Excerpted from: Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power, By Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd.
A Fact Sheet Produced by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Thorium may be abundant and possess certain technical advantages, but it does not mean that it is economical. Compared to uranium, thorium fuel cycle is likely to be even more costly. In a once‐through mode, it will need both uranium enrichment (or plutonium separation) and thorium target rod production. In a breeder configuration, it will need reprocessing, which is costly. In addition, inhalation of thorium‐232 produces a higher dose than the same amount of uranium‐238 (either by radioactivity or by weight). Reprocessed thorium creates even more risks due to the highly radioactive U‐232 created in the reactor. This makes worker protection more difficult and expensive for a given level of annual dose. Finally, the use of thorium also creates waste at the front end of the fuel cycle. The radioactivity associated with these is expected to be considerably less than that associated with a comparable amount of uranium milling. However, mine wastes will pose long‐term hazards, as in the case of uranium mining. There are also often hazardous non‐radioactive metals in both thorium and uranium mill tailings.
1. There is no “thorium reactor.” There is a proposal to use thorium as a fuel in various reactor designs including light-water reactors – the most prevalent in the United States – as well as fast breeder reactors.
2. You still need uranium – or even plutonium – in a reactor using thorium.
3. Using plutonium sets up proliferation risks.
4. Uranium-233 is also excellent weapons-grade material.
5. Proliferation risks are not negated by thorium mixed with U-238.
6. Thorium would trigger a resumption of reprocessing in the US.
7. Using thorium does not eliminate the problem of long-lived radioactive waste.
8. Attempts to develop “thorium reactors” have failed for decades.
9. Fabricating “thorium fuel” is dangerous to health.
10. Fabricating “thorium fuel” is expensive.