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Specialty Chemistry Forums => Nuclear Chemistry and Radiochemistry Forum => Topic started by: BrinkJ on February 14, 2014, 01:20:20 PM

Title: Thorium vs. Uranium mining
Post by: BrinkJ on February 14, 2014, 01:20:20 PM
A friend recently told me that a mining company in our country started to harass them to give up their farm, because they have a hill filled with some of the purest Thorium in the country. They want to start doing legal actions to prevent that mining company to even do core sampling.

This made me wonder what the dangers are with regards to mining Thorium, and what the differences are between standard Uranium mining and Thorium mining and in general the chemicals itself. The mining company owns most of the surrounding land and there has been some nuclear radiation to the land and everything on it. Buildings were demolished and taken away to a nuclear waste facility to be disposed of in the proper manner. The worrying thing is that vicinity is one of the main meat producers for the whole country and it is believed that the livestock in the area have also been radiated. People have been radiated by the mining and have died because of its effects.

Keep in mind that I have limited knowledge about Nuclear Chemistry and have some experience with organic and inorganic chemistry.

What would you all think would be a good way to keep them at bay not to mine on the farm? Would an Environmental Protection Act be sufficient enough to keep them away if a community draws up a protest?
Title: Re: Thorium vs. Uranium mining
Post by: Borek on February 14, 2014, 03:14:55 PM
in our country

You are aware of the fact people here come from all over the world?
Title: Re: Thorium vs. Uranium mining
Post by: BrinkJ on February 14, 2014, 03:24:00 PM
Yes, I'm fully aware. I'm just cautious to disclose any particular information which may jeopardize the situation, seeing that in our country, Thorium is quite rare and there are only a low number of known areas which contains Thorium. I do appreciate you pointing it out, though.  ;D
Title: Re: Thorium vs. Uranium mining
Post by: Enthalpy on February 17, 2014, 03:26:47 PM
Uranium and thorium show very similar risks, both in nature and magnitude. They are little radioactive and, for instance, holding an ore rock in your hand won't do anything. The risk is more for miners who breathe the dust for hours a day over years, and do get sick if not properly protected, typically in poorer countries.

How much the environment will be polluted depends on the practices of the mining company - the often do only the legal minimum. It's very possible that streams will become dirty over time.

You could try to check what happened at other mining sites, preferably in countries as developed and regulated as yours.

If you determine that the pollution has been serious there, I suggest not to stay on your land if the neighbours have sold already: you would have only the drawbacks.
Title: Re: Thorium vs. Uranium mining
Post by: lansuminc on August 10, 2014, 04:13:18 PM
Thorium can start with plutonium core, in what is called a fast breeding reactor. This produces more plutonium than is consumed. India is one of the poineeers of this technology. Plus India has abundant deposits of thorium and that too nearly asking for being shovelled and loaded.
Title: Re: Thorium vs. Uranium mining
Post by: Enthalpy on August 10, 2014, 05:39:47 PM
Everything is wrong in your post, except that India has thorium deposits. Anyway, this wasn't the topic.
Title: Re: Thorium vs. Uranium mining
Post by: Enthalpy on August 12, 2014, 02:48:35 PM
Here a newspaper article telling that uncaring uranium mining is devastating:

I haven't read the same for Australian or Canadian mines, nor for the French ones at the time they were active (additional radioactivity observable, no obvious health effect), so it the effects are real, they must result from bad practices.

One could search information about the Gabon uranium mines, as an example in a less rich country. Alarming reports from time to time.
Title: Re: Thorium vs. Uranium mining
Post by: Enthalpy on August 16, 2014, 03:56:04 AM
My answer about thorium reactors was too terse, apologies.

Thorium reactors would produce fissile 233U, not Pu. Though, they would demand some Pu to attain criticity, which 233U can't replace, so thorium reactors could not replace uranium reactors, nor could thorium deposits replace uranium ore.

No thorium reactor has ever run. India makes big efforts but has abandoned the hope of fuel regeneration - the reactors would make some use of thorium when consuming plutonium.

Such a reactor would be a big military concern, as it would be a plutonium core creating neutrons, and thorium blankets to be converted by the neutrons. Two 233U bombs were already detonated, but the real worry is that the user can use natural uranium as the blankets instead, and obtain military-grade plutonium easily.

To keep running uranium reactors, burn the plutonium, and make some use of thorium ore, one can just put plutonium-thorium in some fuel rods of a standard uranium-water reactor. It's done at the VVER. No need to develop a thorium reactor for that goal.