[ RadSafe ] Thorium nuclear fuel cycle

Brennan, Mike (DOH) Mike.Brennan at DOH.WA.GOV
Fri Nov 13 10:57:54 CST 2009

I don't have firsthand experience in this (very few people do), but as I
understand it, the argument goes like this:

1) Since Th232 does not breed into plutonium the U238 does, it does not
produce that source of potential weapons material.

2) Since reactors can be designed that uses thorium in the natural
isotopic ratio, there is no need to enrich fissile material, as there in
the uranium cycle.  

3) The fissile material isn't actually Th232, but U233, which is bred in
the thorium fuel.  While U233 can be used to make weapons, there is no
need to separate it out of the fuel, and so diversion would be easy to
spot.  I understand from reading when the US experimented with U233 as a
weapons material that is makes for weapons that are hot sitting on the
shelf (from the U233 and from U232 contamination that is impossible to
remove) and thus make it unsuitable for a weapons program.

I think the thorium fuel cycle is well worth pursuing, but more from an
ease of obtaining the fuel than from non-proliferation point of view.  

I hope this is useful.  


At 05:03 PM 11/12/2009, Otto G. Raabe wrote:
November 12, 2009

Can anyone provide some information about the thorium nuclear fuel 
cycle and the reason it is supposed to be a better 
proliferation-resistant nuclear fuel cycle.



Prof. Otto G. Raabe, Ph.D., CHP
Center for Health & the Environment
University of California
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
E-Mail: ograabe at ucdavis.edu
Phone: (530) 752-7754   FAX: (530) 758-6140

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