Thorium: Answer to Iran’s Nuclear Quest and World Peace

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Earlier it was Iraq, now it is Iran. For years there has been tensed environment created over the Middle East due to Iran’s nuclear program, which western countries think is offensive. Iraq had to face some tough action by US led NATO forces for possessing WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). The country was attacked, Saddam Hussein was hanged, but we didn’t see weapons of mass destruction there. 

What happened in Iraq, nobody wants to see in Iran, and thus countries in the East of Iran, i.e Pakistan, India, and China, and Russia from North have been trying to maintain relations with the country and support it at the time of need. These countries support Iran’s nuclear program for peaceful purpose, although they will not accept if the nuclear program is offensive.
The western world is getting tougher on Iran and, with various sanctions imposed on the country, it has become difficult for the people to live a normal life. On February 14, the sanctions got even tougher and most of the nations denied or reduced import of Iranian oil. Around more than hundred oil tankers stopped visiting Iranian ports to load oil, resulting into the development of high pressure on this oil export dependent economy.
Not just economic sanctions, but various naval vessels belonging to US and other allied western countries have started patrolling in the Persian Gulf. Various journalist and reporters have also been invited on such warships to show how critical this issue has become and how near they have come along to a war.
In 2009, Iran lost the use of hundreds of centrifuges – a devices that spins on an axis like the hubs of a wagon wheel and use centripetal force to separate things, including the isotopes of uranium. In June 2010, it was discovered that the problem was due to the notorious Stuxnet computer worm, which was believed to have been planted by American and Israeli agencies and damaged the centrifuges by causing them to spin suddenly at wildly varying speeds.
A year later, an explosion at an Iranian military base reportedly damaged a facility where Iran was developing long-range missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads. In the past two years, four Iranian nuclear scientists have been murdered – one in this January, 2012 on the streets of Tehran. Iran blames the sabotage and murders on Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, and the CIA.
After realizing that all this is happening because of Iran’s nuclear program based on Uranium, Forecast analyst Gerald Celente has come up with an idea of converting Iran’s Uranium based nuclear program into Thorium based.
Thorium is also a radioactive material, available in abundance around the world. The quality of Thorium, which can help Iran for its nuclear program, is that Thorium cannot be used for making weapons as it has no  fissile isotope, thus any possibility of uncontrolled chain reaction is missing. 
So, if Iran is seriously continuing its nuclear program for peaceful purpose, it should spend its fund and technology in developing thorium reactors and breeders.
Thorium (90th element in the periodic table) is nearly three times as abundant as Uranium in the earth’s crust, reflecting the fact that thorium has a longer half-life. In addition, thorium is generally present in higher concentrations (2-10%) by weight than uranium (0.1-1%) in their respective ores, making thorium retrieval much less expensive and less environmentally damaging per unit of energy extracted. [Read more:  Thorium vs Uranium|]

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Indian scientists, on the other hand, have already developed a thorium based nuclear reactor. India’s Kakrapar-1 reactor is the world’s first reactor which uses thorium rather than depleted uranium to achieve power flattening across the reactor core. India has world’s largest reserves of Thorium which has not been properly utilised yet and, considering this, the country is developing a 300 MW prototype of a thorium-based Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). The prototype is expected to be fully operational by 2013, after which five more reactors will be constructed. Considered to be a global leader in thorium-based fuel, India’s new thorium reactor is a fast-breeder reactor and uses a plutonium core rather than an accelerator to produce neutrons.  India currently envisages meeting 30% of its electricity demand through thorium-based reactors by 2050. [Read: India plans ‘safer’ nuclear plant powered by thorium | Guardian]
After becoming fully operational, if the research yields to successful results, it would be very beneficial for  other countries who are looking towards pursuing nuclear technology for power generation for peaceful use. Meanwhile, China is also conducting various researches in this fields to develop its own Thorium based reactor and breeder.
Some benefits of thorium fuel when compared with uranium are summarized as follows:

  • Weapons-grade fissionable material (233U) is harder to retrieve safely and clandestinely from a thorium reactor;
  • Thorium produces 10 to 10,000 times less long-lived radioactive waste;
  • The fissionable thorium cycle uses 100% of the isotope as coming out of the ground, which does not require enrichment, whereas the fissile uranium cycle depends on only the 0.7% fissile U-235 of the natural uranium. The same cycle could also use the fissionable U-238 component of the natural uranium, and also contained in the depleted reactor fuel;
  • Thorium cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction without priming so fission stops by default.
Though we have several benefits of using Thorium, the idea of using Thorium for nuclear power generation is neither new nor it is undisputed. Another article by the same Guardian explores the negative side of using Thorium [Read: Don’t believe the spin on thorium being a greener nuclear option | Guardian]
With the help of India and China, with whom Iran maintains good relations, it can bring its ongoing nuclear research to a faster and peaceful track. If Iran’s Thorium plan is a success, it would be a win win situation for both Iran and the western world.
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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.
  • Anonymous

    The biggest tragedy on Earth has been to allow nuclear bombs in the name of nuclear power.

    One of the best solutions to solve the need is to generate electricity in Iran with Geothermal Power plant. Working with the natural heat of the shell of the Earth can easily create steam to generate power with any pollution. Clean free electricity can easily be generated.

    How many people have to be murdered because they want to have electricity??