07 May 2012

Disinformation and anti-propaganda campaign against Thorium and LFTR reactors

I could not leave unnoticed that a relatively small group of people (or is it only one man with nothing better to do?) are engaging in an intentional campaign of disinformation on the internet about the supposed disadvantages of the new promising nuclear energy source on the block, thorium, and specifically Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR), which are most often associated with thorium nuclear fuel cycle. This technology has recently been the subject of a renewed interest worldwide, and Japan, China, the UK, as well as private US, Czech and Australian companies have expressed intent to develop and commercialise it.

Specifically, someone with the nickname Kevin Meyerson is spamming Twitter with anti-thorium propaganda 24 hours a day. Yes, that Kevin Meyerson who was banned from Quora.com for "failing to collaborate with others and purposefully making edits against consensus view has effected no positive change in behavior, making personal attacks against other users; making blanket inflammatory statements; reverting edits intended to bring a neutral tone to leading questions; blocking other users to prevent them from replying to his contributions on the site, and using sock puppet accounts". Apparently, others have seen through their disinformation campaign as well.

Does this group know something that people in the mentioned countries, working on the development of this reactor do not?

I realise no technology or machinery is perfect, without downsides or various tradeoffs (you can read about real downsides or design challenges of the LFTR concept in the corresponding section of the (in my opinion) very well written Wikipedia article linked above). I think no one would be opposed rational, objective criticism of anything, especially such an important and potentially dangerous thing that is a new nuclear reactor. But is this what these people are doing? Is their critique factual and able to whistand closer scrutiny, or is it an amalgamation of biased unsubstantiated opinions, misinformation, strawmans and outright falsehoods?
From what I have read, it is the latter. So lets examine what ammunition they tend to use.

PSR/IEER’s Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power
Debunked here:
IEER/PSR Thorium “Fact Sheet” Rebuttal
And here:
Cannara’s Rebuke of PSR/IEER

SimplyInfo’s Thorium, Not The Nuclear Savior Claimed
The entire article is pretty much shown to be hugely misleading or outright false in the comments. I suggest to the reader to check them and decide for himself.

The Guardian’s Don’t Believe The Spin on Thorium Being a Greener Nuclear Option
Again, an article full of inaccuracies and outright falsehoods. Debunked here:
Eifion Rees Article Rebuttal
And here:
The Guardian: Why thorium nuclear power shouldn't be written off

"Benefits of thorium as alternative nuclear fuel are 'overstated' (UK DECC/NNL report - "Comparison of thorium and uranium fuel cycles")"
Debunked here:
When lukewarm is hot: How the UK Energy Dept endorsed thorium, despite a tepid report

Oliver Tickell’s “Thorium: Not ‘green’, not ‘viable’, and not likely”
Debunked here:
Response to Oliver Tickell’s Anti-Thorium Article

"Fairewinds Energy Education" article on Thorium Reactors
Debunked here:
A Rebuttal to Fairewinds Article on Thorium Reactors

DARyan‘s “fabulous” “A critical analysis of future nuclear reactors designs” critique of molten salt reactors is also full of mistakes. Debunked here:
The D A Ryan MSR/LFTR critique: Not ready for Prime Time, Part I
The D A Ryan MSR/LFTR critique: Not ready for Prime Time, Part II
Another rebuttal of the DARyan‘s critique is here:
Very strange technical critique of the molten salt reactor -- by a PhD engineer, supposedly
A rebuttal by the_capacity_factor on reddit:

And finally, word by word rebuttal, in neat picture form:
(click to enlarge)

In addition to these, they spam various works about the use of thorium fuel in today's solid fueled light water reactors, and attribute the disadvantages of this kind of reactors to LFTRs, apparently counting on the fact that layman reader will not notice that the text deals with the use of thorium in completely different type of nuclear reactor. But LFTR's deviate strongly from today's operating commercial power reactors, and even from thorium fueled light water reactors. Low pressure operation (rather than high pressure), liquid fuel (versus solid fuel), use of molten salts (rather than water or gasses), online reprocessing and refuelling using pyroprocesses (opposed to offsite processing using water solvents), LFTRs are different in almost every aspect, and almost all disanvantages of thorium fuel cycle in LWRs are not present in LFTRs, so this amounts to criticising a strawman.

What could lead these people to systematically spread such intentional falsehoods about Liquid fluoride thorium reactors?
Is it because they are unaware that they are falsehoods (which I highly doubt, since they have been repeatedly debunked when they post them)?
Perhaps they are ideologically opposed to all nuclear energy in principle, to the point that they are able to lie just to achieve their agenda?
Or maybe (tin foil hat on) they do not really believe this stuff, but someone pays them to do it, someone who would lost a lot if thorium and LFTR delivered on its promises to solve our energy problems (or gained a lot if it wont)? People do almost anything for money..
(/tin foil hat off)
Or do they simply want to watch the world burn (coal)?