Can the U.S. Kick Its Reliance on Russian Uranium?

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John here. France is working to bring all of its nuclear power plants back online before winter and Germany is contemplating a plan to postpone the closure of its plants. Hungary has just issued approvals for two new nuclear reactors from Rosatom. Nonetheless, Ukraine is pushing for sanctions on Russian uranium. Theoretical capacity to replace uranium with thorium won’t translate into immediate results, so any sanctions in the short term would put further pressure on energy markets.

By Alex Kimani, a veteran finance writer, investor, engineer and researcher for Originally published at OilPrice

  • After banning coal, gas and oil imports from Russia, the U.S. now looks to ban Russian uranium imports.
  • Banning Russian uranium is easier said than done thanks to Russia’s status as the world’s leading uranium enrichment complex.
  • Thorium is now being billed as the ‘great green hope’ of clean energy production that produces less waste and more energy than uranium.

Back in early March shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Biden signed an executive order to ban the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal to the United States. Although the ban together with EU sanctions have been blamed for skyrocketing global energy prices, U.S. refiners are none the worse for wear since Russia supplied just 3% of U.S. crude oil imports. However, the punters were quick to point out that one notable export was left off of that list: uranium. The U.S. is far more reliant on Russian uranium, and imported about 14 percent of its uranium and 28 percent of all enrichment services from Russia in 2021 while the figures for the European Union were 20 percent and 26 percent for imports and enrichment services, respectively. Russia is home to one of the world’s largest uranium resources with an estimated 486,000 tons of uranium, the equivalent of 8 percent of global supply.

Recently, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reiterated his calls on the U.S. and the international community to ban Russian uranium imports following the Russian shelling near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya power plant.

Many experts, however, contend that banning Russian uranium is easier said than done thanks to Russia’s status as the world’s leading uranium enrichment complex–accounting for almost half the global capacity–and that is something that cannot be easily replaced.

The U.S. currently has one operational plant managed by its UK-Netherlands-Germany owners that can produce less than a third of its annual domestic needs. Further, the country currently has no plans to develop or find sufficient enrichment capacity to become domestically self-sufficient in the future.

In contrast, China’s China Nuclear Corporation is working to double its capacity to meet the needs of China’s rapidly growing civilian nuclear reactor fleet, so that by 2030 China plans to have nearly one-third of global capacity.

Alternative Fuels

With the Biden administration having set a goal of reaching 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2035, nuclear power will likely continue to be a hot-button issue despite being a low-carbon fuel mainly because conventional nuclear fuel creates a lot of hazardous waste.

What would give nuclear energy a major boost would be a significant technological breakthrough in substituting thorium for uranium in reactors. The public would likely be far easier to bring on board with the removal of dangerous uranium.

Thorium is now being billed as the ‘great green hope’ of clean energy production that produces less waste and more energy than uranium, is meltdown-proof, has no weapons-grade by-products and can even consume legacy plutonium stockpiles.

The United States Department of Energy (DOE), Nuclear Engineering & Science Center at Texas A&M and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) have partnered with Chicago-based Clean Core Thorium Energy (CCTE) to develop a new thorium-based nuclear fuel they have dubbed ANEEL. ANEEL (Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life) is a proprietary combination of thorium and “High Assay Low Enriched Uranium” (HALEU) that intends to address high costs and toxic waste issues.

The main difference between this and the fuel that is currently used is the level of uranium enrichment. Instead of up to 5% uranium-235 enrichment, the new generation of reactors needs fuel with up to 20 percent enrichment. Last year, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)  approved Centrus Energy’s request to make HALEU at its enrichment facility in Piketon, Ohio, becoming the only plant in the country to do so. However, more could be on the way if the new fuel proves to be a success.

While ANEEL performs best in heavy water reactors, it can also be used in traditional boiling water and pressurized water reactors. More importantly, ANEEL reactors can be deployed much faster than uranium reactors.

A key benefit of ANEEL over uranium is that it can achieve a much higher fuel burn-up rate of in the order of 55,000 MWd/T (megawatt-day per ton of fuel) compared to 7,000 MWd/T for natural uranium fuel used in pressurized water reactors. This allows the fuel to remain in the reactors for much longer meaning much longer intervals between shut downs for refueling. For instance, India’s Kaiga Unit-1 and Canada’s Darlington PHWR Unit hold the world records for uninterrupted operations at 962 days and 963 days, respectively.

The thorium-based fuel also comes with other key benefits. One of the biggest is that a  much higher fuel burn-up reduces plutonium waste by more than 80%. Plutonium has a shorter half-life of about 24,000 years compared to Uranium-235’s half-life of just over 700 million years. Plutonium is highly toxic even in small doses, leading to radiation illness, cancer and often to death. Further, thorium has a lower operating temperature and a higher melting point than natural uranium, making it inherently safer and more resistant to core meltdowns.

Thorium’s renewable energy properties are also quite impressive.

There is more than twice thorium in the earth’s crust than uranium; In India, thorium is 4x more abundant than uranium. It can also be extracted from sea water just like uranium making it almost inexhaustible.

The Thorium Curse?

Hopefully, ANEEL could soon become the fuel of choice for countries that operate CANDU (Canada Deuterium Uranium) and PHWR (Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor) reactors such as China, India, Argentina, Pakistan, South Korea, and Romania. These reactors are cooled and moderated using pressurized heavy water. Another 50 countries (mostly developing countries) have either started nuclear programs or have expressed an interest in launching the same in the near future. Overall, only about 50 of the world’s existing 440 nuclear reactors can be powered using this novel fuel.

Nuclear energy is enjoying another mini-renaissance of sorts.

The ongoing energy crisis has been helping to highlight nuclear energy’s billing as the most reliable energy source, which ostensibly gives it a serious edge over other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar which exist at the lower end of the reliability spectrum.

Meanwhile, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, has backed the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) call for massive nuclear investments by saying that comprehensive investment in the nuclear industry will be necessary to kick-start the UK’s post-pandemic economy, while also fulfilling the EU’s goal to decarbonize all its industries by 2050.

EU leaders have recognized nuclear energy as a way to fight climate change but have mainly touted a hydrogen economy in their latest topline targets.

Given heavy public backlash, however, it remains highly doubtful whether nuclear energy can really make a significant comeback here in the U.S. Still, the U.S. will probably have a ready market for its new thorium fuel since it has signed bilateral nuclear treaties–including the 1-2-3 Agreement–related to security, weapons non-proliferation and nuclear materials with no less than 48 countries.

It could if the new thorium fuel becomes a reality, which is far from a given. It’s not proven on a commercial scale. Thorium MSRs (Molten Salt Reactors) have been in development since the 1960s by the U.S. China, Russia, and France yet nothing much ever came of them.

Nuclear radiologist Peter Karamoskos, of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has advised the world not to hold its breath:

Without exception, [thorium reactors] have never been commercially viable, nor do any of the intended new designs even remotely seem to be viable. Like all nuclear power production they rely on extensive taxpayer subsidies; the only difference is that with thorium and other breeder reactors these are of an order of magnitude greater, which is why no government has ever continued their funding.”

ANEEL offers another possible way back to nuclear, but only if it succeeds where thorium has not–so far.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Oh dear, another nuclear unicorn. They seem to come by the week these days.

    Thorium or ANEEL can be used only in heavy water reactors. The article implies that these are common by listing all the countries that have one or two. The problem is just that – they only have one or two. By far the most common design is light water reactors and these mixes can’t be used in PWRs. If Thorium or ANEEL is to be used we need an entire new generation of nuclear reactors.

    This is significant because the big supposed advantage of HWR’s is that they can use much cheaper lower purified uranium. This is needed to offset the very high cost of heavy water. But ANEEL uses high grade uranium, which apart from its proliferation problems is also very expensive. So in producing this new fuel all they’ve done is neutralized the one advantage of HWR’s – their cheaper fuel. They are otherwise significantly more expensive to operate than PWR’s – this is why there are so few of them.

    So if Thorium is to displace uranium (which is certainly a good thing), we need new reactor designs and we need to build lots and lots of them very, very fast. This is simply impossible in the timescales required to address climate change.

    1. Dave in Austin

      I second PK. This tradeoff goes back to the Jimmy Carter days. He, after all, was a nuclear engineer by trade. He opposed any proliferation of uranium enrichment technology, which can be used to make bombs, even though extracting energy from the Plutonium byproduct created in standard power reactors makes economic sense.

      As for Heavy Water Reactors cause proliferation, the technically minded can look at: India definitely wins the award for “best name” for an atomic weapons program; Operation Smiling Buddha.

      That said, research and scale-up of alternative nuclear fuel cycles is called for, and that will not be cheap, easy or fast. If there are any nuclear engineers lurking in the bushes out there, please comment.

      1. Alex Cox

        Jimmy Carter was not a nuclear engineer. He liked to give the impression that he was, but he wasn’t.

        Ensign Carter was an engineering and electronics repair officer aboard a diesel-powered submarine. When Hyman Rickover began the US nuclear sub program, Carter was promoted to Lieutenant and served for a few months in DC, assisting “in the design and development of nuclear propulsion plants for naval vessels.”

        In 1953, Lt. Carter was scheduled to become the engineering officer for USS Seawolf, one of the first submarines to operate on atomic power. However, when his father died, he resigned from the Navy and returned to Georgia to manage the peanut farm.

        1. Michaelmas

          Alex Cox: In 1953, Lt. Carter was scheduled to become the engineering officer for USS Seawolf, one of the first submarines to operate on atomic power.

          The USS Seawolf, huh? The Seawolf is historically part of the story of thorium and molten salt reactors.

          Alvin Weinberg, the thorium molten salt reactor’s champion, persuaded Hyman Rickover to experiment with a molten salt reactor in the Seawolf, the second US nuclear sub after the Nautilus.

          It wasn’t a thorium molten salt reactor but a liquid metal cooled (sodium) reactor known as the Submarine Intermediate Reactor (SIR), but it apparently had similar corrosive problems. Anyone recalling their high school chemistry and the effects of mixing sodium and H20 will appreciate that the Seawolf’s maiden voyage in 1955 consequently had the potential to be worrisome, and indeed it was.

          Rickover swore he’d never use such a reactor again and had the Seawolf refitted with a BWR.

          The Atomic Energy Commission historians’ account of the sodium-cooled reactor experience:

          ‘Although makeshift repairs permitted the Seawolf to complete her initial sea trials on reduced power in February 1957, Rickover had already decided to abandon the sodium-cooled reactor … The leaks in the Seawolf steam plant were an important factor in the decision but even more persuasive were the inherent limitations in sodium-cooled systems. In Rickover’s words they were “expensive to build, complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shutdown as a result of even minor malfunctions, and difficult and time-consuming to repair.”‘

  2. Michaelmas

    I don’t know if this article is extraordinarily ignorant or just dishonest.

    [1] A molten-salt thorium reactor — a LFTR — is a breeder reactor. It always requires a uranium seed — in the case described here, touted as “High Assay Low Enriched Uranium” or HALEU — to initiate the reaction in the thorium. Depending on how it’s configured and run, the LFTR can be set to produce very little uranium at the back end or a whole lot.

    The problem with the LFTR producing less uranium at the back end is that it produces concomitantly less energy, too.

    Conversely, with a slight conversion it can be turned into the best possible reactor imaginable for the purpose of proliferation — of producing highly-enriched weapons-level uranium (and plutonium, theoretically, according to nuclear physicists I’ve talked to).

    See: ‘U-232 and the Proliferation Resistance of U-233 in Spent Fuel’
    by Kang & von Hippel, 2001

    ‘Thorium fuel has risks’ — 2012

    ‘Thorium power has a protactinium problem’ – 2018
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

    LFTRs are clearly not going to solve the US nuclear power problem. They could — and this is theoretically more feasible — solve US uranium shortages, I guess.

    [2] The US has the problems it has because it pushed the once-through fuel cycle, where only 2-7 percent of the fuel is used and the rest is described as ‘nuclear waste.’ The US did that because it wanted to block reprocessing. And that in turn was because: –

    [a.] Reprocessing capability is enrichment capability, and the US wanted to prevent proliferation and preserve its nuclear weapons hegemony;

    [b] Reprocessing would have made nuclear power far less profitable for US energy companies, and the US is above all about creating wealth for its capitalist corporate class. In France, conversely, Électricité de France (EDF) is a state-run company and they do reprocessing.

    So this is another self-created US problem.

    1. Michaelmas


      I read as far in the article as “Thorium is … the ‘great green hope’ of clean energy production that produces less waste and more energy than uranium, is meltdown-proof, has no weapons-grade by-products and can even consume legacy plutonium stockpiles.”

      And I got triggered — enraged, actually, because none of those things is necessarily true and no journalist ever educates themselves.

      But I see this is not a molten-salt reactor but some scheme to use thorium in BWRs and other semi-regular reactors. Interesting. In that case, however, PlutoniumKun’s criticisms apply.

  3. BeliTsari

    Thank you! Funny, how financial media pundits almost invariably forget mundane issues, inconvenient to their undisclosed agenda? By the time we’d declare it just too late to confront “all of the above,” was just another way of prolonging COAL, fracking hundreds-of-thousands more methane and lethal brine-spewing wells, Dilbit bomb trains, bio-mass money pits (while paying to de-comission a hundred previously enjoyed reactors, too cheap to meter). What’s left unspoken, is frequently the most pertinent part of any online or US media debate? One way or another: replacing scores of pretty scary, corroded, dried-up, dilapidated fission reactors simply means MORE fossil fuels, as Biden’s bailed-out Albright’s fracking Ponzi scheme, with Ukrainian lives and our kids’ futures?

  4. vao

    Wasn’t there a comment sometime in the past month or so by an informed NC commentator that thorium reactors actually produce quite a lot of radioactive waste — different in its composition as the one of current nuclear reactors, but just as nasty?

    And as far as “The ongoing energy crisis has been helping to highlight nuclear energy’s billing as the most reliable energy source”, well, if we except the issues of not having water cold enough, and even just not enough water at all, to operate them as has been happening in France during the summer for several years now.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Yes, that mention of reliability is kinda funny, since the article is about sanctioning something that USA depends on more heavily than Russian oil or gas. I would guess that 28% of “enrichment services” and 14% of the fuel disappearing overnight could eventually cause some reliability issues with nuclear power, too.

  5. David

    I was struck particularly by the comment by “Nuclear radiologist Peter Karamoskos, of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons,” whatever that is, that:

    “Without exception, [thorium reactors] have never been commercially viable, nor do any of the intended new designs even remotely seem to be viable. Like all nuclear power production they rely on extensive taxpayer subsidies.”

    So who’s going to be the first brave political leader to tell their people that they’ll have to freeze for the foreseeable future, because one of the technologies that might conceivably help is impossible to make work profitably?

    1. Michaelmas

      David: Nuclear radiologist Peter Karamoskos, of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons,” whatever that is,

      Peter Karamoskos, whoever he is, would say what he says, of course.

      I agree with you, too, that the argument that “like all nuclear power production they rely on extensive taxpayer subsidies” is a neoliberal argument.

      One could equally claim “like all public healthcare systems they rely on extensive taxpayer subsides.” And just as we can’t really afford not to have public healthcare systems,” by the same logic we can’t really afford not to have decarbonized civil power systems.

      So you’re right about that.

      That being said, however, Alvin Weinberg, who held half of the patents on the conventional BWR alongside Eugene Wigner, led development at Oak Ridge National Lab of the thorium (and molten salt) reactors for Curtis LeMay’s nuclear-powered bomber project. And when the bomber project got cancelled — because, firstly, with the shielding needed to protect the pilots the plane couldn’t get off the ground without a separate conventional power system and, secondly, Gen. Bernard Schriever’s division innovated ICBMs and so LeMay’s bombers ceased to matter much — Weinberg switched the thorium and molten salt reactor program over to civil power development.

      The point being: Weinberg was an extremely smart man and ran Oak Ridge for eighteen years, and pushed thorium and molten salt reactor development for almost all that time. But even he couldn’t get them to work well enough to make a case for them.

  6. Grumpy Engineer

    Can the US kick its reliance on Russian uranium?

    Of course it can. Russia is only the sixth largest producer of uranium on the planet (per And we have solid relations with at least two of the countries that produce significantly more than Russia, namely Australia and Canada. We could always switch suppliers.

    And, of course, back in the 1960s thru 1980s, the US used to be a leading producer of uranium itself, mining and refining ~8X what we do today []. We still have significant deposits. We could re-start those mines and build new refineries if necessary.

    Sanctions against Russian have caused significant disruption in multiple parts of the world economy, but uranium isn’t one of them. Kimani seems to be using potential shortages to push for thorium-based reactors, but given the immaturity of the technology, they won’t be deployed widely enough to significantly reduce carbon emissions anytime soon. If ever. So in the meantime, we should keep using uranium.

    1. Stephen T Johnson

      A caveat: replacement is technically doable, no question, but will anyone actually come up with the cash to do it? With the catastrophic collapse of state capacity round these parts, it seems hard to believe in.

    2. Michaelmas

      So in the meantime, we should keep using uranium.

      Really. It’s not as if we don’t already have frighteningly large amounts of slightly-spent fuel sitting around in pools next to the reactors we have, and we don’t really need do something about all that slightly-spent fuel.

    3. Alex

      it’s not about mining, as Russia does not mine nearly enough for its internal needs.
      It’s about enrichment capacities. Now how would those calculations of yours look like?

  7. digi_owl

    Zelensky, or whoever is passing him the script, is really pushing his luck now.

    Do “we” hate Putin so much that we are letting a small time actor dictate world policy?

    Or are whoever is running this circus actually hoping to ferment widespread protests, perhaps in the hopes of them escalating to riots and a opportunity for revolutions?

  8. Solarjay

    Well maybe that guy isn’t quite up on what’s current about thorium.

    China has a working thorium reactor.

    And in the past the US has had one.

    The primary issue it has from what I’ve read is at the time they didn’t have good metals to deal with the corrosive salts. We do now.

    As best I can tell there is no thorium refining or mining of any scale anywhere.

  9. Hickory

    Years ago I saw research that nuclear wasn’t all that much less carbon-intense than fossil fuels if you looked at the whole mining/processing/transporting/plant-operating/storage life cycle, and definitely if you include even a single meltdown. I want to believe all this good stuff about nuclear, but the nuclear industry and government haven’t exactly been forthright about nuclear issues in the past, and I see no sign they’ve changed.

    The fact that all this is getting discussed now that there are geopolitical imperatives means there’s still no indication of movement towards the needed end goal – reduced use.

      1. Grumpy Engineer

        I don’t have time to research links, but I’ve seen multiple studies that agree with your overall conclusion. Nuclear and on-shore wind are essentially tied for best, and solar and off-shore wind do somewhat worse (but are still much better than coal or gas).

        Of course, once you add the massive battery (or pumped storage hydro) stations needed to make renewables a 24/7 service, their carbon footprint will grow higher, leaving nuclear as the technology with the lowest overall lifecycle CO2 emissions per MWh delivered.

    1. digi_owl

      Because reduced use will crash the capitalist system once and for all, as it makes it impossible to kick the private debt can further down the generations.

  10. Detroit Dan

    Russian shelling near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya power plant???? I believe Ukraine has finally admitted that they are the ones doing the shelling.

  11. wendigo

    CANDU style reactors do not shut down to refuel, the ability to refuel online was a selling point.

    The ability to shuffle fuel for weapons development was not supposed to be a selling point.

    Canada was researching the thorium fuel cycle in the early 1980’s.

    Existing CANDU plants using thorium fuels would have the same meltdown risks.

    Used thorium fuel from existing plants would overheat the same as regular fuel without continuous water cooling.

    Used thorium fuel would be slightly less dangerous starting around 10000 years out of the reactor. Way better in a million years.

  12. Bill

    “Recently, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reiterated his calls on the U.S. and the international community to ban Russian uranium imports following the Russian shelling near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya power plant.” This seems to be mistaken. I believe the *Ukrainians* have been shelling the plant. Why would the Russians be shelling themselves?

  13. Eclair

    Oh goody! We can bring uranium mining back to the US. The Lakota people residing on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, especially in the community of Red Shirt, will be ecstatic. Ditto for the Navajo Nation.

    Uranium mining, like many other mining operations, produces open pits and radio-active piles of tailings, which then leech down into the surface waters and aquifers. Drill wells into polluted aquifers, breathe the dust, or live next to a former processing site, and numerous health problems can result. Plus, the operation really ruins the neighborhood.

    As an aside, the Pine Ridge mining occurred despite a treaty that ‘gave’ that land to the Lakota. It was another, classic, “Whoops, we thought that was a piece of worthless real estate, but, looky, thars uranium (silver, gold) in them thar badlands!” A Black Hills Maneuver.

    Maybe uranium-fueled nuclear power is the answer to our current carbon-spewing fossil fuel energy sources. If we want to maintain a way of life that many of us enjoy. As well as bring automatic ice-cube makers, central air, and 3 ton Ram Crew Cab pickups (but electric) to the rest of the planet. Not to mention private jets and mega-yachts.

    Down in Ponca City, Oklahoma, home to the 2,500 acres Ponca City Refinery, a member of the Ponca Nation, breathing in the toxic fumes spewed from the facility plopped down in their midst, told me that the average age of tribal elders is now 45. Made me think about Peter Pan and how a fairy would fall down dead every time a child declared they did not believe. Every time we drive a hundred miles or fly cross-country, a Ponca tribal member loses a week of life. But, they’re only poor Indians. Probably contribute almost zero to our GDP.

    I’m not suggesting we all clap our hands. Would that it were so easy! But our decisions affect human lives (and the lives of our other relatives … birds, bees, wolves.) Most of the the time the effects of those decisions are so far removed from us that we barely feel the ripple that moves across the universe. But babies are born deformed, young girls have to live with severe asthma, a wife watches her young husband waste away from cancer. We not only consume energy, we consume lives.

      1. Mary

        Read about the massive quantities of nuclear waste generated by this “clean” fission nuclear energy. Fast neutrons splitting atoms in a chain reaction releasing more fast neutrons is at the heart of fission nuclear power.

        These fast neutrons will hit anything and everything around them, and in a very high percentage of interactions, produce an unstable radioactive atom with variable and often very long half life. That means water, pipes, casings, radiation protection suits for workers, everything, becomes radioactive

        The byproducts of the fission in the nuclear fuel are also unstable radioactive isotopes.

        So the spent fuel, and everything that comes into contact with this nuclear fuel, or even comes within range of these fast neutrons, becomes radioactive, thus generating massive quantities of radioactive nuclear waste, both highly radioactive (spent fuel and water coolant are the main offenders) and medium to low level radioactivity.

        1. José Freitas

          No. There will be issues, but essentially those neutrons will be absorbed, and this “radioactivity” will be very, very minimal (if not undetectable. I would like to see what literature you are basing your arguments on.

        2. BillS

          Here is an interesting link on neutron activation of reactor materials.

          Apparently, reactor components can be very radioactive immediately after reactor shutdown, but many of the most dangerous radionuclides are short-lived and decay within about a year. After that, the material is treated as low-level waste. One would shut down the reactors a few years before breaking up the reactor components, to allow these radionuclides to decay.

          An interesting point: The main problem with neutron flux on structural materials is the induced degradation (embrittlement, etc.). Hence the limited lifetime of reactor vessels, containment structures, etc.

    1. Alex Cox

      Thank you for pointing that out. The Navajo people were once studied by “American” scientists because of an almost total absence of cancer on the Res. Then came uranium mining, and a cancer epidemic.

      Nuclear power depends on multiple fossil-fuel inputs: for mining the poisonous fuel, transporting it, building the power plant and its many outbuildings, running the operation (enormous backup diesel generators are required), decommissioning the plant and tearing down the buildings, and storing and trucking away the toxic waste to its eternal grave (location TBD).

      In addition, huge quantities of water are required on a constant basis to cool the complex system. When something goes wrong – as in the case of Fukushima – the result is an outpouring of radioactive water, in perpetuity.

      If nuclear power were a viable power generation system, it wouldn’t require massive taxpayer/citizen subsidies. And if it weren’t inherently very dangerous, private insurers would be prepared to cover it: only they aren’t and so here too the taxpayer/citizen assumes all the risk.

    2. Greg

      This is an important point. Much is made of the export of manufacturing capacity to China and southeast Asia that created the western world’s current dependence. I think that is maybe half the cause – the other major cause of dependence on the global south is the export of pollution.

      The western mindset of “if I can’t see it, it isn’t polluting” has been a second major driver of the export of manufacturing, including enrichment, to countries that western people don’t visit often. Russia is the global leader in uranium enrichment at least partly because they have vast areas of already-totally-ruined terrain that they’re happy to continue polluting, due to their low population density.

      1. Eclair

        Thank you, Greg. I did not mean to ignore the dire effects of the extractive economy on the inhabitants, almost exclusively poor, brown, black, indigenous, of other parts of the world. Thea Riofrancos has written of the effects of lithium mining in Bolivia and today’s post by Nick Corbishly explores the increasingly frantic race for the increasingly expensive lithium. So, we will buy that electric car, but clap hard because a few indigenous Bolivians have undoubtedly had their lives shortened.

  14. p fitzsimon

    Why not build and deploy CANDU reactors since they can use unenriched Uranium, at least until we have a LFTR?

  15. Mary

    Still must pay back college loans for the stranded asset nuclear engineering degrees, hoping for a revival of the stranded assets that nuclear power represent. The cult of nuclear power has fewer and fewer members.

  16. DunnoMan

    Mining isn’t an instantaneous process. It will take years to replace Russian imports. PS: Our economy isn’t strong enough for another series of sanctions either.

  17. observer

    Thorium is a huge weapons proliferation risk despite what the deluded believers like to say,
    this comes down to physics
    thorium itself is not fissile, it is bred into uranium 233 which is fissile.
    because uranium and thorium are different elements they have different chemistry and can be easily separated. uranium 233 has been tested successfully by the USA in weapons.

    the kind of reactor needed for exploiting thorium needs uranium or other fissile material and also has to generate spare neutrons, it needs neutrons to breed the thorium fuel, however the very same reactor breeds plutonium from the U238 in the enriched uranium, which is mostly U238. obviously plutonium and uranium have different chemistry and can easily be separated in reprocessing.

    thorium cycles tend to be associated with spent fuel reprocessing capacity and therefore are proliferation risks. India is a case in point.

    the final point is more general: enriching fuel beyond the minimum is dumb. Enriching uranium to 80% U235 for weapons starting from natural uranium is difficult, getting to 80% from 20% U235 (like the postulated wonder fuel above) is easy and can be done in one cascade.

    People want clean nuclear unfortunately but there is no such thing. The cleanest is dig up uranium don’t enrich it burn in a highly moderated thermal reactor like heavy water moderated reactor, take the fuel vitrify it and leave it. don’t enrich, don’t reprocess.

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