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New report on Iraqi babies, deformed due to thorium and uranium from U.S. military actions and bases

IRAQI CHILDREN BORN NEAR U.S. MILITARY BASE SHOW ELEVATED RATES OF “SERIOUS CONGENITAL DEFORMITIES,” STUDY FINDS   https://theintercept.com/2019/11/25/iraq-children-birth-defects-military/  Murtaza Hussain, November 26 2019,  MORE THAN A decade and a half after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, a new study found that babies are being born today with gruesome birth defects connected to the ongoing American military presence there. The report, issued by a team of independent medical researchers and published in the journal Environmental Pollution, examined congenital anomalies recorded in Iraqi babies born near Tallil Air Base, a base operated by the U.S.-led foreign military coalition. According to the study, babies showing severe birth defects — including neurological problems, congenital heart disease, and paralyzed or missing limbs — also had corresponding elevated levels of a radioactive compound known as thorium in their bodies.

“We collected hair samples, deciduous (baby) teeth, and bone marrow from subjects living in proximity to the base,” said Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the study’s lead researchers. “In all three tissues we see the same trend: higher levels of thorium.” Savabieasfahani, who has authored studies on the radioactive footprint of the U.S. military presence in Iraq for years, says that the new findings contribute to a growing body of evidence about the serious long-term health impact of U.S. military operations on Iraqi civilians. “The closer that you live to a U.S. military base in Iraq,” she said, “the higher the thorium in your body and the more likely you are to suffer serious congenital deformities and birth defects.”
The new study piles onto a growing wealth of knowledge about severe ill effects of the U.S. military on the environments in which it operates. All industrialized military activity is bad for ecological systems, but the U.S., with its enormous military engaged in activities spanning the globe has a particular large environmental footprint. Not only does the U.S. military lead the world in carbon output, but its prodigious presence around the globe leaves a toxic trail of chemicals that local communities have to deal with, from so-called burn pits on bases releasing poisonous smoke to the radiation of depleted uranium rounds mutating the DNA of nearby populations.

The suffering of Iraqis has been particularly acute. The results of the new study added to a laundry list of negative impacts of the U.S.’s long war there to the long-term health of the country’s population. Previous studies, including some contributed by a team led by Savabieasfahani, have pointed to elevated rates of cancer, miscarriages, and radiological poisoning in places like Fallujah, where the U.S. military carried out major assaults during its occupation of the country.

The study published in Environmental Pollution was conducted by a team of independent Iraqi and American researchers in Iraq during the summer and fall of 2016. They analyzed 19 babies born with serious birth defects at a maternity hospital in the vicinity of Tallil Air Base, compared with a control group of 10 healthy newborns.
“Doctors are regularly encountering anomalies in babies that are so gruesome they cannot even find precedents for them,” said Savabieasfahani. “The war has spread so much radiation here that, unless it is cleaned up, generations of Iraqis will continue to be affected.”

SOME OF THESE negative health effects of the American war in Iraq can be put down to U.S. forces’ frequent use of munitions containing depleted uranium. Depleted uranium, a byproduct of the enriched uranium used to power nuclear reactors, makes bullets and shells more effective in destroying armored vehicles, owing to its extreme density. But it has been acknowledged to be hazardous to the environment and the long-term health of people living in places where the munitions are used.

“Uranium and thorium were the main focus of this study,” the authors note. “Epidemiological evidence is consistent with an increased risk of congenital anomalies in the offspring of persons exposed to uranium and its depleted forms.” In other words: The researchers found that the more you were around these American weapons, the more likely you were to bear children with deformities and other health problems.

In response to an outcry over its effects, the U.S. military pledged to not use depleted uranium rounds in its bombing campaigns against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, but, despite this pledge, a 2017 investigation by the independent research group AirWars and Foreign Policy magazine found that the military had continued to regularly use rounds containing the toxic compound.

These depleted-uranium munitions are among the causes of hazards not only to the civilians in the foreign lands where the U.S. fights its wars, but also to American service members who took part in these conflicts. The chronic illnesses suffered by U.S. soldiers during the 1991 war in Iraq — often from exposure to uranium munitions and other toxic chemicals — have already been categorized as a condition known as “Gulf War syndrome.” The U.S. government has been less interested into the effects of the American military’s chemical footprint on Iraqis. The use of “burn pits” — toxic open-air fires used to dispose military waste — along with other contaminants has had a lasting impact on the health of current and future Iraqi generations.

Researchers conducting the latest study said that a broader study is needed to get definitive results about these health impacts. The images of babies born with defects at the hospital where the study was conducted, Bint Al-Huda Maternity Hospital, about 10 kilometers from Tallil Air Base, are gruesome and harrowing. Savabieasfahani, the lead researcher, said that without an effort by the U.S. military to clean up its radioactive footprint, babies will continue to be born with deformities that her study and others have documented.

“The radioactive footprint of the military could be cleaned up if we had officials who wanted to do so,” said Savabieasfahani. “Unfortunately, even research into the problem of Iraqi birth defects has to be done by independent toxicologists, because the U.S. military and other institutions are not even interested in this issue.”

November 26, 2019 Posted by | children, Iraq, Reference, thorium, weapons and war | Leave a comment

No, thorium nuclear power is still not a viable energy technology

There’s little reason to consider thorium, molten salt reactors and Gates’ “traveling wave” TerraPower technology when considering the future of energy. We have solutions today. They may be boring and low-tech, but they are cheap, fast to build, reliable, predictable, and have incredibly low negative externalities.

CleanTechnica‘s policy will be to continue to ignore them in favor of the actually transformative technologies reshaping our world for the better.  

Why Thorium Nuclear Isn’t Featured on CleanTechnica Redux, https://cleantechnica.com/2019/10/30/why-thorium-nuclear-isnt-featured-on-cleantechnica-redux/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter   30 Oct 19, Seven years ago, CleanTechnica published its policy position to not cover thorium nuclear reactors. Today, the United States has a Democratic presidential candidate in the top 10 who loves thorium, yet CleanTechnica still ignores it. Why is that? Continue reading

October 31, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, thorium | Leave a comment

Uranium industry in permanent collapse? And thorium industry probably no better

Uranium Sector Won’t Catch A Break, Share Cafe, By Rick Mills September 23, 2019  One week ago Cameco announced it will maintain low output levels until uranium prices recover. The Canadian uranium miner also said it might cut production further, having already closed four mines in Canada and laid off 2,000 of its workers in the uranium mining hub of Saskatchewan.
News like this has stalked the uranium market for years, and while 2018 was a great year for the nuclear fuel, hope for a price pick-up is dim; once an important commodity at resource investing shows, uranium is now mostly ignored. Uranium bulls are as rare as white unicorns, having switched allegiance to metals that support Ahead of the Herd’s electrification of the transportation system thesis, like lithium, nickel and cobalt.  ….
No end to supply glut“We are not restarting mines until we see a better market and we may close more capacity, although no decision has been taken yet,” Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel told Reuters recently at the World Nuclear Association’s annual conference.

Just over a year ago Cameco made the difficult decision to close its MacArthur River and Key Lake mines, in response to low uranium prices, leaving the company’s flagship Cigar Lake facility as its only operating mine left in northern Saskatchewan, home to the world’s highest grade uranium deposit.

The mine closures by Cameco were preceded by 20% production cuts in Kazakhstan, the number one uranium-producing country. The former Soviet bloc country has said 2020-21 output will not rise above 2019 levels. In Canada, the second largest U producer, 2018 production was cut in half to 7,000 tonnes.

An estimated 35% of uranium supply has been stripped from the market since Kazakhstan’s supply reductions in December 2017…..

Eight years later, only nine of 33 remaining reactors have been re-started, and Japan’s nuclear operators are reportedly starting to sell their uranium fuel, as the chances fade of more reactors coming online, and adding to the six currently operating. Long-term contracts are also being canceled.

In another blow to the industry, Japan’s new environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, has said he wants all reactors shuttered to avoid a repeat of the Fukushima catastrophe that leaked radiation and forced 160,000 people to flee the area, many of whom have not returned.

As reactors close in the United States, Germany, Belgium and other countries, “traders and specialists say the market is likely to remain depressed for years,” Reuters reported in August.

Germany has pledged to shut down all its reactors by 2022 and the Belgian government has agreed to a new energy pact that will see nuclear power phased out over the next seven years…….

(makes case for thorium)….As far as disadvantages, thorium takes extremely high temperatures to produce nuclear fuel (550 degrees higher than uranium dioxide), meaning thorium dioxide is expensive to make. Second, irradiated thorium is dangerously radioactive in the short-term.

Detractors also say the thorium fuel cycle is less advanced than uranium-plutonium and could take decades to perfect; by that time, renewable energies could make the cost of thorium reactors cost-prohibitive. The International Nuclear Agency predicts that the thorium cycle won’t be commercially viable while uranium is still readily available………… https://www.sharecafe.com.au/2019/09/23/uranium-sector-wont-catch-a-break/

September 30, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, thorium, Uranium | Leave a comment

Iraqui children contaminated by thorium – birth defects

“The destruction of a society”: First the U.S. invaded Iraq — then we left it poisoned      Scientist: Bombs, bullets and military hardware abandoned by U.S. forces have left Iraq “toxic for millennia”, Salon.com  DAVID MASCIOTRA  7 Sept 19  “………In your groundbreaking new research, you discover that the teeth of Iraqi children have 28 times more thorium if they live near a U.S. military base. What is the significance of that conclusion, and what does the presence of thorium indicate about a child’s health? What kinds of abnormalities and health problems will they experience?

The Iraqi population is potentially contaminated with depleted uranium decay products. Baby teeth are highly sensitive to environmental exposures. Such high levels of thorium simply suggest high exposure at an early age and potentially in utero.

We found uranium and thorium in these children’s teeth and hair. Uranium and thorium were also in the bone marrow of children, all of whom had severe birth defects. The magnitude of public contamination caused by these alpha-emitting radioactive compounds is a serious question to be answered. Our bone marrow data is still unpublished, but we hope to publish it separately.

Thorium is an alpha emitter and, once in the body, it can cause cancer and other anomalies. Impacts can vary depending on the timing and amount of exposure. Childhood leukemia, which has been rising in southern Iraq, is a verified outcome of thorium exposure.

In our study, children with high levels of thorium had multiple birth defects. Our studies show that, across Iraq, children exposed to U.S. war contamination suffer primarily from congenital heart defects and neural tube defects……. https://www.salon.com/2019/09/07/the-destruction-of-a-society-first-the-u-s-invaded-iraq-then-we-left-it-poisoned/

September 9, 2019 Posted by | Iraq, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Thorium nuclear reactors – expensive, dangerous and leave dangerous radioactive isotopes with long half-lives

New nuclear power proposal needs public  debate   https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/new-nuclear-power-proposal-needs-public-discussion,13071   By Helen Caldicott | 4 September 2019  The prospect of thorium being introduced into Australia’s energy arrangements should be subjected to significant scrutiny, writes Helen Caldicott.

AS AUSTRALIA is grappling with the notion of introducing nuclear powerinto the country, it seems imperative the general public understand the intricacies of these technologies so they can make informed decisions. Thorium reactors are amongst those being suggested at this time.

The U.S. tried for 50 years to create thorium reactors, without success. Four commercial thorium reactors were constructed, all of which failed. And because of the complexity of problems listed below, thorium reactors are far more expensive than uranium fueled reactors.

The longstanding effort to produce these reactors cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, while billions more dollars are still required to dispose of the highly toxic waste emanating from these failed trials.

The truth is, thorium is not a naturally fissionable material. It is therefore necessary to mix thorium with either enriched uranium 235 (up to 20% enrichment) or with plutonium – both of which are innately fissionable – to get the process going.

While uranium enrichment is very expensive, the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from uranium powered reactors is enormously expensive and very dangerous to the workers who are exposed to toxic radioactive isotopes during the process. Reprocessing spent fuel requires chopping up radioactive fuel rods by remote control, dissolving them in concentrated nitric acid from which plutonium is precipitated out by complex chemical means.

Vast quantities of highly acidic, highly radioactive liquid waste then remain to be disposed of. (Only is 6 kilograms of plutonium 239 can fuel a nuclear weapon, while each reactor makes 250 kilos of plutonium per year. One millionth of a gram of plutonium if inhaled is carcinogenic.)

So there is an extraordinarily complex, dangerous and expensive preliminary process to kick-start a fission process in a thorium reactor.

When non-fissionable thorium is mixed with either fissionable plutonium or uranium 235, it captures a neutron and converts to uranium 233, which itself is fissionable. Naturally it takes some time for enough uranium 233 to accumulate to make this particular fission process spontaneously ongoing.

Later, the radioactive fuel would be removed from the reactor and reprocessed to separate out the uranium 233 from the contaminating fission products, and the uranium 233 then will then be mixed with more thorium to be placed in another thorium reactor.

But uranium 233 is also very efficient fuel for nuclear weapons. It takes about the same amount of uranium 233 as plutonium 239 – six kilos – to fuel a nuclear weapon. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has already, to its disgrace, ‘lost track’ of 96 kilograms of uranium 233.

A total of two tons of uranium 233 were manufactured in the United States. This material naturally requires similar stringent security measures used for plutonium storage for obvious reasons. It is estimated that it will take over one million dollars per kilogram to dispose of the seriously deadly material.

An Energy Department safety investigation recently found a national repository for uranium 233 in a building constructed in 1943 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

It was in poor condition. Investigators reported an environmental release from many of the 1,100 containers could

‘… be expected to occur within the next five years because some of the packages are approaching 30 years of age and have not been regularly inspected.’

The DOE determined that this building had:

Deteriorated beyond cost-effective repair and significant annual costs would be incurred to satisfy both current DOE storage standards, and to provide continued protection against potential nuclear criticality accidents or theft of the material.

The DOE Office of Environmental Management now considers the disposal of this uranium 233 to be ‘an unfunded mandate’.

Thorium reactors also produce uranium 232, which decays to an extremely potent high-energy gamma emitter that can penetrate through one metre of concrete, making the handling of this spent nuclear fuel extraordinarily dangerous.

Although thorium advocates say that thorium reactors produce little radioactive waste, they simply produce a different spectrum of waste to those from uranium-235. This still includes many dangerous alpha and beta emitters, and isotopes with extremely long half-lives, including iodine 129 (half-life of 15.7 million years).

No wonder the U.S. nuclear industry gave up on thorium reactors in the 1980s. It was an unmitigated disaster, as are many other nuclear enterprises undertaken by the nuclear priesthood and the U.S. government.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, Reference, thorium | 1 Comment

Rare earths’ radioactive wastes -a toxic issue in Malaysia

Australian mining company Lynas gets permission to dispose of radioactive waste in Malaysia, dividing locals ABC 

Key points:

  • Malaysia has renewed the rare earth plant licence of Australian company Lynas
  • Green groups say Lynas’ activities pose a threat to the local environment
  • Lynas says it will meet the licence obligations set by Malaysia’s Government

Outside of China, the Australian firm, Lynas, is the world’s only major producer of rare earth minerals, which are crucial in the production of high-tech gear including smartphones, laser-guided missiles and electric car batteries.

The ore is dug up at Mount Weld in Western Australia and then shipped to Malaysia, where the cost of processing is significantly lower.

The low-level radioactive waste is a by-product of the enrichment process and Malaysian activists are convinced it poses a threat to local communities.

At a recent protest in Kuantan, several hundred people rallied against the Australian firm and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to extend its licence to operate.

“[The radioactivity] will be passed through our children and our children’s children,” said Moses Lim, a chemical engineer turned activist.

“We may be gone, but our grandchildren will curse us.”

Mr Lim claimed the issue had the potential to “tarnish the good name of Australia” in the minds of millions of Malaysians. But the Prime Minister, 94-year-old Dr Mahathir, dismissed criticism of Lynas’ operations in Malaysia.

“It’s not Chernobyl. This isn’t going to be dangerous,” he said.

‘We just have to accept this fate’

The issue has split the local community, which relies on the hundreds of high-paying jobs that the processing facility provides.

At a local fish market in Kuantan, a mother who declined to offer her name told the ABC she feared radioactive contamination from the facility would make its way into her food.

“I am scared, but I have no choice but to buy the fresh fish from here. We just have to accept this fate,” she said.

“I think Lynas should be shut down for the sake of the surrounding environment.”

But other locals said there was nothing to worry about, blaming politicians for trying to capitalise on the issue by whipping up fear in the community.

Raja Harris bin Raja Salleh, the chief fisher in Balok village, said the residents are “not at all scared”.

“Lynas is the same as other agencies and factories that produce chemicals. The accusations against Lynas are political,” he said.

Toxic waste becomes a toxic issue

The issue of Lynas’ radioactive waste has become politically toxic for the Mahathir-led coalition, which promised in opposition to close the Australian plant.

Now in government after last year’s shock election result, there has been a major backing down.

Lynas is allowed to keep operating its plant and has been given six months to find a suitable site within Malaysia to permanently dispose of 580,000 tonnes of low-level radioactive waste currently stockpiled at the Kuantan facility.

The company has also been given four years to relocate its cracking and leaching processing operation — which creates the radioactive waste — to Western Australia.

Wong Tak, a Malaysian Government MP who attended the Kuantan protest, said the cabinet decision to extend the licence was a “great disappointment”.

The long time anti-Lynas campaigner claimed the issue was serious enough to fracture the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, Coalition.

“I know the majority of backbenchers are with us, and I will even say the majority of the cabinet are with the people.”

Dr Mahathir has taken a pragmatic approach to the issue, saying the decision to extend the licence was based on expert advice, not the “popular view”.

“Either we get rid of the industry and lose credibility in terms of foreign direct investment, or we can take care of the problem,” he said……

The fate of Lynas in Malaysia is being keenly watched around the world amid concerns rare earth materials could become a bargaining chip in the ongoing US-China trade war.

In 2010, the Chinese supply of rare earths to Japan suddenly stopped for two months following a territorial dispute over Japan’s claim to the Senkaku Islands, which angered China.

The construction of the Lynas plant in Malaysia was largely funded in 2011 by Japan, which needed a reliable supply of rare earths.

China currently holds a near-monopoly on the production of rare earth minerals, with Lynas producing about 13 per cent of global supply.https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-22/malaysians-divided-on-radioactive-waste-from-aussie-miner-lynas/11434122

August 22, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, Malaysia, RARE EARTHS | Leave a comment

India’s Govt prohibits mining of thorium and other atomic minerals by private entities  

Govt prohibits mining of atomic minerals by private entities   https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/govt-prohibits-mining-of-atomic-minerals-by-private-entities/article28732945.ece July 27, 2019 

Atomic minerals zirconium, monazite and thorium are found in abundance along several beaches of the country

The government has prohibited mining of atomic minerals by private entities and will grant operating rights to only state-run companies to “safeguard” strategic interest of the country, according to a gazette notification issued on Saturday.

Atomic minerals zirconium, monazite and thorium are found in abundance along several beaches of the country.

Zircon have potential applications in the strategic, defence and hi-tech sectors as it contains an important strategic element, called hafnium, which is used in the field of atomic energy.

Monazite is a mineral of thorium, uranium and rare earths and it has a high percentage of neodymium which has several hi-tech applications.

Zirconium, hafnium and thorium are very important strategic elements used in different stages of the country’s nuclear power programme, and since monazite and zircon occur in beach sand minerals, any loss or pilferage of these minerals at any stage of mineral handling or processing “shall affect the larger national interest”, the notification said.

“In offshore areas and their strategic importance, it is imperative that the mineral concessions in offshore areas be brought at par with the onshore areas in their treatment and therefore, in order to safeguard the strategic interest of the nation, it is expedient in larger national interest to prohibit the grant of operating rights in terms of any reconnaissance permit, exploration license or production lease of atomic minerals” in any offshore areas to anyone, except a government owned or controlled company, it stated.

“The central government hereby prohibits grant of operating rights in respect of atomic minerals in any offshore areas in the country…to any person, except the government or a government company or a corporation owned or controlled by the government, under the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 2002,” it said.

The government also “rescinded” any action taken by it earlier in this regard.

July 29, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, India, RARE EARTHS | Leave a comment

China faces up to the pollution and radioactive waste problems of rare earths mining and processing

“To us as an environmental group, we hope that the environmental damage can stop and that these external [pollution costs] could be internalized in the cost” of products, Ma Jun, a leading Chinese environmentalist and director of the Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs, said in a phone interview.

Ma’s fear is that other regions around the world could suffer a similar fate if they become, like China, the supplier of cheap rare earth elements, with little or no environmental price attached

China Wrestles with the Toxic Aftermath of Rare Earth Mining    https://e360.yale.edu/features/china-wrestles-with-the-toxic-aftermath-of-rare-earth-mining, 

China has been a major source of rare earth metals used in high-tech products, from smartphones to wind turbines. As cleanup of these mining sites begins, experts argue that global companies that have benefited from access to these metals should help foot the bill.

July 22, 2019 Posted by | China, environment, RARE EARTHS, Reference | Leave a comment

Illegal transport of thorium at Georgia’s border with Armenia

Georgia intercepts radioactive substance at border with Armenia  http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-07/15/c_138229300.htm  Source: Xinhua Editor: yan TBILISI, July 15  – Georgia on Monday detained an Armenian citizen who was charged with illegally transporting the radioactive substance Thorium at the border with Armenia.

According to the Georgian State Security Service, the radioactive substance was intercepted at the Sadakhlo checkpoint when the suspect in a mini-bus was inspected.

The total weight of the packages carried by the suspect was 71.63 kg, and they contained radioactive isotope Thorium 232, which is a nuclear material and poses a threat to life and health.

The mini-bus was moving from Armenia to Russia through Georgia.

If convicted, the detainee will face 5 to 10 years in prison.

July 15, 2019 Posted by | EUROPE, secrets,lies and civil liberties, thorium | Leave a comment

India’s nuclear power programme unlikely to progress. Ocean energy is a better way.

The problem is apparently nervousness about handling liquid Sodium, used as a coolant. If Sodium comes in contact with water it will explode; and the PFBR is being built on the humid coast of Tamil Nadu. The PFBR has always been a project that would go on stream “next year”. The PFBR has to come online, then more FBRs would need to be built, they should then operate for 30-40 years, and only then would begin the coveted ‘Thorium cycle’!

Why nuclear when India has an ‘ocean’ of energy,  https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/why-nuclear-when-india-has-an-ocean-of-energy/article28230036.ece

M. Ramesh – 30 June 19 Though the ‘highly harmful’ source is regarded as saviour on certain counts, the country has a better option under the seas

If it is right that nothing can stop an idea whose time has come, it must be true the other way too — nothing can hold back an idea whose time has passed.

Just blow the dust off, you’ll see the writing on the wall: nuclear energy is fast running out of sand, at least in India. And there is something that is waiting to take its place.

India’s 6,780 MW of nuclear power plants contributed to less than 3% of the country’s electricity generation, which will come down as other sources will generate more.

Perhaps India lost its nuclear game in 1970, when it refused to sign – even if with the best of reasons – the Non Proliferation Treaty, which left the country to bootstrap itself into nuclear energy. Only there never was enough strap in the boot to do so.

In the 1950s, the legendary physicist Dr. Homi Bhabha gave the country a roadmap for the development of nuclear energy.

Three-stage programme

In the now-famous ‘three-stage nuclear programme’, the roadmap laid out what needs to be done to eventually use the country’s almost inexhaustible Thorium resources. The first stage would see the creation of a fleet of ‘pressurised heavy water reactors’, which use scarce Uranium to produce some Plutonium. The second stage would see the setting up of several ‘fast breeder reactors’ (FBRs). These FBRs would use a mixture of Plutonium and the reprocessed ‘spent Uranium from the first stage, to produce energy and more Plutonium (hence ‘breeder’), because the Uranium would transmute into Plutonium. Alongside, the reactors would convert some of the Thorium into Uranium-233, which can also be used to produce energy. After 3-4 decades of operation, the FBRs would have produced enough Plutonium for use in the ‘third stage’. In this stage, Uranium-233 would be used in specially-designed reactors to produce energy and convert more Thorium into Uranium-233 —you can keep adding Thorium endlessly.

Seventy years down the line, India is still stuck in the first stage. For the second stage, you need the fast breeder reactors. A Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) of 500 MW capacity, construction of which began way back in 2004, is yet to come on stream.

The problem is apparently nervousness about handling liquid Sodium, used as a coolant. If Sodium comes in contact with water it will explode; and the PFBR is being built on the humid coast of Tamil Nadu. The PFBR has always been a project that would go on stream “next year”. The PFBR has to come online, then more FBRs would need to be built, they should then operate for 30-40 years, and only then would begin the coveted ‘Thorium cycle’! Nor is much capacity coming under the current, ‘first stage’. The 6,700 MW of plants under construction would, some day, add to the existing nuclear capacity of 6,780 MW. The government has sanctioned another 9,000 MW and there is no knowing when work on them will begin. These are the home-grown plants. Of course, thanks to the famous 2005 ‘Indo-U.S. nuclear deal’, there are plans for more projects with imported reactors, but a 2010 Indian ‘nuclear liability’ legislation has scared the foreigners away. With all this, it is difficult to see India’s nuclear capacity going beyond 20,000 MW over the next two decades.

Now, the question is, is nuclear energy worth it all?

There have been three arguments in favour of nuclear enFor Fergy: clean, cheap and can provide electricity 24×7 (base load). Clean it is, assuming that you could take care of the ticklish issue of putting away the highly harmful spent fuel.

But cheap, it no longer is. The average cost of electricity produced by the existing 22 reactors in the country is around ₹2.80 a kWhr, but the new plants, which cost ₹15-20 crore per MW to set up, will produce energy that cannot be sold commercially below at least ₹7 a unit. Nuclear power is pricing itself out of the market. A nuclear power plant takes a decade to come up, who knows where the cost will end up when it begins generation of electricity?

Nuclear plants can provide the ‘base load’ — they give a steady stream of electricity day and night, just like coal or gas plants. Wind and solar power plants produce energy much cheaper, but their power supply is irregular. With gas not available and coal on its way out due to reasons of cost and global warming concerns, nuclear is sometimes regarded as the saviour. But we don’t need that saviour any more; there is a now a better option.

Ocean energy

The seas are literally throbbing with energy. There are at least several sources of energy in the seas. One is the bobbing motion of the waters, or ocean swells — you can place a flat surface on the waters, with a mechanical arm attached to it, and it becomes a pump that can be used to drive water or compressed air through a turbine to produce electricity. Another is by tapping into tides, which flow during one part of the day and ebb in another. You can generate electricity by channelling the tide and place a series of turbines in its path. One more way is to keep turbines on the sea bed at places where there is a current — a river within the sea. Yet another way is to get the waves dash against pistons in, say, a pipe, so as to compress air at the other end. Sea water is dense and heavy, when it moves it can punch hard — and, it never stops moving.

All these methods have been tried in pilot plants in several parts of the world—Brazil, Denmark, U.K., Korea. There are only two commercial plants in the world—in France and Korea—but then ocean energy has engaged the world’s attention.

For sure, ocean energy is costly today.

India’s Gujarat State Power Corporation had a tie-up with U.K.’s Atlantic Resources for a 50 MW tidal project in the Gulf of Kutch, but the project was given up after they discovered they could sell the electricity only at ₹13 a kWhr. But then, even solar cost ₹18 a unit in 2009! When technology improves and scale-effect kicks-in, ocean energy will look real friendly.

Initially, ocean energy would need to be incentivised, as solar was. Where do you find the money for the incentives? By paring allocations to the Department of Atomic Energy, which got ₹13,971 crore for 2019-20.

Also, wind and solar now stand on their own legs and those subsidies could now be given to ocean energy.

July 1, 2019 Posted by | India, Reference, renewable, technology, thorium | Leave a comment

U.S. Dept of Energy accepts reimbursement claims for clean-up of thorium and uranium pollution

DOE Accepts Reimbursement Claims for Uranium, Thorium Processing Remediation

BY STAFF REPORTS, 28 June 19
The Department of Energy is accepting claims through Sept. 13 for reimbursement of expenses for cleanup of certain uranium and thorium processing sites in the current 2019 federal fiscal year. The agency said in a Federal Register notice Tuesday that its Office…(subscribers only)  https://www.exchangemonitor.com/doe-accepts-reimbursement-claims-uranium-thorium-processing-remediation/

June 29, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Renewable energy and the problem of radioactive wastes from rare earths processing

Toxic waste: Lynas Corporation and the downside of renewable energy, Independent Australia, 28 April 2019  In some cases, renewable energy can have profoundly harmful environmental effects if not managed correctly, writes Noel WauchopeAUSTRALIA’S LYNAS CORPORATION is currently under the business and political spotlight. The current controversy over Lynas rare earth elements company is a wake-up call to an area of vulnerability in renewable technologies – the radioactive pollution produced by developing the rare earth elements essential for today’s hi-tech devices. Electric cars, batteries, energy efficient lighting, smartphones, solar panels, wind turbines and so on all need some of the 17 mineral elements classed as rare earth. The mining and processing of this produces radioactive trash.

Environmentalists, in their enthusiasm for renewable energy, seem unaware of this fact, while they rightly condemn coal and nuclear power, for their toxic by-products.

Australia’s Lynas Corporation has two major rare earth facilities — mining at Mount Weld, Western Australia, and processing at Kuantan, Malaysia. For years, there’s been a smouldering controversy going on in Malaysia, over the radioactive wastes produced by the refining facility at Kuantan.

Now, this has come to a head. On 17th April, the Malaysian Government insisted that Lynas Corp must remove more than 450,000 tonnes of radioactive waste from the country, for its licence to be renewed in September.

Australian Government legislation and policy prohibits the import of radioactive waste. However, some categories of radioactive waste are exempt from this law, if they contain very low levels of radioactivity.

Here’s where it all gets terribly complicated.

Wesfarmers wants to take over Lynas. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is examining this, and especially Wesfarmers’ involvement with the Malaysian government. The Age on 16 April, reported that Prime Minister Mahathir, following discussions with Wesfarmers, announced that a company interested in acquiring Lynas had promised to extract the radioactive waste before exporting the ore to Malaysia.

All this raises the question of exactly what would an Australian company, such as Wesfarmers, do with that radioactive waste? This is a thorny problem. And what would Lynas do about their current problem?……

It is complicated to grasp the methods used and just what is required for the proper cleanup of the Lynas rare earth elements refining. Lynas CEO Amanda Lacaze maintains that the wastes left behind are only marginally radioactive. ……

culture and history really have their impact, precisely in Malaysia’s experience of rare earth processing. Even if the Lynas waste really is only slightly radioactive, Malaysians remember the environmental and health disaster of Bukit Merah; where, early this century, rare earth processing left a toxic wasteland.

China’s rare earth element processing disaster in Inner Mongolia is better known, an environmental catastrophe from the 1960s which lingers today. Modern processing has improved safety in waste management. In relation to nuclear power, there is an abundance of information on radioactive waste management, for China and for other countries. However, there’s little or no information that’s easily available to specifically discuss radioactive waste from rare earth processing.

Australia does have another, smaller, rare earth elements mining and processing operation, Arafura Resources, in Central Australia. The Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (EPA) found this acceptable…..

What is clear, is that the production of the world’s hi-tech devices is not a simple matter as far as the environment goes. Climate change activists, anti-nuclear activists and environmentalists in general can keep on promoting renewable energy and electric cars.

But they seem to be blind to the total picture, which includes the downside. Obviously, it is necessary to ensure safer disposal of the trash from rare earth mining and processing. A better idea is to develop the design of devices so that the minerals can be retrieved from them and recycled, thus greatly eliminating the need for mining rare earth. And this is beginning to happen.  …..

Energy conservation is the biggest factor in the change that is needed. Social change, however difficult that will be, is going to be the most important answer — the transition from a consumer society to a conserver society.

The Lynas radioactive trash controversy is not going to go away quickly, however much governments and corporations want to keep it under wraps. And it also could be a catalyst for discussion on that downside of renewable and hi-tech devices. This is something to think about as we throw away last year’s iPhone in favour of the latest model.  https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/toxic-waste-lynas-corporation-and-the-downside-of-renewable-energy,12619#disqus_thread

April 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, RARE EARTHS | Leave a comment

Australian rare earths company Lynas in a pickle over its radioactive wastes in Malaysia

Record result but still no breathing space for Lynas,  The Age, Colin Kruger, April 20, 2019 

It should have been a great week for Lynas Corp…..  Despite soft prices in the rare earths market – and a forced shutdown of its operations in Decemberdue to a local Malaysian government cap on its production limits – Lynas reported a 27 per cent jump in revenue to $101.3 million in the March quarter……

Unfortunately, Lacaze could provide no information on the glaring issue outside the company’s control that imperils its future: the regulatory cloud around the 450,000 tonnes of radioactive waste produced by its Malaysian operations since 2013, which is jeopardising the renewal of its licence to operate in the country. …..

the company was still “seeking clarification” on comments earlier this month by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, which appeared to solve the problem of the licence pre-condition that Lynas says it cannot meet – removal of the radioactive waste by September 2.

Mahathir said Lynas – or any potential acquirer (without explicitly naming Lynas’ estranged suitor, Wesfarmers, whose $1.5 billion indicative offer for the group was rebuffed in March) – would be able to continue to operate in Malaysia if it agreed to extract the radioactive residue from its ore before it reached the country.

Despite two cabinet meetings since that announcement, Mahathir has failed to clarify his comments, or confirm whether it means Lynas might not need to move the existing mountain of radioactive waste that has been accumulating at its $1 billion, 100-hectare processing facility in Kuantan province.

It was the only update that mattered, and the continuing silence has not helped its cause.

The PM’s comments – which have mired Wesfarmers in controversy over what exactly its chief executive, Rob Scott, said to Mahathir in a meeting ahead of this statement – hinted at a path Lynas could have taken instead of processing its ore in Malaysia.

Crown jewel

Lynas’ crown jewel is its world-class rare earths deposit in Mt Weld, Western Australia.

Lynas initially planned to process the ore near its WA mine but was attracted by the infrastructure in Kuantan, including water, electricity, chemical and gas supplies, a skilled labour force and proximity to its customers in the region.

The eventual decision to set up its processing plant in Malaysia meant Lynas also exported the controversy over what happens to the toxic waste produced by the extraction process. And as the water-leached purification (WLP) residue – which contains low-level radioactive waste – has accumulated since production started in 2013, so has the push-back.

It reached its nadir in December last year when the Malaysian government made the export of the radioactive waste a pre-condition of its licence being renewed beyond September.

The Malaysian PM would be well aware that the implications of closing the rare earth processing plant extend well beyond Malaysia and Australia.

Global implications

There are significant global concerns about the fact that China dominates the supply of rare earths – a group of 17 elements crucial to the manufacture of hi-tech products like digital cars, smart phones and wind turbines.

Lynas is the only significant miner and processor of rare earths outside China.

Not that this means anything in Malaysia, where there has been no end to the negative news that has dogged the Lynas operations since it set foot in the country.

Fresh allegations

Lynas was just this week forced to deny fresh allegations it had breached Malaysian environmental regulations by storing more than 1.5 million tonnes of waste on-site for years.  The worry for Lynas is that the latest complaint, by Malaysian MP Lee Chean Ching, related to the 1.13 million tonnes of non-toxic waste produced by its operations, not the 450,000 tonnes of radioactive waste.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age also revealed this week that Lynas was warned in a confidential 2011 report, by crisis management group Futureye, that there was an “urgent need” for it to win the local community’s support.

The report presciently warned that its operations in the country could be jeopardised if it did not change the way it dealt with environmental concerns and the government. ….

Concerns pre-date Lynas

Malaysian concerns around rare earth processing pre-date Lynas.

In the 1990s, a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi closed a rare earths processing plant and spent more than $US100 million cleaning up the waste after residents complained of birth defects and a spike in leukemia cases in the community, according to a New York Times report………https://www.theage.com.au/business/companies/record-result-but-still-no-breathing-space-for-lynas-20190419-p51flq.html

April 22, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, Malaysia, politics international, RARE EARTHS, wastes | Leave a comment

Australian rare earths processing company Lynas is rebuked by Malaysian environmental and consumer groups

Lynas is being unscientific, not SAM or CAP  https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/471173  SM Mohamed Idris   6 Apr 2019 Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) refer to the letter by Lynas Malaysia reported in Malaysiakini on 5 April 2019, which says that our recent statements about the plant’s wastes are “false and ignore scientific fact.”

The controversy is over the definition of wastes from the Lynas’ water leach purification (WLP) process, which contains thorium and uranium.

Lynas claims that the wastes are naturally-occurring radioactive material (called NORM), while we claim that the wastes are not naturally-occurring, but have been technologically-enhanced and should be called technologically-enhanced naturally-occurring radioactive material known as TENORM.

Citing “two eminent scientists”, Lynas states as fact that “the small amount of thorium and uranium in the WLP generated are not man-made but naturally occurring radionuclides found in soil, water and in food.”

Lynas is clearly distorting the facts.

First of all, the thorium and uranium containing wastes generated by Lynas are not found to naturally occur in the Gebeng area, where the plant is located. On the contrary, the raw material which is processed by the Lynas plant is lanthanide concentrate that contains the thorium, uranium and the rare-earth.

This raw material is processed and imported from the Mount Weld mine in Australia and is brought to Malaysia. It is then subject to further processing in Gebeng by Lynas.

Therefore, how can it be said that say that the thorium and uranium are naturally occurring in the soil, water and in food when they were not there before in the Gebeng area, if not for the Lynas operations?

Moreover, what is even more significant is that we are talking about the generation of an accumulated amount of more than 450,000 metric tonnes of radioactive wastes from the Lynas operations thus far. To call this naturally-occurring radioactive material is indeed unscientific.

Secondly, the wastes that Lynas has generated from the WLP process clearly falls within the definition of TENORM, as defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) as: “Naturally occurring radioactive materials that have been concentrated or exposed to the accessible environment as a result of human activities such as manufacturing, mineral extraction, or water processing.”

April 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, Malaysia, RARE EARTHS | Leave a comment

India:  Union ministry of mines protects beaches from mining for thorium

Private firms jolted by beach sand mining ban, Times of India M K Ananth , 24 Feb 19,  MADURAI: Environmentalists fighting against rampant illegal   sand mining have hailed the gazette notification by the  Union ministry of mines changing the rules that earlier  allowed private companies to mine rare earth minerals found   on beach sand. They said the notification was much awaited and would help save the coastal treasures.
Activist Lal Mohan of Kanyakumari said rampant mining by  private players had led to erosion of the shores and many  sand dunes that acted as barriers during natural disasters  such as tsunami had disappeared. He accused private players of influencing officials and exploiting coastal minerals and  exporting monazite.
Stating that monazite on the coast   had high concentration of thorium that was considered an  atomic mineral, he said research was on to use it instead of uranium.  “It is to eliminate the use of uranium and the large reserve s of thorium in India. At many places, private companies  have exploited thorium and exported it to Australia, China and Russia, he said… .. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/private-firms-jolted-by-beach-sand-mining-ban/articleshow/68133578.cms

February 25, 2019 Posted by | environment, India, thorium | 1 Comment