Friday, November 7, 2014

China-America Nuclear Cooperation with Thorium? 我们起子!

If you've read any of my articles or viewed the videos posted here on The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor and Rare Earths, you know how passionate I am about the subject.  If you haven't, just search "Thorium" at the top of my page.

Allowing America to process its Stockpile of Rare Earths and pursue the development of a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor gives America a Place of Relevance for the next 100 years and allows for the possibility of Star Trek like future, where Post Industrial Demographic Transition is possible for all.

The first step in making this happen is to pass HR4883 and S2006 in Congress.

Rare Earth Lanthanides are the metals needed to make everything that is High Tech and Green and America has all it needs laying around on top of mines, already dug from the earth.  Right now they can't be processed because they are attached to Thorium.  Thorium was wrongly re-classified from a resource material to a waste material in the 1970's.

The Molten Salt Reactor, which today would use Thorium, was developed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee in the 1960's.  Its design is Walk-Away Safe, because it's not under pressure.  It provides 100% Carbon Free Energy, and can be used to Burn Up America's Stock Piles of Nuclear Waste.  The world has so much Thorium that We Will Never Run Out of It.  The temperature the reactor runs at is perfect for Cleanly Extracting Oil from Coal for the Petroleum we need and for De-Salinating Water.

What the Molten Salt Reactor Isn't Good For is making bombs.

Richard Nixon killed the Molten Salt Reactor because he was Ignorant of its Significance.  Thorium was classified as a waste material because our Congress was Ignorant of its Importance.  Ignorant is not stupid, it means you didn't know.


If America does not Unchain Itself from Decades-Old Laws which were Passed in Ignorance, then we become Irrelevant to the Future, because We Acted Stupidly.

China is not the bad guy here, they are simply doing what must be done.

What are we doing?

Below is an article written by a lawyer explaining Rare Earths and Thorium from a different perspective. 

My opinion of his work is that winning a World Trade dispute isn't as important as unchaining ourselves from our own laws.

Thanks for reading.

--- Cam Flanagan

In the world’s never-ending quest for energy resources, the radioactive chemical element thorium has become more than a curiosity. Following calls from the nuclear science community for renewed investigation into thorium’s potential as a source of nuclear energy, a number of states, China foremost among them, have begun funding thorium research in earnest. Thorium’s theoretical prospects for providing relatively low-cost and considerably safer nuclear energy are bright indeed, and significantly, both the United States and China are believed to possess substantial quantities of this element. Although not a rare earth itself, thorium is often refined as a by-product of rare earths extraction following the mining of the mineral monazite, and given the friction between the U.S. and China relating to rare earths (culminating, for now at least, in litigation at the World Trade Organization), one might expect that thorium would be another arena in the ongoing competition between the world’s greatest power and its rising competitor. In fact, something very different has happened: a remarkable degree of cooperation has arisen between the two nations, with the U.S. actively supporting Chinese research and development.   

BULLSHIT, We're Impotent  -- Cam

Beijing recently tasked the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a state entity, with developing a workable design for a thorium-powered nuclear power plant within the next ten years (an acceleration of a previous 25-year schedule), and researchers involved on the project have reported facing “war-like” pressure to meet this goal. The project, dubbed “the world’s largest national effort on thorium,” currently employs 430 scientists and engineers, has plans to expand to 750 by next year, sports a budget of $350 million, and is headed by Jiang Mianheng, the son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin (perhaps underlining the political implications of the project). Although the Chinese effort is officially said to be aimed at curbing pollution through the use of a new, cleaner energy source, thorium “could be used to power Chinese navy surface warships, including a planned fleet of aircraft carriers,” and provide the reactor reliability and safety necessary to improve China’s nuclear submarine fleet.

Were Fucked!  --Cam

For its part, the U.S. abandoned thorium research in the 1970s in favor of a laser-like focus on uranium as a nuclear energy source. American efforts up to that point had actually been successful in creating the first thorium-powered reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but the world’s newfound interest in thorium does not, at first glance, seem to have spurred Washington to dust off its previous research and retake its commanding lead in this burgeoning field of nuclear science. Attempts to push thorium onto the agenda at the federal level have fallen flat: an effort in 2009 by then-Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) to push the U.S. Department of Defense towards thorium research went nowhere, as did 2010 a bipartisan Senate bill to direct the U.S. Department of Energy to fund thorium research. 

Here's your sign.  --Cam

Washington’s reluctance to invest in thorium research and development has been chalked up to satisfaction with the uranium-based status quo, but perhaps the federal government’s budgetary problems play a role: the sequester, for instance, reduced the budgets of agencies that fund research and development by anywhere from 5.1% to 7.3%. Whatever the reason for its domestic difficulties, American thorium research has found a surprising new home in China. Specifically, as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to share thorium research, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has been given the plans to the reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


This level of collaboration is particularly surprising given the commodity involved and the nature of the enterprise. Although the protocol governing the agreement has provisions for sharing important breakthroughs with the international scientific community and prohibiting military or weapons-related research, information used for commercial purposes is excluded from any required sharing and is free of any restrictive conditions. And, frankly, it is highly doubtful that any mechanism for enforcing the prohibition on military research is realistic. Thus, China will have the opportunity to achieve a commercially dominant position in thorium development and investigate thorium’s potential to upgrade its military capabilities without the U.S. deriving a benefit from either, leading some commentators to wonder exactly what is in it for Washington. 

Washington SOLD OUT, ...surprise!  --Cam

While this agreement seems like a no-strings-attached gift to Beijing, what are the U.S.’s motives for participating in this venture?  What might it expect to gain?  There are possible answers, but they require some assumptions. First, we must suppose that American decision-makers have determined that thorium is not, as some have argued, a quick and easy path to American energy independence, and that it would not be cost-effective, at least in the short term, for American nuclear efforts to transition to thorium research. Given federal budget limitations, then, the benefits of using federal dollars to pursue thorium as an energy source appear to be limited at this time. We must also suppose that those same decision-makers may see significant long-term promise in thorium as a source of nuclear energy. A reasonable case could therefore be made that research in this potentially important but non-priority field should be shared with those who are willing to expend the resources to advance the field.

Maybe, but there is No Argument for Not Allowing America to Process it's own Rare Earths.  --Cam

With these suppositions in place, rational (though speculative) motivations and possible benefits become clearer. Although the U.S. might have been expected to share its thorium research with privately-owned American corporations and perhaps allied states rather than with a strategic competitor (and maybe it has), the significant scientific and engineering obstacles and the resulting high cost of developing thorium-powered reactors may require the sort of long-term commitment and resources that only another world power, like China, can provide. Since the U.S. is believed to possess one of the world’s largest deposits of thorium, it may want China to assume the short-term risk and attendant expenditure of resources with the intention of cashing in on its large reserves when (or if) China’s research turns thorium into a commercially viable energy resource.

Concerns about China’s state-owned enterprises holding a significant head start once commercial viability is reached are perhaps assuaged by a thoroughgoing belief in the dynamism of the American private sector to quickly catch up. Additionally, as noted above, China’s interest in thorium is, officially speaking, driven by environmental concerns. China’s difficulties with greenhouse gases and other forms of air pollution are well known, and the thorium cooperation agreement could be seen, from an American perspective, as dovetailing with the U.S.’s own efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

True, but UNCHAIN US!  --Cam

While successful development of thorium into a practical large-scale energy source remains far off, China has sprinted to the front of the pack, and it has done so with American assistance. Washington policymakers may recognize thorium’s promise and could be waiting for a more politically opportune time for the U.S. itself to seize upon it, but by facilitating China’s thorium research efforts, the U.S. appears to be betting that it can capitalize on Chinese breakthroughs down the road. In so doing, the U.S. risks missing the boat, or worse, seeing Chinese research go in unfavorable directions. Thorium could prove to be an incredible, world-changing upgrade over existing energy sources, or it could prove to be a dead end; either way, the U.S. has handed over its research regarding this poorly-understood radioactive chemical element to a strategic competitor with very little idea about what that competitor may discover. How this plays out may color the global energy marketplace for years to come.

Matthew J. Strabone is an attorney.

Dear Mr. Strabone, you are a very wise man, thank you for writing this article.

There is precedent for allowing someone else to come up with an innovation first.  Sometimes second is better place to be in, but for God's sake, at least let us participate. --Cam

No comments:

Post a Comment