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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 Our bone marrow data is still unpublished, but we hope to publish it separately.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/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The DOE determined that this building had:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illegal transport of thorium at Georgia’s border with Armenia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three-stage programme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ocean energy

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

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

For sure, ocean energy is costly today.

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

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

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

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

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

DOE Accepts Reimbursement Claims for Uranium, Thorium Processing Remediation

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

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

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

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

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

Future is not looking good for thorium nuclear reactors

the millions in subsidies thorium will require to become commercially viable would be better spent on solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.

Can Thorium Offer a Safer Nuclear Future?  Thomas net by David Sims.    

Nuclear energy has numerous advantages, but there are drawbacks as well: nuclear waste poses a significant environmental threat, meltdowns are a possibility and nuclear materials can be used to create weapons of mass destruction.

However, advocates of using thorium as a nuclear fuel instead of uranium point out that it solves many of these problems……. (unsuitable for nuclear weapons, wastes last less long, can’t melt down )

If it’s so great, why aren’t we using it?  When nuclear power was being developed in the 1950s, it was part of a broader Cold War strategy. Governments were paying for the research and it was in their interest to develop uranium as the primary nuclear fuel because it could also be used in weapons development.

However, critics of the thorium alternative point out that it’s more expensive than uranium because it can’t sustain a reaction by itself and must be bombarded with neutrons. Uranium can be left alone in a reaction, while thorium must be constantly prodded to keep reacting. Although this allows for safer reactions (if the power goes out it simply deactivates), it’s a more expensive process.

Thorium is a popular academic alternative: in the lab it works well, but it hasn’t been successfully — or profitably — used on a commercial scale yet.

Current Usage of ThoriumIndia is the market leader in trying to harness thorium for the energy grid. It has the largest proven thorium reserves and the world’s only operating thorium reactor, Kakrapar-1, a converted conventional pressurized water reactor. China is working to develop the technology as well, while the United States, France and Britain are studying its viability.

Flibe Energy, which is based in Huntsville, Alabama, recently noted the company is looking to establish a liquid fluoride thorium reactor in the U.S. within the next decade, with Wyoming as a possible location.

Proponents of renewable energy concede that thorium is preferable to uranium, but argue that the millions in subsidies thorium will require to become commercially viable would be better spent on solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.

While nuclear advocates are more hospitable to thorium, they are hesitant to put all their eggs in one basket at this point. The element hasn’t shown itself to be feasible as a profitable commercial energy source, whereas uranium has. Despite a history of reactor meltdowns and near-meltdowns, there’s a renewed emphasis on nuclear power in the world today, and nuclear industry advocates don’t see now as the time to try an unproven alternative.

The bottom line is that when it comes to thorium versus uranium, thorium is more abundant, as well as cleaner and safer, but given current capabilities, it produces more expensive energy than uranium and still leads to environmental waste issues.

Thorium could be part of the answer to the world’s energy needs, but it currently lacks a track record of cost-effective energy generation. In the meantime, nations like China and India are taking the lead in developing thorium-based nuclear systems. https://news.thomasnet.com/featured/can-thorium-offer-a-safer-nuclear-future/

February 23, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, technology, thorium | Leave a comment

Radioactive poisoning by the world’s military – the scandalous case of Sardinia

How paradise island Sardinia was poisoned by the world’s military | Foreign Correspondent  

 

Italian military officials’ trial ignites suspicions of links between weapon testing and birth defects in Sardinia https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-29/sardinia-military-weapons-testing-birth-defects/10759614

Key points:

  • Eight former commanders of a bombing range are before Italian courts
  • Locals living near Quirra firing range describe multiple cases of deformities and cancer as “Quirra syndrome”
  • Italy’s army has dismissed a report linking exposure to Depleted Uranium to disease suffered by the military
  • Watch the full episode on ABC iview

“She died in my arms. My whole world collapsed. I knew she was sick, but I wasn’t ready.”

Her daughter, Maria Grazia, was born on the Italian island of Sardinia with part of her brain exposed and a spine so disfigured her mother has never allowed her photo to be published.

This was only one of many mysterious cases of deformity, cancer and environmental destruction that have come to be called the “Quirra syndrome”.

Eight Italian military officers — all former commanders of the bombing range at Quirra in Sardinia — have been hauled before the courts.

It’s unprecedented to see Italian military brass held to account for what many Sardinians say is a scandalous coverup of a major public health disaster with international consequences.

Bombs and birth defects — is there a link?

In the year baby Maria Grazia was born, one in four of the children born in the same town, on the edge of the Quirra firing range, also suffered disabilities.

Some mothers chose to abort rather than give birth to a deformed child.

In her first television interview, Maria Teresa told Foreign Correspondent of hearing bombs exploding at the Quirra firing range when she was pregnant.

Enormous clouds of red dust enveloped her village.

Later, health authorities were called in to study an alarming number of sheep and goats being born with deformities.

Shepherds in the area had routinely grazed their animals on the firing range.

“Lambs were born with eyes in the back of their heads,” said veterinary scientist Giorgio Mellis, one of the research team.

“I had never seen anything like it.”

One farmer told him of his horror: “I was too scared to enter the barn in the mornings … they were monstrosities you didn’t want to see.”

Researchers also found an alarming 65 per cent of the shepherds of Quirra had cancer.

The news hit Sardinia hard. It reinforced their worst fears while also challenging their proud international reputation as a place of unrivalled natural beauty.

The military hit back, with one former commander of the Quirra base saying on Swiss TV that birth defects in animals and children came from inbreeding.

“They marry between cousins, brothers, one another,” General Fabio Molteni claimed, without evidence.

“But you cannot say it or you will offend the Sardinians.”

General Molteni is one of the former commanders now on trial.

Years of investigation and legal inquiry led to the six generals and two colonels being charged with breaching their duty of care for the health and safety of soldiers and civilians.

After repeated attempts, Foreign Correspondent was refused interviews with senior Italian military officials and the Defence Minister.

Governments earning money by renting out ranges

Sardinia has hosted the war games of armed forces from the west and other countries since sizable areas of its territory were sectioned off after World War II.

Rome is reported to make around $64,000 an hour from renting out the ranges to NATO countries and others including Israel.

Getting precise information about what has been blown up, tested or fired at the military sites and by which countries is almost impossible, according to Gianpiero Scanu, the head of a parliamentary inquiry that reported last year.

Many, including current Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta, have previously accused the Italian military of maintaining a “veil of silence”.

Speaking exclusively to the ABC, chief prosecutor for the region, Biagio Mazzeo, said he is “convinced” of a direct link between the cancer clusters at Quirra and the toxicity of the elements being blown up at the defence base.

But prosecuting the case against the military comes up against a major hurdle.

“Unfortunately, proving what we call a causality link — that is, a link between a specific incident and specific consequences — is extremely difficult,” Mr Mazzeo said.

What is being used on the bases?

A recent parliamentary inquiry revealed that 1,187 French-made MILAN missiles had been fired at Quirra.

This has focussed attention on radioactive thorium as a suspect in the health crisis.

It’s used in the anti-tank missiles’ guidance systems. Inhaling thorium dust is known to increase the risk of lung and pancreatic cancer.

Another suspect is depleted uranium. The Italian military has denied using this controversial material, which increases the armour-piercing capability of weapons.

But that’s a fudge, according to Osservatorio Militare, which campaigns for the wellbeing of Italian soldiers.

“The firing ranges of Sardinia are international,” said Domenico Leggiero, the research centre’s head and former air force pilot.

Whatever is blown up on the island’s firing ranges, it’s the fine particles a thousand times smaller than a red blood cell that are being blamed for making people sick.

These so-called “nanoparticles” are a new frontier in scientific research.

They’ve been shown to penetrate through the lung and into a human body with ease.

Italian biomedical engineer Dr Antonietta Gatti gave evidence to four parliamentary inquiries.

She has suggested a possible link between disease and industrial exposure to nanoparticles of certain heavy metals.

The World Health Organisation says a causal link is yet to be conclusively established and more scientific research needs to be done.

Dr Gatti said armaments had the potential to generate dangerous nanoparticles in fine dust because they are routinely exploded or fired at more than 3,000 degrees Celsius.

Inquiry confirms causal links

In what was labelled a “milestone”, a two-year parliamentary investigation into the health of the armed forces overseas and at the firing ranges made a breakthrough finding.

“We have confirmed the causal link between the unequivocal exposure to depleted uranium and diseases suffered by the military,” the inquiry’s head, then centre-left government MP Gianpiero Scanu, announced.

The Italian military brass dismissed the report but are now fighting for their international reputation in the court at Quirra where the eight senior officers are now on trial.

The ABC understands commanders responsible for another firing range in Sardinia’s south at Teulada could soon also face charges of negligence as police conclude a two-year investigation.

Until now the military has been accused of acting with impunity.

Perhaps their reckoning has come.

 

February 4, 2019 Posted by | children, depleted uranium, Italy, Reference, thorium | 1 Comment

Thorium Molten Salt Nuclear reactor (MSR) No Better Than Uranium Process

The safety issue is also not resolved, as stated above: pressurized water leaking from the steam generator into the hot, radioactive molten salt will explosively turn to steam and cause incredible damage.  The chances are great that the radioactive molten salt would be discharged out of the reactor system and create more than havoc.  Finally, controlling the reaction and power output, finding materials that last safely for 3 or 4 decades, and consuming vast quantities of cooling water are all serious problems.  

The greatest problem, though, is likely the scale-up by a factor of 500 to 1, from the tiny project at ORNL to a full-scale commercial plant with 3500 MWth output.   Perhaps these technical problems can be overcome, but why would anyone bother to try, knowing in advance that the MSR plant will be uneconomic due to huge construction costs and operating costs, plus will explode and rain radioactive molten salt when (not if) the steam generator tubes leak.

The Truth About Nuclear Power – Part 28, Sowells Law Blog , 14 July 2014 Thorium MSR No Better Than Uranium Process, 

Preface   This article, number 28 in the series, discusses nuclear power via a thorium molten-salt reactor (MSR) process.   (Note, this is also sometimes referred to as LFTR, for Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor)   The thorium MSR is frequently trotted out by nuclear power advocates, whenever the numerous drawbacks to uranium fission reactors are mentioned.   To this point in the TANP series, uranium fission, via PWR or BWR, has been the focus.  Some critics of TANP have already stated that thorium solves all of those problems and therefore should be vigorously pursued.  Some of the critics have stated that Sowell obviously has never heard of thorium reactors.   Quite the contrary, I am familiar with the process and have serious reservations about the numerous problems with thorium MSR.

It is interesting, though, that nuclear advocates must bring up the MSR process.  If the uranium fission process was any good at all, there would be no need for research and development of any other type of process, such as MSR and fusion. Continue reading

October 5, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, technology, thorium | 1 Comment

Thorium nuclear reactors and their ability to produce nuclear weapons material

The half-lives of the protactinium isotopes work in the favor of potential proliferators. Because protactinium 232 decays faster than protactinium 233, the isotopic purity of protactinium 233 increases as time passes. If it is separated from its uranium decay products a second time, this protactinium will decay to equally pure uranium 233 over the next few months. With careful attention to the relevant radiochemistry, separation of protactinium from the uranium in spent thorium fuel has the potential to generate uranium 233 with very low concentrations of uranium 232—a product suitable for making nuclear weapons. 

Thorium power has a protactinium problem https://thebulletin.org/2018/08/thorium-power-has-a-protactinium-problem/ By Eva C. Uribe, August 6, 2018  In 1980, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) observed that protactinium, a chemical element generated in thorium reactors, could be separated and allowed to decay to isotopically pure uranium 233—suitable material for making nuclear weapons. The IAEA report, titled “Advanced Fuel Cycle and Reactor Concepts,” concluded that the proliferation resistance of thorium fuel cycles “would be equivalent to” the uranium/plutonium fuel cycles of conventional civilian nuclear reactors, assuming both included spent fuel reprocessing to isolate fissile material.

Decades later, the story changed. “Th[orium]-based fuels and fuel cycles have intrinsic proliferation resistance,” according to the IAEA in 2005. Mainstream media have repeated this view ever since, often without caveat. Several scholars have recognized the inherent proliferation risk of protactinium separations in the thorium fuel cycle, but the perception that thorium reactors cannot be used to make weapons persists. While technology has advanced, the fundamental radiochemistry that governs nuclear fuel reprocessing remains unchanged. Thus, this shift in perspective is puzzling and reflects a failure to recognize the importance of protactinium radiochemistry in thorium fuel cycles. 

Protactinium turns 100. The importance of protactinium chemistry for obtaining highly attractive fissile material from thorium has been recognized since the 1940s. However, the story really begins 100 years ago during the earliest research on natural radioactivity. In 1918, Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner and German chemist Otto Hahn were on a quest to discover the long-lived isotope of “eka-tantalum” predicted to lie between thorium and uranium in the periodic table. The isotope they sought would decay to actinium, which was always found with uranium but was known to be the parent of an unknown natural radioactive decay chain distinct from that of uranium 238, the most common isotope of uranium found in nature.

Meitner and Hahn discovered that treating pitchblende with nitric acid yielded an insoluble fraction of silica that associated with tantalum and eka-tantalum. After many years, they purified enough eka-tantalum for identification and measured its properties. As discoverers of eka-tantalum’s longest-lived isotope, Meitner and Hahn named this new element protactinium. They had isolated protactinium 231, a member of the uranium 235 decay chain. In 1938, they discovered that protactinium 233 could be produced by neutron irradiation of thorium 232, the most abundant isotope in naturally occurring thorium.

For the next several decades, protactinium was shrouded in “mystery and witchcraft” due to its scarcity in nature and its perplexing chemical properties. We now know that protactinium’s peculiar chemistry is due to its position in the periodic table, which lends the element vastly different chemical properties than its neighbors. Protactinium behaves so differently from thorium and uranium that, under many conditions, their separation is inevitable.
Scientists did not investigate the macroscopic chemistry of protactinium until the Manhattan Project. In 1942, Glenn T. Seaborg, John W. Gofman, and R. W. Stoughton discovered uranium 233 and observed its propensity to fission. Compared with naturally occurring uranium 235, uranium 233 has a lower critical mass, which means that less material can be used to build a weapon. And compared with weapons-grade plutonium 239, uranium 233 has a much lower spontaneous fission rate, enabling simpler weapons that are more easily constructed. A 1951 report by the Manhattan Project Technical Section describes extensive efforts devoted to the production of uranium 233 via neutron irradiation of thorium 232. Because the initial thorium feed material was often contaminated with natural uranium 238, the scientists obtained pure uranium 233 by using a variety of methods for separating the intermediate protactinium 233.

By this time, advances in technology and projections of uranium shortages stimulated interest in developing a breeder reactor, which produces more fissile material than it consumes. In the late 1960s, a team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory designed a Molten Salt Breeder Reactor fueled by thorium and uranium dissolved in fluoride salts, but it could only breed uranium 233 by continuously removing impurities—including protactinium 233—from the reactor core. To improve breeding ratios, the researchers investigated methodsfor removing protactinium from the molten fluoride salts.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter banned commercial reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, citing concerns with the proliferation of technology that could be used to make nuclear weapons. And with the high startup costs of developing new reactors, there would be no place for the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor in the energy market. With the end of research on thorium reactors came the end of ambitious research on protactinium separations. Over time, the role of protactinium in obtaining weaponizable uranium 233 from thorium was largely forgotten or dismissed by the thorium community.

Thorium reactors born again. Fast forward to 2018. Several nations have explored thorium power for their nuclear energy portfolios. Foremost among these is India. Plagued by perennial uranium shortages, but possessing abundant thorium resources, India is highly motivated to develop thorium reactors that can breed uranium 233. India now operates the only reactor fueled by uranium 233, the Kalpakkam Mini reactor (better known as KAMINI).

Thorium reactors have other potential advantages. They could produce fewer long-lived radioactive isotopes than conventional nuclear reactors, simplifying the disposal of nuclear waste. Molten salt reactors offer potential improvements in reactor safety. Additionally, there is the persistent perception that thorium reactors are intrinsically proliferation-resistant.

The uranium 233 produced in thorium reactors is contaminated with uranium 232, which is produced through several different neutron absorption pathways. Uranium 232 has a half-life of 68.9 years, and its daughter radionuclides emit intense, highly penetrating gamma rays that make the material difficult to handle. A person standing 0.5 meters from 5 kilograms of uranium 233 containing 500 parts per million of uranium 232, one year after it has been separated from the daughters of uranium 232, would receive a dose that exceeds the annual regulatory limits for radiological workers in less than an hour. Therefore, uranium 233 generated in thorium reactors is “self-protected,” as long as uranium 232 levels are high enough. However, the extent to which uranium 232 provides adequate protection against diversion of uranium 233 is debatable. Uranium 232 does not compromise the favorable fissile material properties of uranium 233, which is categorized as “highly attractive” even in the presence of high levels of uranium 232. Uranium 233 becomes even more attractive if uranium 232 can be decreased or eliminated altogether. This is where the chemistry of protactinium becomes important.

Protactinium in the thorium fuel cycle. There are three isotopes of protactinium produced when thorium 232 is irradiated. Protactinium 231, 232, and 233 are produced either through thermal or fast neutron absorption reactions with various thorium, protactinium, and uranium isotopes. Protactinium 231, 232, and 233 are intermediates in the reactions that eventually form uranium 232 and uranium 233. Protactinium 232 decays to uranium 232 with a half-life of 1.3 days. Protactinium 233 decays to uranium 233 with a half-life of 27 days. Protactinium 231 is a special case: It does not directly decay to uranium, but in the presence of neutrons it can absorb a neutron and become protactinium 232.

Neutron absorption reactions only occur in the presence of a neutron flux, inside or immediately surrounding the reactor core. Radioactive decay occurs whether or not neutrons are present. For irradiated thorium, the real concern lies in separating protactinium from uranium, which may already have significant levels of uranium 232. Production of protactinium 232 ceases as soon as protactinium is removed from the neutron flux, but protactinium 232 and 233 continue to decay to uranium 232 and 233, respectively.

The half-lives of the protactinium isotopes work in the favor of potential proliferators. Because protactinium 232 decays faster than protactinium 233, the isotopic purity of protactinium 233 increases as time passes. If it is separated from its uranium decay products a second time, this protactinium will decay to equally pure uranium 233 over the next few months. With careful attention to the relevant radiochemistry, separation of protactinium from the uranium in spent thorium fuel has the potential to generate uranium 233 with very low concentrations of uranium 232—a product suitable for making nuclear weapons.
Scenarios for proliferation. Although thorium is commonly associated with molten salt reactors, it can be used in any reactor. Several types of fuel cycles enable feasible, rapid reprocessing to extract protactinium. One is aqueous reprocessing of thorium oxide “blankets” irradiated outside the core of a heavy water reactor. Many heavy water reactors include on-power fueling, which means that irradiated thorium can be removed quickly and often, without shutting the reactor down. As very little fission would occur in the blanket material, its radioactivity would be lower than that of spent fuel from the core, and it could be reprocessed immediately.

Myriad possibilities exist for the aqueous separation of protactinium from thorium and uranium oxides, including the commonly proposed thorium uranium extraction (THOREX) process. Alternatively, once dissolved in acid, protactinium can simply be adsorbed onto glass or silica beads, exploiting the same chemical mechanism used by Meitner and Hahn to isolate protactinium from natural uranium a century ago.

Another scenario is continuous reprocessing of molten salt fuel to remove protactinium and uranium from thorium. Researchers at Oak Ridge explored the feasibility of online protactinium removal in the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor program. Uranium can then be separated from the protactinium in a second step.

Sensible safeguards. Protactinium separations provide a pathway for obtaining highly attractive weapons-grade uranium 233 from thorium fuel cycles. The difficulties of safeguarding commercial spent fuel reprocessing are significant for any type of fuel cycle, and thorium is no exception. Reprocessing creates unique safeguard challenges, particularly in India, which is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

There is little to be gained by calling thorium fuel cycles intrinsically proliferation-resistant. The best way to realize nuclear power from thorium fuel cycles is to acknowledge their unique proliferation vulnerabilities, and to adequately safeguard them against theft and misuse.

August 10, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, thorium, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Thorium nuclear power – not so great, really

Today, advocates of thorium typically point to a variety of advantages over uranium. These include fail-safe reactor operation, because most thorium reactor designs are incapable of an explosion or meltdown, as was seen at Chernobyl or Fukushima. Another is resistance to weapons proliferation, because thorium reactors create byproducts that make the fuel unsuitable for use in nuclear weapons.Other advantages include greater abundance of natural reserves of thorium, less radioactive waste and higher utilisation of fuel in thorium reactors. Thorium is often cast as “good nuclear”, while uranium gets to carry the can as “bad nuclear”.

Not so different

While compelling at first glance, the details reveal a somewhat more murky picture. The molten salt architecture which gives certain thorium reactors high intrinsic safety equally applies to proposed fourth-generation designs using uranium. It is also true that nuclear physics technicalities make thorium much less attractive for weapons production, but it is by no means impossible; the USA and USSR each tested a thorium-based atomic bomb in 1955.

Other perceived advantages similarly diminish under scrutiny. There is plenty of uranium ore in the world and hence the fourfold abundance advantage of thorium is a moot point. Producing less long-lived radioactive waste is certainly beneficial, but the vexed question remains of how to deal with it.

Stating that thorium is more efficiently consumed is the most mischievous of the claimed benefits. Fast-breeder uranium reactors have much the same fuel efficiency as thorium reactors. However, they weren’t economic as the price of uranium turned out to rather low.

May 19, 2018 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, Reference, thorium | Leave a comment

Disadvantages of thorium reactors

High start-up costs: Huge investments are needed for thorium nuclear power reactor, as it requires significant amount of testing, analysis and licensing work. Also, there is uncertainty over returns on the investments in these reactors. For utilities, this factor can weigh on the decisions to go ahead with plans to deploy the reactors. The reactors also involve high fuel fabrication and reprocessing costs.

High melting point of thorium oxide: As melting point of thorium oxide is much higher compared to that of uranium oxide, high temperatures are needed to make high density ThO2 and ThO2–based mixed oxide fuels. The fuel in nuclear fission reactors is usually based on the metal oxide.

Emission of gamma rays: Presence of Uranium-232 in irradiated thorium or thorium based fuels in large amounts is one of the major disadvantages of thorium nuclear power reactors. It can result in significant emissions of gamma rays. http://www.compelo.com/energy/news/newsmajor-pros-and-cons-of-thorium-nuclear-power-reactor-6058445/

May 19, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, thorium | Leave a comment

Swizerland’s Health Office recalls jewellery contaminated with radioactive thorium and uranium

Radioactive jewellery recalled in Switzerland  swissinfo, 7 May 18 A Swiss company has sold esoteric “negative-ion” jewellery containing high levels of uranium and thorium. The Federal Office of Public Health has written to people who have bought the jewellery, telling them to send it to the health office.

Health office spokesman Daniel Dauwalder on Monday confirmed media reports that an unnamed company had imported rock powder from China with levels of the two radioactive substances that were harmful for skin cells and the outer skin layer.

The health office said if the bracelets, necklaces and earrings were worn for several hours a day over a year, the skin’s dose threshold of 50 millisieverts could be exceeded. In the long term, the risk of skin cancer would increase, it added.

….The radioactive rock powder was discovered by German customs guards, who informed the Federal Office of Public Health.

Dauwalder said the office had already received many items of jewellery, which would be disposed of accordingly. The jewellery must not end up in the normal rubbish, the office said.https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/uranium-earrings_radioactive-jewellery-recalled-in-switzerland/44101980

 

May 9, 2018 Posted by | health, Switzerland, thorium | Leave a comment

Union of Concerned Scientists Statement on Thorium-fueled Reactors

  https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power/thorium-reactors-statement.pdf Some people advocate the use of thorium to fuel nuclear power plants. Thorium could be used in a variety of different types of reactors, including conventional light-water reactors, which are the type used in the United States. However, thorium cannot be used by itself to sustain a nuclear chain reaction: it must be used together with a fissile material such as enriched uranium, uranium-233, or plutonium.

 Nuclear reactors fueled with thorium and uranium do not provide any clear overall advantages over reactors fueled with uranium alone. All types of nuclear fuels, whether uranium- or thorium-based, generate large amounts of heat during reactor operation, and failing to effectively remove that heat will lead to serious safety problems, as was seen at Fukushima. The U.S. Department of Energy has concluded after a review that “the choice between uranium-based fuel and thorium-based fuel is seen basically as one of preference, with no fundamental difference in addressing the nuclear power issues [of waste management, proliferation risk, safety, security, economics, and sustainability].”1 However, the report also notes that “Since no infrastructure currently exists in the U.S. for thorium-based fuels, and the processing of thorium-based fuels is at a lower level of technical maturity when compared to processing of uranium-based fuels, costs and RD&D [research, development and deployment] requirements for using thorium are anticipated to be higher.”
Some people believe that liquid fluoride thorium reactors, which would use a high-temperature liquid fuel made of molten salt, would be significantly safer than current-generation reactors. However, such reactors have major flaws. There are serious safety issues associated with the retention of fission products in the fuel, and it is not clear these problems can be effectively resolved. Such reactors also present proliferation and nuclear terrorism risks because they involve the continuous separation, or “reprocessing,” of the fuel to remove fission products and to efficiently produce U-233, which is a nuclear weapon-usable material. Moreover, disposal of the used fuel has turned out to be a major challenge. Stabilization and disposal of the remains of the very small “Molten Salt Reactor Experiment” that operated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s has turned into the most technically challenging cleanup problem that Oak Ridge has faced, and the site has still not been cleaned up.

April 20, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, thorium | Leave a comment

Poor financial results for thorium power industry

Thorium Power (NASDAQ:LTBR) last released its earnings results on Thursday, March 15th. The energy company reported ($0.18) earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter. Thorium Power had a negative net margin of 4,060.00% and a negative return on equity of 118.29%. The company had revenue of $0.01 million during the quarter. https://stocknewstimes.com/2018/04/07/lightbridge-ltbr-earning-somewhat-favorable-media-coverage-study-shows.html

April 14, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, thorium | Leave a comment