The Second-hand Science of Thorium fission power production

Posted by Doug_Huffman 4 weeks ago to Science
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Can anyone here defend thorium fission power production from their own knowledge? Or liquid metal cooled / fueled fission reactors?

Is it all stale second-hand dreams from years gone by?

There has not been a successful thorium fueled fission power plant. There are only plans in development for thorium based power production.

The Japanese experience with Monju near Tsuruga NPP epitomizes molten metal cooling.

Ayn Rand on Second-handers, from The Fountainhead.

“That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They're concerned only with people. They don't ask: 'Is this true?' They ask: 'Is this what others think is true?' Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull.

What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egotists. You don't think through another's brain and you don't work through another's hands.

When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. To stop consciousness is to stop life. Second-handers have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another. Not an entity, but a relation--anchored to nothing.

That's the emptiness I couldn't understand in people. That's what stopped me whenever I faced a committee. Men without an ego. Opinion without a rational process. Motion without brakes or motor. Power without responsibility. The second-hander acts, but the source of his actions is scattered in every other living person. It's everywhere and nowhere and you can't reason with him. He's not open to reason. You can't speak to him--he can't hear. You're tried by an empty bench. A blind mass running amuck, to crush you without sense or purpose.

Steve Mallory couldn't define the monster, but he knew. That's the drooling beast he fears. The second-hander.” “I think your second-handers understand this, try as they might not to admit it to themselves. Notice how they'll accept anything except a man who stands alone. They recognize him at once. By instinct. There's a special, insidious kind of hatred for him. They forgive criminals. They admire dictators. Crime and violence are a tie. A form of mutual dependence. They need ties. They've got to force their miserable little personalities on every single person they meet.

The independent man kills them--because they don't exist within him and that's the only form of existence they know. Notice the malignant kind of resentment against any idea that propounds independence. Notice the malice toward an independent man. Look back at your own life, Howard, and at the people you've met. They know. They're afraid. You're a reproach.” [Edited, whitespace for readability] (The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Kindle edition from Plume 1971)


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  • Posted by $ Thoritsu 3 weeks, 1 day ago
    First Hand:
    Liquid metal reactors work just fine. Several have been built. A couple have been to sea. They work great, except for some material challenges. Very power dense.
    Second Hand:
    (I think) Thorium reactors work fine too. There is just no stomach for their development. I have studied them, and have a rudimentary understanding. However, although I am very technical, I can not commit the effort to making that first hand knowledge.
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    • Posted by $ nickursis 2 weeks, 6 days ago
      Yes, the Alpha plant was sodium, and they had a hell of a time in overhauls, and refuling. USS Seawolf (old one) had one for a while and then it got tossed, the mettalurgy required was not at hand then. I think the Russians found that out to.
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      • Posted by 2 weeks, 6 days ago
        Please, which “Alpha plant was sodium,”?
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        • Posted by $ nickursis 2 weeks, 6 days ago
          Alpha Class Soviet nuclear submarine, used a high powered sodium nuclear plant. Had one burn in drydock when they were trying to re core it when they had a coolant leak. Very messy.
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          • Posted by 2 weeks, 5 days ago
            Well then, you will have to excuse my misunderstanding..

            The Soviet Project 705 Lira was called by NATO ALFA not Alpha differentiated from Beta as I expected.

            Further, two different reactor power plants were used in the ALFA Class, both Lead-Bismuth cooled fast reactors. They were maintained hot shutdown in port on shorepower. One may have burned during refueling but not due to SODIUM!

            YOU may be mistakenly thinking of K-431 / 31 ECHO Class Project 675 in October 1985 that suffered a refueling accident.
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            • Posted by $ nickursis 2 weeks, 5 days ago
              Well, yes, now you write it, it was ALFA, we had tracked one, and no one could confess to it, since there were supposed to be none in our neck of the woods, but the triangulation was over 200 miles. We had good matches, but never were told what we tracked for an hour or so, who knows. We had lots of weird things happen to us that were never explained, and we had a 3" special recorder running 24/7 that recorded all our raw data. All my intel went for liquid sodium ( back in the late 80's early 90's). But all the pages I find say Lead-Bismouth. Here is a good illustrated web site:

              http://www.hisutton.com/Alfa_Class_Su...

              Seawolf did have a Sodium Plant, which Rickover decided was just not any good:

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Sea...
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              • Posted by 2 weeks, 5 days ago
                Since you will directly cite the Wikipedia, read the K-431 article about its accident. Compare the SL-1 accident description. Try to read Project Bellona

                SL-1 jerked one rod. K-431 pulled the whole head too far. A co-worker was on the fated SL-1 crew but called in sick with the sniffles. He taught me (a placard over his desk) “Ask your own questions. Find your own answers.”. A tip o’ the hat to Ed.

                Reactivity control was a primary job.

                Aboard ship, I sat the conformal array as a nuke, with two initial detections to my credit.
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                • Posted by $ nickursis 2 weeks, 4 days ago
                  K-431 was what happened when amateurs get to play.There was a Fast boat in pearl that had the wrong charcoal delivered and they put most of it in before they figured it out. That too, was just not paying attention, as far as I was told. Made me happy I never went nuke.
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  • Posted by $ nickursis 3 weeks, 2 days ago
    OK, I'll bite: here is reference of what I would consider first hand knowledge of said reactors, and yet, in keeping with the idea of second hand knowledge I would not build one just from this data:

    https://whatisnuclear.com/thorium.html

    I had interaction with Soviet submarines that ran on liquid sodium cooled reactors, I identified them from sound, and specifics known to us. My intel guides defined what parts were making what noises so I knew by that data I had a fit. I still could not actually say there was one there, but all indications were it was.

    This seems like something related to flight. In the 1800's lots of people PROVED, through experimentation (first hand knowledge?) that it cvould not be done, some died getting that knowledge. Yet the Wright Brothers also did similar experimentation and discovered the missing pieces of knowledge in the shape of the wing. So, if I make a plane with their wing shape, I know it will fly (second hand knowledge?) but if I build it and fly it then I know it is real? (First Hand knowledge?) I do not understand why I cannot gather data from others and correlate it to my own hypothesis, to create a new idea. Would that not be similar to creating knowledge first hand?

    https://whatisnuclear.com/thorium.html
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    • Posted by 3 weeks, 1 day ago
      Public information has the Alfa Class decommissioned by 1996. So did I have similar interactions, as a nuke that was allowed to sit after watch on a sonar stack with two initial detections to my credit. As the nuke bull-throttleman I spent considerable time moving my ship conducting acoustic tomography.

      Thank you for your service. USN SS ‘69 - ‘75
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  • Posted by Mitch 4 weeks ago
    no, I can't, I know very little about thorium fission. Okay nothing... I do know that liquid metal cooled reactors refer to sodium cooled reactors as sodium is a metal. I read that somewhere...

    I guess your stating we are all second-handers because none of this knowledge is my own?
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    • Posted by 4 weeks ago
      Yes.

      Sodium is a light alkali metal that cannot be exposed to water, like water vapor humidity of the air.

      Reactors have been cooled with other than sodium.
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      • Posted by Mitch 4 weeks ago
        So is this post about second-hand knowledge or about thorium fission reactors? Do you have first hand knowledge of thorium fission reactors?
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        • Posted by Mitch 4 weeks ago
          At one point in time, we referenced our work with footnotes and clearly stated credit for work used. I work in information technology, clearly the most plagiarized industry on the planet.

          I have a issue with people representing ones knowledge as their own as original work needs to be rewarded, not plagiarized. That said, it is easy to do in my field as you ingest so much and later user it as firsthand knowledge.

          So the question to you, when does second-hand knowledge become firsthand knowledge? After one effectively becomes an authority in the subject matter? Can that person state facts as their own or do they always need to foot note their work? That would get very messy very quickly. Then given the fact that none of us can remember where we picked up a parcel of knowledge. I guess I'm saying everything that you build upon is second-handle knowledge. this should be a given?
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          • Posted by 4 weeks ago
            I would love to discuss / defend / argue epistemology but that is not the intention of this my thread.

            All technical knowledge is received knowledge.
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            • Posted by ewv 4 weeks ago
              First hand knowledge in the sense of The Fountainhead is what you validate and understand yourself -- "first hand". You grasp the connections in your own mind regardless of who else has or has not done it. You decide what you will accept and you know why.

              It does not mean that we can't learn from others and integrate that into our own knowledge. Intellectual independence, in the sense of a Howard Roark, means that you think and understand for yourself, not that you rediscover everything in isolation.

              The important point is to understand first hand why and how we believe what we do as part of that knowledge, including knowing the reliability of external sources and why they are reliable. You may believe a report by a credible physicist, but not the Pope (or a sincere-sounding You Tube pundit), and retain where you got that report from. If you're not sure of a source than you retain that fact as the status of what you have absorbed.

              We can't possibly personally reproduce all scientific and technological discoveries, let alone follow the entire history of a science including all its false leads and attempts, while thinking in historically unclear initial concepts as they developed. No one can live that long. That does not make all knowledge "second hand" in the sense of a Peter Keating who believes because someone else said it, or "they say", or he "read it somewhere".
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              • Posted by $ jbrenner 3 weeks, 1 day ago
                Well stated. I can personally attest to the benefits of nuclear power as it once was my job to safely store our nation's supply of tritium. However, I refuse to be a second hander with regard to thorium because I just don't know enough about that other than it has been evaluated for long term space travel.
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        • Posted by 4 weeks ago
          I have first hand knowledge of maintaining a positive neutron multiplication factor in uranium fission reactors.

          There ARE NO “thorium fission reactors” for anyone to have first hand knowledge.
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          • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 3 weeks, 6 days ago
            There are currently no rockets capable of landing a man on the moon for anyone to have first hand knowledge of. Does that mean we don't believe it happened -- or that we cannot plan on doing it again.

            To find one you have to go back to the Saturn V rocket built in the 1960's -- about when experiments with thorium were done -- so I guess lunar travel is also a second-hand dream.
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  • Posted by 4 weeks ago
    I apologize for the wall of quoted text, but it appears that I must pay for the privilege of editing for readability. My first substantive post. That ought to put the cat among the ‘parrots’.
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