Skip to comments.Rare Earth Minerals and Thorium: A solution to several pressing technical and political problems.
Posted on 06/03/2019 9:02:48 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
There seems to be a similarity between international trade disputes and Texas Holdem. There is always a certain amount of bluff that is part of the negotiations. The question is, how much is a bluff and how much is not. The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has just revealed that they are going to use their stake in rare earth minerals production as their show card. Make no mistake -- the communist government is not bluffing. However, one good card does not make a winning hand.
To understand the problem, we first must understand where rare earth mineral deposits are found and why, we in the United States, no longer mine deposits that we have domestically.
Rare earth minerals are found in a number of areas around the world, including North America. Rare earths are comprised of the 15 Lanthanide Elements in the periodic table and two outliers; Scandium and Yttrium. As with many mineral deposits, there are also other less desirable minerals collocated in these veins of rare earth minerals. These include uranium and thorium, which are radioactive.
When exploiting a deposit of rare earth minerals, the processing of the minerals leaves behind mining tailings of radioactive thorium and uranium. Although uranium has a market value, thorium currently is classified as radioactive waste which, according the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be handled in a very specific and costly way to protect the ground water and the environment in general from becoming dangerously radioactive. These requirements make exploiting the domestic deposits of rare earth minerals prohibitively expensive.
By contrast, China does not care about the environmental impacts of industry, which explains the toxic air quality of cities like Shanghai and Beijing. The mining operations of the Chinese rare earth mineral deposits leaves behind huge toxic and radioactive waste dumps.
(Excerpt) Read more at americanthinker.com ...
The author proposes that we look at the use of THORIUM.
Thorium can be used in special type of nuclear reactor which has been shown to be proliferation resistant and safer than the High Pressure Water Reactors (HPWR) which are based upon uranium.
Back in the early 1960s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) built a Liquid Fluoride-Thorium salt reactor (LFTR). The reactor was designed by Dr. Alvin Weinberg, who was the director of ORNL. The reactor operated without incident for a number of years before it was shut down by Congress in favor of fast breeder reactors and HPWR because each of these types of reactors produce weapons grade fissile plutonium and uranium which was in great demand because of the Cold War arms race.
The demonstration of the LFTR reactor was a magnificent success. It proved that LFTR types of reactors were safer than uranium-based HPWR in a number of ways.
Read more at above link...
Wasn't it Paul Krugman who said we could learn a lot about economics from the Chinese?
Thank You for posting.
This is what always gets me about ultra-liberal environmental laws in the United States (which, by and large, are a good thing). Liberals are very happy to drive EVs and build millions of windmills, both of which use vast quantities of REMs. But they don't want the toxic effluent in the U.S., so they happily outsource REM mining and production to China and other third world countries with no or minimal environmental safeguards.
Whatever happed to their silly mantra "Think Globally, Act Locally"? If they were truly "Thinking Globally" and had integrity, they would refuse to buy ANY products that use REMs including Teslas and all "green energy" from windmills.
We should have been pursuing Thorium exploitation decades ago.
We still can, and we should.
Rare earths are found in thorium deposits and the thorium is radioactive waste from rare earth mining. Funny how plans come together, no?
Thorium is just thrown into the article as a shiny object.
Just a few years ago, “pebble bed” reactors using thorium pellets was touted as the coming thing for generating electricity. Supposedly they would have allowed development of smaller scale reactors, allowing decentralization of power production, thus less losses to long distance transmission, much safer/simpler waste disposal, etc. Any idea why this idea has seemed to fade away?
In what way? Is it not feasible? Are LFTR reactors not feasible?
If China withdraws from the market others will step forward to offer supply. Yes, your iPhone might cost a couple of bucks more, at least for a while until fully robotic mining operations are put in place. So what. This threat will have zero real leverage against the US.
Thorium main isotope, Th-232, accounts for 99.98% of all the Thorium in existence. That isotope has a half-life of 14 billion years.
(For comparison, Uranium has two chief isotopes: U-238, which accounts for 99.27% of all Uranium in existence, and with a half-life of 4.47 billion years; and U-235, with a natural occurence of roughly 0.7% and a half-life of 704 million years.)
Remember, the longer the half-life, the less radioactive and/or dangerous the isotope (generally speaking).
So Thorium is orders of magnitude safer than Uranium.
Of course, tailings from the mining of Rare Earths could contain who knows what - but as far as the Thorium is concerned, I would be far less worried about it than about the Uranium.
P.S. Thorium is not fissile - i.e., cannot ordinarily be used to make nuclear bombs.
We could learn from the Chinese in the way we learn from anyone else’s mistakes.
hehahaha...I have a degree in Chemistry, that made me laugh when I saw your post!
I have never worked in the field since I graduated, but little things still tweak me...I just the other night finished watching “Breaking Bad”, and I found myself unconsiously watching the opening credits for each episode which features various elements highlighted in actor’s names...:)
Never quite leaves you completely!
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