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Title: Thorium cycles and proliferation

Abstract

This paper analyzes several prevalent misconceptions about nuclear fuel cycles that breed fissile uranium-233 from thorium. Its main conclusions are: U-233, despite the gamma radioactivity of associated isotopes, is a rather attractive material for making fission bombs, and is a credible material for subnational as well as national groups to use for this purpose; (2) pure thorium cycles, which in effect merely substitute U-233 for Pu, would take many decades and much U to establish, and offer no significant safeguards advantage over Pu, cycles; (3) denatured Th-U cycles, which dilute the U-233 with inert U-238 to a level not directly usable in bombs, are not an effective safeguard even against subnational bomb-making; (4) several other features of mixed Th-U cycles are rather unattractive from a safeguards point of view; (5) thus, Th cycles of any kind are not a technical fix for proliferation (national or subnational) and, though probably more safeguardable than Pu cycles, are less so than once-through U cycles that entail no reprocessing; (6) while thorium cycles have some potential technical advantages, including flexibility, they cannot provide major savings in nuclear fuel resources compared to simpler ways of saving neutrons and U; and (7) while advocates of nuclearmore » power may find Th cycles worth exploring, such cycles do not differ fundamentally from U cycles in any of the respects--including safeguards and fuel resources--that are relevant to the broader nuclear debate, and should not be euphorically embraced as if they did.« less

Authors:
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
5912948
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Bull. At. Sci.; (United States)
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 35:2
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY AND ECONOMY; 21 SPECIFIC NUCLEAR REACTORS AND ASSOCIATED PLANTS; 45 MILITARY TECHNOLOGY, WEAPONRY, AND NATIONAL DEFENSE; NUCLEAR WEAPONS; PROLIFERATION; THORIUM CYCLE; EVALUATION; BREEDING; FUEL REPROCESSING PLANTS; PLUTONIUM RECYCLE; REPROCESSING; SAFEGUARDS; URANIUM 233; URANIUM 238; ACTINIDE ISOTOPES; ACTINIDE NUCLEI; ALPHA DECAY RADIOISOTOPES; EVEN-EVEN NUCLEI; EVEN-ODD NUCLEI; FUEL CYCLE; HEAVY NUCLEI; ISOTOPES; NUCLEAR FACILITIES; NUCLEAR FUEL CONVERSION; NUCLEI; RADIOISOTOPES; SEPARATION PROCESSES; URANIUM ISOTOPES; WEAPONS; YEARS LIVING RADIOISOTOPES; 050400* - Nuclear Fuels- Feed Processing; 050800 - Nuclear Fuels- Spent Fuels Reprocessing; 290600 - Energy Planning & Policy- Nuclear Energy; 210500 - Power Reactors, Breeding; 450202 - Explosions & Explosives- Nuclear- Weaponry- (-1989)

Citation Formats

Lovins, A.B. Thorium cycles and proliferation. United States: N. p., 1979. Web. doi:10.1080/00963402.1979.11458583.
Lovins, A.B. Thorium cycles and proliferation. United States. doi:10.1080/00963402.1979.11458583.
Lovins, A.B. Thu . "Thorium cycles and proliferation". United States. doi:10.1080/00963402.1979.11458583.
@article{osti_5912948,
title = {Thorium cycles and proliferation},
author = {Lovins, A.B.},
abstractNote = {This paper analyzes several prevalent misconceptions about nuclear fuel cycles that breed fissile uranium-233 from thorium. Its main conclusions are: U-233, despite the gamma radioactivity of associated isotopes, is a rather attractive material for making fission bombs, and is a credible material for subnational as well as national groups to use for this purpose; (2) pure thorium cycles, which in effect merely substitute U-233 for Pu, would take many decades and much U to establish, and offer no significant safeguards advantage over Pu, cycles; (3) denatured Th-U cycles, which dilute the U-233 with inert U-238 to a level not directly usable in bombs, are not an effective safeguard even against subnational bomb-making; (4) several other features of mixed Th-U cycles are rather unattractive from a safeguards point of view; (5) thus, Th cycles of any kind are not a technical fix for proliferation (national or subnational) and, though probably more safeguardable than Pu cycles, are less so than once-through U cycles that entail no reprocessing; (6) while thorium cycles have some potential technical advantages, including flexibility, they cannot provide major savings in nuclear fuel resources compared to simpler ways of saving neutrons and U; and (7) while advocates of nuclear power may find Th cycles worth exploring, such cycles do not differ fundamentally from U cycles in any of the respects--including safeguards and fuel resources--that are relevant to the broader nuclear debate, and should not be euphorically embraced as if they did.},
doi = {10.1080/00963402.1979.11458583},
journal = {Bull. At. Sci.; (United States)},
number = ,
volume = 35:2,
place = {United States},
year = {1979},
month = {2}
}