Thorium Plasma Battery – Bunk

I’m always interested in new technology but every once in a while something so obviously bogus hits the net that it clogs the channels of interesting stuff with rubbish, such is the current line of crap surrounding thorium plasma batteries.

The line is that someone spent twelve years developing these nuclear batteries which supposedly last five to ten to twenty to thousands of years depending upon which version you read, and then the DOD sucked it up.  Anywhere from two to half a dozen people bit the dust to cover it up.

No where in any of these postings is there an actual explanation of how these batteries are supposed to work, although there is some cross pollination between them and the so called element 115 space craft Bob Lazar talks about and also between the very real radioisotope thermal electric generators that work by using thermocouples to convert the heat from the radio-active decay of plutonium 238 (and they are experimenting with a few other isotopes) into electricity. These batteries are touted as green because they supposedly use thorium and the articles say they emit the same radiation as a cell phone.

There is so much wrong with the information given I can’t believe a conspiracy theory has actually sprung up around this.  First, thorium is a fertile material like uranium 238, and it is radioactive, although with a half-life of 14 billion years, thorium-232 is not highly radioactive.  By contrast Uranium 238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years and therefore is slightly more radioactive but not by much.  Uranium 238 is what is referred to as “depleted” uranium, after the small percentage (approximately .7%) of U-235 is removed.

The type of radiation emitted by thorium 232 and uranium-238 is the same, both are alpha emitters.  Some of the daughter elements are beta emitters and have very short half-lives. Both uranium-238 and thorium-232 can absorb a slow neutron to become a fissile isotope and thus be used as nuclear fuel.  Neither are “green” in any common sense of the word.  Thorium is very difficult to make weapons grade material from so it is somewhat preferred as a fuel from an anti-proliferation standpoint.  The type of radiation emitted is entirely different than a cell-phone.  Cell phones emit radio frequency electromagnetic waves, non-ionizing radiation.  Thorium and uranium both emit ionizing alpha particles that can damage DNA and cause cancer.  Being in a plasma state would not diminish the radioactivity of thorium.

If such a thing as a plasma thorium battery exists, which I seriously doubt, there would be nothing green or safe about it.  If anyone knows the theoretical method of operation of these batteries I’d love to hear it though I suspect it will be just as looney as the rest of the claims surrounding it.

6 thoughts on “Thorium Plasma Battery – Bunk

  1. Jobe

    I thought the plasma battery was bogus. Of course, there have been several real nuclear batteries made in the past.
    I’m surprised you did not mention that Alvin Weinberg’s alternative nuclear design: the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor was real and ran in the late 60s. Not a battery, but an alternative type of nuclear reactor.
    Thorium energy is the next super fuel. China is leading the way building these new reactors, I hope the US and Canada can catch up.

    1. Nanook Post author

      There are nuclear batteries of the type employing a radioactive beta emitter. These provide very low currents for special applications. There are also nuclear batteries of the type employed in various space probes that use radioactive decay as a heat source for thermal couples.

      With respect to molten salt reactors, the ability to use a thorium fuel cycle, to have a much higher burn rate of the fuel, to have some inherent safety features, the potential for on-site reprocessing, make them superior to pressurized and boiling water reactors used here in the states.

      However, for nuclear fission to be a long term viable option we really need fast burner reactors that can burn the transuranics and eliminate the long term wastes. Otherwise, the waste problem makes the long term use of nuclear fusion unsafe because no civilization lasts long enough to store the wastes that result.

    2. George L.

      Thorium Reactors are STILL being used today in China, India, and Norway and not only is it impossible for them to have a meltdown or catastrophic failure, but they yield 20 times more energy output than uranium with 1/10 the nuclear waste.

      But Thorium plasma batteries are not miniature reactors. Reactors rely on fission. The TPB uses fusion and the Thorium 232 isotope passing through a magnetic field. Tesla was the first to recognize the power of plasma energy and scientists Bob Dratch, Mallove, DeGeus, Petronoc and the others proved that it works. Pull your head out of the sand folks. Just because you never heard of something does not mean it doesn’t exist. The SR71 was well hid from the public for over 20 years. TPB are now being used in stealth satellites (eliminates solar panels), long-range torpedos, and other military weaponry and that is why we do not know more about the detailed technology.

      1. Nanook Post author

        George, the SR71 is based upon sound science, but the thorium battery is not. Just because something hidden was based upon sound science doesn’t mean that every conspiracy theory is hiding sound science.

        With respect to thorium reactors melting down, Thorium is actually not a fissile material, it is fertile, and is bread into fissile material in a reactor also containing either U-235 or PL-239. Thorium-232 absorbs a neutron, then decays into U-233 which is a fissile isotope of uranium. The uranium can be used in the same kind of reactors that either U-235 or PL-239 is used in. They are just as capable of melting down.

        However, U-233 does not yield a much in the way of stable PL-239, the isotopes of plutonium that are created are much less stable and too radioactive to be useful for bombs. This, and the fact that thorium is around 3x more plentiful than uranium, make a preferable fuel cycle.

        Now there are new types of reactors, such as molten salt reactors, which are much more inherently safe and since they fuel is already suspended in a molten salt, the reactor is incapable of melting down in the conventional sense of the word, however, it is capable of overheating, and could melt the containment vessel if it were not for safety devices, most notably, a melt-plug in the bottom of the reactor vessel that melts when the temperature exceeds safe limits allowing the fuel salt mixture to flow into a much larger tank where it disperses over an area too large to allow the reaction to sustain, cools, and solidifies.

        These reactors also have a couple of aspects that give them a negative temperature coefficient, so they are inherently safer both because they tend to self-regulate without any intervention and because they rely on passive rather than active safety devices, but they aren’t restricted to operation on thorium. In fact, one of the things that makes them particularly attractive is that they can also “burn” transuranics and get rid of what is presently a long term waste disposal problem.

        Fusion and Fission both generate energy by changing matter to a state of lower nuclear binding energy. Iron has the minimum nuclear binding energy. Fusion energy can be released by fusing lighter isotopes up to iron, anything heavier than iron fusion requires the addition of energy. Fusing Thorium with Thorium isn’t possible with the technology we have. Fusing it with lighter elements to create some very short lived super-heavy elements that decay almost instantly is but you need to add tremendous amounts of energy, you don’t extract energy in the process.

        There are a number of ways one could conceivably make nuclear batteries, those used on space missions use the natural heat from radioactive decay to heat a thermal-couple and generate electricity. There are also nuclear batteries that use a beta emitter in a vacuum and generate a current by capturing the emitted electrons but these generate exceedingly low currents. But the description of thorium batteries on the net makes absolutely no sense.

        With respect to Tesla and plasma, I’m familiar with his works, at one time I owned a hand-written book of his (it was stolen from a storage locker at an apartment I lived at 30 years ago). Tesla was most involved with resonant circuits and magnetic fields, motors and generators and transformers. He discovered that two high-Q very loosely coupled circuits could transfer energy quite effectively and this was the basis for his ideas on wireless transmission of electricity. He played with plasma and used it for lighting and effects, but not energy generation. Much of his work was very similar to that of Henry Transtrom. It seemed magical to people at the time but there is nothing I’ve seen that suggests anything not explainable by known laws of physics.

    1. Nanook Post author

      I’ve lived long enough to see a few thousand accusations of the oil companies buying up secret patents to a 100-mile carburetor, etc. I am still skeptical of this particular invention, at least in so far as a thorium powered battery that would produce substantial current is involved. However, I am fascinated by what is happening in the field of low energy nuclear reactions now, clearly there are physics we don’t have a clear understanding of yet.

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