Why Thorium? 8. Radioactive waste from a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor decays down to background radiation in 300 years compared to a million years for U-235 based reactors. A Limerick.

The nuclear waste meant for Yucca

would destine Nevada the sucka

But with Thorium we rid

us of waste that is hid

No need for that waste to be trucka!

Radioactive waste from an LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor)  decays down to background radiation in 300 years instead of a million years for U-235 based reactors. Initially LFTRs produce as much radioactivity as an U-235 based nuclear reactor, since fission converts mass to heat, but the decay products have a much shorter half-life. See the figure below.

Where is the storage for spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste now? Look at the map, it is scary.

And these are just the U.S. installations!

Many years ago I studied Engineering at Chalmers’ University in Sweden and I thought I would become a nuclear engineer. Sweden had at that time a peaceful heavy water based nuclear power program together with Canada and India. The advantage with heavy water as moderator is that it can use natural, un-enriched Uranium. One of the end products is of course Plutonium 239, the preferred material to make nuclear bombs, but it could also use Thorium, and the end product is then mostly Plutonium 238, used in space exploration, and we were dreaming big. One of the advantages of Thorium as fuel is that it produces about 0,01%  of trans-Uranium waste compared to Uranium as fuel. About that time the U.S. proposed we should abandon the heavy water program and switch to light water enriched Uranium based nuclear power. They would sell the enriched Uranium, and reprocess the spent fuel at cost. They also had the ideal final resting place for the radioactive waste products in Nevada. This was an offer the Swedish government could not refuse, at the height of the cold war. This was  in the 1960’s! India on the other hand did refuse, and they eventually got the nuclear bomb. Since that meant Sweden was never going to use Thorium as nuclear fuel, and I could not figure out how to get rid of all the radioactive waste products, I switched my attention back to control engineering.

.What did President Trump mean with innovative approaches?

Is this where Thorium comes in!? Thorium solves many problems with nuclear energy. Meanwhile the Biden administration and Congress keep hoarding nuclear waste in local storages.

Day 155 of reading the Holy Bible in 365 days.

Acts 2. At the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit arrived, and that day many languages were spoken by the disciples, at least 15 different tongues that the listeners understood. Peter stood up and delivered his first sermon, a powerful one that led to about 3000 new converts. The following few weeks were good times and the believers were in good fellowship with each other.

2 Kings 20. Hezekiah was ill unto death, but he prayed to the LORD, and got his life extended another fifteen years. From Babylon came envoys, Hezekiah showed them every treasure in his palace, for in doing so he thought “There will be peace for our time” just like Neville Chamberlain did before WWII.

2 Kings 21. Manasseh became King of Judah, doing more evil in the sight of the LORD than even the surrounding countries. After his death Amon reigned and died, followed by his son, Josiah.

Day 154 of reading the Holy Bible in 365 days.

Acts 1 begins with the disciples watching Jesus’ Ascension, but before he left Earth he promised they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. While waiting for the Holy Spirit to come Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot as one of the 12 Apostles.

2 Kings 18. Hezekiah reigned in Judah, and was threatened by the Assyrians. Sennacherib boasted against the LORD, but Hezekiah still trusted the LORD and that He would deliver His people. The chapter ends with a standoff.

2 Kings 19. The prophet Isaiah assured deliverance from Sennacherib’s threat. Hezekiah’s prayed for deliverance and Isaiah delivered the word of the LORD concerning Sennacherib. That night the Angel of the Lord slayed 185,000 men, and Sennacherib was defeated and died not long after.

Why Thorium? 7. Thorium nuclear power is the only realistic solution to power space colonies.

Thorium nuclear power is the only realistic solution to power space colonies. To form space colonies, power has to be provided to sustain the colony. This means that Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors  (LFTR) have to be fully developed and operational here on earth before serious space colony development can even begin. It need to get started in earnest NOW!

Kirk Sorensen has provided an intriguing teaser on the case for Thorium nuclear energy.

Watch it and enjoy!

Day 153 of reading the Holy Bible in 365 days.

Luke 24:32-53. Jesus appeared to the Disciples back in Jerusalem and even ate a piece of broiled fish in their presence. He then explained the Scriptures written about him, and they understood for the first time, but they still had to wait for the power from the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Luke ends with the Ascension, but that event is even better described in the Acts of the Apostles, also authored by Dr. Luke.

2 Kings 16. This is a short chapter and deals with Ahaz , king of Judah and his dealings with the king of Assyria. 

2 Kings 17. Hoshea was the last King over Israel, the defeated people of Israel were carried captive to Assyria, and Assyria then resettled Samaria with their own people.

Why Thorium? 6. Thorium based nuclear power will produce Plutonium-238, needed for space exploration.

A Thorium based nuclear power generator produces Pu-238 as one of the final TRansUranium products, which is in short supply and much in demand for space exploration nuclear power.

NASA relies on pu-238 to power long-lasting spacecraft batteries that transform heat into electricity. With foreign and domestic supplies dwindling, NASA officials are worried the shortage will prevent the agency from sending spacecraft to the outer planets and other destinations where sunlight is scarce. Thorium reactors produce PU-238 as a “free” byproduct.  In 2009 Congress denied a request to produce more Pu-238 by traditional means, instead relying on Russia to sell us the plutonium. (Remember the Russian reset?) Russia made their last delivery in 2010. PU-238 production has since been restarted by converting Ne-237 to Pu-238 at a cost of over 8 million dollars per kilogram. The Ceres-Dawn spacecraft used over 22 Kg of Pu-238 as electricity generator.

To get the best efficiency of generating Pu-238 out of a molten salt Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, the excess U-233 and TRansUranium products have to be extracted continuously while the reactor is running, and this technology is not yet implemented, but is necessary to implement before we can also have Thorium power on the moon, and Thorium Power is the only viable solution if we are ever going to have a moon colony, so we should rapidly develop the technology privately and with the cooperation of the Space Force and NASA.

Day 152 of reading the Holy Bible in 365 days.

Luke 24:1-31. We call the first day of the week “The Lord’s day” to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the most important event in the Christian calendar! Later on the Resurrection day two dejected disciples met someone on the Road to Emmaus and finally realized they had met Jesus when he did break bread with them.

2 Kings 14. Amaziah ruled firmly in Judah and followed the law of Moses: “every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” But after a victory over the Edomites he became proud and tried to conquer Israel. This failed completely, and instead Israel broke down part of the wall of Jerusalem and raided the Temple. Finally,  Jeroboam II became king of Israel, died and his son Zechariah succeeded him.

2 Kings 15. The parade of Kings of Israel and Judah continues. Azariah reigned in Judah, Zachariah reigned in Israel, Shallum reigned in Israel, Menahem reigned in Israel, Pekahiah reigned in Israel, Pekah reigned in Israel, Jotham reigned in Judah, all recorded in chronological order.

Why Thorium? 5. Thorium based nuclear power produces 0.012 percent as much TRansUranium waste products as traditional nuclear power.

 A Thorium based fast breeder nuclear reactor produces much less TRansUranium waste, 0.012% waste products compared to a Uranium-235/238  fast breeder with between 3 and 8% U235. The Thorium process has a much higher efficiency of fission than  the Uranium process. See the figure below.

Pu = Plutonium, Am = Americum, Cm = Curium, all TRansUraniums, nasty stuff.

With Thorium based Nuclear power, there are few storage problems, with traditional U235 power long tern storage is an immense and urgent problem, and has been since the 1960’s. At that time Sweden had a heavy water  U-238 nuclear power program going using unenriched Uranium, but abandoned it in favor of traditional U-235 enriched nuclear power, because U.S. promised to provide the material and take care of the reprocessing and final storage of all nuclear waste at cost if Sweden joined the nuclear proliferation treaty. Reprocessing was to be done in Washington State, and one of the final storage sites mentioned was Yucca Mountain in Nevada, having the ideal geological properties.

Time went by and in 1982 – Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, requiring the establishment of a deep geologic repository for nuclear waste storage and isolation. Yucca Mountain was high on the list out of of 9 possible sites.

Time goes by, and Congress is still not able to decide on a solution. Meanwhile, TRU’s from spent and reprocessed fuel is piling up in less than ideal locations. There is now more than a quarter million metric tons of highly radioactive waste in storage near nuclear power plants and weapons production facilities. Thorium based nuclear power would go a long way to alleviate this problem.

There is one challenge with Thorium nuclear Power. When Th 232 is irradiated, it will invariably produce some U 232. When in continuous power production it is not much of a problem, but when stopped, the U 232 will 36% of the time produce Thallium 208, that will decay into stable Pb 208 with a 2.6 MeV gamma ray. The half life of U232 is 69 years, so the need for shielding of the nuclear waste in transportation and storage is great. It is spoken of as an insurmountable obstacle by Thorium opponents, but is very solvable.

Why Thorium? 4. Thorium is much less radioactive than Uranium and should not be considered ‘Source Material’ at the same level as Uranium.

What is Source Material according to NRC?

Uranium or thorium, or any combination thereof, in any physical or chemical form, or ores that contain, by weight, one-twentieth of one percent (0.05 percent) or more of (1) uranium, (2) thorium, or (3) any combination thereof. Source material does not include special nuclear material. For additional detail, see Source Material.

Thorium 232 has a half life of 14 billion years, about the same as the generally accepted age of the universe until the dell telescope discovered much more than was known

Uranium 238 has a half life of 4.5 billion years and Uranium 235 has a half life of 700 million years.

In addition Uranium has as its first transition Thorium generation on its path down to the final stable state, Lead. This means that Uranium is at least four times as radioactive as Thorium.

It is interesting to observe that in the decay path of both Uranium and Thorium they pass through Radon and emit two alpha particles on the way.

The definition for Source material should therefore be changed to:

Uranium or thorium, or any combination thereof, in any physical or chemical form, or ores that contain, by weight, one-twentieth of one percent (0.05 percent) or more of (1) uranium, 0.2 percent of (2) thorium, or (3) any proportional combination thereof.

Why is this important? The U.S. used to be world leader in rare earth metals production. Then when the regulation on Source Material was instituted, mining rare earth metals with a small amount of Thorium became unprofitable and China took over, and developed a near monopoly on the market, in effect making rare earth metals single sourced. Rare earth metals, as well as Thorium is of great strategic value.

Here is an example:

This is the Mount Weld Rare Earth Mine in Western Australia. It is owned by Lynas Corporation. The mined ore, after concentration is shipped to Malaysia for final refining. The concentrated ore contains 30% rare earth metals ready for separation, but the ore also contains 0.16% Thorium. For the moment, only the most sought after rare earth metals are refined, the rest are left on the slag heap, which includes Thorium. This makes it nuclear waste according to a multitude of protestors, after all it is source material. To complicate matters further, China is looking to grab the mine, so they stir up as much trouble as possible

Day 151 of reading the Holy Bible in 365 days.

Luke 23:26-56, . On the second most important day in the Christian calendar Jesus was sentenced to be crucified, was forced to carry his own cross but was too exhausted from the floggings. On the cross Jesus said the famous “Seven Last Words”, (taken from the four gospels), then he died and was buried before sundown.

2 Kings 12. The Temple had fallen in disrepair, so Jehoash repaired the Temple. Hazael, king of Aram threatened Jerusalem but withdrew after Joash paid the ransom. After forty years reign Joash died and was succeeded by Amaziah.

2 Kings 13. The Scripture gives us one more history chapter. Jehoahaz reigned in Judah, Jehoash reigned in Israel, Elisha died and Israel recaptured some cities from Syria.