I’ll trade 20 kg of Thorium for $5 million Gelding…
I was on the phone with a guy at direct loans today to try to put my $17 grand in student loans back into economic hardship deferment when he asked about my employment. I told him I was on a three month tour talking about nuclear abolition (ie: unemployed). He asked if I meant weapons, power or both, and I said both. He said I should look into Thorium as an alternative to uranium for power generation.
Later, I was having a conversation with this dude in a friend’s living room in Asheville, who also mentioned Thorium as some strange solution to nuclear problems. I then did a little internet research, and found that Thorium is a metal used in World of Warcraft, and is generally watched over by the Thorium Brotherhood. After more investigation, I found some totally shady internet pages from “thorium mining industries” that have apparently been buying up all of the US’s Thorium reserves for the last few years just waiting for the price to skyrocket.
Then I thought about trying to find some more reputable websites. So I searched on the Los Alamos Study Group’s website, and found some information on a Thorium Storage Building in Technical Area 3:
http://www.lasg.org/maps/pages/contents/ta3det.htm “The Thorium Storage Building (Building 159, Figure 4-3, Sheet 2), part of the Sigma Complex (Section 188.8.131.52.1.2.2), is a Hazard Category 3 nuclear facility because it is used for storing thorium in both ingot and oxide forms. To ensure material accountability and to limit radiation doses to personnel, Building 159 is surrounded by fencing and has its own controlled access.”
This is part of the Sigma Complex, which apparently deals with the fabrication of DU weapons. From above site: ” Current activities in the Sigma Building focus on test hardware, prototype fabrication, and materials research for the DOE’s Nuclear Weapons Program, but they also include activities related to energy, environment, industrial competitiveness, and strategic research.”
Unknown amounts of Thorium waste is stored in Technical Area 39 at Los Alamos National Labs (http://www.lasg.org/waste/mdab21.htm) along with other weird toxic substances.
from: http://www.lanl.gov/news/index.php/fuseaction/home.story/story_id/1908 “Thorium is an important element for study because it is a constituent of KREEP, the acronym for potassium (symbol “K”), rare Earth elements and phosphorous. KREEP is the last material to solidify from a geologic melt.
“The moon once was hot and molten and as it cooled minerals crystallized and sank to form the core, if they were heavy, or floated upward to form the crust, if they were light. The elements in KREEP do not readily incorporate into minerals and so the mixture remains molten the longest. These elements, then, are signatures of the original material under the moon’s crust, and their presence on the surface indicates some process — volcanic events or impacts strong enough to punch through the crust — must have dredged them up from the interior.
“Thorium emits gamma rays — a high-energy form of light — of a distinct energy.” Does this mean that we are going to try to mine Thorium on the moon? You know LANL scientists are that crazy.
Some other LANL historic archive from Manhattan Project Era mentions Thorium as a material that can create uranium isotope 23 (233 U) (http://www.lanl.gov/history/people/pdf/oppenheimer1.pdf) but I couldn’t really figure out what the fuck they were talking about.
Resorting to wikipedia, I am convinced that Thorium does exist, as wikipedia is my general barometer of reality. Quoth the wiki: “Advocates of the use of thorium as the fuel source for nuclear reactors state that they can be built to operate significantly cleaner than uranium-based power plants as the waste products are much easier to handle.” The “advocates of the use of thorium” refers to the World Nuclear Association, whose by-line is ‘Promoting the peaceful worldwide use of nuclear power as a sustainable energy resource,’ and who has a fucking Westinghouse advertisement on their website. Remind me which part of nuclear power is sustainable? http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.html
Summary: some people are starting to hear about some miraculous mineral whose lucrative mining prospects are untapped, a mineral that the Department of Energy has been studying since the Manhattan Project and that is currently stored in waste form in the canyons of the Los Alamos National Lab (environmental justice activists can talk further about the benevolent research that often goes on at THAT lab), and a mineral described by nuclear industry sycophants as “tanatalising” (yes, the World Nuclear Association article on Thorium has a typo in its opening sentence).
Health effects anyone?
“Breathing in thorium in the workplace may increase the chances of development of lung diseases and lung and pancreas cancer many years after people have been exposed. Thorium has the ability to change genetic materials. People that are injected with thorium for special X-rays may develop liver disease.
“Thorium is radioactive and can be stored in bones. Because of these facts it has the ability to cause bone cancer many years after the exposure has taken place.
“Breathing in massive amounts of thorium may be lethal. People will often die of metal poisoning when massive exposure take place.”
And this is what the Center for Disease Control has to say: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp147-c2.pdf
“Both large and small amounts of radiation are damaging to health. Current scientific consensus is radiation can also increase the probability of cancer, and a conservative assumption is no threshold level exists below which there is no additional risk of cancer. There is considerable debate about how great the cancer risks are when people are chronically exposed to very low levels of radiation. Since everyone is environmentally exposed to a small amount of radiation, the minimum amount of additional radiation that may constitute a health hazard is not well known. ”
“The following sections summarize the health effects associated with thorium. Evidence exists that most, if not all, effects of thorium may be due to its radiological, and not chemical, effects. The mechanism of toxicity for all effects are not well understood.”
“Respiratory Effects. Although the SMR for respiratory diseases was 1.31 among workers at a thorium refinery (Polednak et al. 1983), the increase may have been attributable in part to smoking.” I seem to remember hearing a similar story about Dine uranium miners who were afflicted with lung cancer from breathing in radon gas. I mean cigarettes.
“Progressive cirrhosis of the lungs was found in a subchronic inhalation study in rats (Likhachev et al. 1973a).” That study also had to be thrown out because the rats were smoking on the job. “The severity of the lung cirrhosis was directly related to the radiation dose and the amount of thorium dioxide.” ….oh.
“Because the workers were exposed to other toxic compounds (silica, yttrium, acid and alkali fumes) as well as other sources of radioactivity, toxic effects cannot necessarily be attributed to thorium. Therefore,study do not appear in Table 2-l or Figure 2-l.” It must suck to work at that plant, they dont even know whats making you sick!
“No studies were located regarding the musculoskeletal effects in humans after inhalation exposure to thorium…No studies were located regarding renal effects in humans after inhalation exposure to thorium….No studies were located regarding immunological effects in humans after inhalation exposure to thorium….No studies were located regarding the following health effects in humans or animals after inhalation exposure to thorium. 184.108.40.206 Neurological Effects 220.127.116.11 Developmental Effects 18.104.22.168 Reproductive Effects ”
I detect a gender bias in their research.
“A statistically significant excess of deaths from pancreatic cancer was seen in a cohort of 3039 former thorium workers employed for 1 year or more (6 observed vs. 1.3 expected) but not in workers employed for a shorter time.”
So we know what we know: Thorium will give you cancer, and its radioactive.
We know what we dont know: We dont know about how it affects future generations or women’s bodies.
We dont know what we dont know: How to deal with all the fucking nuclear waste in the world.
And we dont know what we know: mining other radioactive minerals that give workers cancer is not a sustainable, safe, or ethical solution for energy generation.
I dont trust industry solutions to nuclear power, just like I dont trust industry solutions to giant fucking oil spills.