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Tamil Nadu: Union Ministry of Environment now allowing mining of thorium, uranium, in ecologically sensitive CRZ areas

Greed for atomic minerals to leave Tamil Nadu in peril, INDIAN EXPRESS, By Sv Krishna Chaitanya & Sushmitha Ramakrishnan  |  Express News Service   13th October 2017  CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has been the biggest victim of illegal beach sand mining in the country. As per the report submitted recently by senior lawyer and rights activist V Suresh, appointed as amicus curiae by Madras High Court in the case relating to illegalities in mining of beach sand minerals in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari, out of 1.5 crore  tonnes of raw sand mined between 2000 and 2017, 57 per cent had been mined illegally.

Now, the latest “horrific” amendment, as activists call it, to Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011 by Union Ministry of Environment, allowing mining of atomic minerals like uranium, thorium or titanium in ecologically sensitive CRZ areas, irrespective of whether they are available in non-CRZ areas or not, is only going to deliver a telling blow on the already under-stress Tamil Nadu coast.

As per the study titled “Coastal Mineral Mapping” done by researchers in Institute of Ocean Management (IOM) in Anna University, it is revealed that Tamil Nadu arguably has highest concentration of Monazite deposits in the country along its coastline that spans over 1,076 km. Monazite, an atomic mineral, contains 8-10 percent thorium, which is a nuclear fuel. This was India’s first exhaustive attempt to map and record all the natural minerals available, done is tandem with Atomic Mineral Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) of Department of Atomic Energy and funded by Environment Ministry. The beach sands of India — especially in Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh — are rich in several heavy minerals such as ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene, garnet, sillimanite, zircon and monazite.

Supreme Court lawyer Ritwick Dutta, who is also the managing trustee of Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, said the latest notification will compromise the integrity of the coast. “I can’t make sense of this notification. There is no consultation, there is no fixation on extraction of minerals. This will give a free run for miners to plunder India’s natural treasure. There is a pattern in what the Centre is doing. It is systematically weakening all the laws coming under Environment (Protection) Act, 1972. Firstly, construction projects were exempted from preparing EIA, later Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority was replaced with ‘toothless’ Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, where state authorities call the shots. Now, this mindless amendment to CRZ Notification, 2011.”………

Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman says that Tamil Nadu has already been plundered violating CRZ norms. The intertidal, CRZ-1 areas were not spared even when there were laws. “Now, this is legitimising some of the wrongdoing done in the past and people have also lost their right to question the illegality.”

Environmental dangers

It’s not just the loss of precious minerals that should worry the States. Tampering of fragile coastline would also invite disasters like salt water intrusion,  qualitative and quantitative degradation of ground water……..

Health effects

While social and environmental consequences seem inevitable, Konstantine claimed that atomic mining has brought serious health complications to residents around the mines. “Since 1965, mining for radioactive minerals has been prominent in Kanniyakumari, particularly in Manavalakruchi. Studies in the neighbouring mines in Kollam have revealed that the effect of radiation has had a far reaching effect, up to 85 km,” he rued.

 He added that no comprehensive study has been brought to public forum about the health effects of these radiations. “The incidences of cancer has been rising over the decades and most victims from Manavalakuruchi and Midalam, approach the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram or the International Cancer Centre , by CSI Medical Mission at Neyyoor. “These cases are however are not mapped back to radioactivity,” he said claiming that the incidence of the disease is relatively lower the farther one lives from atomic mining areas……..

Alarm bells ringing

  • Activists say the resources could end up in foreign soil owing to lack of state-run companies’ expertise in handling such rare-earth minerals
  • Mining for radioactive minerals can contribute to cancer among those in the vicinity of the project
  • Tampering of fragile coastline would also invite disasters like salt water intrusion, leading to degradation of ground water. They say there are many areas in the State already battling such issues due to unscientific construction
  • Activities like coral mining, beach sand mining and other dredging activities are highly harmful and contribute to sea erosion http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2017/oct/13/greed-for-atomic-minerals-to-leave-tamil-nadu-in-peril-1672778.html
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October 14, 2017 Posted by | environment, India, thorium | Leave a comment

The environmental cost of an iPhone

This is a timely and important article. As an antinuclear campaigner, I also must deplore the lack of insight shown by most environmentalists on this issue. We rightly oppose the nuclear industry, with its focus on endless growth in energy use. However, the growth in renewable energy and in modern technology should not mean endless energy use and endless mining of rare earths.
What is needed is DESIGN for recycling. That’s difficult, but not impossible. With technologies designed for easy retrieval of rare earths, and with a transition to recycling, instead of throwaway living, the toxic radioactive problems of wasting rare earths would be avoided. Mining for them would become almost unnecessary.


The environmental cost of an iPhone http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2017/10/the-environmental-cost-of-an-iphone  
Thanks to advances in metallurgy and integrated circuit design, computers are working themselves into every aspect of our lives. From appliances to smart phones, it seems like everything these days has a microprocessor buried somewhere inside it. But remember, all of these pieces come from somewhere, and the metals they’re made from aren’t easy to come by. They are called “precious metals,” after all.

From the earth to your smart fridge, rare earth metal mining consists of three stages: mining, refining and disposal, all of which create waste byproducts. In the case of electronics, a lot of these waste products are r (http://www.electronicstakeback.com/toxics-in-electronics/wheres-the-harm-extraction/)adioactive because rare earth elements are usually mixed in with thorium or iridium, two radioactive substances.

To separate the minerals from their radioactive neighbors, large amounts of sulfates, ammonia and hydrochloric acid are used. With today’s refinement technology, producing one ton of refined rare earth metals produces 2,000 tons of toxic waste. And the waste doesn’t stop after the electronics are produced.

Another large threat to the environment is the disposal of electronics after they’ve completed their life cycle. Throwing a smart phone in the trash leads to a plethora of environmental toxins. From the chemicals in the battery to the plastics in the case, these materials eventually make their way into soil or waterways, damaging these natural resources in the process.

A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that out of the 120 million mobile phones purchased in the U.S. in 2011, only 12 million mobile phones were collected for recycling. That’s 10 percent.

According to the United Nations Environmental Program, 90 percent of electronic waste ends up being illegally dumped. This occurs via a black market for exporting e-waste to countries with more lax environmental regulations. Countries such as Ghana and Vietnam take on the environmental burden of other countries’ e-waste at a monetary and human cost.

Once the waste has been dumped, the metals are extracted to be re-sold and reused. However, this isn’t clean recycling. A simple way to extract metals from electronics is to burn the surrounding plastic, and it shouldn’t come as news to you that burning plastic is bad on many levels, from the air pollution it causes to the respiratory and neurological damage that occurs when humans breathe these fumes.

In the countries where such recycling practices take place, not much is done in the way of worker safety. Studies have found alarming levels of toxic compounds linked to cancer, developmental damage and other health problems present in both these workers and those that live near these plants.

To combat this growing trend, many companies and countries are pushing legislation and practices in order to minimize these impacts.

Apple has made the claim on its website that it wants to move toward using 100 percent recycled parts in the coming years, and the UN is continuing to create policy that will apply harsher punishments to those who illegally dump electronic waste.

In the meantime, the need for the latest gadgets continues to propel this problem forward. One of the biggest surges in electronic waste is around Christmas, when people are getting their newest tech-toys and getting rid of the old ones.

Maybe the next time you want the newest iPhone, take a moment  first to stop and think about what consequences for both people and the planet stem from this decision. While just being conscious of the impact won’t solve the problem, by realizing the weight of this decision, we can maybe slow it down some. What’s your new tech-toy really worth?

October 14, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, RARE EARTHS, thorium, wastes | Leave a comment

Thorium nuclear power is not going to be cheap

Windpower ,January 21, 2015 Paul Dvorak Most commentary on energy is really a commentary on the cost of energy……..In contrast, pick up an article about the promise of thorium nuclear reactors and you likely won’t see one dollar sign. What gives?  Thorium reactors may well be the power source of the future but the technology will cost something. But how much?

One way to answer the question is to Google it. A recent search pulled up this edited Best Answer from Yahoo:     Japan thinks it can make a thorium prototype reactor for $300 million. The UK estimates that the first thorium production plant would cost £1 billion. France has invested € 1 million investigating corrosion problems found when a test reactor in the U.S. was shut down in 1969 after four years of operation. Generally, it’s believed that $300 million would be enough for small thorium power plant.

We assume a small plant means about 200 MW.

Another way to get a handle on thorium-reactor costs would be to examine the cost of conventional reactors , such as the Vogtle units in Georgia….

The first two units are rated for a total of 2,400 MW. That is a large plant.

But during Vogtle’s construction, capital investment jumped from an estimated $660 million to $8.87 billion. Additional regulations and a redesign brought the jump in capital costs.

Unfortunately, the nuclear industry has a history and habit of building plants that cost much more than their original estimates. Even though lower construction costs are claimed as a thorium-reactor benefit, when the first cost figures for one make headlines multiply them by at least five for a better estimate. But you have awhile to wait.

For at least the next 10 years, natural gas and onshore wind-generated power will provide the least expensive, most reliable, and fastest-to-production source of power. http://www.windpowerengineering.com/policy/environmental/will-thorium-power-cheap-wind-power/

October 9, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, thorium | Leave a comment

Thorium molten salt reactor experiment begun in Netherlands

Power Mag 1st Oct 2017, Scientists at the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) in Petten,
Netherlands, have commenced the world’s first thorium molten salt reactor
(TMSR) experiment in more than 45 years (Figure 1). The SALt Irradiation
ExperimeNT, or SALIENT, was developed in cooperation with the European
Commission Joint Research Center’s Institute for Transuranium Elements,
which is located near Karlsruhe, Germany.
http://www.powermag.com/thorium-molten-salt-reactor-experiment-underway-in-the-netherlands/

October 2, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, technology, thorium | Leave a comment

Social and environmental problems with lithium and cobalt in modern technologies

FT 14th September 2017, The news that China will follow the UK and France in phasing out
fossil-fuel powered cars by 2030 was met by a spike in lithium prices this
week, as markets digested another sign that the future of auto will be
lithium-ion powered.

Coverage of this shift has been largely positive, not least in the context of the race to make our cities cleaner. But there is a
potential imbalance between the environmental benefits to developed markets
and the social and environmental costs in the developing world where the
raw materials for batteries are mined.

We at RCS Global addressed the challenges associated with cobalt in a recent report and they have been
well publicised over the past 18 months including in this newspaper and by
Amnesty International. But lithium-ion producers and buyers must
acknowledge that cobalt is not the only challenge they face.

As we note in a new report this month, the spike in demand risks amplifying the social
and environmental risks associated with the industry’s five key raw
materials: cobalt, lithium, nickel, manganese and graphite. Approximately
two-thirds of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of
Congo, where there are severe issues ranging from environmental damage to
human rights abuses including child labour. Cobalt remains the most
difficult battery raw material to source ethically.
https://www.ft.com/content/55f0c6ae-9895-11e7-b83c-9588e51488a0

September 16, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, RARE EARTHS | Leave a comment

Debunking some of the myths around thorium

An experiment on the thorium reactor with molten salts and some myths about thorium reactors, Actualité Houssenia Writing , by: Jacqueline Charpentier, August 26, 2017  An experiment in the Netherlands will test the design of a thorium reactor with molten salts. Beyond the announcement, we take advantage to debunk some myths around the thorium reactor.”………

Myths about the thorium reactor

Since uranium has a very bad reputation, there have been a lot of myths circulating on the thorium reactor:

1 Some have argued that thorium might be so interesting that it would surpass nuclear fusion Its promises by cons). We used information from the Whatisnuclear site whose authors are mainly engineers and nuclear physicists to clarify the myths around thorium.

2 This is deceptive. The thorium reactor can make bombs and this is not what motivated its cancellation at the beginning of the development of nuclear reactors. The conclusion at the time was that even if the thorium reactor could be cheaper, its performance over the long term is unknown.

In addition, the industry had already invested heavily on light water reactors, very high temperature reactors and the fast liquid metal reactor. The industry was also reluctant to create services for the fuel cycle and research in nuclear physics had focused heavily on solid fuel reactors. Basically, the world had invested too much in the uranium reactors, throwing it all into the trash and choosing thorium, because it was not worth it.

Thorium reactors do not require enrichment It is a misunderstanding of the concept of a reactor with a fast breeder, whether based on thorium or uranium. The principle of this type of reactor is that they will breed as they go. They will produce fissile material equal to or greater than their initial consumption, which will provide an abundance of energy over the long term. So we can say that this is not a true myth, but the lack of enrichment is valid for all types of breeder reactors. That’s why we invented them. However, the thorium reactor can use thermal breeding. This means that much fewer fissile materials are needed initially than a fast breeder reactor. But the fast reactor with liquid metal can do the same thing and therefore, it is not exclusive to thorium.

“The thorium reactor can not produce nuclear bombs”

This is probably the myth that comes up most often. And that’s not true. The thorium reactor operates by regenerating Thorium-232 through Protactinium-233 which produces uranium-233. And uranium-233 is fissile. The process is more difficult, but it is theoretically possible. However, another common myth is that you can have a bomb as soon as you have a civilian nuclear reactor.

Obtaining a fuel for a bomb is so complicated in any civilian nuclear reactor that it is almost impossible. But since the proliferation of bombs is a serious problem, we will still use the precautionary principle. But whether it is for a uranium or thorium reactor, a bomb is always possible … in theory.

 There is more thorium than uranium on Earth

That’s true, but you have to qualify. The mean concentration of thorium in the earth’s crust is 0.00060% compared to 0.00018%. But we also have thorium and uranium in the ocean. For a percentage by mass, there is 4 × 10-12% thorium compared to 3.3 × 10-7% uranium. In figures, this gives us 56,000 tons of thorium and 4.62 billion tons of uranium. However, the exploitation of uranium at sea costs 4 times more expensive and therefore it is not economically viable. Therefore, this myth is true if one relies solely on concentration in the earth’s crust.

But the distribution of deposits must be taken into account. India has no exploitable uranium deposits, but it is sitting on tons of thorium. China has 50% of thorium compared to uranium. So yes, the thorium reactor is very interesting for these countries because they do not need to go and get uranium on the other side of the world by corrupting local governments in passing.
 
“The waste from the Thorium reactor lasts only a few centuries”

We also hear this myth. Compared to the uranium degradation cycle over thousands of years, waste from the thorium reactor would last only a few centuries. It is true that the thorium reactor produces only a few transuranic elements. Transuranic elements such as Neptunium, Plutonium, Americium and Curium are the most dangerous nuclides in a period of 10,000 years. The problem is that uranium reactors such as fast neutron reactors also produce few transuranic elements. So yes, the thorium reactor produces less harmful waste in the long term, but it is not the only one.

Attention is not neglected to the interest of the thorium reactor, but it is not the ideal solution proposed to us by some players in the industry. For some countries such as China and India, thorium could be a real alternative, because they have a large amount in front of their doorstep, but globally it is more complicated.

And if one day the uranium mining at sea becomes economically viable, then thorium is likely to take a big hit because of the colossal amount of uranium in the ocean compared to thorium.

August 31, 2017 Posted by | France, thorium | Leave a comment

“Dirty radioactive bomb” planned for attack in Indonesia – using THORIUM

Indonesian militants planned ‘dirty bomb’ attack – sources, Yahoo 7   By Tom Allard and Agustinus Beo Da Costa, JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian militants planned to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb, security sources said, highlighting the rising ambitions of extremists to wreak destruction in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

But experts cast doubt on their expertise, equipment and chances of success.
The plot was foiled when police raided homes and arrested five suspects in Bandung, West Java, last week, the sources with direct knowledge of the plot said. After the raids, police spoke of a plan to explode a “chemical” bomb but provided no other details……

The three counter-terrorism sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the militants had hoped to transform low-grade radioactive Thorium 232 (Th-232) into deadly Uranium 233 (U-233).
The highly radioactive uranium would be combined with the powerful home-made explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) to create a “nuclear bomb”, according to an instruction manual used by the militants and reviewed by Reuters.
In fact, the device would be, at best, a radiological dispersal device or dirty bomb that could spray radioactive material when the conventional bomb exploded.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s national police, Inspector General Setyo Wasisto, declined to confirm or deny the plot to construct the device, but said it would have been more potent than the two bombs made from TATP that killed three police in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta in May.
“If this bomb was finished, it would have had a more destructive impact than the bomb made from ‘Mother of Satan’,” he said, using the nickname for TATP.
“It could burn anything and make it hard for people to breathe.”
Thorium-232 can be transformed into Uranium-233 but requires the Thorium to absorb a neutron, a process that needs powerful irradiation, generally from a nuclear reactor, according to three analysts contacted by Reuters and the website of the World Nuclear Association, which represents reactor vendors and nuclear engineers, among other industry stakeholders….

One senior Indonesian counter-terrorism source said the Bandung-based cell had bought a large amount of a household item and had begun to extract the Thorium. Reuters has chosen not to name the item.
“They needed three weeks. It was still only one week (into the process when police raided),” the source said…..

According to police, the suspected Bandung plotters were members of JAD and were considering targets like the presidential palace in Jakarta and police headquarters in Bandung and the capital….. (Reporting by Tom Allard and Agustinus Beo Da Costa Additional reporting by Stefanno Reinard; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Macfie) https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/36844136/exclusive-indonesian-militants-planned-dirty-bomb-attack-sources/

 

August 26, 2017 Posted by | Indonesia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, thorium, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Risky venture for Utah counties? will they gamble on speculative thorium nuclear venture?

Will Utah counties fund thorium reactor?  Salt Lake Tribune,  14 Aug 17,  “….Now a Utah startup is developing a thorium reactor, perhaps the first in the U.S. in half a century, and a consortium of eastern Utah counties is exploring whether to participate in the project. The Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (SCIC) last month issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) seeking a “project analyst” to evaluate “a thorium energy facility for producing electricity, etc. as proposed by Alpha Tech Research Corp.”……

 concerns about the use of limited county resources in such a speculative venture. Nor is it clear how the thorium proposal squares with the coalition’s legal mission, which is to “build essential regional infrastructure elements,” such as pipelines, roads, transmission and rail needed to deliver extracted minerals and power to markets…….
The coalition’s financing and procurement practices have recently come under intense scrutiny by Utah Treasurer David Damschen, who believes the group could be flouting accountability standards.
As a new member of the state Community Impact Board (CIB), which gives out federal mineral royalties to rural counties, Damschen has raised numerous concerns about the coalition’s management of CIB grants— its sole source of revenue. At recent meetings, the state treasurer has openly wondered whether the coalition steers contracts to insiders instead of the best qualified people and spends public money in ways that provide minimal public benefit…….

 thorium technology has years of costly research and development ahead before it’s ready to produce power and isotopes, according to Mike Simpson, a University of Utah metallurgical engineering professor.

“It‘s not accurate to say it’s proven to work. Aspects of it have been proven, but everything that has to be tied together hasn’t happened,” said Simpson….. many technical hurdles remain and these rural counties are not positioned to help address these challenges other than siting assistance for a reactor, Simpson added.

August 18, 2017 Posted by | technology, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Thorium nuclear reactors? a very risky enterprise for Utah

crucially the technology, regulation, and business structures necessary to support a thorium reactor may not yet exist.

A coalition of South Carolina utilities developing what would have been the nation’s first new commercial nuclear reactor recently announced a decision to suspend that project partway through construction, following years of delay, billions of dollars in cost overruns. 

While a thorium reactor might avoid some of these challenges, others are likely systemic to the state of the nuclear power industry from a technological, regulatory, and business perspective, and would be hard for the counties to avoid. The counties may also have more proximate opportunities to achieve similar goals, including by facilitating or developing renewable energy infrastructure.

Will Utah counties fund thorium reactor? JDSUPRA,  PretiFlaherty 17 Aug 17, Could a coalition of rural counties in Utah and a startup company develop a thorium-fueled nuclear reactor for electric power and other purposes?

According to its website, the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition is currently comprised of seven counties in eastern Utah: Carbon, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, San Juan, Sevier, and Uintah.  The website describes the Coalition’s main roles and mission as “to identify revenue-producing infrastructure assets that will benefit the region” and “to plan infrastructure corridors, procure funding, permit, design, secure rights-of-way and own such facilities,” with operation and maintenance possibly outsourced to third parties.

Apparently under consideration by the Coalition are energy projects, including a “thorium energy” project and a “hydrogen plant” project.  For example, the “Procurement” section of the Coalition’s website includes a Request for Qualifications for Project Analyst for Potential Thorium Energy and Hydrogen Plant Projects, as well as a Request for Qualifications Project Financial Analyst on Potential Thorium Energy Project.

Under the Project Analyst RFQ, which closed August 1, 2017,

The Coalition seeks an individual or team to act as a Project Analyst to advise it and its member counties on two proposed projects, how to evaluate emerging technologies, and the respective project teams. One project is a thorium energy facility for producing electricity, etc. as proposed by Alpha Tech Research Corporation. The second project consists of hydrogen plants to be used as fueling stations for hydrogen/electric semi-trucks as proposed by Nikola Motor Company, LLC.

Responsibilities defined in this original RFQ would include evaluation of the thorium energy and hydrogen plant projects, including an evaluation of “the feasibility and viability of projects in general, as well as the proposed projects, and determine how the Coalition and its members may use their assets to best benefit the public.”

According to its website, Alpha Tech Research Corp.’s motto is “Changing the face of nuclear power with clean, safe, molten salt reactor technology.”  But little other public information is easy to find on the company.

………crucially the technology, regulation, and business structures necessary to support a thorium reactor may not yet exist.

Fifteen days after the Project Analyst RFQ closed, the Coalition issued another request for qualifications “to seek an individual or team to act as a Project Analyst to advise it and its member counties on a proposed project related to thorium energy. In addition, the Coalition seeks guidance on how to evaluate emerging technologies, and companies or groups proposing projects to the Coalition. The thorium energy facility for producing electricity, etc. is proposed by Alpha Tech Research Corporation.” Proposals under this subsequent RFQ are due by 2:00 PM on October 2, 2017.  According to the Salt Lake Tribune, a coalition representative reported, “The coalition’s initial request for qualifications drew no adequate responses by its Aug. 1 deadline.”  (Query why not.)

It’s unclear how far the Utah counties’ efforts can go.  The coalition’s stated criteria for evaluating potential projects include requiring appropriate project benefits (such as facilitating needs in rural Utah that would otherwise go unaddressed), as well as avoidance of any “fatal flaws” (such as “obvious non-Coalition sponsor that should take the lead”, project success unlikely” and “low perceived benefit compared to cost.”)  The coalition is presumably at the stage where it is seeking expert advice to help it evaluate the thorium energy project under these criteria.

In its materials, the coalition emphasizes its expectation to rely on public-private partnerships, in part to allocate project risk to private entities with special expertise in taking those risks.  But developing the first commercial thorium reactor inherently involves a variety of risks — including developing a technology that works, securing all necessary regulatory approvals, and having business or financial arrangements in place that make the project a success.  These risks could pan out in the counties’ favor — but might not.  A coalition of South Carolina utilities developing what would have been the nation’s first new commercial nuclear reactor recently announced a decision to suspend that project partway through construction, following years of delay, billions of dollars in cost overruns.  While a thorium reactor might avoid some of these challenges, others are likely systemic to the state of the nuclear power industry from a technological, regulatory, and business perspective, and would be hard for the counties to avoid. The counties may also have more proximate opportunities to achieve similar goals, including by facilitating or developing renewable energy infrastructure……http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/will-utah-counties-fund-thorium-reactor-26541/

August 18, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, technology, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Thorium nuclear technology a risky and unwise venture for Utah

“…. the coalition’s involvement has raised concerns about the use of limited county resources in such a speculative venture. Nor is it clear how the thorium proposal squares with the coalition’s legal mission, which is to “build essential regional infrastructure elements,” such as pipelines, roads, transmission and rail needed to deliver extracted minerals and power to markets……

The coalition’s financing and procurement practices have recently come under intense scrutiny by Utah Treasurer David Damschen, who believes the group could be flouting accountability standards.

As a new member of the state Community Impact Board (CIB), which gives out federal mineral royalties to rural counties, Damschen has raised numerous concerns about the coalition’s management of CIB grants— its sole source of revenue. At recent meetings, the state treasurer has openly wondered whether the coalition steers contracts to insiders instead of the best qualified people and spends public money in ways that provide minimal public benefit…….

Thorium technology has years of costly research and development ahead before it’s ready to produce power and isotopes, according to Mike Simpson, a University of Utah metallurgical engineering professor.

“It‘s not accurate to say it’s proven to work. Aspects of it have been proven, but everything that has to be tied together hasn’t happened,” said Simpson, adding he would provide advice to the coalition for free. ”They still need another 10 years to perfect this….

 many technical hurdles remain and these rural counties are not positioned to help address these challenges other than siting assistance for a reactor, Simpson added. Salt Lake Tribune

August 16, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Lithium wastes problem, as drive for electric cars continues

Guardian 10th Aug 2017,The drive to replace polluting petrol and diesel cars with a new breed of
electric vehicles has gathered momentum in recent weeks. But there is an
unanswered environmental question at the heart of the electric car
movement: what on earth to do with their half-tonne lithium-ion batteries
when they wear out?

British and French governments last month committed to
outlaw the sale of petrol- and diesel-powered cars by 2040, and carmaker
Volvo pledged to only sell electric or hybrid vehicles from 2019. The
number of electric cars in the world passed the 2m mark last year and the
International Energy Agency estimates there will be 140m electric cars
globally by 2030 if countries meet Paris climate agreement targets.

This electric vehicle boom could leave 11m tonnes of spent lithium-ion batteries
in need of recycling between now and 2030, according to Ajay Kochhar, CEO
of Canadian battery recycling startup Li-Cycle. However, in the EU as few
as 5% (pdf) of lithium-ion batteries are recycled.

This has an environmental cost. Not only do the batteries carry a risk of giving off
toxic gases if damaged, but core ingredients such as lithium and cobalt are
finite and extraction can lead to water pollution and depletion among other
environmental consequences.

There are, however, grounds for optimism. Thus far, the poor rates of lithium-ion battery recycling can be explained by the fact that most are contained within consumer electronics, which
commonly end up neglected in a drawer or chucked into landfill. This won’t
happen with electric vehicles, predicts Marc Grynberg, chief executive of
Belgian battery and recycling giant Umicore. “Car producers will be accountable for the collection and recycling of spent lithium-ionbatteries,” he says. “Given their sheer size, batteries cannot be stored at
home and landfilling is not an option.” https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/aug/10/electric-cars-big-battery-waste-problem-lithium-recycling

August 12, 2017 Posted by | RARE EARTHS, UK | Leave a comment

China’s economic advantage in control of rare earths

Control of rare earths gives China a fresh economic advantage, Las Vegas Sun, By Llewellyn King, Aug. 10, 2017……China controls the world’s production and distribution of rare earths. It produces more than 92 percent of them and holds the world in its hand when it comes to the future of almost anything in high technology.

Rare earths are great multipliers and the heaviest are the most valuable. They make the things we take for granted, from the small motors in automobiles to the wind turbines that are revolutionizing the production of electricity. For example, rare earths increase a conventional magnet’s power by at least fivefold. Strategically, they are the new oil.

Rare earths are also at work in smartphones and computers. Fighter jets and smart weapons, like cruise missiles, rely on them. In national defense, there is no substitute and no other supply source available…….

If President Donald Trump — apparently encouraged by his trade adviser Peter Navarro, and his policy adviser Steve Bannon — is contemplating a trade war with China, rare earths are China’s most potent weapon.

A trade war moves the rare-earths threat from existential to immediate.

In a strange regulatory twist the United States — and most of the world — won’t be able to open rare-earths mines without legislation and an international treaty modification. Rare earths are often found in conjunction with thorium, a mildly radioactive metal and a large regulatory problem.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency have defined thorium as a nuclear “source material” that requires special disposition. Until these classifications, thorium was disposed of along with other mine tailings. Now it has to be separated and collected. ….

Meanwhile, future disruptions from China won’t necessarily be in the markets; they could be in the obscure but vital commodities known as rare earths: China’s not-quite-secret weapon. https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/aug/10/control-of-rare-earths-gives-china-a-fresh-economi/

August 12, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, China, politics international, RARE EARTHS | Leave a comment

USA EPA pledges to clean up thorium contaminated Ridgewood site

EPA pledges $39M to clean Ridgewood site http://www.qchron.com/editions/central/epa-pledges-m-to-clean-ridgewood-site/article_27afed20-a4b3-5668-991d-09ec67a43704.html   Five businesses to relocate when radioactive cleanup work begins.  Thursday, August 3, 2017  by Christopher Barca, Associate Editor 

The Environmental Protection Agency is pouring nearly $40 million into the rehabilitation of a former Ridgewood factory that once produced radioactive materials for the Manhattan Project.

More than three years after the EPA first declared the plot of land on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border between 1125 and 1139 Irving Ave. a federal Superfund site, the agency announced last Friday it plans to spend $39.4 million on extensive, long-term remediation efforts there.

“Today’s comprehensive cleanup proposal addresses potential long-term risks through a combination of response actions,” the EPA’s announcement reads, “including permanent relocation of commercial businesses, demolishing contaminated buildings, excavating contaminated soil and cleaning or replacing contaminated sewers.”

To further discuss the plan, the EPA will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at the Audrey Johnson Day Care Center, located at 272 Moffat St., just one block south of the site in question.

The Wolff-Alport Chemical Co. occupied the plot of land in question from 1920 until 1954 and processed imported monazite sand among other chemicals.

Monazite contains up to 8 percent thorium, a radioactive element that the company sold to the federal government for use in the Manhattan Project, the top-secret program aimed at developing the atomic bombs that were eventually dropped on Japan during World War II.

During and after Wolff-Alport’s aiding of the Manhattan Project, the company regularly dumped thorium waste into the sewer system and on its property until 1947, when the Atomic Energy Commission ordered it to stop.

Wolff-Alport continued to sell thorium products to the government until 1954.

The EPA began investigating the level of contamination at the site in 2012, with the agency discovering radon gas leaks at two locations in and around it — in addition to higher than normal contamination levels below public sidewalks and in the sewer system.

About $2 million in short-term remediation efforts to curb the leaking of the harmful gas was spent at the time.

To further rectify the situation, the EPA plans to permanently relocate five businesses -— including a deli, a pair of auto body shops, a construction company and a warehouse — before tearing down the former factory buildings they reside in.

The EPA said it will “support and assist” the relocation of those entities.

Once that is complete, the agency will then excavate about 24,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and dispose of it off-site, eliminating the potential threat of long-term health impacts posed by the radiation.

That solution is something Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. advocated for years ago. Citing Wolff-Alport’s role in the secretive Manhattan Project, he told the Chronicle in 2014 there may have been operations at the former factory that weren’t ever made public — resulting in more contamination than believed.

“The real approach is to demolish and excavate the entire site,” Arcuri said, “in order to see what the extent of the contamination is.”

Also in 2014, the EPA released a 39-page report about the hazards at the Ridgewood site. While it was strongly worded at times, the report said radiation levels of 1,133 picocuries per gram were observed during one on-site visit.

That amount equates to about one-millionth of a millicure. In comparison, a heart scan produces about 30 millicuries of radiation.

Despite the seemingly low levels of hazardous materials, the EPA plugged a hole in an unoccupied storage area of nearby IS 384, from which radon gas was seeping, in addition to placing lead and steel shields underneath area sidewalks and building floors.

The agency said last Friday that those actions have sufficiently brought down the levels of radiation, while EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said the school will not be subjected to any further remediation efforts.

“Our sampling and assessment shows that IS 384 is not being impacted by the contamination at Wolff-Alport,” Rodriguez said in a Monday email.

In addition to the Aug. 16 meeting, the EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal through Aug. 28.

They can be emailed to EPA Remedial Project Manager Thomas Mongelli at mongelli.thomas@epa.gov.

August 5, 2017 Posted by | thorium, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

New York City’s toxic thorium contamination to finally be cleaned up

Government Announces Cleanup Plan for NYC Radioactive Site THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (VERENA DOBNIK) July 28, 2017, New York (AP) — The federal government on Thursday announced its plan to clean up a Superfund site in New York City where radioactive material was once processed to develop the atomic bomb.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the $39 million job, which could take years, will force out businesses still operating on a block in Queens where buildings, the soil and sewers were contaminated with radioactive material. Protective measures have been in place since 2012.

The source of the industrial waste was the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company that operated on Irving Avenue in the Ridgewood neighborhood from 1920 to 1954, according to Elias Rodriguez, the EPA spokesman in New York. The company processed monazite sand, extracting from it a radioactive element called thorium for the federal government as part of a program that began with the top-secret Manhattan Project that led to the testing of the first nuclear weapons during World War II in New Mexico.

The now-defunct company disposed of thorium waste on its property and into the Queens sewer.

Given the contaminated waste, the owner of the Celtic Custom NYC motorcycle repair shop, Sandy Frayman, said on Thursday that he wouldn’t want to stay, “but we’re worried what’s going to happen to us.”…….

The public is invited to voice concerns to the federal agency — either by email, regular mail and telephone, or by showing up for an open public hearing on Aug. 16 at a nearby day care center…..

Following an EPA evaluation, buildings will be razed and excavation will start to remove more than 24,000 cubic yards (18,000 cubic meters) of contaminated soil, sediment and debris.

An exact date for the cleanup will be set when the evaluation is completed. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-27/government-announces-cleanup-plan-for-nyc-radioactive-site

July 29, 2017 Posted by | thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Chicago at last to clean up its radioactive thorium pollution

Chicago park will finally be cleansed of radioactive waste, By  (• July 20, 2017 

Chicago has a bit of a thorium problem.

The radioactive element, once heavily used in the making of gas light mantels, can now be found in contaminated superfund sites across the city. One of those sites also happens to be the long-delayed and much-anticipated DuSable Park in the downtown Streeterville neighborhood. While the park is on the Chicago Park District’s website, it has not been programmed or developed in any way. Now, 30 years after its founding, the park is set to finally be cleared of its radioactive waste, enabling its development into a usable public space……

July 21, 2017 Posted by | environment, thorium, USA | Leave a comment