Way back on the main lists of power generation is the metal thorium that can be used similarly to uranium for fission nuclear fuel. Thorium misses most issues that concern people about nuclear power such as radioactivity, long-term waste issues and making weapons from the fuel.
Last month saw Senator Orrin Hatch pop a bill, S 3680 IS in the 110th Congress as his district has a confirmed site of a huge quantity of thorium that would serve America for a long time. Its called Lemhi Pass, the link here is to a Google Search. We’ve also looked at thorium here more than once; click here for a prime post with informative links at the bottom.
The bill Senator Hatch has introduced is an amendment of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 that would compel the inclusion of thorium as a fuel source for federal programs. Briefly, the bill instructs the creation of thorium regulations in the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Regulations would be due at the end of 2012 with demonstration projects at the Idaho National Laboratory.
The bill goes further than one might expect as one section instructs the departments to provide recommendations for “strengthening international partnerships to advance nuclear nonproliferation through design and deployment of thorium fuel cycle power generation and providing incentives to nuclear reactor operators in the United States and foreign countries to use proliferation resistant, low waste thorium fuels in lieu of other fuels.”
The instructions are followed up with $250 million dollars for 2009 through 2013.
That sounds good to the proponents. It may not be enough and might well be late to the party.
The news Monday from MiningWeekly.com in an interview with Neal Froneman the former Uranium One CEO and current Gold One CEO and holder and developer of mineral rights in southern Africa about thorium ore deposits at Etendeka in Namibia are “Olympic Dam” types. That must be a local vernacular term. Sounds impressive though. With a comment that Etendeka shows “Very high thorium grades,” Froneman goes on to suggest that thorium could have an excellent future as thorium may well replace uranium beginning over the next 15 to 20 years.
All optimistic. But keep in mind that Senator Hatch is no lightweight novice and is exceptionally good at taking care of his Utah constituents. There is good reason think that with national support by interested people that his effort to get thorium fuel in the U.S. power mix could well get a good start in commercialization.
The news out of southern Africa is also good, very good, as a thorium industry would counter the New Soviet apparatchiks of Russia busily selling uranium reactors to such strange leaders as those of Iran and Venezuela. Thorium offers better, faster and cheaper and an offering by the developed world to build such plants countering uranium plant offers would certainly disclose the clandestine efforts to build atom bombs.
Thorium can be a major tool in powering civilization. It offers much more than power, it offers those with technology in place to sell a great opportunity and free people’s governments a strong diplomatic tool to reduce the risk of uranium and plutonium weapon proliferation that endangers everyone.
Ignoring thorium is looking more and more as fools with their heads in the sand.
Thanks to Senator Hatch a new form of power generation and more civilized and safer international trade is in sight. But will the new U.S. leadership seize the opportunity?