The quick take home: You’re only self sovereign if you run your full node on a miniaturized backyard molten liquid fluoride salt thorium nuclear reactor. Sounds crazy? Read on.
When you read the White paper of Satoshi and the original ETH papers the one bad thing about both coins is the energy required to mine coins. This process will become harder and harder as we approach 2140. As we get closer to 2140 the process will require more energy. In this way, you should look at BTC mining like trying to climb up Mount Everest. When you are young it is easy to get to base camp. It is tougher to get to the Summit even when you are young. When you are older just getting to base camp seem ridiculous. When you are above 50 years old getting to the summit is nearly an impossible task because you do not have the mitochondrial power to get the job done with a falling oxygen tension. Mining BTC from 2050-2140 will be like trying to climb Everest at 60 years old. Analogy over.
ETH 2.0 is trying to solve this issue by changing from a Proof of Work (PoW) blockchain to a Proof of Stake blockchain (PoS). Proof of stake (PoS) differs in that instead of miners, transaction validators stake crypto assets they own now for the right to verify a transaction. They make money in fees to process those transactions. These validators are selected to propose a block based on how much crypto they hold, and how long they’ve held it for. this means ETH 2.0 favors miners with a lot of skin in the game of ETHER.
Other validators can then attest that they have seen a block. When there are enough attestations, a block can be added to the blockchain. Validators then are rewarded with cryptocoins for the successful block proposition. This process is known as “forging” or “minting”.
The main advantage of PoS is that it is far more energy-efficient than PoW, as it decouples energy-intensive computer processing from the consensus algorithm. It also means that you don’t need a lot of electricity for computing power to secure the blockchain.
One of the reasons BTC blockchain is not being used for transactions as much as it could be is tied to the speed in which it works. Speed is sacrificed for security. The security of the BTC network is second to none. This means financial institutions may favor one over the other initially. Right now institutions are favoring BTC. The “Ethereans” are betting large this will change when ETH 2.0 programming is shown to be successful on delivering its promises.
PoW = Proof of work
PoS = Proof of Stake
In ETH 2.0 this is exacerbated by the fact that only one miner will find the correct hash, so the work done by all the others is not actually used. As a result, PoW consensus requires a huge amount of computational power and electricity and is very inefficient. PoW early on in a block chain life is like being elderly and trying to climb a small hill. Tough but doable. The programmers building ETH 2.0 realized this limitation with PoW blockchains and said it should be easier for miners now if we want a faster adoption to build out the Monopoly board on top ETH 2.0. For this sole reason, PoW was changed for PoS. PoW protocols are important because they enabled the creation of early blockchain networks, but they are very inefficient from an energy standpoint too. In the current political environment this will also slow adoption unless it is improved.
CRYPTO ENERGY COSTS
In 2019 each transaction on the Ethereum network uses about 29 kwh (Kilowatt hours), enough electricity to power an average American household for 24 hours! The electricity used by Ethereum mines could power 652,669 American households every year. Ethereum mining annually uses about the same amount of energy as the country of Bolivia.
Is there a way to mitigate this energy risk today they we are ignoring?
Yes. BTC miners are dominated by China because the western provinces of China have given miners cheap sources of electricity due to overbuilt hydroelectric power plants.
What should new countries who mine due to capture mining capability from these people?
They should switch to a clean nuclear power but not today’s version of nuclear power that came from WW2. They need to use thorium as their fuel source.
Why do I suggest this?
The market will determine this………..thorium is the cheapest way to create electricity on Earth. In fact, it is the way nature makes geothermal power of vents, Earth quakes, and volcano’s.
Thorium is the element in the Earth’s crust that drive geothermal vents everywhere on Earth. It is unending source of power that drive plate tectonics. Without massive amounts of thorium in our crust, our planet likely would wind up like Mars. A dead red dessert with no volcanos and no plate movement. Without thorium the interior of your planet cools too fast and without molten lava you have a lowered magnetic shield to protect you from the sun. As the sun’s power blasts a planet its cathode rays strip a planet of its atmosphere. See the Moon and Mars as exhibit one and two.
Thorium is very common element in the Earth crust at 10 parts per million. We have an unending source of it everywhere in the world. It is cheap to mine and its half life is 14 billion years. This is same length of time we believe the universe has been around. This makes it hardly radioactive at all.
There are at least 23 listed crypto mining companies, the majority of which are based in the U.S. and Canada.
U.S. equity markets continue to be the most favorable listing venue for mining companies. US miners have a big advantage over Chinese miners because they can raise through [at-the-market] offerings, which provide a very solid financing method for public companies looking to scale up their operations. Foreign companies have more limited financing levers and have a relatively harder time raising capital through equity.
A prominent example is Nasdaq-listed Marathon Patent Group (MARA), which recently spent $50 million on a fleet of Bitmain’s state-of-the-art S19 Pro Bitcoin mining computers earlier this year. Marathon is building out a 105-megawatt (MW) mining facility in Hardin, Montana, as part of a venture with Maryland-based power provider Beowulf Energy. Beowulf Energy is a private company linked to new ways to produce energy.
What don’t most people in the crypto-world know? A lot of the power production in the U.S. has been deregulated, and private equity or hedge funds own a lot of power-generation facilities. These hedge funds are now trying to set up colonial positions in BTC and ETH. They want to make money on coin production as they add crypto assets to their clients portfolios. Some of the best ways to generate alpha is to produce your own coins at the lowest cost. That is how billions can be made. So, the wise, follow the money to see where the market is headed. There is a lot of signals that thorium will be used to make the USA miners the strongest positioned groups until 2140.
Guess why MARA picked Montana to build this brand new BTC mining region?
Do you know who Glenn Seaborg is? If not, he is the reason MARA has chosen Montana to mine.
Glenn Seaborg was one of our great scientist who worked in the metallurgic labs during the Manhattan Project. He won a Nobel Prize. He figured out how to make plutonium quickly from uranium to build nucelar weapons. He discovered plutonium in this quest. He also stumbled into a solution for energy production for man using thorium based nuclear fuels. The problem was the military focus was on building bombs instead of building a cheap source of energy for the planet.
The story of the thorium-fueled molten-salt reactor effort at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, strongly motivated by the discovery of a series of books (Seaborg and Loeb (1981), Seaborg and Loeb (1987), Seaborg and Loeb (1993)) written by Glenn Seaborg and Benjamin Loeb covering Seaborg’s years as the chairman of the US Atomic Energy Committee in the 1950s.
In the last of these books, The Atomic Energy Commission Under Nixon (Seaborg and Loeb (1993)), Seaborg describes budget cuts early in the Nixon Administration (1968-1971) that led the AEC to curtail research into breeder reactors. This is the same time the dollar was moved off the gold standard to boost the economy using money printing. How is that for irony!
Seaborg described in the books how Alvin Weinberg, head of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and ardent proponent of the thorium- fueled molten-salt breeder reactor (MSBR), argued for the continuation of that line of research because of how cheap energy could be made safely.
The problem was that a new type of reactor needed to be built at a time where Nixon removed the US dollar from the gold standard because of a slowing economy. This sunk the manufacturing effort. Seaborg goes on to describe how the MSBR program was cancelled in favor of the plutonium-fueled, liquid-metal fast-breeder reactor (LMFBR) but concedes later that that may have been a mistake. (Seaborg and Loeb, 1993, pg.179).
Seaborg saying this in a book is a mouthful because he won the Nobel Prize for discovering plutonium and the high pressure nuclear reactors that are used today in the US for electricity production.
The cheapest source of electricity on Earth is to mimic what thorium does in the Earth’s crust. Doing so allows us to manufacture an unending source of energy from the thorium atom, at a fraction of today’s cost. This is what drives geothermal cycles on Earth. See Iceland and Hawaii as example 1 and 2 for that awesome power display. The tectonic plates have moved on Earth for 4.6 billion years while Mars and the Moon have long ago stopped.
Why is this a big deal? I got into a heated debate with one of my Farm members in the energy business in 2020 and he told me he bailed on trying to mine BTC because of the energy costs. He also told me that he was not interested in BTC deeply because China dominated the mining scene. I told him I thought he was being myopic. This blog is being written as my response to that idea.
China might dominate crypto mining presently, but that won’t be true much longer. China may have lorded it over the crypto mining space until now thanks to cheap labor and a massive over-build in dam and hydro generation infrastructure. But the U.S. has begun catching the attention of Chinese players looking to diversify. In fact, Chinese miners have called on the CEO or Argo Blockchain to help them set up a transfer of mining stake to the USA. Why is that?
Miners are always looking for more political stability, which North America offers, and power and hosting costs in North America are competitive and sometimes even cheaper than Chinese options. How could they be cheaper? Private energy companies are now going to use new thorium technology developed by Glenn Seaborg during the Manhattan project to generate power that is 90% cheaper than China’s CCP can deliver.
NUCLEAR PHYSICS LESSON:
Seaborg recognized that for each absorption of a neutron in uranium-233, it would produce more than 2 neutrons. This was the key to its ability to operate as a breeder reactor. Each neutron produced could split another U-233 atom to unleash energy in a nuclear fission reaction. It turns out any nuclear reaction can be sustained as long as the process liberates at least two neutrons. The best chance to make an unending source of energy is a reaction capable of generating anything above 2 neutrons. Seaborg knew that the key was which elements on the period table produced the most neutrons when they themselves were hit with a neutron (fission) in a reactor. But how much more than two was the question? the higher the number of neutrons released = the more energy can be harvested from the fission of an atom.
When Thorium was tested it was found to be ideal to be a neutron breeder for the nuclear reaction because its fission elaborated 2.35 neutrons per split. With its 14 billion year half life, it became the best candidate to make electricity cheaply. The problem was the military was not interested in electric power, they were interested in explosive power. To make massive amounts of electricity from thorium, thorium needs a special reactor to do it. Earth seems to do it naturally by some mechanism in the core of the planet. This reaction drives plate tectonics for 4.6 billion years.
This means that thorium can be an unending source of energy to generate electricity and it will be quite cheap to do so with minimal radioactive waste. This idea was born during the Manhattan project but it was abandoned for the fission use of plutonium instead. Genreral Groves made this decision because the military at the time was only interested in making a bomb, and not a super power source.
The largest thorium vein deposits in the world are in the USA. The largest volume known high-grade thorium resources are in the United States. China does not have much thorium in their landmass. As a result, they must purchase it.
Two thorium vein districts-the Lemhi Pass district of Montana-Idaho and the Wet Mountains area of Colorado dominate the known high-grade thorium reserves in the United States.
Now you can see why USA cryptominers are going to Montana to set up shop.
The obvious geopolitical implication of this move is that the U.S. could eventually take on China in this nascent arena. The cryptomining community would rather couch this in terms of greater decentralization, whether that means geographical spread or selling mining company shares to the public. I see things differently.
Before the US sets the Bitcoin standard for its Treasury it must guarantee the network of miners can not fail to ensure the 51% rule is never violated. Therefore, the goal is not for the U.S. to dominate bitcoin mining. If you understand the Satoshi white paper that is not the point, and it’s not gonna happen. The goal here is to decentralize the blockchain throughout the world to make sure no one country to get to the 51% limit.
That is why American miners have begun to think way outside the box. None of them have admitted why they are going to Montana…….but I figured it out because of my deep understanding of American history.
Interest in thorium was reborn in the military in the 1950s when the Air Force wanted to build a nuclear powered airplane. As crazy as this sounds today, the molten salt reactor using thorium would have never been built if the military did not ask Seaborg and his crew at Oakridge labs to see if this was feasible. This project done fifty years ago, created the era of operating molten-salt reactors came to a fast conclusion with the shut down of the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment in the 1950s. This was the only time thorium nuclear reactor was ever built by the US military.
Today, China is trying to build fifty of them using stolen US IP from the Manhattan Project. China has a big problem, however. Their crust is relatively thorium poor, not because China does not have it. It is because it is present in hard to reach parts of China or heavily populated regions. Thorium deposits have been recognized in all the first level tectonic units in China but are mostly concentrated in the northern margin of the North China Craton, the Central Asian Orogenic Belt, South China and the Mian’ning-Dechang metallogenic belt.
HOW IS ENERGY UNLEASHED CHEAPLY FROM THORIUM? NEUTRONS ARE THE KEY
When we use a neutron to hit a nucleon of thorium it releases 2.35 neutrons in core. We learned this right around FDRs death in April of 1945. At this time, only the United States would possess the knowledge that uranium-233 could, for all practical purposes, ”catalyze” energy release from a supply of thorium indefinitely.
Read that again folks……….
Thorium can create energy longer and more efficiently than any other source of energy on Earth. Seaborg is the guy who figured this out during the Manhattan Project.
This implies it might be the ideal answer to fossil fuels and the climate change debate as well.
The person who discovered plutonium (Seaborg) realized this in 1942 when his graduate student did the experiments and the mathematics to prove it. He famously told that grad student that this energy discovery would be worth 40 quadrillion dollars in 1942. He wasn’t joking. Nuclear fission is 1 million times as energy dense as a chemical reaction in releasing energy.
******Because of this history lesson, I will make a large prediction. The adoption of crypto assets will change the climate debate and how we view nuclear power plants. I believe BTC and ETH mining energy use will make us (THE USA) realize we need to use thorium breeder fuel with molten liquid Fluoride salts for reactors and the entire power grid of the world will change before 2140.
I think this will be a great unintended consequence of crypto adoption. This will change the world because it will increase the thermodynamic efficiency of power generation and this will effectively end the use of fossil fuels. It will also allow miners from 2075-2140 efficiently get those last coins out that are likely going to be worth trillions of dollars.
The C-H bond in fossil fuels has a million times less energy in it than the Thorium nucleus does for fission.
This is why the Earth’s core remains energy vibrant given its planetary mass, while Mars furnace has turned dormant. It’s crust is thorium poor, so it cooled faster than the Earth and this is why it has no magnetic field production. Thorium powers the molten core of the Earth too to create our magnetic field!
On Mars, the region of highest thorium content, shown in red, is found in the northern part of Acidalia Planitia (50 degrees latitude, -30 degrees longitude). Areas of low thorium content, shown in blue, are spread widely across the planet with significant low abundances located to the north of Olympus Mons. Olympic Mons is a massive super volcano, the largest in the solar system that burned out billions of years ago. The fact that it is present where thorium is now low is no surprise considering Mars is a dead red desert.
MANHATTAN PROJECT LINKS
Seaborg was a Nobel Laureate and one of the founding fathers of the atomic age. He was co-discoverer of plutonium and later served as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. He worked with a scientist named Wigner who was the one person in history, who first realized the power of thorium to generate energy.
Seaborg’s interest in fluorination as a separation technique came from the fact that thorium, when exposed to neutrons in a reactor, would absorb some of those neutrons and form small amounts of uranium-233. If the thorium and uranium were chemically converted to tetrafluorides, which is a rather simple chemical step, and if that mixture was further fluorinated to convert the uranium to a hexafluoride, then it would be rather easy to separate uranium from thorium.
In 1946, the public first became informed of uranium-233 bred from thorium as “a third available source of nuclear energy and atom bombs” (in addition to uranium-235 and plutonium-239), following a United Nations report and a speech by Glenn T. Seaborg. Few people have asked why the thorium cycle was abandoned.
U-235 is the world’s primary nuclear fuel and is usually used in high pressure light water reactors. Seaborg was the scientist who developed these nucelar reactors and holds all the patents on them. The high pressure use is what usually leads to nuclear accidents.
This path was chosen by the military because it could be used to make plutonium fastest to create a nuclear arsenal while also generating energy. Today, that decision seems foolish when you understand that thorium reactions produce an unending source of heat to create electric power with a much lower toxicity profile.
Thorium LFTR’s avoid this risk because they are all run on lower pressure. U-238/Pu-239 has found the most use in liquid sodium fast breeder reactors and CANDU Reactors.
Th-232/U-233 is best suited to molten salt reactors (MSR). These reactors have produced electricity and nuclear bomb material but have the highest risk level of core meltdown because they all use higher pressure systems to operate. Thorium can operate in lower pressure systems to liberate massive unending sources of energy from the thorium nucleus.
Th-232, U-235 and U-238 are primordial nuclides, having existed in their current form for over 4.5 billion years, predating the formation of the Earth. They came from exploded stars.
Their radioactive decay produces about half of the Earth’s internal heat. That heat, in the form of geothermal activity comes from the action of thorium on uranium in natural breeder reactions in the mantle and core.
Thorium can be used as a fuel source in liquid salts of fluoride. It appears this is how the dynamo of the Earth appears to work in Nature. The liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR; often pronounced lifter) is a type of molten salt reactor. LFTRs use the thorium fuel cycle with a fluoride-based, molten, liquid salt for fuel. My bet is that inside the Earth their is more options to use than fluoride.
Reactors that use the uranium-plutonium fuel cycle require high pressure fast reactors to sustain breeding, because only with fast moving neutrons does the fission process provide more than 2 neutrons per fission. With thorium, it is possible to breed using a thermal reactor. These reactors produce more thermal energy and that is why they can produce electric power very cheaply when thorium is in deep supply.
This was proven to work in the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, whose final fuel load bred slightly more fissile from thorium than it consumed, despite being a fairly standard light water reactor. Thermal reactors require less of the expensive fissile fuel to start, but are more sensitive to fission products left in the core. This is the massive pay off that American BTC miners are looking to exploit in Montana.
Despite Seaborg’s interest in thorium and uranium-233, Seaborg’s overwhelming priority was the chemical separation of plutonium from uranium and fission products in the production reactors that would be built in Hanford for the Manhattan Project. This was done because the military was interested in weapons grade material only at the time. They did not care about thermal power of electric power generation.
WEAPONS GRADE PLUTONIUM WAS THE GOAL NOT ELECTRICITY
Fluorination was not a very effective technique for separating uranium from plutonium, because plutonium had a variety of valence states and could also form a gaseous hexafluoride. If plutonium hexafluoride formed in preference to uranium hexafluoride then there might have been interest, but just the opposite took place. During fluorination all of the uranium would react with the fluorine (forming gaseous UF6) before the plutonium would, meaning that an entire volume of uranium parent material would need to be fluorinated to UF6 before the plutonium would begin to fluorinate to PuF6. This was undesirable, since they estimated that the Hanford reactors would have a million grams of uranium in their exposed fuel for every thirty grams of plutonium.
The fact that uranium would fluorinate to an easily-separable gas and thorium wouldn’t, made fluorination an attractive chemical separation technique for a thorium- uranium-233 reactor, but not attractive for a uranium-plutonium reactor.
Since the priority of the Metallurgical Laboratory was chemical separation of plutonium, fluorination assumed a role of lesser importance over time. thorium was a better fuel to generate electric power and Seaborg transmitted this idea to Weinberg as his student in the 1940s.
Weinberg later became head of Oak Ridge Nation Labs where the concept was tested in an experiment.The LFTR concept was first investigated at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment in the 1960s, though the MSRE at this time did not use thorium as a fuel source. The LFTR has recently been the subject of a renewed interest worldwide.
At Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s, the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment used U-233 as the fissile fuel in an experiment to demonstrate a part of the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor that was designed to operate on the thorium fuel cycle. Molten salt reactor (MSR) experiments assessed thorium’s feasibility, using thorium(IV) fluoride dissolved in a molten salt fluid that eliminated the need to fabricate fuel elements. The MSR program was defunded in 1976 after its patron Alvin Weinberg was fired by the Carter Administration in its first year. Weinberg was a student of Seaborg and Wigner after the Manhattan Project. He learned everything these two found while building the bomb.
In the last few years, the long-term strategy of the nuclear power program of India, which has substantial thorium reserves, is to move to a nuclear program breeding uranium-233 from thorium feedstock. This would be another ideal place to mine BTC/ETH for cheap power.
In 1993, Carlo Rubbia proposed the concept of an energy amplifier or “accelerator driven system” (ADS), which he saw as a novel and safe way to produce nuclear energy that exploited existing accelerator technologies. Rubbia’s proposal offered the potential to incinerate high-activity nuclear waste and produce energy from natural thorium and depleted uranium. Recall, that this was under Clinton and his wife was recently involved in selling a lot of uranium stores of the USA to Russia in the Obama administration under the guise of secrecy as Secretary of State.
Kirk Sorensen, former NASA scientist and Chief Technologist at Flibe Energy who went to the same engineering school as my son, has been a long-time promoter of thorium fuel cycle and particularly liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs). He first researched thorium reactors while working at NASA, while evaluating power plant designs suitable for lunar colonies. This is big deal for space travel. The reason the space program needs to make a pit stop at the moon is to fuel themselves with thorium at the moon to get to other planets in the solar system. This is something NASA, SpaceX, and the CCP do not want people to know.
Thorium is concentrated mostly in one area of the lunar nearside, in the around the great big Imbrium basin. All space programs want to set a lunar base there. Now you know why.
In 2006 Sorensen started “energyfromthorium.com” to promote and make information available about this technology. It is believed that China has gotten most of the IP on thorium cycles directly from his website to design their own molten core reactors to be made for the Moon and for electric power production.
Nuclear fission produces radioactive fission products which can have half-lives from days to greater than 200,000 years. According to toxicity studies, the thorium cycle can fully recycle actinide wastes and only emit fission product wastes, and after a few hundred years, therefore, the waste from a thorium reactor is less toxic than the uranium ore that would have been used to produce low enriched uranium fuel for a light water reactor of the same power. Other studies assume some actinide losses and find that actinide wastes dominate thorium cycle waste radioactivity at some future periods.
Thorium-cycle fuels produce hard gamma emissions, which damage electronics, limiting their use in bombs. This is the reason the military did not use thorium in the Manhattan Project.
The primary physical advantage of thorium fuel is that it uniquely makes possible a breeder reactor that runs with slow neutrons, otherwise known as a thermal breeder reactor.
Thorium is estimated to be about ten times more abundant than uranium in Earth’s crust. Using molten liquid breeder reactors, known thorium resources can both generate world-scale energy for thousands of years at very low cost in a safe manner.
Chemically thorium is easier to handle to make electricity. Thorium-based fuels also display favorable physical and chemical properties that improve reactor and repository performance. Compared to the predominant reactor fuel, uranium dioxide (UO2), thorium dioxide (ThO2) has a higher melting point, higher thermal conductivity, and lower coefficient of thermal expansion. Thorium dioxide also exhibits greater chemical stability and, unlike uranium dioxide, does not further oxidize.
A 2011 MIT study concluded that although there is little in the way of barriers to a thorium fuel cycle, with current or near term light-water reactor designs there is also little incentive for any significant market penetration to occur.
That incentive likely will be BTC mining if coins are valued in the hundreds of millions or trillions of dollars in 2050-2140.
They were blind to the crypto angle when the paper was written. As such they concluded there is little chance of thorium cycles replacing conventional uranium cycles in the current nuclear power market, despite the potential benefits right now in 2020. I have an idea this might change because of Bitcoin.
Molten salt nuclear reactors using liquid thorium fluoride salts is the future for BTC miners. Any country that wants to get into mining needs to look into this technology. It will create the cheapest source of electricity on the planet. You can burn thorium forever with fluoride and liberate energy from a massive nucleus the way the Earth does with little risk. This maximizes E=mc^2 for BTC.
North America is now on a precipice of real growth thanks to its regulatory certainty and the huge amount of infrastructure built in the 1970s and 1980s in anticipation of growing manufacturing that never came. Now that people are starting to realize crypto mining is not some shady enterprise, the U.S. is better positioned at the boardroom level than any other country in the world to take advantage of the trend.
The operational costs are a little bit more expensive in the U.S., but when you’re sinking $100 million or even a billion dollars into an ecosystem for infrastructure you’re looking at stability. China does not offer stability that the US can.
Some government support would also be helpful here and I think the Treasury moving to a BTC Standard will facilitate this change. To this end, Core Scientific has put together a policy paper and has been working with the Chamber of Digital Commerce to get the word to the U.S. government why this makes geopolitical sense and a lot of monetary sense.
We want the folks in Washington, D.C. to understand that digital asset mining is not bad and that there’s a right way to do it. Many into crypto mining are ‘greenies’ at heart. I think the right way is through renewable power sources done at a global scale. The larger that becomes, the lower the burden on the environment and it can be done to re-power the US economy and Treasury.