Thorium nuclear power trolls have a ‘cargo cult’ mentality

Cargo cult….let’s see…unwillingness to accept criticism (tick), form into a clearly defined group (tick), hostility to outsiders (tick), paranoia (tick), assumption that authorities can’t be trusted or are somehow wrong/misinformed (tick), lengthy and committal indoctrination procedures (such as watching preposterously long you-tube videos…tick!), heavy focus on recruitment (tick), promise of some massive pay off at some ill-defined (and easily deferred) future date (tick)….do I need to go on?

Thorium Trolls Hypnotise Environmentalists by D. A. Ryan  February 2, 2015, It is interesting how Thorium trolls  always complain about ad-hominem comments when such personal attacks are the preferred tactic of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) fans in responding to critics, is the pot calling the kettle black? And why is it you always run up huge blog strings attacking opponents? The (lftr)lady doth protest too much me thinks!

The vast majority of people contributing to LFTR research on these forums are merely cool-aid drinking bloggers, few have any relevant qualifications, nor experience. Even you’re deity Kirk lacks a PhD or indeed any relevant qualification in Nuclear physics. You cannot design a reactor over the internet, nobody will ever give them serious funding, licensing authorities will never sign off on anything and indeed you’re very tactics of trolling any attempt at a critique is precisely the sort of stuff to send sponsors running for the exit.

There are indeed some “real” scientist working on LFTR’s and Thorium research in general (oh! and btw Seaborg’s and Weinberg have been dead for over a decade! Material science has moved on significantly since then, check out chapter 3 of my post below). As an academic, I have access to the scientific literature, and the odd MSR related paper pops up from time to time (indicating that somebody somewhere is doing serious research on the topic…Kirk’s name’s never come up mind!), but the message from all of them is nowhere near as rosy as what you see on these blogs. I am reliably informed by people in the know (those being nuclear scientists with decades of experience in the field) that it would take many decades to get LFTR’s working and given the current level of research at present (concept stage), they cannot be sure that some hard and fast showstopper won’t emerge to kill the idea off in future. While I don’t identify any definite showstoppers in my post, I do note several potential directions from which one could appear.

Like I said, its a blue sky idea that simply may not work, more research (in labs mind!) is needed to answer the many technical questions. Powerpoint and photoshopped images aren’t much use. Hence why I favour focusing on renewable technology which already exists and is cheaper than nuclear energy also.

– $3 billion in funding in SA, got a reference for that? Last I heard the South Africans cancelled all such research and decided to focus on conventional LWR’s.
– The Chinese? They are raiding every bit of science worldwide that’s not bolted to the floor, so hardly a surprise. They are also trying out every possible idea they can. Why? because they are playing catch up with the west. If the idea works, in 30 years time they may have an alternative to western LWR’s (tho if you read my post you’ll see it will likely be a completely different beast to what LFTR bloggers are proposing). If not? well they get a couple of well trained post-graduates out of it and experience working with MS technology (useful for concentrated solar power tech!). Also, the bulk of Chinese thorium research is focused on existing gas cooled reactors, not LFTR’s, that’s more of a side show. Indeed as I recall from Zhang etal (2006) the Chinese HTR-PM (Gas cooled, not a MSR) will initially run on Uranium, tho backward compatibility with Thorium will be engineered into the design.
– My question tho, why is nobody in the Dept of energy worried about all this? Occum’s razor would say its likely because they know something the Chinese don’t (that they’re wasting their time!).
– If the MSR is such a great idea why did it only get 3 provisional’s, 1 observer and no signatories in the 2009 Gen IV report?

Cargo cult….let’s see…unwillingness to accept criticism (tick), form into a clearly defined group (tick), hostility to outsiders (tick), paranoia (tick), assumption that authorities can’t be trusted or are somehow wrong/misinformed (tick), lengthy and committal indoctrination procedures (such as watching preposterously long you-tube videos…tick!), heavy focus on recruitment (tick), promise of some massive pay off at some ill-defined (and easily deferred) future date (tick)….do I need to go on?

Thorium – history and dangers

Don’t Jump on The Thorium Bandwagon – It’s Not Green, Not Viable, And Not The Answer To Our Energy Problems Prevent, Nov 10, 2013 by KELLEY BERGMAN….. thorium still represents a very large threat to the planet whose problems over current nuclear systems exist only in details. It is not eco-friendly by any stretch of the imagination, although it is being promoted as such to nations around the world. It’s not renewable, green or clean and definitely not the answer to the world’s energy crisis as scientists around the world are deceptively claiming.

Due to its extreme density, thorium is being highlighted for its potential to produce tremendous amounts of heat. Many companies have been experimenting with small bits of thorium, creating lasers that heat water, producing steam which can power a mini turbines. According to CEO Charles Stevens from Laser Power Systems (LPS) from Connecticut, USA,, just one gram of the substance yields more energy than 7,396 gallons (28,000 L) of gasoline and 8 grams would power the typical car for a century.

The idea of using thorium is not new. In 2009, Loren Kulesus designed the Cadillac World Thorium Fuel Concept Car.

Dozens of other companies are investing millions and jumping on the thorium bandwagon without any foresight or wisdom into the long-term devasting effects of another nuclear-based problem.

Thorium is now being heavily promoted by the nuclear industry and various lobbies. Its mining is based on exploitation of workers forced to work with bare hands and contamination, sacking and devastation of territories.

What Is Thorium?

Thorium is a radioactive chemical element. It produces a radioactive gas, radon-220, as one of its decay products. Secondary decay products of thorium include radium and actinium. In nature, virtually all thorium is found as thorium-232, which undergoes alpha decay with a half-life of about 14.05 billion years.

As far as nations go, Canada, China, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have all experimented with using thorium as a substitute nuclear fuel in nuclear reactors.

Highly Carcinogenic Causing Defomities 

Besides being radioactive, thorium is also a highly carcinogenic heavy metal used in military targeting systems and has been found in honey, milk, and other areas of the food chain where the military has been testing thorium such as Sardinia……

Sardinia is the victim of weapons manufacturers, polluting military activities and a political system that cares about power and money over the health of people and the environment. An epidemic of cancers and birth defects is now evident in this region through their soil, air, food and water contaminated with heavy metals, jet fuel and other poisons.

The nuclear physicist Evandro Lodi Rizzini of Brescia University and CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) found elevated levels of radioactive thorium 232 and cerium (proving that the thorium was man-made) in the tissues of 15 of 18 bodies in the Quirra area of Sardinia where they died of cancer between 1995 and 2000.

On March 24, 2012, prosecutor Domenico Fiordalisi in Lanusei, Sardinia, indicted twenty people on charges of “willful omission of precautions against injury and aggravated disasters or because they falsely certified the absence of pollution with the aim to “hide the environmental disaster.” The documents from Fiordalisi’s investigation have now been turned over to a tribunal for prosecution.

Fiordalisi opened his investigation when he learned the results of cancer research in the Quirra area. In the last 10 years, 65 percent of shepherds were diagnosed with leukemia, lymphomas and autoimmune diseases. He suspected that the materials used in the polygon contaminated soils, pastures, water and air poisoning people, plants and animals as a consequence.

On 8 May 2012, Fiordalisi reported to the Parliamentary Committee of Senators’ Inquiry on DU the results of these investigations led by him. He detailed how chromium, tungsten and thorium and of the extreme danger of the alpha particles generated by this substance.

He explained that thorium is much more harmful than depleted uranium, and that the area of the polygon of Quirra was completly impregnated. This substance has found its way into cheese, worms, mushrooms, sheperds and animals: pigs born with six legs and lambs with a single large eye. He stated that the 1187 milan missles that were launched between 1983 and 1999 which, in the opinion of the nuclear physicist Evandro Lodi Rizzini were responsible for an epidemic of cancers and lymphomas in the military due to the release of radioactive substances.

Dr. Rizzini said, “One micro-gram, that is, one millionth of a gram is sufficient to kill a person. It causes a rise in atomic disintegrations; with a production of 2000 alpha rays a day, nuclear radiation is most damaging.”

The organizations International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons and Mother Earth have good information about depleted uranium.

“With uranium-based nuclear power continuing its decades-long economic collapse, it’s awfully late to be thinking of developing a whole new fuel cycle whose problems differ only in detail from current versions.”
Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, March 2009………….

Scrutinising the claims of the thorium nuclear lobby

Don’t Jump on The Thorium Bandwagon – It’s Not Green, Not Viable, And Not The Answer To Our Energy Problems Prevent Disease.comNov 10, 2013 by KELLEY BERGMAN

“………Numerous claims of advantages for thorium as a nuclear fuel and for LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) design have been made over conventional solid fuel reactors.

Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

Claim: thorium reactors do not produce plutonium, and so create little or no proliferation hazard.

: a LFTR could be adapted to produce plutonium of a high purity well above normal weapons-grade, presenting a major proliferation hazard. Beyond that, the main proliferation hazards arise from:

  • the need for fissile material (plutonium or uranium) to initiate the thorium fuel cycle, which could be diverted, and
  • the production of fissile uranium 233U.Claim: the fissile uranium (233U) produced by thorium reactors is not “weaponisable” owing to the presence of highly radiotoxic 232U as a contaminant. Response: 233U was successfully used in a 1955 bomb test in the Nevada Desert under the USA’s Operation Teapot and so is clearly weaponisable notwithstanding any 232U present.


Claim: LFTRs are intrinsically safe, because the reactor operates at low pressure and is and incapable of melting down.

: the design of molten salt reactors does indeed mitigate against reactor meltdown and explosion. However, in an LFTR the main danger has been shifted from the reactor to the on-site continuous fuel reprocessing operation — a high temperature process involving highly hazardous, explosive and intensely radioactive materials. A further serious hazard lies in the potential failure of the materials used for reactor and fuel containment in a highly corrosive chemical environment, under intense neutron and other radiation.

State of Technology

Claim: the technology is already proven.

: important elements of the LFTR technology were proven during the 1970s Molten Salt Breeder Reactor (MSBR) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. However, this was a small research reactor rated at just 7MW and there are huge technical and engineering challenges in scaling up this experimental design to make a ‘production’ reactor. Specific challenges include:

  • developing materials that can both resist corrosion by liquid fluoride salts including diverse fission products, and withstand decades of intense neutron radiation;
  • scaling up fuel reprocessing techniques to deal safely and reliably with large volumes of highly radioactive material at very high temperature;
  • keeping radioactive releases from the reprocessing operation to an acceptably low level;
  • achieving a full understanding of the thorium fuel cycle.

Nuclear Waste

Claim: LFTRs produce far less nuclear waste than conventional solid fuel reactors.
Response: LFTRs are theoretically capable of a high fuel burn-up rate, but while this may indeed reduce the volume of waste, the waste is more radioactive due to the higher volume of radioactive fission products. The continuous fuel reprocessing that is characteristic of LFTRs will also produce hazardous chemical and radioactive waste streams, and releases to the environment will be unavoidable.

Claim: Liquid fluoride thorium reactors generate no high-level waste material.
Response: This claim, although made in the report from the House of Lords, has no basis in fact. High-level waste is an unavoidable product of nuclear fission. Spent fuel from any LFTR will be intensely radioactive and constitute high level waste. The reactor itself, at the end of its lifetime, will constitute high level waste.

Claim: the waste from LFTRs contains very few long-lived isotopes, in particular transuranic actinides such as plutonium.
Response: the thorium fuel cycle does indeed produce very low volumes of plutonium and other long-lived actinides so long as only thorium and 233U are used as fuel. However, the waste contains many radioactive fission products and will remain dangerous for many hundreds of years. A particular hazard is the production of 232U, with its highly radio-toxic decay chain.

Claim: LFTRs can ‘burn up’ high level waste from conventional nuclear reactors, and stockpiles of plutonium.
Response: if LFTRs are used to ‘burn up’ waste from conventional reactors, their fuel now comprises 238U, 235U, 239Pu, 240Pu and other actinides. Operated in this way, what is now a mixed-fuel molten salt reactor will breed plutonium (from 238U) and other long lived actinides, perpetuating the plutonium cycle.

What Can You Do? 

Spread the word about Sardinia. More information is available at where the original 7500-word research document is stored.

Contact your congressional representatives and demand the closure of the Sardinia NATO bases.

Do we really want another polluting energy source with high-level waste which is non-renewable and highly carcinogenic? Before jumping on the thorium bandwagon, please share this information, do your own research and think twice before spreading the hundreds of myths (not facts) about this very dangerous alternative to uranium.


Kelley Bergman is a media consultant, critic and geopolitical investigator. She has worked as a journalist and writer, specializing in geostrategic issues around the globe.

Thorium nuclear reactors – an expensive waste of time

Why are we not using Thorium instead of Uranium for power? “I have followed this technology for some years with interest. It has merits and one great demerit – it is very costly – at least twice the cost of most renewables. So why go this route? The so called renaissance of uranium reactors has become a fiasco. The Finnish project with Areva was to cost $2500 per Mwe for the first prototype,with $1200 per Mwe in the following standardized units.The reality is 3 years behind schedule, 77% over budget with no hope of completion at less than a 100% overrun, and standardized successors now priced at $5000 per Mwe, four times the hoped for cost.

There is no reason whatever to claim thorium based reactors will be any cheaper. We cannot afford to waste precious time and money on nuclear, but should have a crash implementation of commercializing renewables like wind and solar thermal electric.”

Medical use of thorium – a cancer-causing mistake


   Thorotrast is a suspension containing particles of the radioactive compound thorium dioxide, ThO2, that was used as a radiocontrast agent in medical radiography in the 1930s and 1940s. (Use in some countries, such as the U.S., continued into the 1950s.)

Thorium compounds produce excellent images because of thorium’s high opacity to X-rays (it has a high cross section for absorption). Unfortunately, thorium is retained in the body, and it is radioactive, emitting harmful alpha radiation as it decays. Because the suspension offered high image quality and had virtually no immediate side-effects compared to the alternatives available at the time, Thorotrast became widely used after its introduction in 1931. (António Egas Moniz contributed to its development.).[1] About 2 to 10 million patients worldwide have been treated with Thorotrast.

Safety Even at the time of introduction, there was concern about the safety of Thorotrast. Following injection, the drug is distributed to the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, and bone, where it is absorbed. After this initial absorption, redistribution takes place at a very slow pace. Specifically, the biological half-life is estimated to be 22 years.[2] This means that the organs of patients who have been given Thorotrast will be exposed to internal alpha radiation for the rest of their lives. The significance of this long-term exposure was not fully understood at the time of Thorotrast’s introduction in 1931.

Due to the release of alpha particles, Thorotrast was found to be extremely carcinogenic. There is a high over-incidence of various cancers in patients who have been treated with Thorotrast. The cancers occur some years (usually 20-30) after injection of Thorotrast. The risk of developing liver cancer (or bile duct cancer) in former Thorotrast patients has been measured to be well above 100 times the risk of the rest of the population. The risk of leukemia appears to be 20 times higher in Thorotrast patients.[3] Thorotrast exposure has also been associated with the development of angiosarcoma. German patients exposed to Thorotrast had their median life-expectancy shortened by 14 years in comparison to a similar non-exposed control group.[4]

The Danish director Nils Malmros‘s movie, Facing the Truth (original Danish title At Kende Sandheden) from 2002, portrays the dilemma that faced Malmros’s father, Richard Malmros, when treating his patients in the 1940s. Richard Malmros was deeply concerned about the persistence of Thorotrast in the body but was forced to use Thorotrast, because the only available alternative (per-abrodil) had serious immediate side-effects, suffered from image quality problems and was difficult to obtain during the Second World War. The use of Thorotrast in Denmark ended in 1947 when safer alternatives became available. Today, iodinated hydrophilic molecules are universally used as injected contrast agents for X-ray procedures.

1979 – 2015 – the story of Malaysia’s thorium pollution at Bukit Merah

The Star has discovered that 80,000 200-litre drums containing radioactive waste are currently being kept at the dump located in the Kledang Range behind Papan town. The site is about 3km from Bukit Merah and Papan and about 15km from Ipoh. And the waste is thorium hydroxide, not amang.

Chronology of events in the Bukit Merah Asian Rare Earth development
 Eight men — a welder, a shoemaker, a general worker, a pensioner, a barber, a tractor driver, a crane-operator and a cancer victim who was to die shortly — sued Asian Rare Earth in 1985 on behalf of themselves and 10,000 other residents of Bukit Merah and the environs in Perak. They wanted to shut down this rare earth plant in their village near Ipoh because its radioactive waste was endangering their lives.

When the Mitsubishi joint venture plant opened over 1982, the villagers soon began complaining of the factory’s stinging smoke and bad smell which made them choke and cry. Worse was to come. Their health began failing, indicated not only by frequent bouts of coughs and colds, but a sharp rise in the incidence of leukaemia, infant deaths, congenital disease and lead poisoning.

For the first time in Malaysian legal history, an entire community has risen to act over an environmental issue, to protect their health and environment from radioactive pollution.

Below is the chronology of what happened when a radioactive rare earth plant was set up in Bukit Merah. Today, about 30 years later, the Government is allowing a new rare earth plant to be set up by Lynas in Gebeng, Kuantan. This new project should be scrapped if the Malaysian Government puts the health of Malaysians before profits.

1979  November: The Asian Rare Earth Sdn Bhd (ARE) is incorporated to extract yttrium (a rare earth) from monazite. The major shareholders are the following: Mitsubishi Chemical Industries Ltd (35%), Beh Minerals (35%), Lembaga Urusan dan Tabung Haji or the state-owned Pilgrims’ Management Fund Board (20%) and other bumiputra businessmen (10%). ARE seeks the advice of the Tun Ismail Research Centre (Puspati) of the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry about radioactive waste produced by processing monazite. It is decided that the waste, the property of the Perak State Government, will be kept in view of its potential as a source of nuclear energy.

1982  June : Residents of Parit in Perak learn that a nine-acre site six kilometres away has been chosen by the government as a storage dump for ARE’s radioactive waste.

30 June : Following strong protest by the residents’ committee and other political and social organisations, the plan is scrapped by the government which begins to look for another site to locate the dump.

11 July : ARE factory begins operations at 7.2 km Jalan Lahat in Bukit Merah New Village.

1983  November : Residents of Papan (about 16 kilometres from Ipoh) find out that ARE is building trenches of a waste dump near their town to store radioactive waste. The site had been picked by the government.


24 May : About 6,700 residents of Papan and nearby towns sign a protest letter and send it to the Prime Minister, Perak Menteri Besar, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Science, Technology and Environment.

31 May : About 200 residents from Papan protest against the proposed waste dump. They block the road leading to the site.

5 June : The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad says the government has taken every precaution to ensure safety and that construction of the radioactive dump in Papan will go ahead.

18 June : About 300 Papan residents demonstrate for the second time against the proposed location of the dump.

28 June : The Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Amar Stephen Yong, states that the Papan dump is safe because it is being built according to stringent standards. He challenges critics to prove that the dump will be hazardous to health and the environment. In the meanwhile, ARE continues operating, dumping the thorium waste into an open field and pond next to the factory.

1 July : About 3,000 people, including women and children, hold a peaceful demonstration to protest against the Papan dump.

4 July : About 2,000 people continue with the demonstration despite an order from the Perak Chief Police Officer to call it off.

18 July : A Bukit Merah Action Committee is formed, comprising residents from Bukit Merah, Lahat, Menglembu and Taman Badri Shah to support the Papan residents. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) sends a memorandum to the Prime Minister stating that high levels of radiation exist at the open field and pond next to the ARE factory in Bukit Merah. One reading taken by SAM officials in a recent visit was 43,800 millirems/year, 88 times higher than the maximum level permitted by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) for the public.

29 August : Michael O’Riordan from the British National Radiological Protection Board is invited by the government to inspect the dump site in Papan.

19 September : A three-man team from the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visit the Papan site at the invitation of the Malaysian government. They declare the trenches there as unsafe………….


11 July : The people of Bukit Merah win their suit against ARE. The factory is ordered by the Ipoh High Court to shut down within 14 days. ARE announces that it will appeal to the Supreme Court.

23 July : ARE files an appeal at the Supreme Court against the Ipoh High Court order to cease operations. PARC chairman Hew Yoon Tat and Lau Fong Fatt, one of the plaintiffs in the suit against ARE, meet top management personnel of Mitsubishi Chemical in Japan. They are told that ARE filed the appeal without the corporation’s consent.

23 December 1993: The Supreme Court overturned the High Court decision on 2 grounds. The Court was of the opinion that ARE’s experts were more believable in terms of the results of the tests conducted by them showing that radiation was within permissible levels. Secondly, the Supreme Court said that the residents should have gone back to the AELB to ask that it revoke ARE’s licence, because AELB has the power to do so under the Atomic Energy Licensing Act. ……Despite the success of ARE in their appeal, the company later stopped operations and began cleaning up, due to public pressure both nationally and internationally.


19 January 1994: ARE announced the closure of its Bukit Merah plant………


A decommissioning and decontamination exercise started in 2003 and 2005.


13 June 2010 : Former premier Dr. Mahathir Mohamad disagreed with the proposal for Malaysia to build nuclear power plants and reported that “a small amount” of nuclear waste was buried in Perak.

Mahathir said, “In Malaysia, we do have nuclear waste which perhaps the public is not aware of. We had to bury the amang (tin tailings) in Perak, deep in the ground. But the place is still not safe. Almost one square mile of that area is dangerous.”

Following his remarks, The Star has discovered that 80,000 200-litre drums containing radioactive waste are currently being kept at the dump located in the Kledang Range behind Papan town. The site is about 3km from Bukit Merah and Papan and about 15km from Ipoh. And the waste is thorium hydroxide, not amang.

In fact, it is only January this year that work finally began on the building of a proper underground storage facility called an engineered cell (EC).

The ongoing cleanup of the 30-year-old problem is estimated to cost a massive RM300 million.

Malaysian thorium polluted site quietly cleaned up by Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Quietly Cleans Up Its Former Refinery By  : March 8, 2011 BUKIT MERAH, Malaysia — Hidden here in the jungles of north-central Malaysia, in a broad valley fringed with cave-pocked limestone cliffs topped with acacia and durian trees, lies the site of the largest radiation cleanup yet in the rare earth industry.

Residents blamed a rare earth refinery for birth defects and eight leukemia cases within five years in a community of 11,000 — after many years with no leukemia cases. Seven of the leukemia victims have since died.

The Bukit Merah case is little known even elsewhere in Malaysia, and virtually unknown in the West, because Mitsubishi Chemical quietly agreed to fix the problem even without a legal order to do so. Local protesters had contacted Japanese environmentalists and politicians, who in turn helped persuade the image-conscious company to close the refinery in 1992 and subsequently spend an estimated $100 million to clean up the site.

Image-burnishing was important because the company is part of the Mitsubishi Group of Companies, which has long made Malaysia the cornerstone of its southeast Asian operations. The group has dominant positions in manufacturing a range of products, including air-conditioners and cars.

Mitsubishi Chemical also reached an out-of-court settlement with residents here by agreeing to donate $164,000 to the community’s schools, while denying any responsibility for illnesses.

Osamu Shimizu, the director of Asian Rare Earth, the Mitsubishi Chemical subsidiary that owns the mine, declined to discuss details of the factory’s operation before it closed in 1992. But he said that the company was committed to a safe and complete cleanup.

Workers in protective gear have already removed 11,000 truckloads of radioactively contaminated material, hauling away every trace of the old refinery and even tainted soil from beneath it, down to the bedrock as much as 25 feet below, said Anthony Goh, the consultant overseeing the project for one of Mitsubishi’s contractors, GeoSyntec, an Atlanta-based firm.

To dispose of the radioactive material, engineers have cut the top off a hill three miles away in a forest reserve, buried the material inside the hill’s core and then entombed it under more than 20 feet of clay and granite.

The toughest part of the Bukit Merah cleanup will come this summer, when robots and workers in protective gear are to start trying to move more than 80,000 steel barrels of radioactive waste from a concrete bunker. They will mix it with cement and gypsum, and then permanently store it in the hilltop repository.

The refinery processed slag from old tin mines — material rich in rare earth ore. The company and Malaysian regulators said that it was statistically possible that the leukemia cases were a coincidence because tin mining towns tend to have above-average levels of background radiation. But an academic study of another tin mining town suggested that communities of Bukit Merah’s size should only have one leukemia case every 30 years.

Lai Kwan, aged 69, still recalls how she cheerfully moved in the 1980s from a sawmill job to a better-paying position in the refinery that involved proximity to radioactive materials. She remembers that while pregnant, she was told to take an unpaid day off only on days when the factory bosses said that a particularly dangerous consignment of ore had arrived.

She has spent the last 29 years washing, dressing, feeding and otherwise taking care of her son from that pregnancy, who was born with severe mental and physical disabilities. She and other local residents blame the refinery for the problems, although birth defects can have many causes.

“We saw it as a chance to get better pay,” Ms. Lai recalled. “We didn’t know what they were producing.”