Episode 21 — Proliferation? Not on Our Watch — Unintended Consequences — Chapter 8 Part 5

Taking the Easiest Course of Action

It would be very difficult to make a weapon from LFTR fuels because the gamma rays emitted by the U-232 in the fuel would harm technicians and damage the bomb’s electronics.

Uranium could be stolen during enriching, production of pellets, delivery to the reactor, and for long-term storage, but LFTRs only use external uranium to start the reaction, after which time uranium is produced within the reactor from thorium.

The Most Radioactive Places on Earth

The United Kingdom tried unsuccessfully over a period of 10 years, from the 1950’s to the 1960’s, to produce a weapon from Thorium. They gave up and switched to the uranium path. Still today, 1.5 tonnes of Thorium remain stored from that program. This is enough to power the entire UK for 10 years — Carbon Free.

The USA fired one Thorium driven test in 1955 (MET/Operation Teapot), but the results so poor and complications so high they did no further.

A 1 GW LWR [Light Water Reactor] requires about 1.2 tons of uranium per year, but a 1 GW LFTR only needs a one-time “kick-start” of 500 pounds [225 kg] of U-235 plus 1 ton of Thorium per year during its 60 year lifespan.

The half-life of Thorium 232 is 14 billion years, so it is not hazardous due to its extremely slow decay.

Oak Ridge TM6413 Aug 1978 — Molten Salt Reactors for Efficient Nuclear Fuel Utilization without Plutonium Separation

Oak Ridge TM6413 Aug 1978 — Molten Salt Reactors for Efficient Nuclear Fuel Utilization without Plutonium Separation

The primary physical advantage of Thorium fuel is that it uniquely makes possible a breeder reactor that runs with slow neutrons, otherwise known as a thermal breeder reactor. These reactors are often considered simpler than the more traditional fast-neutron breeders. — IAEA 2005

IAEA — TEDOC 1450 — The Thorium Fuel Cycle — May 2005

[The primary physical advantage of thorium fuel is that it uniquely makes possible a breeder reactor that runs with slow neutrons, otherwise known as a thermal breeder reactor. These reactors are often considered simpler than the more traditional fast-neutron breeders. IAEA 2005.

When Thorium 232 takes up a neutron, the subsequent decay takes two paths: mostly U233 and some U232. The U233 provides most of the useful energy production by Fission. U232 provides protection against proliferation as several decay daughters are high energy gamma emitters — meaning they burn out silicon chips. For example the gamma spike coming from Thallium 208 is 2.6 MeV. ]

Decay of U232

[Shielding using advanced materials and methods, such as distance (air), lead, and water can reduce radiation energy to levels where dosages are at recommended levels around 10 microSiverts per hour or 100 milliSiverts per year.

Note that there have been many examples of doses much higher than this causing no concern, such as 350 microSiverts per hour received by Albert Stevens for over 20 years.

Radiation shielding is a mass of absorbing material placed between yourself and the source of radiation in order to reduce the radiation to a level that is safer for humans.

This is measured by using a concept called the halving thickness — the thickness of a material required to halve the energy of the radiation passing through it.

Remember also, that Radiation decreases with distance in accordance with the inverse square law.]

Quotes by Albert Einstein

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

“Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I never would have lifted a finger,”

“I made one great mistake in my life-when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made but there was some justification-the danger that the Germans would make them.”

“The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking … the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.” — Albert said this in 1945, after the US bombed Japan with nuclear weapons and killed over 200,000 innocent civilians. Approximately 50,000 of them where children, 100,000 where women, and the balance the elderly. There were minor military casualties.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

“Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.”

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

“He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilisation should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

Albert Einstein, the Grandfather of Fission Energy

Energy production is the only viable way away from militarisation of Fission Energy. In the same way fire is harnessed in a fireplace to warm our homes or make our steels, Invisible Fire, Fission Energy, Energy from the Atom, does the same.

We are blessed by people like Alvin Weinberg who dedicated their lives to the cause after witnessing how their scientific endeavours were employed with such militaristic zeal for death and destruction.

Dr. Alvin Weinberg b. April 20, 1915, Chicago, Illinois d. October 18, 2006, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

“Weinberg realised that you could use Thorium in an entirely new kind of reactor, one that would have zero risk of meltdown. … his team built a working reactor … and he spent the rest of his 18-year tenure trying to make Thorium the heart of the nation’s atomic power effort. He failed. Uranium reactors had already been established, and Hyman Rickover, defacto head of the US nuclear program, wanted the plutonium from uranium-powered nuclear plants to make bombs. Increasingly shunted aside, Weinberg was finally forced out in 1973.” — Richard Martin, 2009, Wired Magazine

Russia Investigates Thorium for Power Generation

Coming up next week, Episode 22 — The Pros of LFTRs. Why are they So Good?

Links and References

  1. Next Episode — Episode 22 — The Pros of LFTRs. Why are they So Good?
  2. Previous Episode — Episode 20 — Got a LFTR? What’s Under the Hood
  3. Launching the Unintended Consequences Series
  4. Dr. George Erickson on LinkedIn
  5. Dr. George Erickson’s Website, Tundracub.com
  6. The full pdf version of Unintended Consequences
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle#Uranium-232_contamination
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Stevens
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRL7o2kPqw0
  10. https://modernsurvivalblog.com/nuclear/nuclear-radiation-shielding-protection/
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_contamination
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_ray
  13. https://www.nuclear-power.com/nuclear-engineering/materials-nuclear-engineering/properties-of-water/water-as-gamma-radiation-shielding/
  14. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mitopencourseware/3776104498/in/photostream/
  15. https://www.nuclear-power.com/nuclear-power/reactor-physics/atomic-nuclear-physics/radiation/shielding-of-ionizing-radiation/shielding-gamma-radiation/
  16. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium-232
  17. https://patreon.com/posts/39262802
  18. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein
  19. https://www.vintag.es/2016/04/amazing-black-and-white-photographs.html
  20. https://inktank.fi/five-fascinating-facts-you-didnt-know-about-albert-einstein/
  21. https://www.history.com/news/9-things-you-may-not-know-about-albert-einstein
  22. https://www.neimagazine.com/news/newsrussia-investigates-thorium-4986083/

#UnintendedConsequences #GeorgeErickson #ClimateChange #FissionEnergy #NuclearEnergy #SpentNuclearFuel #MoltenSaltReactor #LFTR #TheThoriumNetwork #Thorium #Fission4All #RadiationIsGood4U #GetYourRadiation2Day #InvisibleFire

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