Brian Wang at NextBigFuture found the news of a press conference at the Japanese organization Keidanren, an industry group with big name members such as Toyota, Toshiba and Hitachi.  The company IThEMS unveiled their plans to build the world’s first commercial Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor (Th-MSR) power generator.

IThEMS is being started by Keishiro Fukushima, a former Senator and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan and Guest Professor of Waseda University. Fukushima is joining with Dr. Kazuo Furukawa, the inventor of the Thorium Energy concept FUJI, and has dedicated more than 40 years to research and developing the field. Furukawa is Chairman and Director of Laboratory of IThEMS and is conducting research at Tokai University.

It seems that IThEMS has enough money to start raising money in earnest with a target of only $300US million to get to a ‘micromini’ reactor rated at 10MW.  It’s not clear that the funding target would take the firm to a larger 200MW design.

Mini Fuji Reactor Concept Drawing. Click image for the largest view.

Small Fuji Reactor Installation Graphic. Click image for the largest view.

The major feature to thorium fuel in a thorium molten liquid salt form is the safety as Japan is extremely conscious of the earthquake effects on uranium fueled reactor cores.  Operation of Th-MSR is conducted under normal pressure in a normal pressured container, unlike the high-pressure in a closed container for the current solid fuel class of reactors.  Even if the thorium molten-salt were to be released from the container, it would cool to a solid like glass with no response to air. Thus earthquake-resistance is ensured. This provides superior safety characteristics compared with any other nuclear reactor systems.  No possibility exists of severe accidents such as occurred at Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, which caused great risk of core meltdown at Three Mile and/or large radioactivity releases at Chernobyl.

Other features include the reaction products do not include the plutonium or uranium products needed for weapons, actually very little high level waste forms at all.  The Japanese have also noticed that thorium resources are widely spread across the world ensuing supply – something an import dependant and independent minded country needs to keep in mind.

IThEMS looks for the costs to be much lower, as much as 30% less.  Reactor construction cost is effectively low thanks to its simple structure and the absence of the containment buildings and other redundant safety systems uranium fuels need.  In a Th-MSR there is no fuel-assembly fabrication and replacement required.  Additionally, with almost none of the high-level nuclear waste produced, its waste chemical processing cost is low.  Thorium in a liquid fuel state is said to be made at a lower fuel cost than solid uranium pellets.

These factors make the ‘micromini’ reactor a possibility and opens up a lot of market potential across the planet.  With proliferation off the table sales could be quite substantial, as the regulatory overhead should be vastly reduced.  No atomic inspectors, and UN bureaucracy to build up costs would help enormously.

There is a catch – in some thorium designs, the Th-MSR included, a lot of fissile U-233 is produced, with plenty of strong gamma rays.  The Th-MSR liquid fuel system treats the U-233 by injecting fluorine gas into the liquid fuel keeping the U-233 volatile so that reprocessing and separating the U-233 is easy and the products can be recycled.  The Th-MSR is not a burn up reactor, but for the ultra safety conscious – this is very good – and the U-233 should find a market in thorium reactors that do burn up the heavy actinides.

This news is very hopeful.  The Japanese are renown for their skills at taking the world’s best concepts and producing them at incredible reliability, high quality and at low cost.  Thorium is the world’s best fuel and with Japanese technological prowess a major shift to thorium and a huge increase in available electrical power for the developing world can get going.

While the information is still thin on the engineering the Th-MSR idea seems sound.  The mini version’s preliminary specification has it being quite small, about 6 by 7 feet.  This really is truck sized, albeit very heavy, but the fuel and graphite shipped separately would keep weights in reason.

The world is changing. Research and development of thorium molten-salt power plants has started in The Czech Republic, The Russian Federation, France, US, Singapore, India and China. Thorium fuel reactors is a now a race – and betting on the Japanese looks like a very good way to invest or hedge into the future.

It seems thorium is going to fuel the future whether or not the biggest economic powers get involved or not.  That would be a good thing.  Big economic countries are slow to move allowing such fuels as thorium to be a big opportunity for the fast acting economies.

Best wishes and good luck to Fukushima and Furukawa.


7 Comments so far

  1. Liquid Thorium Fuel Gets a Start | New Energy and Fuel England university on October 6, 2010 2:18 AM

    […] original post here: Liquid Thorium Fuel Gets a Start | New Energy and Fuel By admin | category: TOKAI University | tags: chairman, conducting-research, director, […]

  2. World Wide News Flash on October 6, 2010 2:46 AM

    Liquid Thorium Fuel Gets a Start…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  3. Liquid Thorium Fuel Gets a Start | New Energy and Fuel online university on October 6, 2010 3:42 AM

    […] the rest here: Liquid Thorium Fuel Gets a Start | New Energy and Fuel By admin | category: WASEDA University | tags: being-started, foreign, foreign-affairs, […]

  4. Matt Musson on October 6, 2010 9:05 AM

    The potential market for this type of reactor is huge. India, in particular, has large reserves of thorium and almost no uranium. They will buy or license these reactors by the truck load.

  5. World Wide News Flash on October 7, 2010 5:56 PM

    Liquid Thorium Fuel Gets a Start | New Energy and Fuel…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  6. Phlebotomy Certification on November 8, 2010 5:44 AM

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  7. john c johnson on January 18, 2011 8:58 AM

    it appears to me that thorium has many advantages for eletrical power generation. are there political barriers to its use? why has dr chiu, the us secretary of energy, not been vocal concerning this issue?

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind