Rare Earth Minerals and Thorium

There seems to be a similarity in between international trade disputes and Texas Hold’em. There is constantly a certain amount of bluff that is part of the negotiations. The concern is, how much is a bluff and how much is not. The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has simply revealed that they are going to use their stake in unusual earth minerals production as their show card. Make no mistake — the communist government is not bluffing. Nevertheless, one great card does not make a winning hand.  

To understand the problem, we first should comprehend where uncommon earth mineral deposits are found and why, we in the United States, no longer mine the deposits that we have domestically.

Rare earth minerals are found in a number of locations around the world, consisting of North America. Rare earths are made up of the 15 Lanthanide Components in the routine table and 2 outliers; Scandium and Yttrium. As with numerous mineral deposits, there are also other less desirable minerals collocated in these veins of unusual earth minerals. These include uranium and thorium, which are radioactive.

When exploiting a deposit of unusual earth minerals, the processing of the minerals leaves behind “mining tailings” of radioactive thorium and uranium.  Although uranium has a market worth, thorium currently is classified as radioactive waste which, according the Environmental Defense Firm (EPA) should be handled in a very specific and expensive way to secure the ground water and the environment in general from ending up being dangerously radioactive. These requirements make exploiting the domestic deposits of rare earth minerals prohibitively pricey.

By contrast, China does not care about the ecological impacts of market, which discusses the poisonous air quality of cities like Shanghai and Beijing. The mining operations of the Chinese uncommon earth mineral deposits leaves behind substantial toxic and radioactive waste disposes. By just refusing to clean up their act, they can produce these minerals at a cost more competitive than locally produced unusual earth minerals.  This is how China has captured 97% of the uncommon earth minerals market share.

This economic and ecological problem can be resolved both in the brief term and the long term due to the fact that thorium is a extremely helpful aspect. Thorium can be utilized in unique type of nuclear reactor which has actually been revealed to be expansion resistant and more secure than the High Pressure Water Reactors (HPWR) which are based upon uranium. Back in the early 1960 s Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) constructed a Liquid Fluoride-Thorium salt reactor (LFTR). The reactor was designed by Dr. Alvin Weinberg, who was the director of ORNL. The reactor ran without incident for a number of years prior to it was shut down by Congress in favor of fast breeder reactors and HPWR because each of these types of reactors produce weapons grade fissile plutonium and uranium which was in great need due to the fact that of the Cold War arms race. 

The demonstration of the LFTR reactor was a stunning success. It proved that LFTR types of reactors were safer than uranium-based HPWR in a number of ways:

In a worst-case scenario, such as the Chernobyl crisis, when there is a breach in the containment vessel (a profoundly hazardous occasion), a HPWR molten core will continue to melt through the Earth causing a “China Syndrome” occasion with the molten core continuing through the Earth until it hits ground water, then explosively gushing radioactive steam back up the same course into the environment killing some in the location immediately and other a bit later on with leukemia and other types of cancer.

If a reactor vessel were to be breached in a LFTR, the molten fluoride salts would leakage out and strengthen and essentially selfheal the breach. Fluoride salts are not water soluble, so even if the breach occurred as the outcome of a tsunami (as was the setting off event at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor) the salts would only solidify that much quicker.

LFTR types of reactors are also expansion resistant. The by-products of the operation of LFTR types of reactors are not appropriate for nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the LFTR types of reactors can be used to “consume” the thousands of invested fuel rods sitting in cooling ponds all over the world at HPWR sites. The resulting byproducts from this intake of these fuel rods would be radioactive just for a few hundred years rather than the current timeline of thousands of years for HPWR waste products.

Given that there are no LFTR reactors utilizing thorium in operation, nor even under building and construction, this is plainly the long-term option to our uncommon earth minerals problem.

Because trade settlements are solely a government-to-government procedure, these solutions need to come from with the federal government. The short-term solution is for the federal government to start a purchasing program of domestic thorium tailings and keeping the ore for later on use in thorium-based LFTR types of reactors. This is not without precedent given that the government had just such a program under the auspices of the Defense National Stockpile Center which has a little stockpile of thorium ore.

Further, Congress might license ORNL to begin a program of cooperation with personal industry to establish useful designs for LFTR-type reactors to produce power as a template to change the aging nuclear reactors in the U.S. Needless to state such a power plant would be a zero-emission point source for electrical generation.  

Without such a two-pronged technique, the Chinese will be able to keep unusual earth minerals which will substantially effect the modern-day 21st Century economic sectors of electronic devices and automotive markets, where the bulk of these minerals are used.  

Mac McDowell worked for over twenty years as a federal government researcher and is now the Chief Technology Officer at Quantum Industrial Development Corp.

There appears to be a resemblance between international trade conflicts and Texas Hold’em. There is constantly a particular quantity of bluff that is part of the settlements. The concern is, how much is a bluff and how much is not. The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has just exposed that they are going to use their stake in unusual earth minerals production as their program card. Make no mistake — the communist government is not bluffing. Nevertheless, one great card does not make a winning hand.  

To comprehend the issue, we first need to understand where unusual earth mineral deposits are found and why, we in the United States, no longer mine the deposits that we have domestically.

Rare earth minerals are discovered in a number of areas around the world, consisting of North America. Uncommon earths are made up of the 15 Lanthanide Aspects in the routine table and 2 outliers; Scandium and Yttrium. As with numerous mineral deposits, there are also other less preferable minerals collocated in these veins of uncommon earth minerals. These include uranium and thorium, which are radioactive.

When making use of a deposit of rare earth minerals, the processing of the minerals leaves behind “mining tailings” of radioactive thorium and uranium.  Although uranium has a market value, thorium currently is classified as radioactive waste which, according the Environmental Security Firm (EPA) need to be handled in a extremely specific and costly method to safeguard the ground water and the environment in general from becoming alarmingly radioactive. These requirements make exploiting the domestic deposits of rare earth minerals prohibitively costly.

By contrast, China does not care about the environmental impacts of industry, which describes the toxic air quality of cities like Shanghai and Beijing. The mining operations of the Chinese unusual earth mineral deposits leaves behind huge hazardous and radioactive waste discards. By just refusing to tidy up their act, they can produce these minerals at a cost more competitive than locally produced uncommon earth minerals.  This is how China has captured 97% of the unusual earth minerals market share.

This financial and ecological issue can be fixed both in the short term and the long term because thorium is a extremely useful component. Thorium can be utilized in unique type of nuclear reactor which has actually been revealed to be proliferation resistant and more secure than the High Pressure Water Reactors (HPWR) which are based upon uranium. Back in the early 1960 s Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) constructed a Liquid Fluoride-Thorium salt reactor (LFTR). The reactor was created by Dr. Alvin Weinberg, who was the director of ORNL. The reactor ran without event for a number of years prior to it was shut down by Congress in favor of quick breeder reactors and HPWR because each of these types of reactors produce weapons grade fissile plutonium and uranium which was in fantastic need because of the Cold War arms race. 

The presentation of the LFTR reactor was a splendid success. It showed that LFTR types of reactors were safer than uranium-based HPWR in a number of ways:

In a worst-case scenario, such as the Chernobyl crisis, when there is a breach in the containment vessel (a profoundly dangerous event), a HPWR molten core will continue to melt through the Earth causing a “China Syndrome” event with the molten core continuing through the Earth up until it hits ground water, then explosively gushing radioactive steam back up the exact same course into the environment killing some in the location immediately and other a bit later with leukemia and other kinds of cancer.

If a reactor vessel were to be breached in a LFTR, the molten fluoride salts would leak out and strengthen and essentially selfheal the breach. Fluoride salts are not water soluble, so even if the breach occurred as the result of a tsunami (as was the activating event at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor) the salts would only strengthen that much much faster.

LFTR types of reactors are also proliferation resistant. The by-products of the operation of LFTR types of reactors are not suitable for nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the LFTR types of reactors can be utilized to “consume” the thousands of invested fuel rods sitting in cooling ponds all over the world at HPWR websites. The resulting byproducts from this usage of these fuel rods would be radioactive just for a few hundred years rather than the existing timeline of thousands of years for HPWR waste products.

Given that there are no LFTR reactors utilizing thorium in operation, nor even under construction, this is plainly the long-term option to our unusual earth minerals problem.

Because trade negotiations are exclusively a government-to-government procedure, these solutions should originate with the federal government. The short-term option is for the federal government to begin a buying program of domestic thorium tailings and storing the ore for later on usage in thorium-based LFTR types of reactors. This is not without precedent considering that the government had just such a program under the auspices of the Defense National Stockpile Center which has a little stockpile of thorium ore.

Further, Congress might authorize ORNL to start a program of cooperation with personal market to develop practical styles for LFTR-type reactors to produce power as a design template to change the aging nuclear reactors in the U.S. Needless to state such a power plant would be a zero-emission point source for electrical generation.  

Without such a two-pronged approach, the Chinese will be able to keep unusual earth minerals which will significantly impact the contemporary 21st Century economic sectors of electronics and automotive markets, where the bulk of these minerals are used.  

Mac McDowell worked for over twenty years as a federal government researcher and is now the Chief Technology Officer at Quantum Industrial Advancement Corp.

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