Skip to comments.Former NE Senator Bob Kerrey joins US Rare Earths (can he solve the "thorium problem?)
Posted on 07/04/2013 12:51:55 PM PDT by Kolath
NEW YORK, July 1, 2013 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- U.S. Rare Earths, Inc., "UREE", UREE +8.00% , a rare earths exploration company with mining claims in Idaho, Montana, and Colorado, announced today the appointment of J. Robert Kerrey, former U.S. Senator and Governor of Nebraska, to the Company's Board of Directors.
"We are delighted to add an independent Director with Bob's wide range of experience, and his familiarity with critical issues of national importance. It should now become clear that we are in the process at UREE of building an extremely accomplished team on the Board of Directors. Our intention is to establish a free market approach within the Rare Earths sector. Moreover, in creating a U.S. marketplace, we are hoping to put an end to the Chinese monopoly that currently exists," said U.S. Rare Earths Chairman of the Board, Victor Lattimore.
"For the sake of America's national security, it is important that we develop a reliable supply of rare earths, a critical ingredient for much of the technology that is generating the jobs of tomorrow," said Governor Kerrey. "I am honored to serve on the board of a company whose mission is to get this important work done."
(Excerpt) Read more at marketwatch.com ...
We can burn thorium in liquid salt reactors....
Much safer than our current reactors
Thought it was a rock band.
I’ve heard about thorium for a while. Only the chicom’s have it?
The US got out of LFTRs (liquid fluoride thorium reactor) because of politics and due to the fact that the design was so radical when compared to LWRs. The corporate sector, military and academia were only familiar to solid state uranium fuel systems and knew little about Thorium.
FYI: Remember, nuclear research started under the context of WW2 and the desire to find a weapon. Thorium’s nuclear bomb potential is very limited and almost unworkable.
So what did we get? An infrastructure build around Uranium. By the 1950’s, Adm Rickover wanted a nuclear fleet and the White House wanted cheap nuclear fuel. Since they only knew Uranium, that’s what we got. Inertia and cronyism did the rest.
There was a brief interest in Thorium when Dr. Alvin Weinberg got a grant to conduct a LFTR study in 1960’s. After five years, his results at ORNL were spectacular and he was ready for the next step of building a fully functional working prototype (with a full thorium blanket and power generator).
Nixon nixed the idea in favor of fast breeder reactors which convert plutonium waste into energy. It was seen as a way to deal with LWR waste issues. However, the FBR program came to a screeching halt with massive cost overruns and incidents involving partial meltdowns. One incident in Michigan almost resulted in the evacuation the of Detroit due to the fears of a potential fall out. America’s FBR program shut down in the mid 80’s.
In France and Japan, a similar story. France has since shut down their FBRs in lieu of conventional LWR due to technical/cost issues. Japan briefly had a FBR program but shut it down after incident involving a construction crane collapse (they decided to get out and cut their losses).
LWRs, by default, became our nuclear fall back strategy but that strategy is coming to an end due to the age of the LWR fleet. We’re at a strategic crossroads in nuclear energy. The last LWR reactor to be constructed was in 1996 in Tennessee.
LFTRs won’t become a reality until several things happen.
1. Reclassify thorium as a national resource instead of its current status as a low-level nuclear waste: This will open up research and investment into thorium technology as well as open up the US for heavy rare earth production (which China currently has a monopoly on).
FYI: Heavy rare earths (used in a plethora of high tech devices) are often found with thorium which must be separated and stored due to EPA regulations. Many companies simply won’t put up with the gov’t hassles and costs.
2. The DoE needs to start the process of writing guidelines for LFTRs: You can’t build until the gov’t recognizes your technology. No sane investor will put down money until there are regulations.
3. Find investors outside the “usual suspects”: Westinghouse and GE won’t touch thorium because it doesn’t fit their business model. Both companies make their money on nuclear power via the sale of fuel contracts (uranium-oxide pellets encased in graphite/zirconium rods).
4. There still needs to be more research. It’s been 40 years since the program was scrubbed. Most of the scientists are dead and the only things left are tech manuals, photos and theoretical papers. In some ways, we’ll be starting from scratch. The good news is that a new generation of scientists are looking for the next “big thing”.
Currently, several countries are looking into LFTR’s with China in the noticeable lead. China has an annual LFTR budget of one Billion dollars with a small army of PhD’s in the areas of Physics, Chemistry and Engineering. Their plan is to have a working prototype by 2020 and to immediately apply for “intellectual patents”.
Other countries looking into thorium are: Norway (solid fuel), India (currently has a solid thorium model running), Czech Republic, England, Brazil, and Canada. In the US there is some research but mostly on computer simulation studies. There is also a small group of enthusiasts on a shoe string budget.
The current vibe is that unless something big happens now, China will win this race and will start selling reactor franchises by 2030.
Bump for later.
Largest in the US is in eastern Idaho...Lemhi Pass Thorium Deposit. Lots of unproven resource there.
Thorium is literally everywhere. You’ll find it in common dirt, granite, and conventional mines of all sorts (iron, aluminum, copper). The best source are heavy rare earths. Whenever you have heavy rare earths, you’ll always find Thorium...that’s just how the planet was made.
Thorium fuels the planet’s core with long term heart (along with Uranium). According to one mining CEO, a typical rare Earth mine can supply (considered a byproduct of normal operations) about 5000 tons of Thorium per year. If the Earth was on a thorium energy standard, that 5000 tons can supply the entire planet’s energy needs.
...and that’s just one mine.
Therefore, thorium is downright cheap to acquire, doesn’t need to be enriched like Uranium, and once separated can go strait into a LFTR reactor.
Thorium is non water soluble and can’t be metabolized. It’s also “fertile” as opposed to “fissile. By itself it can’t cause a chain reaction or produce heat until it’s bombarded by neutrons.
There is some rare earth mining in the US (molycorp is the best known company) but that’s mainly “light rare earths” which have limited industrial uses. These ores have limited amounts of thorium which can be easily contained thereby comply with EPA regulations.
FYI: please watch
Even though I shouldn’t be, I am amazed that every time I mention nuclear U or Th reactors to solve the “problem” of CO2, the enviro wacko-birds start whining about having to deal with radioactive by-products. Never mind that it’s buried underground for 10k+ years.
It is everywhere but not everywhere in economic concentrations.
China and the US have tons of this stuff stored. It’s in high concentrations in heavy rare earths. So much so, the EPA classifies it as “low level nuclear waste” (which impairs US heavy rare earths extraction).
True, just getting out of dirt is not viable, but if you have heavy rare earth mines, you’ll have adequate concentrations of thorium for industrial use.
This is too cool...
My brother is extolling the virtues of thorium ad nauseum and keeps saying no one is listening...