Dear Mr. Gleason

South Africa has some always-interesting columnists that provoke thought for a living.  One of these is surely Mr. David Gleason who, among other things, writes “TORQUE” for NewsTime once a week.  His current column, “If it isn’t yours…help yourself” points out that:

“…a comment by Dipuo Peters, Minister for Energy, saying there was concern about the availability of a supply of enriched uranium – because it is said the Chinese are taking up increasing quantities of what’s available out of Africa.

“She has a point. The world’s requirement of uranium in 2009 was about 190 million pounds. But it seems no more than about 110 million pounds was produced from mining. The balance has to come from suitably treated weapons material. So the supply/demand equation looks seriously out of kilter. But I’ve no doubt that production will rapidly be increased if the price continues to beckon attractively.

“But the Minister’s comment unlocks another aspect. It is thorium, one of the so-called rare earths, and we have plenty of it. Say thorium to most generally knowledgeable people and they look at you blankly. That’s because thorium fell out of favour because it cannot be converted into bomb material. But thorium fuelled the first nuclear reactors in America and Russia.

“And thorium has a lot of other things going for it. As I’ve reported, it can’t be pressed into service as a nuclear bomb; it is inherently incapable of causing a meltdown; it doesn’t need to be converted or enriched; it is very energy efficient; its waste lasts for tens of years unlike uranium which hangs around malevolently for thousands; it is much less expensive than uranium extracts and is reasonably environmentally friendly to mine...”

In fact large deposits of thorium are found in Australia Brazil, Canada, Greenland, India, South Africa and the United States.  In South Africa, for instance, it is commercially feasible to produce a thousand tons of of thorium oxide annually just from the tailings of South Africa’s ongoing mineral-sands projects.

•   Thorium is more abundant than tin

•  The U.S. has enough thorium reserves to last for many thousands of years.

•  Readily available thorium in the crust of the earth has an energy value far greater than the energy value of all the available uranium and fossil fuels (coal & oil & wood & Biogas, etc.) on the earth — combined.

•  One pound of thorium can produce as much energy as 3 million pounds of coal.

•  One ton of thorium consumed as fuel in a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (leaving about .8 tons of spent fuel)  can produce as much energy as about 250 tons of uranium burned as fuel in a 3rd Generation Light Water Nuclear Reactor (which leaves about 35 tons of spent fuel and 215 tons of depleted u-238 uranium).

•  One 3.5″ diameter ball of thorium (about the size of an extra large apple) can produce enough electricity to power the annual consumption of one average American for about 8,000 years.

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