nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

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

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

India’s grand thorium nuclear plan: pity it’s many decades away and not economically viable

A primer on India’s nuclear energy sector, Hans India , By Gudipati Rajendera Kumar  , 10 July 17 “………India has insufficient Uranium reserves of 1-2% of global reserves, but is endowed with one of the largest reserves of Thorium which constitute about 30 % of global reserves.

Thorium however is not fissile and can’t be used directly to trigger Nuclear Reaction. But it is ‘fertile’ and what makes it Nuclear Fuel is the fact that its isotope Thorium – 232 can be converted to Uranium -233 which is ‘fissile’. This process of conversion is called ‘Transmutation’. To exploit Thorium reserves Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha conceived ‘3 Stage Nuclear Program’….
 
 at present thorium is not economically viable because global uranium prices are much lower…..
 
Thorium itself is not a fissile material, and thus cannot undergo fission to produce energy.

•  Instead, it must be transmuted to uranium-233 in a reactor fueled by other fissile materials [plutonium-239 or uranium-235].

•  The first two stages, natural uranium-fueled heavy water reactors and plutonium-fueled fast breeder reactors, are intended to generate sufficient fissile material from India’s limited uranium resources, so that all its vast thorium reserves can be fully utilized in the third stage of thermal breeder reactor.

Stage I – Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor [PHWR]

•  In the first stage of the programme, natural uranium fuelled pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) produce electricity while generating plutonium-239 as by-product.

[U-238 ] Plutonium-239 + Heat]

[In PWHR, enrichment of Uranium to improve concentration of U-235 is not required. U-238 can be directly fed into the reactor core]

[Natural uranium contains only 0.7% of the fissile isotope uranium-235. Most of the remaining 99.3% is uranium-238 which is not fissile but can be converted in a reactor to the fissile isotope plutonium-239].

[Heavy water (deuterium oxide, D 2O) is used as moderator and coolant in PHWR].

•  PHWRs was a natural choice for implementing the first stage because it had the mostefficient reactor design [uranium enrichment not required] in terms of uranium utilisation…..

 
• In the second stage, fast breeder reactors (FBRs)[moderators not required] would use plutonium-239, recovered by reprocessing spent fuel from the first stage, and natural uranium.

•  In FBRs, plutonium-239 undergoes fission to produce energy, while the uranium-238 present in the fuel transmutes to additional plutonium-239.

transmuted to Plutonium-239?

Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239 can sustain a chain reaction. But Uranium-238 cannot sustain a chain reaction. So it is transmuted to Plutonium-239.

But Why U-238 and not U-235?

Natural uranium contains only 0.7% of the fissile isotope uranium-235. Most of the remaining 99.3% is uranium-238.

•  Thus, the Stage II FBRs are designed to “breed” more fuel than they consume.

•  Once the inventory of plutonium-239 is built up thorium can be introduced as a blanket material in the reactor and transmuted to uranium-233 for use in the third stage.

• The surplus plutonium bred in each fast reactor can be used to set up more such reactors, and might thus grow the Indian civil nuclear power capacity till the point where the third stage reactors using thorium as fuel can be brought online.

As of August 2014, India’s first Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam had been delayed – with first criticality expected in 2015, 2016..and it drags on.

Stage III – Thorium Based Reactors

•   A Stage III reactor or an Advanced nuclear power system involves a self-sustaining series of thorium-232-uranium-233 fuelled reactors.

•  This would be a thermal breeder reactor, which in principle can be refueled – after its initial fuel charge – using only naturally occurring thorium.

•  According to replies given in Q&A in the Indian Parliament on two separate occasions, 19 August 2010 and 21 March 2012, large scale thorium deployment is only to be expected 3 – 4 decades after the commercial operation of fast breeder reactors. [2040-2070]

As there is a long delay before direct thorium utilisation in the three-stage programme, the country is now looking at reactor designs that allow more direct use of thorium in parallel with the sequential three-stage programme

•  Three options under consideration are the Accelerator Driven Systems (ADS), Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) and Compact High Temperature Reactor

Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam

•  The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is a 500 MWe fast breeder nuclear reactor presently being constructed at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam, India.

•  The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) is responsible for the design of this reactor.

•  As of 2007 the reactor was expected to begin functioning in 2010 but now it is expected to achieve first criticality in March-April 2016.

•  Construction is over and the owner/operator, Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), is awaiting clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

•  Total costs, originally estimated at 3500 crore are now estimated at 5,677 crore.

•  The Kalpakkam PFBR is using uranium-238 not thorium, to breed new fissile material, in a sodium-cooled fast reactor design.

•  The surplus plutonium or uranium-233 for thorium reactors [U-238 transmutes into plutonium] from each fast reactor can be used to set up more such reactors and grow the nuclear capacity in tune with India’s needs for power.

•  The fact that PFBR will be cooled by liquid sodium creates additional safety requirements to isolate the coolant from the environment, since sodium explodes if it comes into contact with water and burns when in contact with air……

 
1. In the first stage, heavy water reactors fuelled by natural uranium would produceplutonium [U-238 will be transmuted to Plutonium 239 in PHWR];

2.  The second stage would initially be fuelled by a mix of the plutonium from the first stage and natural uranium. This uranium would transmute into more plutonium and once sufficient stocks have been built up, thorium would be introduced into the fuel cycle to convert it intouranium 233 for the third stage [thorium will be transmuted to U-233 with the help plutonium 239].

3.  In the final stage, a mix of thorium and uranium fuels the reactors. The thorium transmutes to U-233 which powers the reactor. Fresh thorium can replace the depleted thorium [can be totally done away with uranium which is very scares in India] in the reactor core, making it essentially a thorium-fuelled reactor [thorium keeps transmuting into U-233. It is U-233 that generates the energy].

 
Present State of India’s Three-Stage Nuclear Power Programme

•  After decades of operating pressurized heavy-water reactors (PHWR), India is finally ready to start the second stage.

•  A 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam is set to achieve criticality any day now and four more fast breeder reactors have been sanctioned, two at the same site and two elsewhere.

•  However, experts estimate that it would take India many more FBRs and at least another four decades before it has built up a sufficient fissile material inventory to launch the third stage.

Solution to India’s Fissile

Shortage Problem – Procuring Fissile Material Plutonium

•  The obvious solution to India’s shortage of fissile material is to procure it from the international markethttp://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Young-Hans/2017-07-10/A-primer-on-Indias-nuclear-energy-sector/311404

July 14, 2017 Posted by | India, Reference, technology, thorium | Leave a comment

Thorium contamination the likely cause of radioactive pollution at Missouri landfill

Tests Reveal Stormwater Contamination at Missouri Landfill, US News, Missouri test results reveal that stormwater from just outside a landfill complex contains radioactive contaminants. July 11, 2017, BRIDGETON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri test results reveal that stormwater from just outside a landfill complex contains radioactive contaminants.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources found levels of alpha particles that exceeded the threshold allowed in drinking water outside the West Lake Landfill, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2tDXjKI ) reported.

Environmental Protection Agency officials said the data doesn’t signal a public health risk because stormwater doesn’t represent a source of drinking water. Alpha particles are a form of radiation that needs to be ingested to pose a significant health threat……

The natural resources department said the alpha readings released last month couldn’t be attributed to uranium and radium that were tested for, so the department is conducting additional tests for thorium as a potential cause for high particle levels……https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/missouri/articles/2017-07-11/tests-reveal-stormwater-contamination-at-missouri-landfill

July 14, 2017 Posted by | thorium, USA, water | Leave a comment

Italy’s thorium contamination resulting from military operations

Subject:  Alarming levels of thorium-232 at the military firing range lying between Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda, in the province of Pordenone http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E-2014-000031+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

The Italian Army operates a military firing range lying between the districts of Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda in the province of Pordenone, in the vicinity of the River Cellina and the River Meduna, and the drills carried out at this firing range have led to the area becoming radioactively contaminated.

As has been reported by the press, in late December 2013 the Commander of the 132nd Ariete Armoured Division in Cordenons, the Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Army, the offices of the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the province of Pordenone and the affected districts, the prefect of Pordenone, and lastly Local Health Authority (ASS) No 6, were all sent the results of tests that had been carried out by the Friuli-Venezia Giulia provincial department of the Italian Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA), which showed alarming levels of thorium-232 in the area.

Thorium-232 is a notoriously radioactive metal, which emits particles that are six times more hazardous to human health than those released by depleted uranium. It is at its most toxic between around 20 and 25 years after use. More specifically, out of the eight targets (the shells of armoured tanks used for firing practice) tested by the ARPA, four were found to contain thorium-232 at markedly higher levels than those that generally occur naturally; these levels were therefore unnatural, and presumably attributable to military firing operations.

In all likelihood, such levels are the legacy left behind by the drills carried out at the site in the 1980s and 1990s: between 1986 and 2003, the Italian Army’s units were equipped with ‘Milan’ shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles, which emitted thorium-232(1). The ARPA has indicated that it will shortly carry out more extensive tests in the area. It is recalled that, as a result of the area’s geological make-up, materials tend to trickle down to the lowest layers, which makes their future recovery appear rather difficult.

Consequently, there is an acute risk that the ‘Magredi’ region, and the rocky terrain that makes it so distinctive, will be devastated; what is more, the area is protected as both a site of Community importance and a Special Protection Area within the meaning of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), due to the wide variety of flora and fauna present there(2).

1. Is the Commission aware of this contamination?

2. Can it report whether any similar cases have occurred in the EU, how they were tackled and whether the areas affected were restored to their original state?

3. What initiatives does it intend to implement in order to prevent similar episodes from occurring in the EU, and in particular to prevent the contamination of aquifers?

(1) The same missiles were also used at the inter-force firing range in Quirra (Sardinia), which is sadly famous for the effects resulting from thorium-232 contamination.
(2) SCI IT3310009 ‘Magredi del Cellina’, SPA IT3311001 ‘Magredi di Pordenone’.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | environment, Italy, Reference, thorium, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Thorium nuclear power was a commercial failure- nothing to do with nuclear weapons, as pro nukers pretend

Thorium-pie-in-skyThorium Reactors: Fact and Fiction, Skeptoid  These next-generation reactors have attracted a nearly cultish following. Is it justified?   by Brian Dunning  Skeptoid Podcast #555  January 24, 2017

Podcast transcript     “………True or False? Thorium reactors were never commercially developed because they can’t produce bomb material.

This is mostly false, although it’s become one of the most common myths about thorium reactors. There are other very good reasons why uranium-fueled reactors were developed commercially instead of thorium-fueled reactors. If something smells like a conspiracy theory, you’re always wise to take a second, closer look.

When we make weapons-grade Pu239 for nuclear weapons, we use special production reactors designed to burn natural uranium, and only for about three months, to avoid contaminating it with Pu240. Only a very few reactors were ever built that can both do that and generate electricity. The rest of the reactors out there that generate electricity could have been any design that was wanted. So why weren’t thorium reactors designed instead? We did have some test thorium-fueled reactors built and running in the 1960s. The real reason has more to do with the additional complexity, design challenges, and expense of these MSBR (molten salt breeder) reactors.

In 1972, the US Atomic Energy Commission published a report on the state of MSBR reactors. Here’s a snippet of what was found:

A number of factors can be identified which tend to limit further industrial involvement at this time, namely:

  • The existing major industrial and utility commitments to the LWR, HTGR, and LMFBR.
  • The lack of incentive for industrial investment in supplying fuel cycle services, such as those required for solid fuel reactors.
  • The overwhelming manufacturing and operating experience with solid fuel reactors in contrast with the very limited involvement with fluid fueled reactors.
  • The less advanced state of MSBR technology and the lack of demonstrated solutions to the major technical problems associated with the MSBR concept.

In short, the technology was just too complicated, and it never became mature enough.

It is, however, mostly true that, if we’re going to use a commercial reactor to get plutonium for a bomb, recycling spent fuel from a uranium reactor is easier, and you can get proper weapons-grade plutonium this way. It is possible to get reactor-grade plutonium from a thorium reactor that can be made into a bomb — one was successfully tested in 1962 — but it’s a much lower yield bomb and it’s much harder to get the plutonium.

The short answer is that reduced weapons proliferation is not the strongest argument for switching from uranium fuel to thorium fuel for power generation. Neither reactor type is what’s typically designed and used for bomb production. Those already exist, and will continue to provide all the plutonium that governments are ever likely to need for that purpose.

There’s every reason to take fossil fuels completely out of our system; we have such absurdly better options. If you’re like me and want to see this approach be a multi-pronged one, one that major energy companies, smaller community providers, and individual homeowners can all embrace, then advocate for nukes. You don’t need to specify thorium or liquid fuel or breeders; they’re already the wave of the future — a future which, I hope, will be clean, bright, and bountiful.  https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4555

February 1, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, thorium | 1 Comment

The facts about thorium nuclear reactors

text thoriumThorium reactors also produce uranium 232, which decays into an extremely potent high-energy gamma emitter that can penetrate one meter 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 spectrum of waste that’s different from those from uranium 235, which includes many dangerous alpha and beta emitters and isotopes with extremely long half-lives, including technetium 99, with a half-life of 300,000 years, and iodine 129, with a half-life of 15.7 million years.

No wonder the U.S. nuclear industry gave up on thorium reactors nuclear-priesthood

in the 1980s. This was an unmitigated disaster, as are many other nuclear enterprises undertaken by the nuclear priesthood

Thorium,    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-caldicott/thorium_b_5546137.html-Helen Caldicott Founding President of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Founder of Womens Action for Nuclear Disarmament, Aug 31, 2014 

There is an extraordinary push by certain individuals to extol the wonders of thorium-fueled nuclear reactors. In fact, so concerted is this push that some blame me for preventing the ongoing expansion of such technology. So here are the facts about thorium for those who are interested.

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 the problems enumerated below, thorium reactors are, by an order of magnitude, 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 that thorium is not a naturally fissionable material. Continue reading

January 28, 2017 Posted by | thorium | Leave a comment

The tiresome ‘Thor-Bores” – exploding the hype about thorium nuclear reactors

Thorium-cultThorium: new and improved nuclear energy? https://www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-energy/thorium-new-and-improved-nuclear-energy

There is quite some – sometimes tiresome – rhetoric of thorium enthusiasts. Let’s call them thor-bores. Their arguments have little merit but they refuse to go away.

Here are some facts:

  • There is no “thorium reactor.” There is a proposal to use thorium as a fuel in various reactor designs including light-water reactors–as well as fast breeder reactors.
  • You still need uranium – or even plutonium – in a reactor using thorium. Thorium is not a fissile material and cannot either start or sustain a chain reaction. Therefore, a reactor using thorium would also need either enriched uranium or plutonium to initiate the chain reaction and sustain it until enough of the thorium has converted to fissile uranium (U-233) to sustain it.
  • Using plutonium sets up proliferation risks. To make a “thorium reactor” work, one must (a) mix the thorium with plutonium that has been stripped of the highly radioactive fission products; (b) use the mixed-oxide thorium-plutonium fuel in a reactor, whereby the plutonium atoms fission and produce power while the thorium atoms absorb neutrons and are turned into uranium-233 (a man-made isotope of uranium that has never existed in nature); (c) strip the fission products from the uranium-233 and mix THAT with thorium in order to continue the “cycle”. In this phase, the U-233 atoms fission and produce power while the thorium atoms absorb neutrons and generate MORE uranium-233. And so the cycle continues, generating more and more fission product wastes.
  • Uranium-233 is also excellent weapons-grade material. Unlike any other type of uranium fuel, uranium-233 is 100 percent enriched from the outset and thus is an excellent weapons-grade material and as effective as plutonium-239 for making nuclear bombs. This makes it very proliferation-prone and a tempting target for theft by criminal and terrorist organizations and for use by national governments in creating nuclear weapons.
  • Proliferation risks are not negated by thorium mixed with U-238. It has been claimed that thorium fuel cycles with reprocessing would be much less of a proliferation risk because the thorium can be mixed with uranium-238. In fact, fissile uranium-233 must first be mixed with non-fissile uranium-238. If the U-238 content is high enough, it is claimed that the mixture cannot be used to  make bombs with out uranium enrichment. However, while more U-238 does dilute the U-233, it also results in the production of more plutonium-239, so the proliferation problem remains.
  • Thorium would trigger a resumption of reprocessing in the US. In most proposed thorium fuel cycles, reprocessing is required to separate out the U-233 for use in fresh fuel. Reprocessing chemically separates plutonium and uranium and creates a large amount of so-called low-level but still highly radioactive liquid, gaseous and solid wastes.
  • Using thorium does not eliminate the problem of long-lived radioactive waste. Fission of thorium creates long-lived fission products including technetium-99 (half-life of over 200,000 years). Without reprocessing, thorium-232 is itself extremely long-lived (half-life of 14 billion years) and its decay products will build up over time in irradiated fuel. Therefore, in addition to all the fission products produced, the irradiated fuel is also quite radiotoxic. Wastes that pose long-term hazards are also produced at the “front end” of the thorium fuel cycle during mining, just as with the uranium fuel cycle.
  • Attempts to develop “thorium reactors” have failed for decades. No commercial “thoriumreactor” exists anywhere in the world. India has been attempting, without success, to develop a thorium breeder fuel cycle for decades. Other countries including the US and Russia have researched the development of thorium fuel for more than half a century without overcoming technical complications.
  • Fabricating “thorium fuel” is dangerous to health.  The process involves the production of U-232 which is extremely radioactive and very dangerous in small quantities. The inhalation of a unit of radioactivity of thorium-232 or thorium-228 produces a far higher dose than the inhalation of uranium containing the same amount of radioactivity. A single particle in the lung would exceed legal radiation standards for the general public.
  • Fabricating “thorium fuel” is expensive. The thorium fuel cycle would be more expensive than the uranium fuel cycle. Using a traditional light-water (once-through) reactor, thorium fuel would need both uranium enrichment (or plutonium separation) and thorium target rod production. Using a breeder reactor makes costly reprocessing necessary.
The bottom line is this.Thorium reactors still produce high-level radioactive waste. They still pose problems and opportunities for the proliferation of nuclear weapons. They still present opportunities for catastrophic accident scenarios–as potential targets of terrorist or military attack, for example. Proponents of thorium reactors argue that all of these risks are somewhat reduced in comparison with the conventional plutonium breeder concept. Whether this is true or not, the fundamental problems associated with nuclear power have by no means been eliminated.

 

August 13, 2016 Posted by | Reference, technology, thorium | Leave a comment

Previously classified documents help legal case for thorium affected nuclear workers

Once secret documents helping lawyers argue for sick nuclear workers at South Carolina complex Unlike many lawyers, Bob Warren agreed to represent sick workers at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The pay has been low, but Warren has for 13 years handled their cases in hopes of gaining compensation from the federal government. He’s done so, despite battling Parkinson’s disease and financial difficulties.Today, he continues to press their cases from a tiny law office in Black Mountain, N.C.  BY SAMMY FRETWELL sfretwell@thestate.com COLUMBIA, SC , 11 Aug 16, 

sick worker Idaho

Lawyers are using once-classified government documents to argue that potentially thousands of sick nuclear weapons workers and their families should be eligible for federal benefits.

The documents, released late last year, provide evidence that some workers at the Savannah River Site were exposed to thorium after 1972 even though the government said the South Carolina plant no longer had significant quantities of the radioactive material, said Bob Warren, an attorney representing ex-SRS employees.

Warren said the federal records show that SRS had ample amounts of thorium, a metal used in nuclear reactions that can cause cancer. Warren obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information Act from the U.S. Department of Energy after a three-year wait.

“Without this information, we would not be able to go forward,’’ Warren said in an interview with The State. “These documents are pivotal in making the case.’’

In a letter to a government radiation advisory board, Warren asks that more people employed at SRS be compensated for illnesses they contracted while working there.

Warren’s request, to be discussed by the advisory board Wednesday, seeks to expand a federal compensation program by making it easier for people who worked at SRS from 1973-2007 to gain benefits for cancer the site caused.

The federal government has already made it easier for many sick workers employed before 1973 at SRS to receive compensation because of likely exposure to thorium at the site.

Those eligible for benefits could get up to $400,000 each under the federal compensation program. The program, available to sick workers at federal weapons complexes across the country, has been criticized as a bureaucratic maze of rules so tough that many deserving people have been denied benefits. Some ex-workers have died before receiving compensation, according to a McClatchy newspapers investigation last year.

“There is no reason not to expand,’’ Warren’s written comments said, noting that approving his request would make “many more workers and their survivors eligible for benefits from the … program before they die.’’

Warren said if he is successful, several thousand people who worked at SRS from 1973 to 2007 could receive benefits.

SRS is a 310-square mile federal atomic weapons site near Aiken along the Georgia border. It was a cornerstone of the nation’s Cold War nuclear weapons production effort, at times employing more than 10,000 people. Many who worked there were exposed to radiation, and some now say the exposure made them sick.

Federal officials charged with recommending whether to expand the program are expected to challenge Warren’s arguments at Wednesday’s meeting of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health. But Warren said it’s hard to dispute what he has found in more than 1,300 pages of records that the government released.

The documents, many of which were previously classified, contradict past federal justification for not expanding the compensation program, he said. The records indicate that thorium existed in notable quantities for years at SRS after 1972 – despite government arguments that it did not.

Among the documents are:

▪  Handwritten records from SRS officials showing that more than 8 tons of thorium were stored at the site in 1998.

▪ A 1982 memo from a ranking SRS official showing that thorium was among the radioactive materials the government wanted to discard.

▪  A 1976 inventory report showing about 7 tons of thorium on the site.

In addition, Warren’s comment letter to the advisory board uses the deposition of a top site official to show that the government had no bioassay medical screening program for thorium exposure before 2000.

Thorium is used in the aerospace industry and in nuclear reactions. Breathing thorium dust may cause an increased chance of lung disease as well as lung and pancreatic cancer years after being exposed, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Thorium, which is odorless and tasteless, also has been linked to bone cancer, the agency reports.

The 1,300 pages released by the government now “definitely show thorium shipments to, and in some cases from, SRS after 1972,’’ Warren’s letter says. In the past, federal health officials charged with giving the advisory board information have not provided documentation that would have helped the board recommend expanding the program to cover more recent years, he said.

The Department of Energy had no immediate comment on the thorium issue. It could be months before Warren’s request is resolved……….

Under the federal compensation program, employees sickened by numerous types of cancer at SRS and other federal weapons sites must show that the radiation they received was a significant cause of their illnesses. But the government also can declare entire classes of workers as eligible without requiring each worker to document his or her doses. The class designation can occur when individual dosage records are unavailable to workers.

Bioassy records are unavailable for individual workers to show exposure to thorium, Warren said. So Warren argues that all workers from 1973-2007 should be eligible for compensation. In 2011, he was successful in persuading the government to make workers prior to 1973 eligible for compensation because of thorium exposure.

Warren’s petition is part of a 14-year-effort to obtain compensation for people who say they were sickened by radiation at SRS. An attorney in Black Mountain, N.C., Warren is one of the few lawyers who took on SRS compensation cases, which do not pay attorneys well. He plans to retire soon because of health problems but he works with South Carolina lawyers Warren Johnson and Joshua Fester, who will continue the work.

Nationally, the government has paid more than $12 billion to sick ex-nuclear workers and their families, including those from SRS, McClatchy newspapers reported last year. The energy employees compensation program began in 2001. http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article94448307.html

August 12, 2016 Posted by | health, Legal, Reference, thorium | Leave a comment

The Thorium Nuclear Dream – a critical assessment

Thorium-dreamThorium: new and improved nuclear energy?  https://wiseinternational.org/nuclear-energy/thorium-new-and-improved-nuclear-energy

There is quite some – sometimes tiresome – rhetoric of thorium enthusiasts. Let’s call them thor-bores. Their arguments have little merit but they refuse to go away.

Here are some facts:

  • There is no “thorium reactor.” There is a proposal to use thorium as a fuel in various reactor designs including light-water reactors–as well as fast breeder reactors.
  • You still need uranium – or even plutonium – in a reactor using thorium. Thorium is not a fissile material and cannot either start or sustain a chain reaction. Therefore, a reactor using thorium would also need either enriched uranium or plutonium to initiate the chain reaction and sustain it until enough of the thorium has converted to fissile uranium (U-233) to sustain it.
  • Using plutonium sets up proliferation risks. To make a “thorium reactor” work, one must (a) mix the thorium with plutonium that has been stripped of the highly radioactive fission products; (b) use the mixed-oxide thorium-plutonium fuel in a reactor, whereby the plutonium atoms fission and produce power while the thorium atoms absorb neutrons and are turned into uranium-233 (a man-made isotope of uranium that has never existed in nature); (c) strip the fission products from the uranium-233 and mix THAT with thorium in order to continue the “cycle”. In this phase, the U-233 atoms fission and produce power while the thorium atoms absorb neutrons and generate MORE uranium-233. And so the cycle continues, generating more and more fission product wastes.
  • Uranium-233 is also excellent weapons-grade material. Unlike any other type of uranium fuel, uranium-233 is 100 percent enriched from the outset and thus is an excellent weapons-grade material and as effective as plutonium-239 for making nuclear bombs. This makes it very proliferation-prone and a tempting target for theft by criminal and terrorist organizations and for use by national governments in creating nuclear weapons.
  • Proliferation risks are not negated by thorium mixed with U-238. It has been claimed that thorium fuel cycles with reprocessing would be much less of a proliferation risk because the thorium can be mixed with uranium-238. In fact, fissile uranium-233 must first be mixed with non-fissile uranium-238. If the U-238 content is high enough, it is claimed that the mixture cannot be used to  make bombs with out uranium enrichment. However, while more U-238 does dilute the U-233, it also results in the production of more plutonium-239, so the proliferation problem remains.
  • Thorium would trigger a resumption of reprocessing in the US. In most proposed thorium fuel cycles, reprocessing is required to separate out the U-233 for use in fresh fuel. Reprocessing chemically separates plutonium and uranium and creates a large amount of so-called low-level but still highly radioactive liquid, gaseous and solid wastes.
  • Using thorium does not eliminate the problem of long-lived radioactive waste. Fission of thorium creates long-lived fission products including technetium-99 (half-life of over 200,000 years). Without reprocessing, thorium-232 is itself extremely long-lived (half-life of 14 billion years) and its decay products will build up over time in irradiated fuel. Therefore, in addition to all the fission products produced, the irradiated fuel is also quite radiotoxic. Wastes that pose long-term hazards are also produced at the “front end” of the thorium fuel cycle during mining, just as with the uranium fuel cycle.
  • Attempts to develop “thorium reactors” have failed for decades. No commercial “thoriumreactor” exists anywhere in the world. India has been attempting, without success, to develop a thorium breeder fuel cycle for decades. Other countries including the US and Russia have researched the development of thorium fuel for more than half a century without overcoming technical complications.
  • Fabricating “thorium fuel” is dangerous to health.  The process involves the production of U-232 which is extremely radioactive and very dangerous in small quantities. The inhalation of a unit of radioactivity of thorium-232 or thorium-228 produces a far higher dose than the inhalation of uranium containing the same amount of radioactivity. A single particle in the lung would exceed legal radiation standards for the general public.
  • Fabricating “thorium fuel” is expensive. The thorium fuel cycle would be more expensive than the uranium fuel cycle. Using a traditional light-water (once-through) reactor, thorium fuel would need both uranium enrichment (or plutonium separation) and thorium target rod production. Using a breeder reactor makes costly reprocessing necessary.
The bottom line is this.Thorium reactors still produce high-level radioactive waste. They still pose problems and opportunities for the proliferation of nuclear weapons. They still present opportunities for catastrophic accident scenarios–as potential targets of terrorist or military attack, for example. Proponents of thorium reactors argue that all of these risks are somewhat reduced in comparison with the conventional plutonium breeder concept. Whether this is true or not, the fundamental problems associated with nuclear power have by no means been eliminated.

May 2, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, thorium | Leave a comment

Nuclear industry up to their old tricks, spruiking “new nuclear”

Thorium reactors Some enthusiasts prefer fueling reactors with thorium – an element 3x as abundant as uranium but even more uneconomic to use. India has for decades failed to commercialize breeder reactors to exploit its thorium deposits.

But thorium can’t fuel a reactor by itself: rather, a uranium- or plutonium-fueled reactor can convert thorium-232 into fissionable (and plutonium-like, highly bomb-usable) uranium-233. Thorium’s proliferation [8], waste, safety, and cost problems differ only in detail from uranium’s: e.g., thorium ore makes less mill waste, but highly radioactive U-232 makes fabricating or reprocessing U-233 fuel hard and costly.

nuclear-dream-1

‘New’ nuclear reactors? Same old story, Ecologist, Amory Lovins 12th April 2016 The nuclear industry is forever reinventing itself with one brilliant ‘new’ idea after another, Amory Lovins wrote in this classic 2009 essay. But whether it’s touting the wonders of future SMRs, IFRs or LFTRs, the reality never changes: the reactors they are building right now are over time, over budget and beset by serious, entirely unforeseen technical problems….. Continue reading

April 15, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, reprocessing, technology, thorium | Leave a comment