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Thorium fuel has risks

Thorium fuel has risks

Simple chemical pathways open up proliferation possibilities for the proposed nuclear ‘wonder fuel’, warn Stephen F. Ashley and colleagues.

Thorium is being touted as a potential wonder fuel. Proponents believe that this element could be used in a new generation of nuclear-power plants to produce relatively safe, low-carbon energy with more resistance against potential nuclear-weapons proliferation than uranium. Although thorium offers some benefits, we contend that the public debate is too one-sided: small-scale chemical reprocessing of irradiated thorium can create an isotope of uranium that could be used in nuclear weapons, raising proliferation concerns.

Naturally-occurring thorium is made up almost entirely of thorium-232, an isotope that is unable to sustain nuclear fission. When bombarded with neutrons, thorium is converted through a series of decays into uranium-233, which is fissile and long-lived — its half-life is 160,000 years. A side product is uranium-232, which decays into other isotopes that give off intense γ-radiation that is difficult to shield against. Spent thorium fuel is typically difficult to handle and thus resistant to proliferation.

We are concerned, however, that other processes, which might be conducted in smaller facilities, could be used to convert 232Th into 233U while minimizing contamination by 232U, thus posing a proliferation threat. Notably, the chemical separation of an intermediate isotope — protactinium-233 — that decays into 233U is a cause for concern.

Thorium is not a route to a nuclear future that is free from proliferation risks. Policies should be strengthened around thorium’s use in declared nuclear activities, and greater vigilance is needed to protect against surreptitious activities involving this element.

Protactinium pathway

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September 11, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, thorium | Leave a comment

How to dispose of 50 tons of weapons-grade plutonium for 10,000 years?

The need for a long-term commitment to plutonium disposal. The Energy Department faces the daunting and unprecedented task of geologically disposing of tens of tons of weapons-grade plutonium, so it can never be used again, while ensuring its toxic dangers do not threaten the environment over a time period longer than the existence of human civilization.

March 9, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Bill Gates has another go at getting taxpayer funding, for another nuclear venture (ships this time)

Bill Gates joins nuclear-powered shipping push, Splash Sam ChambersNovember 2, 2020  Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, has turned his attention to getting ships powered by nuclear energy.

The Microsoft co-founder, who turned 65 last week, is also chairman of TerraPower, a nuclear tech company that today announced a new venture with Mikal Bøe’s CORE POWER, French nuclear materials handling specialist Orano and American utilities firm Southern Company. The four companies plan to develop molten salt reactor (MSR) atomic technology in the United States………

The four companies have submitted an application to the US Department of Energy to take part in cost-share risk reduction awards under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Programme to build a prototype MSR, as a proof-of-concept for a medium-scale commercial-grade reactor.

…….  we seek to build scale-appropriate technology and broad acceptance of modern and durable liquid-fuelled atomic power to shape the future of how we deal with climate change,” Bøe commented today…….

Thorium is a weakly radioactive metallic chemical element found most commonly in India and is a substance that Gates’ TerraPower has been studying closely of late.

Admitting the technology would not be cheap to install on ships, Bøe has proposed a leasing model for his batteries, similar to those deployed for aircraft engines………. https://splash247.com/bill-gates-joins-nuclear-powered-shipping-push/

November 3, 2020 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, thorium | Leave a comment

Thorium not likely to revive the nuclear energy industry

Could Thorium Revive The Nuclear Energy Industry?   Oil Price,  – Sep 27, 2020,………..It still remains to be seen whether the new thorium fuel will actually see the light of day.

The main sticking point to the promotion of thorium as a cleaner nuclear fuel is that it remains unproven on a commercial scale. Thorium MSRs (Molten Salt Reactors) have been in development since the 1960s by the United States, China, Russia, and France, yet nothing much ever came of them.

Nuclear radiologist Peter Karamoskos, of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has advised the world not to hold its breath:

Without exception, [thorium reactors] have never been commercially viable, nor do any of the intended new designs even remotely seem to be viable. Like all nuclear power production they rely on extensive taxpayer subsidies; the only difference is that with thorium and other breeder reactors these are of an order of magnitude greater, which is why no government has ever continued their funding.”

Nuclear power enthusiasts can only hope that ANEEL will not also fall victim to the thorium curse.

 

October 19, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, thorium | Leave a comment

Houthis are actively enriching Thorium extracted from Yemeni mountains and sending it to Iran for arms manufacture.

Yemen Official Warns of Blast Worse than Beirut’s over Houthi Smuggling of Thorium to Iran

Asharq Al-Awsat, 16 August, 2020 Jeddah – Asma al-Ghabri

The Yemen Coalition of Independent Women held a virtual seminar titled “Iranian intervention: A History of Disorder in The Arab Countries,” which tackled a variety of issues, including the Iran-backed Houthi militias’ smuggling of Thorium from Yemen to Iran.

Hodeidah Undersecretary Walid al-Qudaimi warned of the impending danger facing Yemen over the ongoing smuggling of the material.

Houthis are actively enriching Thorium extracted from Yemeni mountains and sending it to Iran for arms manufacture.

Qudaimi said that a blast worse than the one that took place at Beirut port on August 4, due to the explosion of highly-flammable ammonium nitrate, was in store for Yemen if the smuggling does not stop.

He said that Iranian proxies in the region like the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, Houthis and the Iraq-based Popular Mobilization Forces have resorted to using certain vulnerable countries to manufacture and store explosives, chemicals and missiles. …

“When we talk about Yemen, the catastrophe is very big and worse than we might expect,” he said, adding that Houthis control the ports of Hodeidah and use them to smuggle weapons and explosive materials of all kinds.

Most of these weapons and explosives are sent by Iran to help Houthi militias control Yemen and threaten neighboring Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia. They also use them to endanger maritime navigation in the Red Sea.

Qudaimi also tackled the FSO Safer oil tanker issue. Houthis have been obstructing efforts to perform maintenance work on board the derelict ship.

According to international reports, in the event of a leak or explosion in the floating reservoir, 1.1 million liters of crude oil will spill into the Red Sea.

This will cause serious damage to marine life, biodiversity and fish resources that cannot be compensated, in addition to the suspension of ports and international shipping lines in the region. https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/2450796/yemen-official-warns-blast-worse-beirut%E2%80%99s-over-houthi-smuggling-thorium-iran

August 17, 2020 Posted by | MIDDLE EAST, thorium | Leave a comment

Thorium nuclear plan with USA firm – a dubious deal for Indonesia

July 30, 2020 Posted by | Indonesia, thorium | Leave a comment

Canada on verge of investing in plutonium

Gordon Edwards <ccnr@web.ca>\, 26 Apr 2020, It seems that the two SMNR (Small Modular Nuclear Reactor) entrepreneurs in New Brunswick (Canada), along with other nuclear “players” worldwide, are trying to revitalize the “plutonium economy” — a nuclear industry dream from the distant past that many believed had been laid to rest because of the failure of plutonium-based breeder reactors almost everywhere – e.g. USA, France, Britain, Japan …

One of the newly proposed NB SMNR prototypes, the ARC-100 reactor (100 megawatts of electricity) is a liquid sodium-cooled SMNR that is based on the 1964 EBR-2 reactor – Experimental Breeder Reactor #2. (Its predecessor, the EBR-1 breeder reactor, had a partial meltdown in 1955, and the Fermi-1 breeder reactor near Detroit, also modelled on the EBR-2, had a partial meltdown in 1966.) The ACR-100 is designed with the capability and explicit intention of reusing or recycling irradiated CANDU fuel.
The other newly proposed NB SMNR prototype is the Moltex “Stable Salt Reactor” (SSR) — also a “fast reactor”, cooled by molten salt, that is likewise intended to re-use or recycle irradiated CANDU fuel.
The “re-use” (or “recycling”) of “spent nuclear fuel”, also called “used nuclear fuel” or “irradiated nuclear fuel”, is industry code for plutonium extraction. The idea is to transition from uranium to plutonium as a nuclear fuel, because uranium supplies will not outlast dwindling oil supplies. Breeder reactors are designed to use plutonium as a fuel and create (“breed”) even more plutonium while doing so.
The only way you can re-use or recycle existing used nuclear fuel is to somehow access the unused “fissile material” in the used fuel, which means mainly plutonium.  This involves a chemical procedure called “reprocessing” which was banned in the late 1970s by the Carter administration in the USA and the first PE Trudeau administration in Canada. South Korea and Taiwan were likewise forbidden (with pressure from the US) to pursue this avenue.
Argonne Laboratories in US, and the South Korean government, have been developing (for over ten years now) a new wrinkle on the reprocessing operation which they call “pyroprocessing” in an effort to overcome the existing prohibitions on reprocessing and restart the “plutonium economy”. That phrase refers to a world whereby plutonium is the primary nuclear fuel in the future rather than natural or slightly enriched uranium. Plutonium, a derivative of uranium that does not exist in nature but is created inside every nuclear reactor fuelled with uranium, would thereby become an article of commerce.
Another wrinkle on this general ambition is the so-called “thorium cycle”. Thorium is a naturally-occurring element that can be converted (inside a nuclear reactor) into a human-made fissile material called uranium-233. This type of uranium is not found in nature. Like plutonium, uranium-233 can be used for nuclear weapons or as nuclear fuel. Although the materials are different, the ambition is the same — instead of the plutonium economy one could imagine an economy based on uranium-233.
The problems associated with both recycling schemes (the plutonium cycle and the thorium cycle) are
(1) the dangerous and polluting necessity of “opening up” the used nuclear fuel in order to extract the desired plutonium or U-233, and (2) the creation of a civilian traffic in highly dangerous materials (plutonium and U-233) that can be used by governments or criminals or terrorists to make powerful nuclear weapons without the need for terribly sophisticated or readily detectable infrastructure.
By the way, in terms of nuclear reactors (whether small or large), whenever you see the phrase “fast reactor” or “advanced reactor” or “breeder reactor” or “thorium reactor”, please be advised that such terminology is industry code for recycling — either plutonium or uranium-233.  Also, any “sodium-cooled” reactors are in this same category.
By the way, in terms of nuclear reactors (whether small or large), whenever you see the phrase “fast reactor” or “advanced reactor” or “breeder reactor” or “thorium reactor”, please be advised that such terminology is industry code for recycling — either plutonium or uranium-233.  Also, any “sodium-cooled” reactors are in this same category.

April 26, 2020 Posted by | - plutonium, Canada, Reference, reprocessing, thorium | 1 Comment

Debunking James Hansen’s claims in favour of nuclear power

John Wayne squares off against Jim Hansen, Medium,  Albert Bates, 11 Jan 2020    “……. I greatly admire James Hansen …….  What annoys me, however, about Hansen, then and now, is his insistence, in utter disregard of best science, that nuclear energy can somehow save humanity from climate change because it is clean, safe, too cheap to meter and besides all that, is carbon-free. I watched with pity more than scorn when he took his time to repeat this nonsense at the recent UN climate conference in Madrid. He mounted fallacy upon fallacy in a pyramid of lies that had been heard since the 1940s coming from the Atomic Energy Commission, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, International Atomic Energy Agency and others in thrall to the atomic devil.
Of course all of those assertions by Hansen are utter nonsense. It just goes to show that being a good climate scientist doesn’t automatically give you a doctorate in health physics. I was blessed to have met many of the world’s preeminent health physicists in the 1970s and 1980s while representing atomic victims in battles for fair compensation and writing my fifth book, Climate in Crisis: The Greenhouse Effect and What We Can Do. ………
So, when James Hansen ignorantly opines that there were no radiation fatalities from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or Fukushima and that the new generation of thorium metal reactors is inherently safe, I try to not gag ……..
 Comparing effluent to effluent, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has reported that emissions from presently licensed facilities produced under normal operating conditions will cause 1.7 million cancers and birth defects in the world population, barring accidents. That several-hundred page report was summarized in the Federal Register in 1979 (46 Fed. Reg. 39580). However, it excluded consideration of health effects from tritium, Tc-99, C-13 and 14 and other radionuclide emissions that were too inaccurate to estimate, they said.
By too inaccurate they meant that tritium is easily incorporated into water, and so passes through living cells very easily, and carbon is the building block of organic chemistry, inseparable from life, so if one were to try to measure their impact inside the human body, the mortality and morbidity rates would need to be raised orders of magnitude higher than 1.7 million. This could make nuclear power unacceptable so, for reasons having to do with their institutional DNA, the NRC was not going to do that……….
It is not difficult to debunk Thorium-141’s popular mythology using simple physics, as Drs. Arjun Makhijani and Helen Caldicott have, because thorium is not a naturally fissionable element and so must first be mixed with enriched Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239 before it can be fissioned under controlled conditions to make steam for a power plant. To do that mixing, never mind the reacting, is a dangerous, deadly, polluting and extremely expensive process generating loads of long-lasting and unrecoverable poisons. After reaction, the thorium blend leaves dangerous wastes like U-232, a potent high-energy gamma emitter that can penetrate one meter of concrete and will have to be kept safely out of our air, food, and water forever.
……… Officially, TMI caused no immediate deaths. But unofficial investigations and lawsuits claimed there were above-average rates of cancer and birth defects in the surrounding area. Anecdotal evidence among the local human population has been devastating.    Hansen would say that anecdotal evidence is not science, but when public health agencies are prohibited from doing the scientific studies that does not equate with no effects. We know from anecdotal evidence that large numbers of Pennsylvanians suffered skin sores and lesions that erupted while they were out of doors as the fallout rained down on them. Many quickly developed large, visible tumors, breathing problems, and a metallic taste in their mouths that matched that experienced by victims of Hiroshima, or who were exposed to nuclear tests in the South Pacific, Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Nevada.
Approximately 2 million people in the immediate area were exposed to doses that were sub-lethal for early exposure, but the latent genetic effects have been calculated, by Gofman among others, to cause life-shortening in the global population for perhaps one million people. Moreover, there is reason to suspect the doses those estimates are based upon were much lower than what may have actually occurred and gone unreported. Entire bee hives expired immediately after the accident, along with a disappearance of birds, many of whom were found scattered dead on the ground. A rash of malformed pets were born and stillborn, including kittens that could not walk and a dog with no eyes. Reproductive rates among the region’s cows and horses plummeted. The state and federal governments did nothing to track the health histories of the region’s residents. Instead, they significantly understated the scale of the release and the magnitude of the exposures, as later peer reviewed studies showed.
A National Institute of Health study in 1998 found “Results support the hypothesis that radiation doses are related to increased cancer incidence around TMI.”
Harvey Wasserman, writing for Common Dreams, said: “Meanwhile, the death toll from America’s worst industrial catastrophe continues to rise. More than ever, it is shrouded in official lies and desecrated by a reactor-pushing “renaissance” hell-bent on repeating the nightmare on an even larger scale.”
 ……….one thing for certain that can never be said of nuclear energy is that it is carbon neutral. Once you take into account the entire nuclear fuel cycle from exploration and mining, shipment of ores from Africa and China, milling, enrichment to fuel grade (enough gas and coal energy goes into that to power Australia), power generation, fuel removal and waste disposal, the fossil fuel footprint is so enormous as to be well beyond any suggestion of carbon neutrality.
[Here follows a long discussion on Marie curie, and then on John Wayne]
……… Declassified health physics reports from the Manhattan Project indicate that the senior scientists believed at least as early as 1945 that:

“. . . the genetic effect has no threshold and exposure is not only cumulative in the individual, but in succeeding generations. On this basis, there would be no tolerance dose, but rather an acceptable injury-limit.”[Parker, H.M., Instrument ation and Radiation Protection (March, 1947), Health Physics, 38:957,970, June 1980]

and:

“Even sub-tolerance radiations produce certain biological changes (cosmic rays are supposed to have some biological effects), so tolerance radiation is not what one strives to get but the maximum permissible dose.”[Morgan, K.Z., The Responsibilities of Health Physics, The Scientific Monthly, 93 (August 1946); reprinted in Health Physics 38:949–952, June 1980.]

The question of what percentage of the population can be acceptably damaged came first to the attention of the AEC at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Biology and Medicine on January 16–19,1957. At this meeting the AEC advisors determined that a 20 percent increase in the rate of bone cancers and birth defects nationwide would be an “acceptable” effect of U.S. nuclear weapons testing activities. These scientists also acknowledged at this time that the long-term genetic effects were totally unknown.

The historical record indicates that prominent radiologists, health physicists, and geneticists of the time recognized even at the outset of America’s atomic power program that any large population exposure to even very minute amounts of ionizing radiation could create lingering public health problems and genetic damage, and these scientists went to some lengths, including sacrificing their own illustrious careers, to express their views publicly. [ long list of references given here]

[ discusses Fukushima]

….. atmospheric physicists should not opine on health physics. There is no dose of radiation below which there is not a negative biological effect. Indeed, there is a “superlinear” ratio of dose to effect at low doses, because doses that do not kill a cell cause genetic damage that is a larger health threat than dead cells, so humans and animals exposed to low doses are at greater health risk than those exposed to higher doses.

While there are hundreds of different radioactive isotopes within a nuclear reactor, the isotope Cesium-137 is easily measured and has become a standard by which to calculate impacts. During the two-day accident, 18 quadrillion becquerels of cesium were released into the Pacific (18 with 15 zeros). A typical abdominal or pelvic CT scan (the most often performed) is 14–18 thousandths of a becquerel, so during the accident the cesium dose to the environment was the same as about 1 quintillion (1 with 18 zeros) CT scans (repeated every second, continuously, for the next 300 to 600 years). Depending on the type of scan and the age and sex of the patient, a single CT scan will produce 1 cancer for 150 to 3300 exposures, or a median risk of 10 cancers per becquerel (or seivert).  [table here on original]

By that calculation, the cesium released during the Fukushima accident was capable of causing roughly 10 quadrillion cancers, but with one important difference.
When you receive radiation treatment like a CT-scan it is sudden and one-off. One second. The technician presses the button and it is on and then off. There is no danger from the machine when it is off. When radioactive elements like cesium-137 (and remember that is just one of hundreds of elements in a nuclear reactor) are released to the environment, there is no off-switch. Thus, the cesium released during the Fukushima accident is capable of roughly 10 quadrillion cancers per second. Inhaling or ingesting it can kill a person, a dolphin or a seagull, but then as the individual’s body decomposes after death — as bacteria, worms and fungi eat away the flesh and bone — the isotope goes back into the food chain to strike another individual, and another, and so on. The danger is limited only by the isotope’s half-life — the time it takes to decay to a harmless element, which for cesium-137 is 30.17 years. Scientists generally use 10 or 20 half-lives to bracket safety concerns, so for cesium 137, “safe” levels arrive in 302 to 604  years (around year 2322 to year 2624), admittedly an imperfect measurement since any residue, no matter how microscopic, may still be lethal, as we have known since before the Manhattan Project. Cesium is one of 256 radionuclides released during Fukushima, so we would need to calculate quantities, biological effectiveness, and the decay time of each of those to get the full health picture. Other isotopes in the Fukushima fuel include Uranium-235, with a half-life of 704 million years, and Uranium-238, with a half-life of 4.47 billion years, or longer than the age of the Earth.
At Fukushima, the end of the accident was not the end of the story. In 2013, 30 billion becquerels of cesium-137 were still flowing into the ocean every day from the damaged and leaking reactor cores. That is 300 billion cancer doses per second of man-made cesium added every day, or 109.5 trillion cancer doses per second added every year. To stop this assault on ocean life, and our own, over the next 5 years the owner of the plant constructed more than 1000 tanks to hold contaminated water away from the ocean. In September 2019, the Japanese government announced that more than one million tons were in storage but that space would run out by the summer of 2022 so it planned to begin releasing those billions of bequerels to the ocean again.

Swimmers and sailors who plan to compete in open water events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics might want to think about that, as might any who fish those waters or consume the catch.

What happens to ocean creatures who ingest radionuclides from leaking nuclear power plants is not very different from what happened to John Wayne, his sons and his co-stars. As the isotopes decay within the body of a dolphin or a coral polyp they send microscopic bullets hurling through DNA chains, causing tumors, sicknesses, defective offspring and death for untold generations. The chance that a single mutation will produce a beneficial result are less than one in a million. Radioactivity is, for practical purposes, forever, as we can see just by looking up at our Sun, a benevolent nuclear reactor providing us energy from the relatively safe distance of 93 million miles.

Even that radiation will kill a number of us, but far fewer than would die if, by some devilish plan or panic response, we follow Dr. Hansen’s advice. https://medium.com/@albertbates/john-wayne-squares-off-against-jim-hansen-42a258b2260d

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Reference, spinbuster, thorium | Leave a comment

Thorium and uranium pollution from Rio Tinto’s Madagascar mine

January 6, 2020 Posted by | environment, OCEANIA, thorium | Leave a comment

Kyrgyzstan bans uranium, thorium mining

Above – radioactive tailings mountain in Central Asia

December 21, 2019 Posted by | ASIA, environment, politics, thorium, Uranium | Leave a comment

Busting the false claims of the thorium nuclear lobby

Fact-check: Five claims about thorium made by Andrew Yang, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , By John KrzyzaniakNicholas R. Brown, December 18, 2019   Andrew Yang, like many of the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, has an ambitious plan to wean America off of fossil fuels. Unlike many of the other candidates, however, a key piece of his plan to address climate change involves harnessing nuclear power—in particular thorium. According to Yang, thorium is “superior to uranium on many levels.” But Yang isn’t alone; thorium boosters have been extolling its supposed virtues for years.

Do the claims about thorium actually hold up? The Bulletin reached out to Nicholas R. Brown, an associate professor in the department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Tennessee, to examine five common claims about thorium and next-generation nuclear reactors. Brown’s responses are below.

…….. the public has good reason to be skeptical that thorium can or should play any role in the future.

Claim: Thorium reactors would be more economical than traditional uranium reactors, particularly because thorium is more abundant than uranium, has more energy potential than uranium, and doesn’t have to be enriched.

False. Although thorium is more abundant than uranium, the cost of uranium is a small fraction of the overall cost of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy economics are driven by the capital cost of the plant, and building a power plant with a thorium reactor is no cheaper than building a power plant with a uranium reactor. Further, using thorium in existing reactors is technically possible, but it would not provide any clear commercial benefit and would require other new infrastructure.

Additionally, there is technically no such thing as a thorium reactor. Thorium has no isotopes that readily fission to produce energy. So thorium is not usable as a fuel directly, but is instead a fertile nucleus that can be converted to uranium in a reactor. Only after conversion to uranium does thorium become useful as a nuclear fuel. So, even for a reactor that would use thorium within its fuel cycle, most energy produced would actually come from uranium fissions.

Claim: Next generation thorium reactors would be safer than current reactors.

True but misleading.……. the benefits are a function of the inherent safety in the next-generation designs, not the utilization of thorium.

Claim: The waste from thorium reactors would be easier to deal with than waste from today’s uranium reactors.

False. A comprehensive study from the US Energy Department in 2014 found that waste from thorium-uranium fuel cycles has similar radioactivity at 100 years to uranium-plutonium fuel cycles, and actually has higher waste radioactivity at 100,000 years.

Claim: Thorium would be more proliferation-resistant than current reactors—you can’t make nuclear weapons out of it.

False. A 2012 study funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration found that the byproducts of a thorium fuel cycle, in particular uranium 233, can potentially be attractive material for making nuclear weapons. A 2012 study published in Nature from the University of Cambridge also concluded that thorium fuel cycles pose significant proliferation risks…

https://thebulletin.org/2019/12/fact-check-five-claims-about-thorium-made-by-andrew-yang/

December 21, 2019 Posted by | spinbuster, thorium | Leave a comment

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