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 Disease.com, 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………….http://preventdisease.com/news/13/111013_Dont-Jump-on-The-Thorium-Bandwagon-Not-Green-Not-Viable-Not-The-Answer.shtml

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.

Response
: 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.


Safety

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

Response
: 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.

Response
: 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 athttps://docs.google.com/open?id=0B-F67wRS5N7sR3hYMl9id0xkNWs 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.

Sources:
nuclearfreeplanet.org
nonukes.it
industrytap.com
envirosagainstwar.org

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.http://preventdisease.com/news/13/111013_Dont-Jump-on-The-Thorium-Bandwagon-Not-Green-Not-Viable-Not-The-Answer.shtml

Thorium Nuclear Reactors – quite a bad idea really

Thorium – a good idea? WISE, Jan 15  (translation by Noel Wauchope) “………….Now with the fear of further nuclear weapons proliferation  increasing, the nuclear industry looks to another cycle, based on thorium instead of uranium. But with a thorium reactor one can also make nuclear weapons material. The Thorium reactor is not quite there yet. The technique is not yet out-developed, let alone tried. All serious scientists think it will still take several decades before there reactors are available for commercial use.
And so does the whole “climate” argument; if you want to do something about climate change (replace coal plants Thorium power plants) it will have to be done very quickly, not over 20 years. Moreover the many tens of billions of dollars to build a thorium cycle and infrastructure could be better spent on truly clean and endless sources. Moreover, the thorium cycle has serious drawbacks……..
Because plutonium is a chemically very different ftrom  uranium, it is quite easy to identify  from spent fuel rods. Uranium-235 or other isotopes * (U-232 and U-233)are  much more difficult, because they are  chemically indistinguishable from the rest of the uranium………
 Thorium is often mentioned. It is an ore which can be recovered like uranium in large mines. Although thorium itself is not very radioactive, many decay products of thorium are. It expires in stages to include the noble gas 220Rn presenting the risk of contamination. The biggest health threat of thorium is if ingested or inhaled. The alpha radiation can not penetrate the skin, but if ingested accumulates in the liver, spleen, lymph nodes and bones. The “biological half-life ‘of thorium is about 22 years, which in practice means that the alpha radiation damages during the rest of life, and thereby increases the risk of liver cancer and leukemia. This makes mining of thorium a tricky business.
It is not self-fissile but neutron radiation in a nuclear reactor converts it to it fissionable U-233 and U-232 waste product. This is material that can be used for the production of nuclear weapons. So there is indeed in a thorium reactor, not plutonium,  but other proliferation-sensitive material.
Thorium reactors are – according to the proponents of this technique – so also much safer than current reactors. For example, in a liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) the fuel is not processed as a solid but is dissolved in a molten fluoride salt. This molten salt is also used as a refrigerant and as fuel. It remains stable at high temperatures and controllable. The advocates claim that ‘the runaway of the reactor in a thorium-central’ is impossible. The neutrons released during the reactions can be immediately absorbed by the thorium atoms in the mixture, causing the atoms to be in turn suitable for fission. It is also possible to use materials other than thorium, plutonium, for example, to add to the mixture. Advocates say so; it is a way to get rid of our plutonium; we use it just as a fuel in the thorium plant.
But it is questionable whether the thorium cycle is really a better guarantee against the danger of proliferation. Although no plutonium is produced  there is a method to extract the nuclear material U-233 quite easily and efficiently from irradiated thorium reactor rods. Thorium ie first becomes protactinium (PA-233), which decays with a half-life of 27 days to U-233.  To select from the reactor fuel rods after about a month to, it is possible to separate the PA-233 from the thorium. This can also be in a small lab, there is no need for large or complex factory. Then you just have to wait a few months until all the protactinium is spontaneously transformed into highly pure uranium-233. Eight pounds of this material is already enough to make an atomic bomb.
Hence the thorium cycle can be diverted to the production of atomic bombs. This removes a major advantage claimed. Proponents say of thorium; “There are easier ways to get nuclear material, so terrorists or countries that seek nuclear weapons do not really want to use thorium reactors.” But that’s a rather strange reasoning; it is also easier to commit a murder with a gun than with a knife. Why do not you go do not advocate the possession of a knife?
Nuclear waste
A thorium plant, compared to uranium plants,  produces  little long-lived radioactive waste.  But not even this type of plant is still producing waste that remains dangerous for 240,000 years and people and the environment must be stored and fully protected. The problem of high-level nuclear waste is not so much the volume (quantity) but the toxicity and radiation intensity. Whether you need to find a solution for 100 or 500 pounds is not as relevant, the point is that there is still no definitive accepted method existing to store this hazardous waste safely for thousands of years.
Catch-22
The nuclear industry has a problem; it now fully recognizes that the problems with the current (Uranium) cycle are too large.  So it now looks to a whole new cycle based on thorium The owners of the now hundreds of operating nuclear power plants, the builders of the uranium-based power plants, the thousands of people who earn their living from extracting uranium will not go welcome the call for a Thorium industry. This has resulted in the odd dichotomy between  the people who believe in the Thorium Cycle and the people who believe in the Uranium Cycle. Meanwhile there are the scientists who want to explore new fields of research especially those who advocate Thorium power plants; they want to be assured that they can can certainly do some decades (fundamental) research.
Too late, too expensive
Do not forget; the thorium reactor is not quite there yet, all serious scientists think it will still take several decades before there reactors are available for commercial use. And so does the whole “climate” argument; if you want to do something about climate change (replace coal plants Thorium power plants) that will have to be done very quickly, not waiting over 20 years to begin. Moreover, it will cost many tens of billions of dollars to build a thorium cycle and infrastructure. That   money can be spent  better ongenuinely clean and endless sources.http://www.wisenederland.nl/kernenergie/thorium-een-goed-idee-0

The spurious claims of the thorium nuclear lobby

If Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) s 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.

How Much Safer Would Thorium Based Nuclear Power Be? http://www.newsaddicted.com/2015/01/04/how-much-safer-would-thorium-based-nuclear-power-be/?tb January 4, 2015 | By News Junkie Uploaded by Alchemist-hp via Free Art License 1.3 (FAL 1.3)

According to Oliver Tickell, not much:

Numerous advantages for thorium as a nuclear fuel and for the LFTR design over conventional solid fuel reactors have been claimed. In this section we consider each of these claims in turn.
3.1 Abundance of thorium relative to uranium
Claim: Thorium is several times more abundant in the Earth’s crust than uranium.
Response: Thorium (232Th) is indeed more abundant than uranium, by a factor of three to four. But whereas 0.7% of uranium occurs as fissile 235U, none of the thorium is fissile. The world already possesses an estimated 1.2 million tonnes of depleted uranium (mainly 238U), like thorium a fertile but non-fissile material. So the greater abundance of thorium than uranium confers no advantage, other than a very marginal advantage in energy security to those countries in which it is abundant.
3.2 Relative utility of thorium and uranium as fuel
Claim: 100% of the thorium is usable as fuel, in contrast to the low (~0.7%) proportion of fissile 235U in natural uranium.
Response: Thorium must be subjected to neutron irradiation to be transformed into a fissile material suitable for nuclear fuel (uranium, 233U). The same applies to the 238U that makes up depleted uranium, which as already observed, is plentiful. In theory, 100% of either metal could be bred into nuclear fuel. However, uranium has a strong head start, as 0.7% of it is fissile (235U) in its naturally-occurring form.
3.3 Nuclear weapons proliferation
Claim: thorium reactors do not produce plutonium, and so create little or no proliferation hazard.
Response: thorium reactors do not produce plutonium. But an LFTR could (by including 238U in the fuel) 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. Moreover, the continuous pyro-processing / electro-refining technologies intrinsic to MSRs / LFTRs could generate streams of 233U very low in 232U at a purity well above weapons grade as currently defined.
3.4 Safety
Claim: LFTRs are intrinsically safe, because the reactor operates at low pressure and is and incapable of melting down.
Response: 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-sitecontinuous 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.
3.5 State of technology
Claim: the technology is already proven.
Response: important elements of the LFTR technology were proven during the 1970s Molten SaltBreeder 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.
3.6 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.
3.7 Cost of electricity
Claim: the design of LFTRs tends towards low construction cost and very cheap electricity.
Response: while some elements of LFTR design may cut costs compared to conventional reactors, other elements will add cost, notably the continuous fuel reprocessing using high-temperature ‘pyro-processing’ technologies. Moreover, a costly experimental phase of ~20-40 years duration will be required before any ‘production’ LFTR reactors can be built.
It is very hard to predict the cost of the technology that finally emerges, but the economics of nuclear fuel reprocessing to date suggests that the nuclear fuel produced from breeder reactors is about 50 times more expensive than ‘virgin’ fuel. It therefore appears probable that any electricity produced from LFTRs will be expensive.
We must also consider the prospect that relatively novel or immature energy sources, such as photovoltaic electricity and photo-evolved hydrogen, will have become well established as low-cost technologies long before LFTRs are in the market.
3.8 Timescale
Claim: Thorium and the LFTR offer a solution to current and medium-term energy supply deficits.
Response: The thorium fuel cycle is immature. Estimates from the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (see 4.2 below) suggest that 10-15 years of research will be needed before thorium fuels are ready to be deployed in existing reactor designs. Production LFTRs will not be deployable on any significant scale for 40-70 years.

Kirk Sorenson – the Master of pro Thorium Spinology

Thorium Trolls Hypnotise Environmentalists http://www.joabbess.com/2011/10/26/thorium-trolls-hypnotise-environmentalists/#comment-107302  October 26th, 2011 Kirk Sorensen is apparently a one-man propaganda machine. His personal energy must be immense. He keeps turning up everywhere.

Never since the days of Tesla versus Edison has there been such an energy-related public communications coup.

He is a social media god. He has to be – he’s running an enterprise start-up marketing an unproven energy process.It appears that Bryony Worthington has been scooped up. But then she backed carbon offsetting andCarbon Capture and Storage. Can we ask if her judgment has improved lately ? And Friends of the Earthhave been hypnotised. Or maybe not. George Monbiot was taken in a while back.

From now on, I can predict British environmentalists from every sector of society to call for the development of the Thorium Fuel Cycle – although I think it’s a waste of time and resources, and in my view cannot be scaled up quickly enough to be of any use in dealing with the global energy crisis.

All we have so far is a massive, well-researched sales pitch. And Kirk Sorensen’s done his homework on networking the institutions. In fact, I think that’s all he’s capable of – talk. I sense he is a Master of Spinology.

Miracle energy sources are a never-ending source of humour and despair. Remember cold fusion ? Where’s that now ? Still in a test tube ? Burning seawater ? Are you serious ? Remember Carbon Capture and Storage ? Where’s that now – after all the hype ? And what about algae biodiesel ? Will theflow rates of output fuel ever be high enough ?

The Thorium Fuel Cycle is not all it’s cracked up to be.

The simplest solutions are the best. Ones that already exist and already work. We need to stop hoping for the future and live in the now. We already have all the technology we need to solve climate change and the energy crisis – gas and power. Renewable electricity. And renewable gas.

Thorium Trolls Hypnotise Environmentalists

  D. A. Ryan November 19th, 2011Also as regard Weinberg, another classic symptom of any cult is the adulation of a particular hero figure. Look at the scientologists and Ron Hubbard. If Kirk is the High Priest of the LFTR cult, clearly Weinberg is its Saint (or its martyr if you believe some LFTR propaganda!).

Of course the fact the LFTR bloggers are putting words in Weinberg’s mouth and misrepresenting his views completely, as well as ignoring certain basic scientific facts (the primary purpose of the MSR experiment of the 1960’s was to create a breeder cycle to feed nuclear fuel into other reactors, they were never intended as a major source of power, or so my nuclear engineer buddies tell me!) has little to do with anything. But let’s not let pesky little “facts” get in the way of a good fantasy!

Furthermore, science is about rigorous critical analysis. The instant one scientist’s words (or supposed words) are elevated to the point where they cannot be challenged or criticized is the point where you cross the Rubicon between science and pseudo-science.

Perhaps LFTR fans should get some E-meter’s and build Weinberg a temple?http://www.joabbess.com/2011/10/26/thorium-trolls-hypnotise-environmentalists/#comment-107302