Thorium reactors -
>>> Thorium Investing
Energy & Capital
Take a look at the word thorium.
What do you see?
Those familiar with Norse mythology or the Marvel comic books might notice the root of the word is Thor, the name of the god of thunder. Thor is known for his strength and power, wielding a hammer and controlling the lightning and thunder.
The name alone implies a superhuman power, a superior energy. And the element doesn't disappoint...
Thorium is a radioactive chemical element that can be found in soil and rocks. In its purest form, it appears as a silver metal, but when heated in the air, it becomes like a white light, like lightning.
Thorium is currently used in things such as light bulbs and camera lenses. It can create a high-quality refractive glass, and its high melting point can allow ceramics to resist high temperatures.
But light bulbs and ceramics aren’t what have the energy industry watching closely...
Heat resistance is.
You see, thorium’s ultra-high melting point can be useful in more than just ceramics. Heat resistance is something scientists and energy specialists alike have been trying desperately to achieve with nuclear energy.
One of the biggest issues with nuclear plants is the meltdowns that can occur if the uranium is not cooled properly. We saw that tragically exhibited in Japan in 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami caused a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The fact that the only other disaster of that caliber was the 1986 Chernobyl disaster has done little to ease the minds of world governments and energy companies. This simply highlighted the tragedy that can come along with it.
Which is why thorium’s properties have become so coveted. If the material were virtually meltdown-proof, the clean energy possibilities would be endless.
There is only one problem: Thorium is unable to sustain a nuclear reaction on its own.
Thorium in Nuclear Energy
Thorium’s inability to sustain a nuclear chain reaction causes a problem, but it’s not one without a solution.
The material can actually prove quite effective when combined with a fissile material — one that is able to sustain a nuclear reaction.
These materials include uranium-233 (which is actually an isotope of thorium), enriched uranium (U-235), and plutonium (Pu-239).
The use of thorium in a nuclear reaction significantly lowers the waste produced; of the waste that does occur, radioactively decaying elements are lowered as well. Combined with weapons-grade uranium, for instance, one University of Oslo researcher found that thorium can aid in reducing radioactive waste by up to 95%.
And the safety of a thorium reactor compared to one using uranium is much higher. As mentioned before, thorium’s high melting point makes a nuclear meltdown much less likely.
But thorium can’t be used in just any nuclear reactor. Only seven types are safe for thorium reactions, including heavy water reactors, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, boiling (light) water reactors, pressurized (light) water reactors, fast neutron reactors, molten salt reactors, and accelerator driven reactors. Molten salt reactors and accelerator driven reactors are still conceptual, though the other five have all been operational at some point.
The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR), a type of molten salt reactor, is being touted by many as the best solution to thorium-powered nuclear energy. In these types of reactors, thorium and uranium fluorides are combined into a salt mixture that’s heated to a molten substance, which is then used to fuel the reactor.
These reactors have the potential to become self-sustainable, as they will be able to produce U-233 (the thorium isotope).
Flibe Energy, a company started by nuclear technologist and former NASA aerospace engineer Kirk Sorensen, is conducting research on LFTR technology with a view to eventually incorporate these reactors not just into electrical energy generation, but also into fields as vastly different as desalination, cancer treatment, and deep space exploration.
Creating the Nuclear Reaction
Still, the fissile material that enables a thorium reactions is actually fairly difficult to supply...
For years, the U.S. has had a steady stream of U-235 coming in, but that runs out this year.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the Lisbon Protocol in 1992, the U.S. and Russia arrived at the U.S.-Russian Highly Enriched Uranium Agreement, or what came to be known as the “Megatons to Megawatts Program.”
Under the terms of the 1993 agreement, Russia would dismantle Soviet nuclear warheads and convert 500 tonnes of highly-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium, which would be sold to the U.S. for use in nuclear reactors.
By 2013, ten years after the start of the program, all 500 tonnes would be converted. As a result, the U.S.’s steady supply of uranium came to a halt in 2013.
But for thorium, it might not be as bad as it seems. After all, U-235 isn’t the only fissile material that could be combined with thorium for a nuclear reaction...
U-233, an isotope of thorium, can react with thorium for a nuclear reaction. And this is the focus of the LFTRs, as it could lead to self-sufficiency of these reactors with the recycled waste.
It’s not easy. Thermal breeding, as the process is called, requires the reactor to produce more fissile material than it consumes, and it requires a highly specialized type of reactor.
Regular nuclear reactors are unable to breed to the point where it is unnecessary to add more of the fissile material. But many LFTRs are being designed as breeding reactors. While regularly adding thorium to these reactors would be necessary, adding U-233 would not. Enough fissile material would be created in the reactions to sustain it on its own.
Investing in Thorium
Investing in thorium can be tough, as it’s not yet used for nuclear power generation. Companies like Flibe Energy, which is focused on thorium reactors, are still private.
Uranium Mining Companies
Several uranium miners, like Cameco Corp. (NYSE: CCJ) and Unity Energy Corp. (UTY.V), are mining uranium in areas that also have concentrations of thorium.
Though neither company has reported on significant mining of thorium, both are well-positioned to profit should the demand for the metal skyrocket.
As thorium reactor testing continues in nations like Norway and India, and major investors like Bill Gates (whose company TerraPower has also begun testing thorium reactors) get involved, attention to the metal will only grow...
Research on these reactors will lead to implementation, and that will lead to profits for the well-positioned investor.
Thorium is the key nuclear fuel of the future. Keep a close eye on this one.
>>> Uranium Investors Bet Big On Nuclear Renaissance
By Alex Kimani
Sep 24, 2023
Dozens of governments and influential bodies that were formerly opposed to nuclear energy are now openly embracing and hailing it as a necessary player in the global electrification and decarbonization drive.
Uranium markets have lately been on a roll after prices for yellowcake gained more than 20% YTD.
Global uranium production dropped by 25% from 2016 to 2020 amid low prices before recovering slightly to 49,355 metric tons last year.
Uranium and the nuclear energy sector are enjoying a renaissance. There has been a palpable shift in support for nuclear power amid the transition to low-carbon fuels as well as a renewed push to enhance energy security after the global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Dozens of governments and influential bodies that were formerly opposed to nuclear energy are now openly embracing and hailing it as a necessary player in the global electrification and decarbonization drive. And few have been as monumental as Finland's Green Party which voted overwhelmingly in 2022 to categorize nuclear power as a form of sustainable energy after decades of strong opposition. A third of Finland's electricity is generated by nuclear power.
“I am very happy and proud. This is a historical moment in the history of the green movement, as we are the first green party in the world to officially let go of anti-nuclearism.” said Tea Törmänen, a voting member and chair of the Savonia/Karelia chapter of Viite, the pro-science internal group of the party, shortly after the vote.
Other European nations quickly followed suit with Belgium, Spain and Sweden supporting nuclear energy.
Not surprisingly, uranium markets have lately been on a roll after prices for yellowcake gained more than 20% YTD, better than any other metal and topping $65/lb for the first time in 12 years.
Uranium-based investment vehicles and ETFs have performed even better than the metal they track: Global X Uranium ETF (URA) is up 29.2% in the year-to-date; Horizons Global Uranium Index ETF (HURA.TO) has returned 40.3% while VanEck Uranium+Nuclear Energy ETF (NLR) has gained 28.5%. Uranium miners have not disappointed either: Cameco Corp. (NYSE:CCJ)+75.2%, Uranium Energy Corp. (NYSE:UEC)+40.1% and Consolidated Uranium Inc. (OTCQX:CURUF)+30.7%.
Uranium Shortage Bites
But the biggest bullish catalyst yet for uranium bulls has been supply deficits at a time when demand is surging. Global uranium production dropped by 25% from 2016 to 2020 amid low prices before recovering slightly to 49,355 metric tons last year.
The coup in Mali, which produces ~4% of the world's total, and Cameco's falling production due to difficulties at its Cigar Lake mine and Key Lake mill in Canada have also constrained supply. Global supplies remain constrained mainly due to years of under-investment in new production, monopoly of state-owned entities, transportation risks and geopolitical uncertainties.
Meanwhile, in its latest biennial report, the World Nuclear Association has predicted that demand for uranium used in nuclear reactors will surge 28% by 2030 and nearly double by 2040 as governments ramp up nuclear power capacity in a bid to meet zero-carbon targets.
Sachem Cove Chief Investment Officer Michael Alkin has told The Wall Street Journal that the uranium market remains “very tight’’ and prices are likely to move even higher heading into 2024. Alkins says he expects utilities to start ramping up talks for uranium conversion and enrichment through private negotiations during the fall or requests for proposals.
Cameco says the dual agendas of clean energy and energy security have so failed to translate into a stronger primary supply pipeline. According to the uranium miner, the uranium market is still in the "relatively early stages of the cycle as uncovered uranium requirements by utilities remains elevated," and only "sustained long-term uranium demand will ultimately drive the company's future production plans."
Cost and Policy Risk
Like all investment theses, uranium bulls will have to contend with some key risks. First off, over the decades, the nuclear sector has become notorious for huge cost overruns by uranium projects. Unfortunately, project managers, financial planners and financiers do not appear to be any closer to solving this conundrum in this age of AI.
Not only has the cost of building new nuclear plants sky-rocketed in recent years but plants currently under construction are massively exceeding cost estimates. A large 3,200 megawatt (MW) plant planned to be built in southwest England by France's EDF , the world's largest nuclear operator, is now estimated to cost ~$40 billion, or 30% higher than the initial estimate. Smaller projects are not immune to this problem either. NuScale Power’s 462-MW plant under construction has seen cost estimates increase from $58 per megawatt hour in 2021 to $89/MWh in 2023, a more than 50% jump in the space of just two years.
Second, another major nuclear accident like Three Mile Island or Fukushima might rapidly sour the public sentiment and even force a policy shift. A major thorium breakthrough might spell doom for the uranium sector since thorium reactors do not carry the same risk of a catastrophic meltdown inherent in nuclear reactors powered by uranium.
>>> Joby Subsidiary H2FLY Completes World’s First Piloted Flight of Liquid Hydrogen Powered Electric Aircraft
September 7, 2023
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. & MARIBOR, Slovenia, September 07, 2023--(BUSINESS WIRE)--H2FLY, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Joby Aviation, today announced the successful completion of the world’s first piloted flight of a liquid hydrogen-powered electric aircraft.
H2FLY, acquired by Joby in 2021, continues to lead the industry on the development and testing of hydrogen aviation propulsion systems. The company completed a series of piloted flights with its HY4 demonstrator aircraft, including one that lasted more than three hours, fitted with a hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion system and liquid hydrogen that powered it for the entire flight.
The flights demonstrate the viability of using cryogenically-stored liquid hydrogen instead of gaseous hydrogen, which enables significantly lower tank weights and volume, leading to longer range. The successful installation and demonstration of flight with liquid hydrogen is believed to increase the range of H2FLY’s HY4 demonstrator aircraft from 466 mi (750 km) to 932 mi (1500 km), marking a critical step towards the long-term decarbonization of mid- to long-range aviation.
"H2FLY are pioneers in their field, and we’re proud of them achieving this watershed moment in the use of liquid hydrogen to power aircraft," said JoeBen Bevirt, Founder and CEO of Joby Aviation. "In the years to come, battery-electric and hydrogen-electric propulsion systems will enable us to build aircraft that are quieter and make mid- to long-range air travel possible with zero emissions. It’s critical we take action now and invest aggressively in these technologies for the health of our planet and future generations to come."
The successful flights are the culmination of Project HEAVEN, a European-government-supported consortium assembled to demonstrate the feasibility of using liquid hydrogen in aircraft. The consortium is led by H2FLY and includes the partners Air Liquide, Pipistrel Vertical Solutions, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), EKPO Fuel Cell Technologies, and Fundación Ayesa.
Following this test flight milestone, H2FLY will increasingly focus on its path to commercialization. In June, H2FLY announced the development of its new fuel cell systems, which will be capable of providing their full power range at altitudes high enough to enable commercial hydrogen-electric aircraft, demonstrating real-world commercial aircraft applications.
Joby Aviation, Inc. (NYSE:JOBY) is a California-based transportation company developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing air taxi which it intends to operate as part of a fast, quiet, and convenient service in cities around the world.
Zinc-Air Surpasses Lithium In Major Breakthrough In Battery Tech
wow_happens does not have a clue about this
dith Cowan University’s recent study into the advancement of sustainable battery systems suggests zinc-air batteries have emerged as a better alternative to lithium chemistries.
The research paper reporting the research and the results has been published in the journal EcoMat.
Edith Cowan University’s (ECU) Dr Muhammad Rizwan Azhar led the project which discovered lithium-ion batteries, although a popular choice for electric vehicles around the world, face limitations related to cost, finite resources, and safety concerns.
Dr Rizwan Azhar explained, “Rechargeable zinc-air batteries (ZABs) are becoming more appealing because of their low cost, environmental friendliness, high theoretical energy density, and inherent safety. With the emergence of next-generation long-range vehicles and electric aircraft in the market, there is an increasing need for safer, more cost-effective, and high-performance battery systems that can surpass the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries.”
The schematic illustrates the Co-N-C and Co-N-C@CoNiFe-LDH active sites for oxygen reduction reaction and oxygen evolution reaction, respectively. Image Credit: Edith Cowan University. The study paper is open access at posting and offers deep explanations and more images.
Zinc-air: An explainer
A zinc-air battery consists of a zinc negative electrode and an air positive electrode.
Until now the major disadvantage of these has been the limited power output, due to poor performance of air electrodes and short lifespan.
ECU’s breakthrough has enabled engineers to use a combination of new materials, such as carbon, cheaper iron and cobalt based minerals to redesign zinc-air batteries.
Dr Azhar noted, “The new design has been so efficient it suppressed the internal resistance of batteries, and their voltage was close to the theoretical voltage which resulted in a high peak power density and ultra-long stability. In addition to revolutionizing the energy storage industry, this breakthrough contributes significantly to building a sustainable society, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and mitigating environmental impacts.”
“By using natural resources, such as zinc from Australia and air, this further enhances the cost-effectiveness and viability of these innovative zinc-air batteries for the future,” added Dr Azhar.
Viable and reliable
Dr Azhar said while renewable resources such as solar, wind, and hydro energy play a critical role in the future of green energy, they are not completely reliable solutions as they are intermittent sources of energy.
“Due to the abundance of zinc available in countries such as Australia, and the ubiquity of air, this becomes a highly viable and reliable energy storage solution,” Dr Azhar explained.
ECU’s re-design of zinc-air batteries brings Australia closer to achieving the UN sustainable development goals and targets set by the Paris Agreement, which was established in late 2015 to emphasize the need for sustainable energy resources to limit climate change.
That idea zinc-air is viable is likely true. The basic chemistry has been around for years, safe enough that folks plug them into their ears while powering hearing aides. They do have an enviable record to start with.
The issues are that they are likely to be lower cost. Not any lighter in weight, and far far safer. There are a lot of uses that the technology can address right away. Just growing out of the tiny hearing aide market will be noteworthy.
True market relevance in the consumer’s mind is the target. Show us the typical AAA, AA, D cell out for everyone to see in the shops and if they’re good – they will make market share quickly.
If we can invest directly in a company that makes SMR's them, wow. I Iike the thought of a general fund as well for safety as I feel all nuclear could do well in coming years. SMR companies could face competition individually. So buy both? Maybe.
>> Small Modular Reactors <<
Jim Rickards mentioned SMRs as a promising technology and a potential area for investment, and I started an I-Hub Nuclear Energy board to store articles and related stock lists (link below), but haven't followed the sector very much. I wonder about the nuclear proliferation aspects of these SMRs (?)
After 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukashima, the downside of nuclear power has become apparent to all, but ~ 60 new nuke plants are reportedly under construction globally, mainly in China, India, and Russia. The US hadn't built any in a long time, but reportedly there are 2 currently under construction. Europe (other than France) has been decommissioning theirs.
Then there are the 'NWO' aspects. Historian Webster Tarpley has discussed how the ruling 'elites' historically don't want cheap plentiful energy for the masses, since it creates upward mobility and a large independent middle class, which then threatens the ruling oligarchy. They prefer us peons to be just scraping by. Historically they also want a relatively small population, since in their view a big unwieldy population is a threat to their oligarchy.
Anyway, while it's no secret that the Western elites have long been against nuclear power, there is also reason to believe that the nuclear industry has been deliberately sabotaged, going all the way back to Three Mile Island. If you remember the movie 'China Syndrome', it came out less than 2 weeks before the Three Mile Island incident occurred, so the timing seemed very suspicious. Another potential conspiracy 'data point' was Michael Crichton's final book 'State of Fear', which had some plot similarities to what happened at Fukashima -- ie an earthquake (albeit man made), resulting in a devastating tidal wave, etc.
Crichton got a lot of heat for that book (testified before Congress), mainly for its ridiculing of the broader global warming / climate change narrative, and the elites were not amused. Crichton was a prominent movie producer and director, and the globalists went ballistic over the risk that their climate change scam could be 'outed' in a big budget Hollywood type movie. Anyway, Crichton was grilled to the max by Congress, and a few years later he conveniently died of a rapid acting lymphoma. Coincidence? Maybe, but somewhat reminiscent (for us conspiracy buffs) of what happened to Tim Russert after he publicly outed Bush Jr and Kerry as members of Skull + Bones (Yale) during the 2004 campaign, and then Russert subsequently died of a heart attack at age 58.
Who knows, but when it comes to nuclear power, there are a lot of overlapping globalist agendas, beyond the mere power generation aspects. Nuclear proliferation seems like a legitimate concern, though somewhat moot now considering that little North Korea can put a single small nuclear device into orbit and zap the US power grid via EMP. North Korea's satellite launch attempt in May failed, and the recent attempt last week reportedly failed. But very soon the mighty US can be neutralized at will by the Korean lunatic. Most people have no absolutely idea of the monumental danger. A single orbital nuke detonation over Kansas, and it's back to the Stone Age for the US, literally -
Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)
IMO, Nuclear will be revived. Could small modular reactors be used to help replace oil and even EV fuel, in place of coal, oil, and even wind and solar? And Nuclear powered charging stations for EV's some day? But I read that other countries that have sanity left are using more Nuclear.
My play might be URA, Global X Uranium ETF , chart at the bottom. I would not buy it now. COVID BS is heat up, maybe another Quarantine or other international or economic troubles. Somewhere between and early 2025, the market will be substantially lower, IMO. As of now, after a big crash or bear, I could buy this. As of now I own nothing.
Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are a key part of the Department’s goal to develop safe, clean, and affordable nuclear power options. The advanced SMRs currently under development in the United States represent a variety of sizes, technology options, capabilities, and deployment scenarios. These advanced reactors, envisioned to vary in size from tens of megawatts up to hundreds of megawatts, can be used for power generation, process heat, desalination, or other industrial uses. SMR designs may employ light water as a coolant or other non-light water coolants such as a gas, liquid metal, or molten salt.
Advanced SMRs offer many advantages, such as relatively small physical footprints, reduced capital investment, ability to be sited in locations not possible for larger nuclear plants, and provisions for incremental power additions. SMRs also offer distinct safeguards, security and nonproliferation advantages.
The Department has long recognized the transformational value that advanced SMRs can provide to the nation’s economic, energy security, and environmental outlook. Accordingly, the Department has provided substantial support to the development of light water-cooled SMRs, which are under licensing review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and will likely be deployed in the late 2020s to early 2030s. The Department is also interested in the development of SMRs that use nontraditional coolants such as liquid metals, salts, and gases for the potential safety, operational, and economic benefits they offer.
Advanced SMR R&D Program
Building on the successes of the SMR Licensing Technical Support (LTS) program, the Advanced SMR R&D program was initiated in FY2019 and supports research, development, and deployment activities to accelerate the availability of U.S.-based SMR technologies into domestic and international markets. Significant technology development and licensing risks remain in bringing advanced SMR designs to market and government support is required to achieve domestic deployment of SMRs by the late 2020s or early 2030s. Through this program, the Department has partnered with NuScale Power and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to demonstrate a first-of-a-kind reactor technology at the Idaho National Laboratory this decade. Through these efforts, the Department will provide broad benefits to other domestic reactor developers by resolving many technical and licensing issues that are generic to SMR technologies, while promoting U.S. energy independence, energy dominance, and electricity grid resilience, and assuring that there is a future supply of clean, reliable baseload power.
U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development
The Department issued a multi-year cost-shared funding opportunity (U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development, DE-FOA-0001817) in 2018 to support innovative, domestic nuclear industry-driven concepts that have high potential to improve the overall economic outlook for nuclear power in the United States. This funding opportunity will enable the development of existing, new, and next-generation reactor designs, including SMR technologies.
The scope of the funding opportunity is very broad and solicits activities involved in finalizing the most mature SMR designs; developing manufacturing capabilities and techniques to improve cost and efficiency of nuclear builds; developing plant structures, systems, components, and control systems; addressing regulatory issues; and other technical needs identified by industry. The funding opportunity will provide awards sized and tailored to address a range of technical and regulatory issues impeding the progress of advanced reactor development. Read more on the FOA. Also, see the awards that have been selected to date.
URA Chart, note the dip in the last Quarantine dip in 2020 >>>>>