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Thorium Not the Nuclear “Wonder-Fuel” Once Supposed

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Thorium, once believed to be a nuclear wonder fuel, might not actually be as miraculous as first thought. In fact, nuclear energy specialists wrote in the journal Nature that the promotion of thorium as a superior fuel for future nuclear energy is unwise since it not proliferation-resistant, as once thought.

Experts determined that thorium can be produced covertly and produce small quantities of uranium-233, which is used in nuclear weapons. In fact, this process could most likely be undertaken with standard laboratory equipment, making it easy to produce uranium-233 covertly without oversight from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or related organizations.

Thorium is widely seen as an alternative nuclear fuel source to uranium. It is thought to be three to four times more naturally abundant, with substantial deposits spread around the world. Some countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, are exploring its potential use as fuel in civil nuclear energy programs.

Experts argue that the most likely security threat is from potential proliferator states, and they strongly recommend that the IAEA should perform the appropriate monitoring of thorium-related nuclear technologies for deterrence.

The report also calls for measures to control the short-term irradiation of thorium-based materials with neutrons, and for the elimination of in-plant reprocessing of thorium-based fuels.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Since “Guest” posted a link to Simplyinfo, I though I might look at some of the other fine articles on that site, it is after all an anti nuclear site.
     
    On the recent “New Renewable Energy Output in Japan Matches One Nuclear Reactor ” article it says that new REs match the output of 1 nuclear reactor. Well a 1GWe reactor produces perhaps 7680GWh ever year, minus a few percent for refueling.
     
    The new renewables mostly solar at over 90% added up to 1.15GW too, or did it. Well solar is always sold and described in the press as nameplate, as if the Sun shines 24/7. It has to be derated by a factor of 6-11 depending on the location. For Japan it might be about 6 so the true output of this new solar capacity is only 1/6 of a nuclear power plant. For Germany it is 8.5.
     
    This is what we are dealing with, greens have the ability to ignore or misunderstand huge details such as capacity factor and costs per W and costs per kWh, and to ignore basic science that is easy to look up on Wikipedia, oh well.

  2. Thorium is just another example of nuclear “snake oil” from pro-nuclear zealots trying to hang onto their cash cows.
     
    Simplyinfo.org has a good article on thorium, and in the Nuclear Issues Forum at www dot enenews dot com there are tons of links on the negatives of Thorium.

      • “Thorium, Not the Nuclear Savior Claimed”
         
        This article is complete nonsense written by someone with a very poor knowledge of basic physics, radiation or any type of nuclear reactor. It does not even meet high school science grade.
         
        He is so confused it is difficult to know where to begin. It is rebutted by every single comment and not supported by any. The commenters all seem to be scientists or people with a good knowledge of Thorium and nuclear in general.
         
        People should read the article for fun and see what the scientists have to say to the poor author.
         
        I am sure I have seen some of the sentences in that article in several comments elsewhere, esp the “liquid sodium reactor”. Me thinks the greens think they have an expert on hand.

    • The article is total bunk demonstrating a complete lack of basic knowledge of physics and of how any reactors or radiation even works, it is difficult to know where to start. It doesn’t even meet high school science grade.
       
      The comments on that article do a fantastic job of rebutting it though, and there are no supporting comments.
       
      So please if you have any doubts about Thorium esp LFTR, DO read the nonsense in the article and enjoy the comments which appear to all come from actual scientists or people who are very familiar with the science.
       
      I’m sure I have seen snips of this article show up in less learned comments all over the place, so there are multiple campaigns afoot to snub out Thorium.
       
      see “energy from thorium”
      also “without the hot air” by Dr David MacKay is a great read on energy use and production

  3. I have seen this pop up all over so it’s being distributed by somebody with an agenda. I truly believe this is anti-thorium misinformation posted by folks who have a vested interest in perpetuating the uranium nuclear fuel industry.  We are fools if we don’t do the primary research on thorium and figure out if there are any dangers to it.  The potential benefits are far too great.

    • @moses lonn 
      On the Phys.org version which is the most accurate and detailed one I have seen, the comments suggest uranium interests paid for the study, but no link.

      • @energy_guy No surprise there.  I would want to keep my enterprise operating, too, if I were selling uranium fuel.  I imagine they have a whole lot invested in mining and processing equipment.

  4. That’s precisely why we linked to the ScienceDaily article. We only put up general information if it’s very technical, as not everyone can digest such details. Thanks for the remark.

    • @OvidiuSandru 
      The titles or tone of many of these articles reporting on this Thorium U233 pay report imply the Thorium people may have been pulling a fast one and need to be exposed or are just naive, this is not true. The subject is well understood within the community and is described in detail in the literature and Wikipedia.
       
      Thorium as used in the LFTR cycle is definitely the wonder fuel but perhaps not so in the solid fuel Thorium reactors which were explored in the past and by India today.
       
      First all nuclear power plants create fission, as the U233 nuclei splits it releases around 2.6 neutrons at near light speeds. In the Thorium cycle these are way too fast and need to be slowed down or moderated millions of times in order to actually trigger another fission event and to breed another fissionable U233 atom. Most of the fast neutrons are slowed down and the cycle turns Th232 into Th233 which beta decays to Pa233 and again to U233.
       
      Now some of those pesky fast neutrons that didn’t get slowed down interfere with the process and can make any of the Thorium, Protactinium or Uranium nuclei in the process lose one neutron instead of adding. The breeding process can still proceed but with 1 less neutron ending up with some U232 nuclei which is hard gamma emitting. It doesn’t fission but does get burned off.
       
      If any of that U233 were siphoned off it would be contaminated by the U232 and would be spotted.
       
      To create pure U233, the radiation source would have to be completely free of fast neutrons so that pretty much rules out using a LFTR. You end up building a more specialized reactor to do this and you’d be spotted.
       
      see energy from thorium

  5. The article on ScienceDaily is much more accurate than the above.
     
    LFTRs are not designed to support creating pure U233 that might be siphoned off. They allow the U232 gamma signature to follow the U233 and it gets burned down in the reactor.
     
    To create pure U233 without the gamma producing U232 as the paper suggests you would have to build something like the Hanford plant that would be quite easy to spot, This is something rogue states might consider but they already know how to refine weapons grade  U235 and Pu239. The nuclear genie is out of the box.

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