Nuclear Power

Thorium reactors are usually considered not to be weapons proliferation risks, but this article from the Nuclear Threat Intitiative’s Global Security Newsletter suggests otherwise.  They report on an article appearing in Nature pointing out weapons proliferation risks connected to Thorium.

Aug 162012


This article, by Michael Richardson, on August 8, 2012, in Japan Times, questions whether the US should approve a new laser enrichment plant.  The argument is that laser enrichment could more easily be done secretly compared to centrifuge enrichment which requires large, industrial, not easily hidden, facilities.  The ability to secretly enrich uranium could enable secret production of highly enriched uranium for weapons.

Read more:

What about Thorium?

Posted by Dot Sulock at 2:27 pm
Aug 142012

August 13, 2012  FAS Roundup

There is four times as much thorium on Earth as there is uranium, and that less than 1 percent of uranium consists of U-235. In the past few years, there has been discussion in the United States, China and India regarding thorium power. What exactly is thorium power, and what are the pros and cons of it?

This is a useful, objective, and  authoritative presentation of the costs of energy from various sources.

June 12, 2012

“Last Friday, in a major environmental victory, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit three-judge panel unanimously ruled against the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) “Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision.” Plaintiffs, including the States of CT, NJ, NY, and VT — as well as an environmental coalition comprised of BREDL (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League), NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Riverkeeper, and SACE (Southern Alliance for Clean Energy), represented by NRDC’s Geoff Fettus and Diane Curran of the law firm Harmon, Curran, Speilberg + Eisenberg, LLP — successfully argued that NRC’s environmental assessment of the safety and security risks of on-site storage of high-level radioactive waste at atomic reactors has been woefully inadequate for decades. Proposed new reactor licenses, and old reactor license extensions, could now face major delays, as NRC is forced, under court order, to carry out the long overdue environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”

Read more and access court ruling, plaintiff’s statements, and media coverage at Beyond Nuclear:

June 14, 2012

“The department is taking control of tons of uranium left over from USEC’s enrichment operations that is considered to be waste and is thus listed by the company as a liability. That will in effect add $88 million to the company’s balance sheet, officials said. The aid was granted in anticipation of approval of the deal in Congress, where the nuclear weapons argument resonates. The administration hopes that lawmakers will grant its request for substantially more aid to the company, perhaps an additional $190 million or so, department officials said.” …

“Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, criticized the rescue plan. “The real risks of this nuclear bailout is for taxpayers, who will be on the hook for questionable government handouts that are worth more than the entire company,” he said.

USEC has been seeking a $2 billion loan guarantee to build a full-scale enrichment plant,  but the Energy Department has said that it was not certain that the technology was ready.”

Jun 132012


Between 1952 and 2009, at least 99 nuclear accidents met this definition worldwide, at a cost of more than US$20.5 billion, or more than one incident and US$330 million in damage every year. This recurrence rate demonstrates that many risks are not being properly managed or regulated. The meltdown of a 500-megawatt reactor located 50 kilometers (31 miles) from a city would cause the immediate death of an estimated 45,000 people, injure roughly another 70,000, and cause US$17 billion in property damage.

This is from an interesting article by a Russian published in Xinhuanet, a Chinese newspaper, on June 13, 2012.   Alexander Likhotal doesn’t provide citations for the facts in the article.

Read the entire article at

June 12, 2012  Nautilus Institute

“Prof. von Hippel concluded by making four suggestions:

1) Japan should end its breeder reactor programme. Uranium only accounts for 3% of the cost of nuclear power. Most of the cost is due to the capital cost of the reactors. There is an argument that one should not bury plutonium, but Professor von Hippel argues that a U.S. National Academy of Sciences study has concluded that doses to workers today would be increased by plutonium recycle while doses to people in the future would not be large if spent fuel were buried carefully.

2) Reprocessing should end. It is costly and proliferation is a danger. Building, operating and decommissioning Rokkasho would increase Japan’s electric energy costs by 10 trillion yen. Stopping operations at Rokkasho would save 4 trillion yen. There would have been a 1 yen per kilowatt hour saving had Rokkasho not been built. Japan only reprocesses because it has a lack of storage for spent fuel.

3) Spent fuel should be stored in dry casks. These were not damaged at Fukushima. Fuel pools are dangerously densely packed and may lose water. Prof. von Hippel recommended storing the fuel in water for the first 5 years and then moving it to dry casks afterwards. If the fuel is put into dry casks then there will be no need for Rokkasho.

4) The Rokkasho MOX fuel plant should also be closed. It is cheaper to dispose of plutonium directly. In place of Rokkasho, the government should launch an R&D programme on plutonium waste disposal. If it does so, then the UK and US may well collaborate with Japan as they each have problems with their plutonium disposal programs. For example, in the US it will cost about 13 billion dollars to produce MOX fuel with excess weapons plutonium which is only worth about 1 billion dollars.”

Read the whole article at the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability website.  You can sign up to receive their newsletter on their home page.



May 032011

The Economist hosted an excellent debate on the future of nuclear power.  Though debate and the subsequent online vote has ended, the content can still be accessed here.  Tom Burke of Third Generation Environmentalism writes:

Avoiding the radiological risks associated with civil nuclear power, whether in normal operation or from a catastrophe, is not the main reason the world would be better off without it. Atoms cannot be made to work for peace without making them available for war.

The full debate is available from The Economist‘s website.

The problem of how to warn people to stay away from nuclear waste at first seems obvious: put up some signs and let people’s fear do the rest.  But some nuclear waste will remain dangerous for 10,000 years, longer than we can reasonably expect today’s languages and danger symbols to survive.  How do we warn people millennia from now of the dangers posed by nuclear waste sites?  Mental floss has an interesting article devoted to the topic here.