storage for energy storage with offshore generation – wind / tidal

    Carbon-neutral bio-fuels for transport such as dimethyl-ether (DME) from steam-reformed biomass

    Convert old vehicles, for transport by land, sea & air to run on bio-fuels

    New vehicles powered by hydrogen / electrical batteries / bio-fuels

    Nuclear-powered mega-ships – container & bulk transport, cruise liners etc

    Nuclear-powered tugs for high-power pulling of ships long distance (rather than low-power navigation)

    Forget carbon-capture and storage from fossil-fuel burning power stations

    When the world is fossil-fuel free but Europe & Africa still needs much more power then make a mega tidal race by damming the Gibraltar Strait, put in water turbines and sea locks for shipping.

    Scottish Scientist
    Independent Scientific Adviser for Scotland

    • willem post says:

      How much would that cost?
      How long to implement?
      Where would the $trillions come from, as Europe has been reducing its paltry RE investments since mid 2011?

      • @willem post

        How much would that cost?”

        – I don’t know.

        “How long to implement?”

        – I don’t know.

        “Where would the $trillions come from, as Europe has been reducing its paltry RE investments since mid 2011?”

        For European energy infrastructure investments, the money should be created by the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the other central banks of European countries which are in Europe but not in the Euro.

        The European economy has suffered low growth in recent years so there is plenty of spare productive capacity to be taken up by printing new money, quantitative easing and increased deficit spending which will stimulate economic growth.

        Pay for this by governments directing their central banks to create new money for such infrastructure investments – there’s no need to burden tax-payers, electricity bill-payers, travellers, hauliers, shipping companies etc.

        It is a political disgrace that governments have allowed any reductions in renewable energy investments since mid 2011 when what is needed is a massive increase.

  11. robertok06 says:


    Thanks for posting the “Fig.30” of this wonderful paper…

    … which already, 60 years ago, had the seeds of all anyone would need to know in order to understand what the ONLY feasible solution to the energy needs of mankind is… the title of this visionary paper says it all…

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I guess I should have referenced it, but finished off this article late last night after at least 1 bottle 😉 The peak oil debate got hijacked by Greens who wanted oil to run out and everyone to die. The fact that Hubbert saw salvation in nuclear power was lost and forgotten.

  12. RDG says:

    The nuclear fools on this site are amusing:

    Most of Russia’s “orders” are phoney: poor countries don’t do nuclear. And the breeder reactor crap is noise.

    Where the hell is all the uranium going to come from? Please don’t start that mining the oceans nonsense.

    Are you going to put a nuclear reactor under the hood of a truck?

    China is not serious about emissions. How can they be? Doesn’t anyone realize that industry requires the carbon atom.

    • Javier says:

      My girlfriend works in the nuclear fuel industry and says exactly the same. Poor countries don’t have the money, educated people and resources for a nuclear program. They are being taken by the Russian and Chinese companies. They are being charged dearly along the way for a thousand concepts and studies for nuclear plants that will never be done.

      If we shift to Uranium, Peak Uranium would take place in a very short time. And Thorium is still a fantasy.

  13. robertok06 says:

    “Are you going to put a nuclear reactor under the hood of a truck?”
    as much as you don’t need to put an oil rig under the hood of a gas/diesel-powered vehicle… you just need to put the product of the nuclear reactor under the hood…. be it electricity or electricity-derived hydrocarbons.

    Have a nice continuation of trolling.

    • RDG says:

      “you just need to put the product of the nuclear reactor under the hood…. be it electricity or electricity-derived hydrocarbons.”

      Electricity-derived hydrocarbons from nuclear is EROEI negative.
      ‘Electricity’ must be a reference to a battery which in the world of the nuclear industry is orthogonal to the job of putting up nuclear power stations. In the world of renewables, the battery is integral. So generalizing, what is a battery? It is an engineered material. Increasingly, technology development is going to be centered around engineered materials and molecules. However, thats not the central theme ongoing in nuclear systems development. There it is about some fantastic fission/fusion reactor configuration that so far has not solved fundamental technical, ecological, and economic problems. Why didn’t nuclear France develop great battery technology? Or Russia? The nuclear guys just don’t seem to care ‘whats under the hood’.

      • Leo Smith says:

        Electricity-derived hydrocarbons from nuclear is EROEI negative.

        That one sentence tells me all I need to know about your knowledge and motives.

        It is of course a complete lie…

        • RDG says:

          Both “renewables” and nuclear are lies. Neither one can make hydrogen economically, nevermind more complex carbon based fuels.

          At least “renewables” has the fact the sun won’t burn out any time soon and that its various components can improve. I don’t know what nuclear has going for it besides a ship of fools screaming “Reduced Emissions…Reduced .Emissions”…

      • robertok06 says:

        ” Why didn’t nuclear France develop great battery technology?”

        They developed some pumped-hydro plants, some of them pretty large… and that was all they needed… because nuclear only needs storage overnight, from one day to the next one, while the ridiculous PV needs storage over MONTHS… storing during summer to use it during winter (with concomitant HUGE losses!)… which cannot be done even in principle,as there’s not enough space in the EU (study of Eurelectric already linked and discussed on this blog).

        Try again.

    • Peter Lang says:

      you just need to put the product of the nuclear reactor under the hood…. be it electricity or electricity-derived hydrocarbons.

      Exactly. And the “electricity-derived hydrocarbons” is the important bit. Unlimited petrol/gasolene, diesel, jet fuel and any other hydro carbon fuels you want from sea water and cheap electricity: “zero-emission synfuel from seawater

      • RDG says:

        Ah, back to the nonsense of “mining the oceans” once again.

        Look, you people just don’t seem to get it…The Renewables Gang owns the battery landscape…The Nuclear Gang is stuck with nothing other than trains for the hordes living in drab concrete slab hellholes…Hooray! what prosperity for all!

        And the moment those SMR “washing machines” come rolling off the assembly lines, watch the price of uranium go to the moon.

        Nuclear = No fuel + nothing under the hood

        • Roberto says:

          ‘Nuclear = No fuel + nothing under the hood’

          Yeah… Right… How about those 2200 TWh generated by the ‘nothing’ last year?

          You are redefining the upper bound of the moronic scale.

  14. roberthargraves says:

    New nuclear power, cheaper than coal, is a realistic solution to the climate/energy/development crisis. Unlike Kyoto, the Paris agreement does not rule out the use of nuclear power to reduce emissions. We have been working for years on the ThorCon liquid fuel reactor. It is based on technology developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the last century, then sidelined. A billion dollars (2015$) of R&D was well documented; it forms the basis of the 250 MWe modular ThorCon reactors, designed to be mass produced in shipyards. Because of low pressure, passive safety, proven molten salt technology, and experience with high-precision steel fabrication by shipyards, the ThorCon reactors can be produced for $2/watt and deliver electricity in Asia for 3-5 cents/kWh. The demonstration unit will be sited in Indonesia. Please read this account of the recent memorandum of agreement signed with three state-owned Indonesia companies.

    • RDG says:

      “It is based on technology developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the last century, then sidelined. A billion dollars (2015$) of R&D was well documented;”

      Yeah, the MSRE amounted to a reactor that didn’t run at full power and was ruined after a very short period of operation. It was a proven silly military venture in the cold war era. Now there is a billion dollar cleanup. Your “cheaper than coal” reactor doesn’t even work and Thorcon is simply 3 blokes in a garage. But thats better than Flibe Energy, 1 bloke, producing code and drawings.

    • willem post says:

      Hi Robert,

      I am glad you are joining the nuclear discussion.

      $2/watt is the overnight cost for a complete, turnkey thorium-fueled plant?
      Do you have a URL for that estimate, so I can use it as a reference?

      What is the status of thorium in China and India?

      Please give a thorium overview, with references, on this site for the benefit of all of us.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Robert, I don’t man to be disrespectful, but it all seems a bit far fetched. According to BP Indonesia does not have commercial nuclear power and you are simply going to go out there and cobble together the World’s first commercial molten salt reactor in a 6 year time frame. Here’s the extended summary from recent guest post by Hubert Flocard. I find it hard to reconcile what you claim with what Hubert had to say. Among other things, fuel reprocessing seems to be a critical part of the technology.

      Extended Summary

      The world nuclear industry currently runs on Generation II and Generation III reactor technology. The presently active reactors (whether moderated by pressurised water – PWR – or boiling water – BWR) are said to belong to the GII generation while more modern versions such as the EPR or the AP1000 correspond to GIII. At the beginning of the twenty first century a forum was convened to establish an international collaboration to prepare the next generation of reactor technology (GIV). A number of design options were on the table (see below) among them molten salt reactors.

      1) Liquid Sodium Fast Reactor (SFR)
      2) Helium Cooled Fast Reactor (HeFR)
      3) Liquid Lead Fast Reactor (LFR)
      4) Supercritical Water Fast Reactor (SCFR)
      5) Molten Salt Fast Reactor (MSFR)
      6) Very High Temperature Thermal Reactor (VHTR)

      With the exception of the MSFR, that is specifically designed to run on Th fuel, all other technologies will run on U fuel. It is also worth noting that 5 of the 6 designs are fast breeder reactors designed to consume any nuclear waste that they may produce and to extend the life of the global inventory of U and Th that is available to us.

      To appreciate the evolution of reactor technology it is important to understand a little bit about the natural elements on Earth which can be made to fission following the capture of neutrons. They are the actinides located at the bottom of the periodic table. Everyone has heard of uranium (U), thorium (Th) and plutonium (Pu) but are less aware of elements like protactinium (Pa), americium and curium. Some of these less common actinides do exist in nature in minute quantities for brief periods as part of the natural radioactive decay of U to Pb. Others result from the nuclear reactions happening in reactors or at laboratory accelerators.

      Periodic table from Web Elements

      The isotopes of interest are 235U, 238U and 232Th. Presently, the 235U isotope is by far the most useful because it is the only one which can easily be made to fission, releasing a substantial amount of energy. Thus 235U is described as fissile while 238U and 232Th are described as fertile. Today, 99.3 % of natural U is 238 and only 0.7 % is 235. That is because most of the 235U has already decayed away to stable Pb.

      Out of these three isotopes only fissile 235U can be used to initiate a nuclear chain reaction such as those that occur in nuclear reactors or atomic bombs. To achieve a chain reaction it is necessary to enrich the uranium in its 235 isotope. For nuclear power, enrichment is typically about 3.7 %, i.e. a five-fold uplift in concentration as compared to natural uranium. For atomic bombs, the enrichment is much higher, but the same procedure is used, hence concern over civilian nuclear programs in certain countries.

      While fissile 235U is required to initiate a chain reaction, the fertile 238U that makes up 96.3 % of the fuel participates also in the energy production since some of it is converted to fissile 239Pu. In this respect all U based reactors breed fissile fuel by tapping into the fertile resource. Breeder reactors are simply designed to breed more fissile fuel than they consume.

      Three important points need to be made before continuing. The first is that an MSFR can’t start by using only 232Th. The reactor will first require that either natural 235U or man-made 239Pu be added to initiate the fission chain reaction, since fertile 232Th cannot achieve criticality on its own. The second is that the MSFR is a breeder reactor and environmentalists have in the past opposed breeder technology. In a breeder of any design, fertile 238U or 232Th isotopes are converted to fissile isotopes like 239Pu (U cycle) or 233U (Th cycle). A MSFR will run exclusively on the thorium cycle (i.e. without addition of U5 or Pu9) when it will have bred enough 233U to maintain the chain reaction. It will take time. The “clean” label that some attach to MSFRs derives from the fact that ultimately they are designed to work in a closed cycle as opposed to the present open cycle strategy adopted for most of presently active reactors. In other words, the spent fuel is reprocessed and fissioned again and again until a stable regime is reached in which as many fissile isotopes are created than are destroyed. It has little to do with the fact that 232Th is used as the breeder fuel stock. A uranium cycle fast breeder will also burn its “waste”. And as already mentioned, the idea underlying breeding is to greatly expand the fissionable resource by converting the abundant fertile isotopes (238U as well as 232Th) into the fissile variety.

      This leads to a misconception about the quantities of nuclear waste generated by an MSFR. An MSFR burning 232Th fuel will not produce significantly smaller amounts of “waste” than a fast reactor burning 238U. It is just that as already detailed, recycling the breeder isotopes eventually removes them from the environment and stabilises the inventory within the reactor.

      A further misconception is that MSFR technology employing 232Th as the fertile proto- fuel will eliminate risks of nuclear proliferation. While it is true that the 232Th cycle does not produce plutonium that may relatively easily be enriched to weapons grade 239Pu, it does produce 233U instead which may also be weaponised. Anyhow a 232Th MSFR started today will require either 235U or 239Pu to initiate the fission reaction. Any country with the appropriate enrichment facilities could divert the use of these isotopes and convert them to weapons grade material if they so wish. Recent history has also shown that one does not really need a reactor to manufacture a bomb. It is enough to have efficient centrifuges.

      In conclusion, the technical challenges of MSFR technology need to be considered. The molten fluorine based salts that are envisaged need to work at temperatures in the region 500 to 800˚C and containment vessels and pumps need to be designed which resist erosion, corrosion and the neutron flux from this high temperature salt. An MSFR requires a fuel reprocessing plant and for the Th cycle no such plant has thus far been designed built, tested and approved by safety authorities. Finally, there are well-understood safety protocols for GII and GIII reactors. The radical new approach offered by MSFR technology means that a whole new set of safe design principles needs to be developed.

      At the end of the 1960s The Oak Ridge National Laboratory built and ran an experiment MSR-E designed to pave the way for the MSFR technology. The experiment ran for 4 years. Apart from that realisation, MSFR with a thorium-based fuel is a concept yet to leave the drawing board. It is worth pursuing, but the claimed virtues of near inexhaustible resource, enhanced safety, less waste and elimination of weapons proliferation still need to be demonstrated.

      • roberthargraves says:

        Euan Mearns,

        No disrespect taken; healthy skepticism will lead to better understanding of what we are doing with the ThorCon technology. I’ll reply to Flocard’s summary of molten salt reactor issues separately. First I’ll provide documents to introduce you to the specific technology and then bring you up to date on the Indonesia new nuclear power agreement.

        Martingale owns ThorCon IP. Martingale is a consulting company owned by Jack Devanney, a former MIT professor who spent his career designing and building ships then supertankers. He designed and oversaw construction of (at that time) the world’s largest Ultra Large Crude Carriers. They were built using the high-precision, block-unit steel fabrication capabilities of the Korean shipyards, who had outstripped the quality and cost of construction of US shipyards accustomed to bloated defense-funded budgets. That largest ULCC cost $97 million; a 1-GWe ThorCon power plant is 1/4 that size.

        I and others have been beating the drum that only clean, safe energy cheaper than coal will stop the world (and especially developing nations) from burning ever more fossil fuels. Developing nations must provide their people with the most electricity at the lowest cost in order to advance the prosperity of their people. Economic competition between nations will increase this effect. That is the subject of my book, THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal; see of The benefits include ending CO2 emissions, ending atmospheric particulate pollution that kills millions, and improving the economic prosperity of millions of people. Aside: note that birthrates drop to sustainable levels as GDP/capita rise beyond $7500.

        Jack Devanney conceived the idea that the shipyard construction techniques he used in Korea could also be used to fabricate liquid-fuel power plants. Many years of design work have been steadily improved as friends review the drawings and calculations. The design is “outside-in”; it’s a complete power plant, not just a conceptual sketch of the guts of a reactor vessel. It’s driven by practical principles: cheaper than coal, scalable to make a global difference, no new technologies, intrinsic safety from physics.

        The best introduction for this group of readers is It describes the philosophy, principles, technology, and benefits of ThorCon. Navigating the extensive website at could take a few days. The Executive Summary at expects you already know something about molten salt reactors.

        We presented the NRC with the idea of building a prototype in the US Hanford Reservation, which is the government-owned, isolated site at which the plutonium production reactors were built and operated during World War II and afterwards. The NRC expressed no flexibility and required the standard rules which the GAO audit reported would cost $1 billion and over a decade of time before a license to build the MSR could be issued. Hence we made arrangements with Indonesia.

        Indonesia does have nuclear reactors used for medical isotope production. Universities teach nuclear engineering. Indonesia wants clean, ample, safe energy cheaper than coal. We signed a memorandum of understanding with three state-owned companies. Here’s an article covering this: . Ongoing activity is intense; just within the last 24 hours our team made a presentation to an interactive audience in Jakarta.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Thanks for that Robert. I’ve browsed the 69 p executive summary. I wish you luck and will be intrigued to follow progress. I’m hoping that Hubert may call by to provide a more expert view. His paper guest post dealt with molten salt fast breeder. And so I see you are doing something different. One thing is clear. The OECD hung up on safety and regulations are becoming their own worst enemy when it comes to new nuclear.

          What is the position of the US government with you taking a US government funded design and selling it to the Indonesians?

          • roberthargraves says:

            With respect to the US government position on using ORNL research outside the US, they have been supportive. There is ongoing cooperation with China’s MSR effort. The US DOE NNSA (National Nuclear Security Agency) is aware of our work with Indonesia and has sent us a confirming letter.

      • roberthargraves says:

        With respect to Flocard’s excellent summary of MSRs, the ThorCon technology differs from his description in some respects.

        The materials issues are understood. The oft-repeated corrosion issue is overstated. The MSRE experiment revealed corrosion initiated by the (tellurium) fission product; an extra 1 mm of vessel wall would render this unimportant; it’s also controllable by managing U3+/U4+ ion ratios. In the ThorCon case the entire reactor “Can” is replaced after 4 years. It’s specifically designed to be taken apart, inspected, and refurbished at a can recycling center.

        The ThorCon reactor is a thermal reactor; fission-producing slow neutrons are moderated with graphite. Unlike fast reactors, thermal reactors are easily controlled and do not run the risk of accidental supercriticality in an accident where potential moderators (eg concrete) might intrude. The graphite shrinks then swells as it is exposed to neutron flux. The MSRE proved a minimum useful life of 4 years; that is one reason ThorCon Cans are replaced every 4 years.

        The ThorCon MSR fuel is 80% thorium by weight. Enriched uranium is required as well, and about half the generated power comes from U-235 fission, with the rest from U-233 and Pu-239 bred in situ in the molten salt. The use of thorium will be increased in the future. The initial salt is BeF2 and NaF, although MSRE used LiF not NaF. The penalty for Na is more neutron absorption. MSRE used Li-7 because the isotope Li-6 absorbs too many neutrons, but today enriched Li-7 is not commercially available. When it is it will be used in ThorCon, increasing bred fissile material and reducing the demand for U-235.

        Safety is an important aspect of the ThorCon design. The passive fuse-valve would drain the fuel salt to a drain tank in an overheat situation, stopping the reaction. Passive decay heat cooling is always operating, with no valves or relays to set during a shutdown. There are four barriers between radioactive materials and the biosphere. The hazardous fission products such as I, Cs, and Sr are locked up in the ionic liquid molten salt even in the most destructive possible assaults. The design is aircraft-strike resistant. Terrorists taking over the control room could not effect a radiation release. Internally and externally, all uranium is kept within IAEA LEU levels. As with current LWRs, Pu-239 bred from U-238 is contaminated with Pu-240 and Pu-238 and is not weapons-grade after the first year of operation.

        The ThorCon design provides energy cheaper than coal; it is scaleable to meet global energy demands without producing CO2 emissions; it requires no new technology; it’s safe. It provides an economic solution to the global climate/energy/development crisis.

        • RDG says:

          “In the ThorCon case the entire reactor “Can” is replaced after 4 years. It’s specifically designed to be taken apart, inspected, and refurbished at a can recycling center.”

          Stop right there…I’ve heard enough. You admit the reactor “can” is ruined probably long before 4 years and then you are not going to inspect, and refurbish. No, you are going to dump that radioactive can somewhere and forget about it. This is supposed to be “cheaper than coal”…LOL

          What a comedy show these msr “startups” are…

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