02 January 2012

Rolls-Royce to Develop Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)

It's all in this House of Lords' Report! It's a bit in code and you have to read between the lines, as to how Rolls-Royce would go about selecting a small (200 - 300 megawatt size), Gen IV, high temperature reactor.

So what are the choices:

(1)  Gas Cooled Fast Reactor (GFR) - thick walled pressure vessels; solid fuel; fuel reprocessing; inefficient fast neutron spectrum.

(2)  Lead Cooled Fast Reactor (LFR) - inefficient fast spectrum; expensive solid fuel manufacture; low temperature linked to low-efficiency steam turbines; no prospects of high temperature operation, so no hydrogen economy, until corrosion resistant materials are developed and tested.

(3)  Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor (SFR) - All the disadvantages of (2), with the added hazard of highly-reactive sodium as a potential propellant of radio toxic substances into the environment.

(4)  Supercritical Water-Cooled Reactor (SCWR) - Thinly disguised version of an LWR, carrying all the same risk and sourcing baggage, associated with high-pressure, thick-walled vessels. And for what? A few percentage points improvement in efficiency.

(5)  Very High Temperature Gas Reactor (VHTR) - High pressure, thick-walled vessels with the same risk hazards and sourcing difficulties of an LWR. Costly solid fuel manufacture and inefficient open cycle fuel use.

(6)  Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) - (1) to (5) are all solid fuelled reactors. The following is copied from the 'Generation IV Nuclear Reactors' section of the World Nuclear Association website:

Compared with solid-fuelled reactors, MSR systems have lower fissile inventories, no radiation damage constraint on fuel burn-up, no spent nuclear fuel, no requirement to fabricate and handle solid fuel, and a homogeneous isotopic composition of fuel in the reactor.  These and other characteristics may enable MSRs to have unique capabilities and competitive economics for actinide burning and extending fuel resources.

It's a No-Brainer - Mr Ric Parker is talking about Rolls Royce investing in MSRs and the one-and-only choice is LFTRs!!!

All you Fund Managers and Venture Capitalists get your money into
Rolls Royce and Thorium - It's all about to happen!!!

Select Committee on Science and Technology
3rd Report of Session 2010–12

Ordered to be printed 15 November 2011 and published 22 November 2011
Nuclear Research and Development Capabilities


Mr Ric Parker of Rolls Royce told us that "there are two clear areas for the UK" to play a role in the development of these technologies: "the prime investment is in high-integrity manufacturing, monitoring and some of the technical and engineering support for these new facilities. Another great opportunity is ... small reactors, of the 200-, 300-megawatt size [which could] be a major earner for the UK." In his opinion, the UK has both the "strength" and the "intellectual horsepower" to generate some real intellectual property and therefore lock-in value for the UK from involvement in Generation IV reactor development, particularly given the UK’s strengths in the field of high temperature reactors. The NIA said that "given the international dimension to the nuclear market there could also be significant benefits in international collaboration, not only in developing new Gen IV reactor designs ... but generally across the fuel cycle". In their view, and others, "involvement in relevant programmes could provide useful opportunities for UK industry as the work translates from R&D to demonstration—which might be lost without UK participation".


  1. You might be jumping to a conclusion. The nuclear reactor technology types noted above are the same as the GEN IV series that have been around for some time.

    The House of Lords Science Committee has been very supportive of nuclear energy R&D. It published a report in November 2011 taking the current government to task for cutting nuclear R&D. Also, the report singled out GEN IV technologies in general as a target for new investment. It did not state a preference for a specific reactor technology.

    Building an LFTR requires more than just a reactor design. It requires a new fuel cycle with fuel fabrication facilities, remote handling equipment, and new back end spent fuel management methods and technologies.

    Once those challenges have been met, to sell an LFTR to a customer, developers must prove the reactor can be licensed, safely operated, and generate a profit. The reactor will need to have at least a 60 year life cycle and a well defined path for safe decommissioning.

    An LFTR, or any thorium fueled unit, will need sustained R&D $$$ to break into the commercial market.

    Dan Yurman, publisher, Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy djysrv.blogspot.com

  2. This is exciting because Rolls Royce and the UK could take the lead with this technology very quickly and actually get the job done. Please keep us updated.

  3. nice idea.. thanks for sharing.

  4. Rolls Royce has the type of expertise in the UK ncessary for designing and manufacturing LFTR's. This is a great export opportunity for the UK. Whereas the legacy momentum in the USA is for large conventional nuclear systems, for example of the type now being sold to India for use with solid-fuel rod Thorium, US nuclear industry has not realized that LFTR is a disruptive technology which will change to direction of the civil nuclear industry.

    In comparison, in an unrelated field of technology, LM Ericsson AB management in Sweden did not earlier believe in mobile telephones, and a group of their engineers experienced in wireless communication left to work at Nokia (which at one stage was a leading World moile telephone company). Later, Nokia was slow in realizing the potential of computer-internsive mobile telephones and was subsequently displaced by Apple Corp. In comparison, the US nuclear industry is slow and aniquated, just like the US road network and US electricity network, such that the Europeans and Chinese are likely to outsmart the USA on Thorium LFTR.

  5. No such thing as a free lunch. Lesser of various evils. Choose your own cliche. Which ever way you get your energy there is a cost.

    Coal has got to go, is going. Carbon capture is a pipe dream. Wind, wave, tidal, solar, biomass and so on, all have there place. Fusion? forget it. There is a reason stars are the size they are.

    While LFTR technology is not exactly benign, it at least less malignant than the current descendants of the PWR approach. Remember, the reason this technology was chosen in the first place was to provide fissionable materials for weapons. Production of electricity was almost a byproduct. Who can remember that Pathe (I think) news report when our dear Queen opened the Calder Hall plant.
    "This new power, which has proved itself to be such a terrifying weapon of destruction," she said, "is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community." Just a little naive perhaps.
    "Electricity so cheap it won't be worth metering it" said one commentator. Ah well.

    So, LFTRS then. The fact is it's going to happen. It's just a matter of who and how soon. Not the USA that's for sure, despite the fact that they actually had a working MSR plant at Oak Ridge Labs. The US government seems unable or unwilling to make the intellectual leap. (Thank goodness then for the tireless vigilance and dedication of those like Homer Simpson.)

    OK India or China then? China has the cash (all of it) and the need, if the 'party' decides to do it, it will be done. Although not LFTR, India has already got a thorium fueled advanced heavy-water reactor (AHWR) project underway.

    What about the UK? With Rolls Royce involved it could happen. It would just need the political will of foresight.. Oh well that's that then. Please prove me wrong.

    The fact is with energy we can accomplish anything without it we can do nothing. Energy is the ONLY thing that has any REAL value.