[ RadSafe ] Thorium Fueled Reactors

George Stanford gstanford at aya.yale.edu
Wed Feb 8 19:34:36 CST 2012


      The thorium cycle does not eliminate proliferation concerns, 
for two reasons.

      First, any (uninspected) reactor can be adapted to irradiate 
U238 to make weapons-quality Pu239.

      Second, it is fairly straightforward to extract pure U233 (an 
excellent bomb material) from a thorium reactor by chemical 
separation of Pa233 (the U233 precursor).  Sometimes it's argued that 
removing Pa233 would deprive the reactor of needed fissile 
material.  However, that deficit can be made up by substituting 
poor-quality Pu from LWR fuel, or by using uranium that is partly 
enriched.  Thus a thorium reactor can be used as a device for 
converting lousy (for weapons) Pu or U into high-quality U233.

      Thorium reactors will need the same sort of safeguards as 
uranium-fueled reactors.

      For other aspects of thorium versus uranium, you might find it 
helpful to read the discussion that can be found at < 
http://snipurl.com/2146n0e >.

      --  George Stanford
      Reactor physicist


At 05:27 PM 2/8/2012, Jake Hecla wrote:
      Hello fellow Radsafers- I'm writing you to ask for your 
opinions regarding Thorium based reactors, specifically the MSR 
design that seems to get so much media attention. The brief research 
I've done seems to indicate that MSRs are the future of nuclear power 
proliferation. However, I've yet to hear about any of the drawbacks 
regarding this technology. Can you enlighten me further?

Thanks for your time
-Jake J. Hecla

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