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Science Technology

Thorium Fuel Has Proliferation Risk 239

Posted by timothy
from the but-lokium-has-its-own-risks dept.
Capt.Albatross writes "Thorium has attracted interest as a potentially safer fuel for nuclear power generation. In part, this has been because of the absence of a route to nuclear weapons, but a group of British scientists have identified a path that leads to uranium-233 via protactinium-233 from irradiated thorium. The protactinium separation could possibly be done with standard lab equipment, which would allow it to be done covertly, and deliver the minimum of U233 required for a weapon in less than a year. The full article is in Nature, but paywalled."
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Thorium Fuel Has Proliferation Risk

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  • However (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maz2331 (1104901) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @10:29AM (#42203949)

    Breeding U-233 from thorium always creates enough highly radioactive U-232 that makes it unusable for weapon uses, and due to the very close atomic weight is incredibly diffuclt to remove. Random fissions during either assembly of a gun-type weapon or even an implosion mean that you're far more likely to end up with a "fizzle" (very low yield) due to starting the chain reaction too soon, than to get the actual yield that the weapon was designed for. And since the material is so dangerous to handle, the workers who have to put the thing together and maintain it are quite likely to die quickly, as will the electronics necessary to fire the weapon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @11:32AM (#42204679)

    I'm a nerd, and I care about this story as much as I care about the latest discoveries in chair castor design. It's got aspects of science to it, sure, but the most interesting aspects are question of the future power sources and the question of proliferation. That's why half the comments are about Iran. Tell me, is the question of Iranian proliferation more of a 'nerd' question or a 'hot button politics' question?

    If you want a slashdot story that gets a lot of comments, look for one with political overtones. Actual true nerd news - a new release of BSD, the IOCCC results, or details on the latest and greatest from the world of CPU design - those stories look like ghost towns, even hours after posting.

    So go ahead, pretend this is a story for nerds; go ahead, subsume every hot-button politics story into the 'stuff that matters' category. You're just doing your small part to eat away at the heritage of one of the web's best discussion forums.

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