Archive for the ‘Thorium’ Category

Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? 

April 2, 2018

  Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018 An important, detailed critique of thorium by Dr. Rainer Moormann, translated from the original German by Jan Haverkamp. Dr. Moormann concludes:

The use of technology based on thorium would not be able to solve any of the known problems of current nuclear techniques, but it would require an enormous development effort and wide introduction of breeder and reprocessing technology. For those reasons, thorium technology is a dead end.”

Author: Dr. Rainer Moormann, Aachen (r.moormann@gmx.deThorium is currently described by several nuclear proponents as a better alternative to uranium fuel.

Thorium itself is, however, not a fissile material. It can only be transformed into fissile uranium-233 using breeder and reprocessing technology. It is 3 to 4 times more abundant than uranium.

Concerning safety and waste disposal there are no convincing arguments in comparison to uranium fuel. A severe disadvantage is that uranium-233 bred from thorium can be used by terror organisations for the construction of simple but high-impact nuclear explosives. Thus development of a thorium fuel cycle without effective denaturation of bredfissile materials is irresponsible.


Thorium Introduction 

Thorium (Th) is a heavy metal of atomic number 90

(uranium has 92). It belongs to the group of actinides, is

around 3 to 4 times more abundant than uranium and is

radioactive (half-life of Th-232 as starter of the thorium

decay-chain is 14 billion years with alpha-decay). There

are currently hardly any technical applications. Distinctive

is the highly penetrating gamma radiation from its decaychain

(thallium-208 (Tl-208): 2.6 MeV; compared to

gamma radiation from Cs-137: 0.66 MeV). Over the past

decade, a group of globally active nuclear proponents is

recommending thorium as fuel for a safe and affordable

nuclear power technology without larger waste and

proliferation problems. These claims should be submitted

to a scientific fact check. For that reason, we examine

here the claims of thorium proponents.

Dispelling Claim 1: The use of thorium expands the

availability of nuclear fuel by a factor 400  

Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018

Thorium itself is not a fissile material. It can, however, be

transformed in breeder reactors into fissile uranium-233

(U-233), just like non-fissile U-238 (99.3% of natural

uranium) can be transformed in a breeder reactor to fissile

plutonium. (A breeder reactor is a reactor in which more

fissile material can be harvested from spent nuclear fuel

than present in the original fresh fuel elements. It may be

sometimes confusing that in the nuclear vocabulary every

conventional reactor breeds, but less than it uses (and

therefore it is not called a breeder reactor).)

For that reason, the use of thorium presupposes the use

of breeder and reprocessing technology. Because these

technologies have almost globally fallen into disrepute, it

cannot be excluded that the more neutral term thorium is

currently also used to disguise an intended reintroduction

of these problematic techniques.

The claimed factor 400: A factor of 100 is due to the

breeder technology. It is also achievable in the uraniumplutonium

cycle. Only a factor of 3 to 4 is specific to

thorium, just because it is more abundant than uranium

by this factor…….


It’s a myth that thorium nuclear reactors were ever commercially viable

April 2, 2018

Dispelling Claim 2: Thorium did not get a chance in the  nuclear energy development because it is not  usable for military purposes   Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018

In the early stages of nuclear technology in the USA (from 1944 to the early 1950s), reprocessing technology was not yet well developed. Better developed were graphite moderated reactors that used natural uranium and bred plutonium.

For the use of thorium (which, other than uranium, does not contain fissile components), enriched uranium or possibly plutonium would have been indispensable.

Initially, neither pathway for thorium development was chosen because it would have automatically reduced the still limited capacity for military fissile materials production. (Thorium has a higher capture cross section for thermal (that means slow) neutrons than U-238. For that reason, it needs as fertile material in reactors a higher fissile density than U-238.)

Only when the US enrichment capacity at about 1950 delivered sufficient enriched uranium, the military and later civil entry into thorium technology started: in 1955 a bomb with U-233 from thorium was exploded, and a strategic U-233 reserve of around 2 metric tons was created. The large head-start of the plutonium bomb could not be overtaken any more, and plutonium remained globally the leading military fission material (although, according to unconfirmed sources, Indian nuclear weapons contain U-233).

The US military research concluded in 1966 that U-233 is a very potent nuclear weapon material, but that it offers hardly any advantages over the already established plutonium. Because light water reactors with low-enriched uranium (LEU) were already too far developed, thorium use remained marginal also in civil nuclear engineering: for instance, the German “thorium reactor” THTR-300 in Hamm operated only for a short time, and in reality it was a uranium reactor (fuel: 10% weapon-grade 93% enriched U-235 and 90% thorium) because the amount of energy produced by thorium did not exceed 25%.


The weapons proliferation risks of thorium nuclear reactors

April 2, 2018

Dispelling Claim 3: Thorium use has hardly any proliferation risk   Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018

The proliferation problem of Th / U-233 needs a  differentiated analysis ‒ general answers are easily misleading. First of all, one has to assess the weapon capability of U-233. Criteria for good suitability are a low critical mass and a low rate of spontaneous fission. The critical mass of U-233 is only 40% of that of U-235, the critical mass of plutonium-239 is around 15% smaller than for U-233. A relatively easy to construct nuclear explosive needs around 20 to 25 kg U-233.

The spontaneous fission rate is important, because the neutrons from spontaneous fission act as a starter of the chain reaction; for an efficient nuclear explosion, the fissile material needs to have a super-criticality of at least 2.5 (criticality is the amount of new fissions produced by the neutrons of each fission.)

When, because of spontaneous fissions, a noticeable chain reaction already starts during the initial conventional explosion trigger mechanism in the criticality phase between 1 and 2.5, undesired weak nuclear explosions would end the super-criticality before a significant part of the fissile material has reacted. This largely depends on how fast the criticality phase of 1 to 2.5 is passed. Weapon plutonium (largely Pu-239) and moreover reactor plutonium have – different from the mentioned uranium fission materials U-235 and U-233 – a high spontaneous fission rate, which excludes their use in easy to build bombs.

More specifically, plutonium cannot be caused to explode in a so-called gun-type fission weapon, but both uranium isotopes can. Plutonium needs the far more complex implosion bomb design, which we will not go into further here. A gun-type fission weapon was used in Hiroshima – a cannon barrel set-up, in which a fission projectile is shot into a fission block of a suitable form so that they together form a highly super-critical arrangement.   Here, the criticality phase from 1 to 2.5 is in the order of magnitude of milliseconds – a relatively long time, in which a plutonium explosive would destroy itself with weak nuclear explosions caused by spontaneous fission.

One cannot find such uranium gun-type fission weapons in modern weapon arsenals any longer (South Africa’s apartheid regime built 7 gun-type fission weapons using uranium-235): their efficiency (at most a few percent) is rather low, they are bulky (the Hiroshima bomb: 3.6 metric tons, 3.2 meters long), inflexible, and not really suitable for carriers like intercontinental rockets.

On the other hand, gun-type designs are highly reliable and relatively easy to build. Also, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reckons that larger terror groups would be capable of constructing a nuclear explosive on the basis of the gun-type fission design provided they got hold of a sufficient amount of suitable fissile material.1

Bombs with a force of at most 2 to 2.5 times that of the Hiroshima bomb (13 kt TNT) are conceivable. For that reason, the USA and Russia have tried intensively for decades to repatriate their world-wide delivered highly enriched uranium (HEU).

A draw-back of U-233 in weapon technology is that – when it is produced only for energy generation purposes – it is contaminated with maximally 250 parts per million (ppm) U-232 (half-life 70 years).2 That does not impair the nuclear explosion capability, but the uranium-232 turns in the thorium decay chain, which means ‒ as mentioned above ‒ emission of the highly penetrating radiation of Tl-208. A strongly radiating bomb is undesirable in a military environment – from the point of view of handling, and because the radiation intervenes with the bomb’s electronics.

In the USA, there exists a limit of 50 ppm U-232 above which U-233 is no longer considered suitable for weapons.

Nevertheless, U-232 does not really diminish all proliferation problems around U-233. First of all, simple gun-type designs do not need any electronics; furthermore, radiation safety arguments during bomb construction will hardly play a role for terrorist organisations that use suicide bombers.

Besides that, Tl-208 only appears in the end of the decay chain of U-232: freshly produced or purified U-233/U-232 will radiate little for weeks and is easier to handle.2 It is also possible to suppress the build-up of uranium-232 to a large extent, when during the breeding process of U-233 fast neutrons with energies larger than 0.5 MeV are filtered out (for instance by arranging the thorium in the reactor behind a moderating layer) and thorium is used from ore that contains as little uranium as possible.

A very elegant way to harvest highly pure U-233 is offered by the proposed molten salt reactors with integrated reprocessing (MSR): During the breeding of U-233 from thorium, the intermediate protactinium-233 (Pa-233) is produced, which has a half-life of around one month. When this intermediate is isolated – as is intended in some molten salt reactors – and let decay outside the reactor, pure U-233 is obtained that is optimally suited for nuclear weapons.

An advantage of U-233 in comparison with Pu-239 in military use is that under neutron irradiation during the production in the reactor, it tends to turn a lot less into nuclides that negatively influence the explosion capability. U-233 can (like U-235) be made unsuitable for use in weapons by adding U-238: When depleted uranium is already mixed with thorium during the feed-in into the reactor, the resulting mix of nuclides is virtually unusable for weapons.

However, for MSRs with integrated reprocessing this is not a sufficient remedy. One would have to prevent separation of protactinium-233.9

The conclusion has to be that the use of thorium contains severe proliferation risks. These are less in the risk that highly developed states would find it easier to lay their hands on high-tech weapons, than that the bar for the construction of simple but highly effective nuclear explosives for terror organisations or unstable states will be a lot lower.


Thorium nuclear reactors: no safer than conventional uranium reactors

April 2, 2018

Dispelling Claim 4: Thorium reactors are safer than  conventional uranium reactors  Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018

The fission of U-233 results in roughly the same amounts

of the safety-relevant nuclides iodine-131, caesium-137

and strontium-90 as that of U-235. Also, the decay heat is

virtually the same. The differences in produced actinides (see

next claim) are of secondary importance for the risk during

operation or in an accident. In this perspective, thorium use

does not deliver any recognisable safety advantages.

Of greater safety relevance is the fact that uranium-233

fission produces 60% less so-called delayed neutrons than

U-235 fission. Delayed neutrons are not directly created

during the fission of uranium, but from some short-lived

decay products. Only due to the existence of delayed

neutrons, a nuclear reactor can be controlled, and the

bigger their share (for instance 0.6% with U-235), the

larger is the criticality range in which controllability is given

(this is called delayed criticality). Above this controllable

area (prompt criticality) a nuclear power excursion can

happen, like during the Chernobyl accident. The fact that

the delayed super-critical range is with U-233 considerably

smaller than with U-235, is from a safety point of view an

important technical disadvantage of thorium use.

During the design of thermal molten salt reactors (breeders),

the conclusion was that the use of thorium brings problems

with criticality safety that do not appear with classical

uranium use in this type of reactors. For that reason, it was

necessary to turn the attention to fast reactors for the use

of thorium in molten salt reactors. Although this conclusion

cannot be generalised, it shows that the use of thorium can

lead to increased safety problems.

As mentioned, a serious safety problem is the necessity to

restart breeder and reprocessing technology with thorium.

Thorium is often advertised in relation to the development

of so-called advanced reactors (Generation IV). The

safety advantages attributed to thorium in this context are

mostly, however, not germane to thorium (the fuel) but

rather due to the reactor concept. Whether or not these

advanced reactor concepts bring overall increased safety

falls outside the scope of this article, but that is certainly

not a question with a clear “yes” as the answer.

Thorium reactors – NOT a solution to nuclear waste problem

April 2, 2018

Dispelling Claim 5: Thorium decreases the waste problem  

Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018

Thorium use delivers virtually the same fission products

as classical uranium use. That is also true for those

isotopes that are important in issues around long-term

disposal.  Those mobile long-lived fission products

(I-129, Tc-99, etc.) determine the risk of a deep geological

disposal when water intrusion is the main triggering event

for accidents. Thorium therefore does not deliver an

improvement for final disposal.

Proponents of thorium argue that thorium use does not

produce minor actinides (MA)5, nor plutonium. They argue

that these nuclides are highly toxic (which is correct) and

they compare only the pure toxicity by intake into the body

for thorium and uranium use, without taking into account

that these actinides are hardly mobile in final disposal

even in accidents.

The Thorium lobby – religious fervour in attacking critics of the nuclear industry

April 2, 2018

Thorium Church: a trojan horse in the “green” movements. Here the Removal Tool.   How do I know if my preferred “green” organization, or group, or leader… is infected by the ‘thorium church’ trojan horse?”. How to protect yourself from malicious propaganda of Thorium Church or from related compromised group or organizations. nonukes Italy, By Massimo Greco (June 2015)

What are trojan horses?

Trojan horses, otherwise known as trojans, are programs or applications that are inadvertently opened by the user, who expects the file to be something else..  by the same way “thorium supporters” are infecting forums, mailing list, debacts and environmental organizations.

It’s a strategy that is working in progress from some year. In few years they infected large part of the web. 

Like any malware, thorium’s priests are insinuated through any open space or open port .. and they are able to act at different levels. Mutating depending on the circumstances, improvising them selves as technicians or economists with the sole purpose of creating deviationism which in practice consists of annoying redirect to their cause that is regularly touted as a “green” solution or, even, “pacifist” or as a miraculous solution for the “salvation of the climate”.

Their function is aggressive, especially when you try to contradict them.They always want to have the last word in any discussion, obsessively, and only when it is too late you will realize how they can make you loosing your precious time. At that point you will no more than take note that they have achieved their goal. The infection has taken place and yours space is compromised. Whether it on youtube, any social network, forums or in any blog … it makes no difference: the malware is mutant. And in this, their behavior is very reminiscent of the deviationist hysteria typical of the fanatics of “chemtrails”. And this is not a “coincidence”. In fact one of several strategies, probably the most important, of the priests of thorium, has been to adopt the method of the conspiracy. Internet is full of delusions offering thorium as ecological way prevented by the famous NWO …. This was the most successful strategy in the work of proselytism in previous years, because it could involve a considerable number of idiots on the net.

Thorium’s priests respond with their usual strutting arrogance that scandals such as Kerr-McGee Chemical LLC affair at West Chicago, Ridgewood … NYC’s Most Radioactive Place … The affair of the soil that came from radioactive waste storage site in St. Louis and dumped at West Lake …. or the thorium contamination (with murders and judiciary prosecution) for military use in Sardinia (and in other NATO italian bases …) “has nothing to do with LFTR” …..

“that has nothing to do..” ???

So… why, in their propaganda, the most important slogan is “Thorium is green”? “it’s natural”… “viable”… “clean”…. or “peaceful”???

This is the best example of the typical commercials fraud of the lies in matter of communication.

Is there any “pope” in this kind of “church”?

Oh yess! More than one!

According to an article diffused by “Energy & Capital” that is a network resource that promotes “Pratical Investment Analysis in the New Energy Economy”, Bill Gates (whose company TerraPower has also begun testing thorium reactors) is one of the major investors.

On the Huffington Post you can read also that “In the U.S., TerraPower, founded by former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold, with backing from Bill Gates, is working on a “traveling wave reactor”–often described as ‘the world’s most passive fast breeder reactor’ –that will be able to run on both thorium and uranium and is due, in prototype form, by 2020.”

Another important bishop, Kirk Sorenson, chief technologist for the Energy from Thorium Foundation, says that “To stop global warming,” says…  “we need thousands of new reactors worldwide; currently we have hundreds. It took three years from when they invented the fluoride reactor until they built the first one. That was fifty years ago, and we know a lot more about how to do it now.” [Huffinghton Post]

So not only priests but also cardinals…. like Kirk Sorensen, former NASA aerospace engineer and formerly chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown Engineering. Often present in all the results of the infected search engines used to promote about “the potential for thorium to offer humanity a safe, cheap and abundant source of energy”.

But the Thorium Church is also “modern” and “emancipated”, so you can learn that there is also a woman pope… :
Bryony Katherine Worthington, Baroness Worthington, patron of the Weinberg Foundation, she is a life peer in the House of Lords. She became a member of the Lords on 02-Feb-2011. The Baroness was once “passionately opposed to nuclear power” but came to advocate the adoption of Thorium as a nuclear fuel in the name of “climate change mitigation”…
On 29 February 2012 a Thorium all-party parliamentary group was formed; its officers were Worthington, Julian Huppert and Ralph Palmer, with twenty other members at founding. According to the info of wikipedia Worthington is no longer listed on the APPG registry however, we can’t know why… maybe there are different strategies or competitive conflicts inside the Church.. :p

That’s all you need to know in order to undestand, better, what we are talking about before to talk about their “trojan horse” propagandistic resources and how to get safety protection about it…

Some of the problems with thorium nuclear reactors

April 2, 2018

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.

Thorium nuclear power not viable in India

July 24, 2017

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

Thorium however is not fissile and can’t be used directly to trigger Nuclear Reaction. But it is ‘fertile’ and what makes it Nuclear Fuel is the fact that its isotope Thorium – 232 can be converted to Uranium -233 which is ‘fissile’. This process of conversion is called ‘Transmutation’. To exploit Thorium reserves Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha conceived ‘3 Stage Nuclear Program’….
 at present thorium is not economically viable because global uranium prices are much lower…..
 Thorium itself is not a fissile material, and thus cannot undergo fission to produce energy.  Instead, it must be transmuted to uranium-233 in a reactor fueled by other fissile materials [plutonium-239 or uranium-235].
The first two stages, natural uranium-fueled heavy water reactors and plutonium-fueled fast breeder reactors, are intended to generate sufficient fissile material from India’s limited uranium resources, so that all its vast thorium reserves can be fully utilized in the third stage of thermal breeder reactor.

Stage I – Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor [PHWR]

 In the first stage of the programme, natural uranium fuelled pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) produce electricity while generating plutonium-239 as by-product.
 [U-238 ] Plutonium-239 + Heat]
 [In PWHR, enrichment of Uranium to improve concentration of U-235 is not required. U-238 can be directly fed into the reactor core]
[Natural uranium contains only 0.7% of the fissile isotope uranium-235. Most of the remaining 99.3% is uranium-238 which is not fissile but can be converted in a reactor to the fissile isotope plutonium-239].

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

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

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

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

transmuted to Plutonium-239?

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

But Why U-238 and not U-235?

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

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

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

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

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

Stage III – Thorium Based Reactors

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

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

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

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

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

Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solution to India’s Fissile

Shortage Problem – Procuring Fissile Material Plutonium

•  The obvious solution to India’s shortage of fissile material is to procure it from the international market.

Military operations in Italy left lasting thorium pollution

March 9, 2017

Subject:  Alarming levels of thorium-232 at the military firing range lying between Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda, in the province of Pordenone

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

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

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

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

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

1. Is the Commission aware of this contamination?

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

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

Dispelling the false story about why thorium nuclear reactors were not developed

February 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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