Published on October 30th, 2019 |
by Michael Barnard
October 30th, 2019 by Michael Barnard
Seven years ago, CleanTechnica published its policy position to not cover thorium nuclear reactors. Today, the United States has a Democratic presidential candidate in the top 10 who loves thorium, yet CleanTechnica still ignores it. Why is that?
Let’s start with the candidate, Andrew Yang.
Yes, the Andrew Yang campaign is promising next generation reactors on the grid in eight years. This was covered as part of the And then there’s the bad section of CleanTechnica‘s review of his climate action plan (tl;dr: good on carbon tax, meh on other things, really bad on energy).
What did CleanTechnica say about thorium and other next-generation nuclear in our review of his plan?
“the most realistic timeframe for fusion in actual utility-scale generation is 2050 at the earliest (and more likely much later), and there are exactly zero thorium nuclear plants operating in the world. The history of building nuclear that we know how to build today indicates a 10–15 year timeframe for the known technology. […]
The thorium crowd likes to point at India and China, but China has committed to only build a couple of molten salt reactors with a 12 MW capacity that might use thorium at some future date, and India has even less ambitious plans. […]
As Mark Z. Jacobson said in our email conversation, […]:
“I think the more wasteful parts of his proposal are spending on thorium, nuclear fusion, and geoengineering. None of these has a chance to help solve the problem, which we need implemented now. They are all opportunity costs.”
There is no empirical evidence suggesting that a 2027 time frame is remotely likely, and Top 100 Climate Influencing academics think it’s wasteful and not helpful.
So why did CleanTechnica stop bothering with this in 2012? At the time, the evidence was just as clear. CleanTechnica published a piece duplicating a fact sheet on the subject from 2009, a decade ago. The fact sheet was as follows.
By Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd
A Fact Sheet Produced by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Physicians for Social Responsibility
Thorium “fuel” has been proposed as an alternative to uranium fuel in nuclear reactors. There are not “thorium reactors,” but rather proposals to use thorium as a “fuel” in different types of reactors, including existing light-water reactors and various fast breeder reactor designs.
Thorium, which refers to thorium-232, is a radioactive metal that is about three times more abundant than uranium in the natural environment. Large known deposits are in Australia, India, and Norway. Some of the largest reserves are found in Idaho in the U.S. The primary U.S. company advocating for thorium fuel is Thorium Power (www.thoriumpower.com). Contrary to the claims made or implied by thorium proponents, however, thorium doesn’t solve the proliferation, waste, safety, or cost problems of nuclear power, and it still faces major technical hurdles for commercialization.
Not a Proliferation Solution
Thorium is not actually a “fuel” because it is not fissile and therefore cannot be used to start or sustain a nuclear chain reaction. A fissile material, such as uranium-235 (U-235) or plutonium-239 (which is made in reactors from uranium-238), is required to kick-start the reaction. The enriched uranium fuel or plutonium fuel also maintains the chain reaction until enough of the thorium target material has been converted into fissile uranium-233 (U-233) to take over much or most of the job. An advantage of thorium is that it absorbs slow neutrons relatively efficiently (compared to uranium-238) to produce fissile uranium-233.
The use of enriched uranium or plutonium in thorium fuel has proliferation implications. Although U-235 is found in nature, it is only 0.7 percent of natural uranium, so the proportion of U-235 must be industrially increased to make “enriched uranium” for use in reactors. Highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium are nuclear weapons materials.
In addition, U-233 is as effective as plutonium-239 for making nuclear bombs. In most proposed thorium fuel cycles, reprocessing is required to separate out the U-233 for use in fresh fuel. This means that, like uranium fuel with reprocessing, bomb-making material is separated out, making it vulnerable to theft or diversion. Some proposed thorium fuel cycles even require 20% enriched uranium in order to get the chain reaction started in existing reactors using thorium fuel. It takes 90% enrichment to make weapons-usable uranium, but very little additional work is needed to move from 20% enrichment to 90% enrichment. Most of the separative work is needed to go from natural uranium, which has 0.7% uranium-235, to 20% U-235.
It has been claimed that thorium fuel cycles with reprocessing would be much less of a proliferation risk because the thorium can be mixed with uranium-238. In this case, fissile uranium-233 is also mixed with non-fissile uranium-238. The claim is that if the uranium-238 content is high enough, the mixture cannot be used to make bombs without a complex uranium enrichment plant. This is misleading. More uranium-238 does dilute the uranium-233, but it also results in the production of more plutonium-239 as the reactor operates. So the proliferation problem remains — either bomb-usable uranium-233 or bomb-useable plutonium is created and can be separated out by reprocessing.
Further, while an enrichment plant is needed to separate U-233 from U-238, it would take less separative work to do so than enriching natural uranium. This is because U-233 is five atomic weight units lighter than U-238, compared to only three for U-235. It is true that such enrichment would not be a straightforward matter because the U-233 is contaminated with U-232, which is highly radioactive and has very radioactive radionuclides in its decay chain. The radiation-dose-related problems associated with separating U-233 from U-238 and then handling the U-233 would be considerable and more complex than enriching natural uranium for the purpose of bomb making. But in principle, the separation can be done, especially if worker safety is not a primary concern; the resulting U-233 can be used to make bombs. There is just no way to avoid proliferation problems associated with thorium fuel cycles that involve reprocessing. Thorium fuel cycles without reprocessing would offer the same temptation to reprocess as today’s once-through uranium fuel cycles.
Not a Waste Solution
Proponents claim that thorium fuel significantly reduces the volume, weight, and long-term radiotoxicity of spent fuel. Using thorium in a nuclear reactor creates radioactive waste that proponents claim would only have to be isolated from the environment for 500 years, as opposed to the irradiated uranium-only fuel that remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. This claim is wrong. The fission of thorium creates long-lived fission products like technetium-99 (half-life over 200,000 years). While the mix of fission products is somewhat different than with uranium fuel, the same range of fission products is created. With or without reprocessing, these fission products have to be disposed of in a geologic repository.
If the spent fuel is not reprocessed, thorium-232 is very-long lived (half-life:14 billion years) and its decay products will build up over time in the spent fuel. This will make the spent fuel quite radiotoxic, in addition to all the fission products in it. It should also be noted that inhalation of a unit of radioactivity of thorium-232 or thorium-228 (which is also present as a decay product of thorium-232) produces a far higher dose, especially to certain organs, than the inhalation of uranium containing the same amount of radioactivity. For instance, the bone surface dose from breathing an amount (mass) of insoluble thorium is about 200 times that of breathing the same mass of uranium.
Finally, the use of thorium also creates waste at the front end of the fuel cycle. The radioactivity associated with these is expected to be considerably less than that associated with a comparable amount of uranium milling. However, mine wastes will pose long-term hazards, as in the case of uranium mining. There are also often hazardous non-radioactive metals in both thorium and uranium mill tailings.
Ongoing Technical Problems
Research and development of thorium fuel has been undertaken in Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the UK, and the U.S. for more than half a century. Besides remote fuel fabrication and issues at the front end of the fuel cycle, thorium-U-233 breeder reactors produce fuel (“breed”) much more slowly than uranium-plutonium-239 breeders. This leads to technical complications. India is sometimes cited as the country that has successfully developed thorium fuel. In fact, India has been trying to develop a thorium breeder fuel cycle for decades but has not yet done so commercially.
One reason reprocessing thorium fuel cycles haven’t been successful is that uranium-232 (U-232) is created along with uranium-233. U-232, which has a half-life of about 70 years, is extremely radioactive and is therefore very dangerous in small quantities: a single small particle in a lung would exceed legal radiation standards for the general public. U-232 also has highly radioactive decay products. Therefore, fabricating fuel with U-233 is very
expensive and difficult.
Not an Economic Solution
Thorium may be abundant and possess certain technical advantages, but it does not mean that it is economical. Compared to uranium, the thorium fuel cycle is likely to be even more costly. In a once-through mode, it will need both uranium enrichment (or plutonium separation) and thorium target rod production. In a breeder configuration, it will need reprocessing, which is costly. In addition, as noted, inhalation of thorium-232 produces a higher dose than the same amount of uranium-238 (either by radioactivity or by weight).
Reprocessed thorium creates even more risks due to the highly radioactive U-232 created in the reactor. This makes worker protection more difficult and expensive for a given level of annual dose.
Fact sheet completed in January 2009
Updated July 2009
There were some criticisms of this fact sheet at the time, and CleanTechnica published them too. But seven years later, there’s still no commercial product, no commercial siting approved, no regulatory approval, and in fact not much of any movement.
As I said to a commenter elsewhere recently, I have a simple rule of thumb for assessing technologies (in addition to my often exceeding deep ways of assessing them):
If a technology has been in existence for decades and yet there are no commercial installations of it anywhere in the world, there is very little likelihood of it becoming viable.
This has proven true for airborne wind energy and many other technologies I’ve assessed, including next-generation nuclear.
Of course, I’ve looked at the likelihood of next-generation nuclear, including the molten-salt reactors necessary for thorium nuclear generation, in depth as well.
None are likely to be in commercial operation before 2040 at the earliest. By the time any get to commercial market availability, the cost of renewables will have only fallen further, making any nuclear even less competitive. How do we know? Let’s start with what the World Nuclear Association has to say about Gen IV reactors.
“After some two years’ deliberation and review of about one hundred concepts, late in 2002 GIF (then representing ten countries) announced the selection of six reactor technologies which they believe represent the future shape of nuclear energy. […] At least four of the systems have significant operating experience already in most respects of their design, which provides a good basis for further R&D and is likely to mean that they can be in commercial operation before 2030.”
2030 isn’t bad. But there’s more.
What about the Gen IV International Forum?
“Some of these reactor designs could be demonstrated within the next decade, with commercial deployment beginning in 2030.”
That’s an even less enthralling statement. Demonstrated sometime within ten years. Maybe commercial deployment beginning in 12 years. And given that the average nuclear plant takes 15 years for a commercial deployment, and that’s for known, established technologies, it could easily be 2045 by the time Gen IV reactors are pumping electricity into the grid commercially.
So in 2002, six technologies were chosen and it’s possible that a couple of them might be generating electricity commercially sometime after 2040. That’s 38+ years to commercialization of a technology. I’m trying to think of something equivalently slow-paced in the world of modern generation technology that isn’t fusion generation and mostly failing.
Maybe in 2002 the thought of competitive nuclear generation was reasonable. But the chart above highlights the precipitous drop in the price of both wind and solar technologies. Those renewable technologies have all of the advantages of nuclear — very low carbon emissions per MWh, very low pollution per MWh, low direct or secondary mortality impacts per MWh — a bunch of additional advantages — cheaper, faster, viable in all countries — with none of the disadvantages of nuclear — nuclear waste, terrorism concerns, inflexibility, low social license.
The low modern cost of wind and solar along with the low cost of natural gas generation and the inherent challenges of nuclear has seen a bunch of reactors shut down and fleet reduction announcements globally. There was a blip of increase due to China finally getting some of its reactors going, but that’s ended as China has delayed most new starts while simultaneously increasing wind and solar.
As the World Nuclear Association documents, nuclear started its decline in 2006, long before Fukushima. Most of the reactors in Japan that were shut down won’t be coming back on line. France is on track to reduce its nuclear capacity. The nuclear industry in the US is lobbying for subsidies and tax breaks to allow existing reactors to stay open, mostly without success. Toshiba Westinghouse is bankrupt and was bought by Brookfield for the 40 to 80 years of decommissioning service revenue, not to build new reactors. That’s the same reason SNC Lavalin bought CANDU.
It’s worth looking at the unsubsidized LCOE for different forms of generation, per Lazard. You’ll note what the cheapest forms of generation are in 2018: utility-scale wind and solar. You’ll note what isn’t cheapest: nuclear. And that isn’t commercially unproven technologies, that’s technology which has been being commissioned for 50 years.
Hinkley in the UK is a Gen III reactor design and continues to be pushed forward by the conservative government there despite a price tag of 15 cents USD per kWh guaranteed for 35 years. Similarly, other Gen III reactors in France and Finland are years and billions over budget. That’s the reality of nuclear technology advances. Nuclear doesn’t get cheaper. Unlike almost every other technology we’ve invented, it just gets more expensive.
There’s no reason to think that Gen IV reactors, whenever they actually get to a stage where they might be deployed commercially, will end up being cheaper than alternatives. The opposite is likely to be true, that they will be much more expensive than the alternatives and with other unappealing characteristics. They’ll have to fight for commercial share in a space where they are very much the unknown, unproven, risky alternative against very well known, widely deployed, effective and cheap competitors.
There’s little reason to consider thorium, molten salt reactors and Gates’ “traveling wave” TerraPower technology when considering the future of energy. We have solutions today. They may be boring and low-tech, but they are cheap, fast to build, reliable, predictable, and have incredibly low negative externalities. By the time any of these technologies actually see the market, they’ll be like the Christian concept of a god in a world of science, with nowhere to stand and nothing to do.
As a result, CleanTechnica‘s policy will be to continue to ignore them in favor of the actually transformative technologies reshaping our world for the better.
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It will make you happy & help you live in peace for the rest of your life.
ThorCon is a molten salt fission reactor. Unlike all present nuclear reactors, the fuel is in liquid type. It can be moved around with a pump and passively drained pipes. This 500 MW fission power plant is encapsulated in a hull, built in a shipyard, pulled to a shallow water site, ballasted to the seabed. ThorCon is a straightforward scale-up of the successful United States Oak Ridge National Laboratory Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE).
The total ThorCon is produced in 150 to 500 heap blocks in a shipyard, assembled, then towed to the site. This produces order of magnitude improvements in efficiency, quality control, and construct time. A single large reactor yard can turn out twenty gigawatts of ThorCon power plants per year. ThorCon is a system for building power plants.
ThorCon has actually been working with the Indonesian federal government to add dependable electrical power to the grid. In 2019 the Ministry of Energy began a research study of the safety, economics, and grid effect of the 500 MW model ThorConIsle.
ThorCon is working with Argonne National Labs on product tests. They are moving to establish a non-fissile test plant to validate all elements of the plant before progressing to a very first of kind fissile reactor.
They are verifying the seismic security with simulations. They are confirming the safety of shipping the reactor versus the worst oceanic storms.
They target making the energy more affordable than coal from the reactor.
Indonesia had a target cost for their energy and their analysis is that ThorCon will have lower cost than their target.
The last Indonesia recommendation report for the President of Indonesia is still being finalized.
Phase 1 is to build and test it with action by action commissioning, ending in a type license for future power plants.
Phase 2 is the shipyard production of ThorCon plants to offer an additional 3 GW of low-cost, reliable electrical power.
Dane Wilson recently retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. At ORNL, Dane worked on products and systems for usage in molten fluoride salts, high-temperature gaseous environments, and other pernicious working fluids of interest to energy and hydrogen production. Dane has a BSc in physics (solid-state), MS in product science and engineering and PhD in metallurgy (corrosion and surface area science).
nextbigfuture. com, the top online science blog. He is likewise involved in angel investing and raising funds for advancement innovation startup companies.
He gave the current keynote presentation at Monte Jade event with a talk entitled the Future for You. He offered an yearly upgrade on molecular nanotechnology at Singularity University on nanotechnology, offered a TEDX talk on energy, and encourages USC ASTE 527 (advanced space projects program). He has actually been spoken with for radio, professional companies. podcasts and business events. He was recently spoke with by the radio program Steel on Steel on satellites and high elevation balloons that will track all movement in numerous parts of the USA.
He fundraises for different high impact technology business and has worked in computer technology, insurance coverage, healthcare and with business financing.
He has considerable familiarity with a broad variety of development technologies like age turnaround and antiaging, quantum computer systems, artificial intelligence, ocean tech, agtech, nuclear fission, innovative nuclear fission, area propulsion, satellites, imaging, molecular nanotechnology, biotechnology, medication, blockchain, crypto and many other areas.
Nuclear energy plays an essential role in France, generating 75% of its electricity, and continuous troubles at the country’s new Flamanville “third generation” reactor have raised crucial concerns about its function in the future electricity mix and techniques for managing the associated radioactive materials and waste. Building started in 2007, with the last expense approximated at 3.3 billion euros. On October 9 the plant’s operator, EDF, annonced new delays, with expenses now estimated at 12.4 billion euros and the opening pushed back to 2022 – a decade later on than at first set up.
France presently operates 58 pressurized water reactors (PWR), referred to as “second generation”. Nineteen of these reactors were put into operation prior to 1981 and will reach their style service life of 40 years over the next three years. The future of the nuclear market represents a crucial concern, which will most likely have a long lasting result on all market stakeholders – electricity manufacturers, distribution system operators, energy service providers and consumers. This indicates that all French citizens will be affected.
Imagining the future of the nuclear industry
Investment choices regarding the electrical power sector can develop dedications for the nation that will last 10s or even hundreds of years, and this future clearly stays unpredictable. Against this background, positive approaches can assistance plan for the future and identify, even partially, the possible effects of the options we make today.
Such an technique includes very first identifying then evaluating the various possible paths for the future in order to asses them and potentially rank them.
The future of the nuclear industry consists of a fairly large variety of possibilities: it differs according to the development of installed capability and the pace with which new innovations (the EPR innovation that will be utilized in Flamanville, referred to as “third generation”, or RNR technology, referred to as “fourth generation”) are released.
Given the great degree of unpredictability surrounding the future of the nuclear market, research relies on simulation tools; the “electronuclear scenario” represents one of the primary methods. Little recognized by the general public, it varies from the energy circumstances utilized to inform discussions for the Multiannual Energy Plan (PPE). The nuclear circumstance represents a standard structure block of the energy situation and is based on a detailed description of the nuclear centers and the physics that manages them. In practice, energy and nuclear scenarios can enhance one another, with the outcomes of the former representing hypotheses for the latter, and the results of the latter making it possible to examine in greater detail the various courses set out by the previous.
The goal of studying the nuclear scenario is to examine one or several development courses for nuclear facilities from a materials-balance perspective, significance tracking the evolution of radioactive materials (uranium, plutonium, fission products etc.) in nuclear power plants. In basic, it relies on a complex modeling tool that handles a range of scales, both spatial (from primary particle to nuclear power plants) and temporal (from less than a microsecond for particular nuclear reactions to millions of years for certain types of nuclear waste).
Based on a precise meaning of a power plant and its evolution over time, the simulation code determines the advancement of the mass of each aspect of interest, radioactive or otherwise, throughout all nuclear facilities. This information can then serve as the basis for producing more helpful data concerning the management of resources and recycled materials, radiation protection, and so on
Emergence of brand-new players
Long booked to nuclear organizations and operators, the scenario-building process has gradually opened up to academic scientists, driven mainly by the Bataille Law of 1991 and the Birraux Law of 2006 worrying radioactive waste management. These laws resulted in a greater diversity of players involved in producing, assessing and using scenarios.
In addition to the traditional gamers (EDF and CEA in specific), the CNRS and scholastic researchers (primarily physicists and more recently economists) and representatives of civil society have actually taken on these issues by producing their own scenarios.
There have been significant advancements on the user side as well. Whereas prior to the Bataille and Birraux Laws, nuclear problems were discussed nearly specifically in between nuclear operators and the executive branch of the French government, providing rise to the image of concerns restricted to “ministerial secrecy,” these laws have actually allowed for these problems to be resolved in more public and open online forums, in specific in the academic and legislative spheres.
They also developed National Assessment Committees, composed of twelve members selected based on proposals by the Académie des Sciences, the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, and the French Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Options. The studies of situations produced by institutional, industrial and academic gamers are examined by these committees and described in yearly public reports sent out to the members of the French parliament.
Opening up this process to a wider variety of players has had an effect on the scenario-building practices, as it has led to a higher variety of scenarios and hypotheses on which they are based.
A range of scenarios
The majority of the circumstances developed by nuclear institutions and market players are “realistic” propositions according to these very same celebrations: circumstances based on feedback from the nuclear industry. They rely on technology already developed or in use and draw mainly on hypotheses supporting the continued use of nuclear energy, with an unchanged set up capability.
The circumstances proposed by the research world tend to give less factor to consider to the commitment of “industrial realism,” and check out futures that interrupt the current system. Examples include research carried out on transmutation in ADS (accelerator-driven reactors), design research studies for MSR (molten salt reactors), which are in some cases described as “exotic” reactors, and studies on the thorium cycle. A 2017 research study also analyzed the effect of recycling the plutonium in reactors of the existing technology, and as part of a strategy to significantly minimize, or even eliminate, the part of nuclear energy by 2050.
These examples show that scholastic situations are typically developed with the goal of deconstructing the dominant discourse in order to foster debate.
Electronuclear situations plainly act as “boundary things”. They supply an chance to bring together various neighborhoods of stakeholders, with various understanding and various, and often opposing, interests in order to compare their visions for the future, organize their methods and even work together. As such, they help widen the “scope of possibilities” and foster innovation through the greater diversity of circumstances produced.
Given the inherent unpredictabilities of the nuclear world, this diversity also appears to be a secret to guaranteeing more robust and trustworthy circumstances, since talking about these scenarios forces stakeholders to justify the hypotheses, tools and criteria utilized to produce them, which are often still implicit.
However, figuring out how these various situations can be utilized to assistance “informed” decisions stays questionable.
The intricacy of the system to be modeled needs simplifications, hence providing rise to predispositions which are tough to quantify in the output information. These predispositions affect both technical and economic data and are often rightly used to dispute the results of circumstances and the recommendations they may support.
How, then, can we guarantee that the circumstances produced are robust? There are two opposing methods: Must we try to construct easy or streamlined situations in an effort to make them easy to understand to the general public (especially politicians), at the risk of disregarding crucial variables and leading to “biased” decisions? Or, ought to we produce situations that are complicated, however more loyal to the processes and unpredictabilities involved, at the danger of making them mostly “opaque” to decision-makers, and more broadly, to the residents welcomed to take part in the public argument?
As of today, these circumstances are too-little discussed outdoors of specialist circles. But let us hope that the public dispute on radioactive waste management will offer an exceptional chance to bring these concerns to a greater degree into the “scope of democracy,” in the words of Christian Bataille.
This article was equated from the initial French by the Institut Mines-Télécom and upgraded to show existing events.
An confidential reader composes:
To transition the United States from fossil fuels to green energy, [Democratic Governmental candidate Andrew Yang] wants the federal government to invest $50 billion in the development of thorium molten-salt nuclear reactors — and he desires them on the grid by 2027. “Nuclear isn’t a ideal service, but it’s a solid option for now,” Yang’s climate policy page checks out. It calls out thorium molten-salt reactors in specific as “a innovation we must invest in as a substitute for any shortfalls we have in our sustainable energy sources as we move to a future powered by sustainable energy.”
Thorium molten-salt reactors were first invented 60 years ago, but Yang appears to be the first presidential candidate to campaign on their pledge to make nuclear energy safer, cleaner, and more affordable. Like all molten-salt reactors, they shun solid rods of uranium-235 in favor of a liquid fuel made of thorium and a small quantity of uranium dissolved in a molten salt. This approach to nuclear energy decreases expansion risk, produces very little amounts of short-term harmful waste, and resists nuclear meltdowns. As in a conventional nuclear reactor, splitting the nuclei of a nuclear fuel—a procedure known as fission—produces heat, which gets utilized to turn a turbine to create electrical power. However the Cold War arms race meant the US was currently in the company of enhancing uranium for weapons, so nuclear reactors based on solid uranium took off while liquid reactors stalled. No country has built a commercial molten-salt reactor. As a result, numerous practical questions stay about the finest way to style a thorium liquid-fuel reactor. Foremost amongst them, says Lin-Wen Hu, director of research study and irradiation services at MIT’s Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, is finding materials that can consist of the corrosive molten salts. Moreover, figuring out how to extract undesirable aspects produced as thorium decays—such as protactinium-233 — from the fuel stays a significant technical difficulty.
The governmental candidate backs a type of reactor that assures cleaner, much safer nuclear energy. However it might not be the finest way to ditch fossil fuels.
South Korean Researchers Claim Kimsuky Group Was Carrying out Espionage
A nonprofit intelligence organization in South Korea claims that it has proof that a current malware attack at India’s Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant was brought out by North Korea’s Kimsuky Group.
IssueMakersLab, or IML, a Seoul-based group of malware experts, claims in a series of tweets that Kimsuky Group tried to take info on the newest design of the “Advanced Heavy Water Reactor,” an Indian style for a next-generation nuclear reactor that burns thorium into in the fuel core.
IML states it carefully follows activities of numerous group from North Korea involved in nation-state attacks. And it claims the Kimsuky Group in 2013 utilized a similar method to attack South Korean broadcasting stations and banking systems.
The research group did not right away reply to a demand for more info on the evidence regarding the attack at the nuclear plant.
Simon Choi, IML’s creator, said he will explain his group’s findings quickly at a security conference soon. “We have been monitoring the hackers since 2008. We were likewise keeping a close watch on hackers who made the attack on India’s nuclear plant,” Choi says.
IML declares that the main motive behind the attack was to gain knowledge on thorium-based nuclear power.
“North Korea has actually been interested in the thorium based nuclear power, which can be utilized to replace the uranium nuclear power. India is a leader in thorium nuclear power technology. Because last year, North Korean hackers have constantly tried to attack India’s nuclear plants to obtain that details,” IML states in a tweet.
Last week, the Nuclear Power Corp. of India verified that a PC at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant was infected with malware.
The experts at IML also claim that the accounts of numerous Indian nuclear researchers, consisting of Anil Kakodkar, previous Atomic Energy Commission chairman, and S.A. Bhardwaj, previous chief of Atomic Energy Regulative Board, were targeted for malware attacks.
“Hackers sent out an e-mail containing malware to the previous chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulative Board of India. He was likewise the technical director of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited as well as an professional on Advanced Heavy Water Reactor,” IML said.
The North Korean hackers sent out hacking e-mails to the previous chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India(AECI) and the Secretary to the Federal government of India and the Director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre(BARC). pic. twitter.com/UCv01aCq2X
— IssueMakersLab (@issuemakerslab) November 2, 2019
Also, the DPRK hackers sent out e-mail consisting of malware to the chairman(not now *ex-*) of the Atomic Energy Regulative Board(AERB) of India. And he was the Technical Director of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited(NPCIL). He’s an professional on the AHWR reactor (thorium-based). pic. twitter.com/5BjlGenPhr
— IssueMakersLab (@issuemakerslab) November 2, 2019
Nuclear Power Corp. of India did not right away reply to a request for comment on the IML report.
IML also declares that those targeted by North Korean hackers are top authorities in India’s nuclear energy sector. If they stole their credentials, hackers might then contact anyone in India’s nuclear energy sector and represent a relied on relationship, they note. The hackers utilized a computer produced and utilized only in North Korea, the researchers say. “The IP utilized by one of the hackers was from Pyongyang in North Korea,” IML states in a tweet.
How the Malware Was Introduced
IML declares malware was injected into North Korea’s propaganda website, Meari, and dispersed via the site by making use of a Google Chrome zero day vulnerability.
This is Chrome 0- day script injected into the “메아 …(Meari)” propaganda site by North Korea on October 29, 2019. pic. twitter.com/mKJuQJDTYm
— IssueMakersLab (@issuemakerslab) November 2, 2019
According to a blog by Kaspersky, the make use of of Google Chrome’s zero day vulnerability started at a North Korean website where the assaulters injected malicious code. This loads a script from a third-party site that very first checks to see if the system is suitable for infection and which browser the victim uses. “After validating it’s discovered what it wanted, the exploit gains consent to read and write information to the device, which it right away uses to download, decrypt, and run the malware. The latter can differ depending on the user,” Kaspersky states.
The Kimsuky Group is thought to have actually been accountable for the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power cyber terrorism attacks in 2014 in South Korea, according to The Guardian. The group utilizes spear-phishing e-mails, which are often designed with the function of stealing website account information and attaching malicious code, according to news reports. The primary targets of its attacks are federal government and military officials and news press reporters.
DTrack, the malware that might have actually been utilized to contaminate a PC at the Indian nuclear power plant KKNPP, has historically utilized as an exfiltrate information tool. It’s basically a remote access Trojan that takes control of a system, Kaspersky states.
IML states that the Kimsuky Group utilized DTrack to infiltrate the South Korean military’s internal network in 2016 and steal categorized info.
The Kimsuky Group has also targeted a broad range of entities, consisting of diplomatic bodies of the United Nations Security Council like China, France, Belgium, Peru, and South Africa, The Guardian reports.
NEW DELHI – A current sophisticated cyber attack on an Indian nuclear power plant intended at ferreting out sensitive research and technical data might have originated in North Korea.
In a tweet sent out out on Monday (Nov 4), IssueMakersLab (IML), a Seoul-based cyber-intelligence organisation, has claimed that one of the hackers included “is utilizing a North Korean self-branded computer system produced and used only in” North Korea.
It likewise added that the IP address of one of the opponents was traced back to Pyongyang.
The attack refers to a targeted project on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu that is now understood to have intensified earlier this year.
It sought to take delicate data from the plant by accessing the domain controller administrator’s credentials.
Details of the attack, nevertheless, began emerging just last month after the specific malware utilized in the attack showed up on VirusTotal, an online infection scanning service.
It gained public traction as well as media attention after Indian cyber-security expert Pukhraj Singh tweeted a link to the malware on VirusTotal on Oct 28 and proven the attack on Kudankulam.
Mr Singh told The Straits Times that he had prior knowledge of the attack as he had been gotten in touch with on Sept 1 by an American cyber-security firm which had identified the intrusion at Kudankulam.
He did not name the firm and said that he alerted the workplace of India’s National Cyber Security Coordinator on Sept 3 after ascertaining the truths of the attack.
Mr Singh, who has previously worked for India’s technical intelligence company, the National Technical Research Study Organisation, likewise added that “extremely mission-critical targets” at the plant were affected.
Following these claims, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) denied the attack on Oct 29 but confessed it a day later, releasing a declaration stating that a malware had actually been detected in the “NPCIL system”.
According to the declaration, the contaminated computer was part of the administrative network and “isolated” from the important internal network.
The NPCIL also stated that systems at the plant, which is India’s biggest, were not affected.
According to a series of tweets published on Nov 2 by IML, the intent of the malware attack was to collect information on thorium-based nuclear power from India.
The nation has the world’s largest deposit of thorium and is commonly acknowledged as a world leader in thorium research and development.
“North Korea has actually been interested in … thorium-based nuclear power, which to change the uranium nuclear power … Given that last year, North Korean hackers have continuously tried to attack to obtain that info,” IML tweeted.
The NPCIL declaration did not make any referral to the kind of information that might have actually been stolen by the hackers.
IML also declared that North Korean hackers had launched spear-phishing attacks on India’s nuclear energy-related experts by disguising themselves as employees of India’s nuclear energy organisations.
They continued their attack for about two years, it included.
The laboratory had likewise declared in April this year that North Korea’s Kimsuky Group attempted to steal information on the latest style of the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor, an Indian design for a next-generation nuclear reactor that burns thorium into the fuel core.
Cyberthreat intelligence analysts have actually found that the malware used for the Kudankulam project has a “reasonable amount of overlap” with DTrack, a tool that cyber-security company Kaspersky had in September spotted in Indian financial institutions and research study centres.
A release from the company then had said that this spyware “reportedly was created by the Lazarus group” and can be used to upload and download files to victims’ systems and record secret strokes, among other functions.
The Lazarus group is a cybercrime group made up of an unknown number of individuals and widely suggested to have links to North Korea.
The Indian Express newspaper also reported on Wednesday that the Indian Area Research Study Organisation (ISRO) too had been targeted around the very same time as Kudankulam by the same malware campaign.
ISRO at that point was in the thick of its lunar objective and its Vikram lander was arranged to land on the moon on Sept 7. The lander lost contact after making a tough landing on the lunar surface.
ISRO has not made any remark yet on these claims. The North Korean embassy in New Delhi also did not respond to a demand for remark from ST.
Mr Singh stated this occurrence needs to push India to establish the complete spectrum of its cyber defence capabilities, consisting of the ability to characteristic attacks to particular actors, obtain the intent of an attack, track threat actors over a longer duration of time, and take advantage of several sources of intelligence.
“Cyber security must become the pivot of our nationwide security technique. The invasions at Kudankulam weren’t destructive because the actor decided against it. We were at its grace,” he added.