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Science Technology

Thorium Fuel Has Proliferation Risk 239

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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  • Who Cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @11:10AM (#42203737)

    If global climate change is going to be as bad as some people are saying, then it makes sense to just use the damn thorium. We've been dealing with nuclear weapons for more than 70 years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @11:16AM (#42203823)

    You do not need religious just fanatics will do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @11:23AM (#42203899)

    News for nerds, stuff that matters. Not news for zealots, stuff that might matter.

    Mind you, they occasionally fail at the former, but this isn't one of those cases. It's news for nerds, and it matters.

  • by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @11:26AM (#42203939)

    This is all pretty standard and well known. It still takes hot cells and an operating reactor to do.

    And, there is nothing in it that can't be done right now regardless if there are thorium fueled reactors or not. The irradiation of the thorium can be done in existing research reactors. Thorium metal is available (it's used to increase emission in electrical filaments and in the mantles of camping lanterns).

    This seems mostly to be FUD.

  • Risk vs certainty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @11:42AM (#42204071) Journal

    There may be a risk of nuclear weapons proliferation if we replace fossil fuels with nuclear. But if we don't, there is a damned certainty that the climate will continue changing faster than it ever has in the history of the human species. We are at the beginning of a global extinction event that has a very good chance of causing our own extinction. Nuclear weapons are barely a minor concern comparatively.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @11:44AM (#42204091)
    I'm not so sure that most of the leaders of these countries are religious fanatics.

    From what I see they are often not religious - they may pretend to be religious and use religious fanatics as tools and pawns. But they are in no hurry to die and see Allah- they are having a good time on Earth.

    Using nukes would mean the end of the nice life for them, so they'd only do that if they are going to lose that lifestyle anyway. Having nukes makes the USA less likely to back them into such a corner.
  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:04PM (#42204327)
    We need to stop bothering about proliferation risks and get concerned about cheap and safe generation of power. Thorium research is useful because it is more plentiful than Uranium in this planet. That is about it. Because of so called proliferation risks nuclear recycling research has been stuck since the 1970s. For all we know we could be separating all the waste with laser separation and burning the actinides in a high temperature nuclear reactor by now. We don't do it because laser separation technology also enables easier separation of Plutonium from the spent fuel for nuclear weapons. Instead the people who want the Plutonium have to use more polluting chemical separation methods such as PUREX. This insanity needs to stop. If the country already has nuclear weapons in its possession why do we need to bother with such concerns? We only reduced nuclear weapon stockpiles due to bilateral treaties. Lack of further technological development is not an obstacle to producing more nuclear weapons for an industrialized nation.
  • by kelemvor4 ( 1980226 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:11PM (#42204391)

    News for nerds, stuff that matters. Not news for zealots, stuff that might matter.

    Mind you, they occasionally fail at the former, but this isn't one of those cases. It's news for nerds, and it matters.

    Yeah, that whole science thing. Not for nerds - amirite?

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:44PM (#42204831)
    That's a little unfair. They were not very successful in WW1 and Germany didn't use them in WW2.

    The problem they ran into, at Verdun, was that after chemical bombardment of the enemy you cannot tell the difference between (a) dead enemy and (b) enemy pretending to be dead until you get within accurate artillery and machine gun range.

    So no, the Germans wouldn't go for chemical weapons. They would go for ballistic rockets and cruise missiles with conventional warheads, just like they did in WW2. And, back on topic, just like other Middle East countries are doing. The Iranians are far more likely to want a precision ballistic missile that can target the Knesset with a tonne or so of conventional explosive than a nuclear warhead. It is far more of a realistic bargaining tool.

  • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @03:16PM (#42206699)

    Right, because there never was a movement such as Russian style Communism where a tremendous number of people who didn't believe in a personal afterlife were willing to die because of the projected benefits to future generations. There's never been a war fought to a Pyrrhic victory, where both sides didn't have religion to cause it, so there never was a Mongol horde or an Ottoman empire. No persons who don't believe in an afterlife have ever been fanatics, and if we just stuff all the believers into one big oven there won't be any fanaticism any more. Right. And you have title to this bridge in Brooklyn where a Nigerian prince has a hidden fortune....

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.