Posts Tagged News

South Australia could provide a long term solution to nuclear spent fuel

Posted by Stephen Tindale on February 22nd, 2016

by Priya Aggarwal

A Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission was set up in March, 2015 to independently look into South Australia’s potential future role in four prominent areas of the nuclear fuel cycle – exploration and extraction; processing of minerals and manufacture of materials containing nuclear substances; electricity generation from nuclear fuels; and, management, storage and disposal of radioactive waste. The commission will have to submit a final report by May, 2016 after considering the following:

     the effect on the environment;


     the effect on other sectors of the State’s economy, in particular the tourism, wine and food sectors; 

     technical issues.

South Australia (SA) is currently home to four of Australia’s five uranium mines, and the possibility of the state developing nuclear power generation, enrichment and waste storage facilities have hitherto been contentious issues. The Royal Commission comes at a time of economic contraction for SA, which is suffering from job losses in mining and manufacturing sectors.

Since the commission saw no opportunity to commercially develop further uranium processing capabilities as it says the market is already oversupplied and uncertain, it sees SA could benefit from forging contracts with those that buy its uranium to store the waste products as well, as part of a concept entitled “fuel leasing”. Kevin Scarce, the Royal Commissioner, said the timeframe of building a deep geological disposal project would take 30 years, based on the timeframe it took for Sweden and Finland, who currently store their own waste at present (but, Sweden intends to receive waste from further afield) to set up similar successful projects buried 400 to 500m underground. While avoiding the nomination of a site for nuclear waste, the inquiry found the “likely” development of a storage and disposal facility of used nuclear fuel could be operational in the late 2020s.

Mr Scarce said SA could take 13% of the world’s nuclear waste and had unique characteristics that made it suitable, such as a stable geology and relatively stable seismologically. He feels confident about tapping the market’s potential in this segment and says, “Mind you, we’ve had waste now for 50 to 60 years and there has not been an international solution yet.” After revealing the tentative findings, a consultation period has now begun.




Edit: Post previously included the line “The government also faces the task of convincing the locals at six shortlisted sites, of which three are in SA.” which was deleted as it is a separate and mostly unrelated issue.




Exploring space by exploiting nuclear

Posted by Stephen Tindale on June 16th, 2015

The Philae lander has woken up. When Philae landed on the comet, it was on its side in a valley, so its solar panels could not generate enough electricity to keep the lander’s technology operating once the batteries ran out. As a result, Philae did excellent scientific research for 60 hours, then ‘went to sleep’. Seven months later, the comet is closer to the sun so the solar panels are generating enough power to resume research. This is excellent news. But seven months of research have been lost unnecessarily. Philae should have carried a nuclear power source, as NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover did. Stephan Ulamec, Philae lander manager, was asked last November why Philae didn’t have one. He replied that ‘launching nuclear power sources carries safety and political implications and, in any case, Europe does not have that technology’. (

The safety issue is – as so often with nuclear power – overstated. Mars Curiosity was powered by a small, solid amount of Plutonium-238, completely insoluble in water. Physics professor Ethan Siegel writes that: “This means that even if there’s a disaster on launch, the radioactive material won’t go anywhere, and can not only be retrieved, but reused in future missions.” ( )

Would Europe have been able to obtain the necessary nuclear equipment from NASA? Surely the answer is yes. The space race is over. The Soviet Union put the first person in space; the USA put the first person on the moon. The European Space Agency, Philae’s owner, has been working with NASA on the International Space Station since 1998.

So it was down to politics. Theological opposition to all things nuclear, led by Germany (as most things in Europe are at present), meant that Philae was sent to land on a comet with only intermittent solar photovoltaics to replenish its power supply. Angela Merkel, who has a PhD in quantum chemistry, allowed her politics to obscure her scientific desire for knowledge.

Registration is now open for the 5th Thorium Energy Alliance Conference, 30-31 May 2013, Chicago Illinois:

Weinberg Foundation patron, Bryony Worthington captivated delegates with her informed and frank address at last year’s event; one of many compelling presentations fuelling the groundswell for thorium-fuelled nuclear energy:

Nominations open for The Observer Ethical Awards 2013

Posted by Laurence O'Hagan on January 21st, 2013

Given her lifelong dedication to environmental campaigning; from FoE to Labour’s shadow minister for energy and climate change in the Lords, we’ve entered Weinberg Foundation’s patron Baroness Worthington for the Observer Ethical Awards’ Campaigner of the Year.

No doubt all will have their own worthy nominations, but given that such a prestigious award would shine a global spotlight on decarbonisation, thorium, new nuclear reactor designs and the much merited work of our patron, may I urge you to consider the Baroness Worthington of Cambridge 😉

Thank you.

Kickstart a molten salt reactor? Why not?

Posted by Laurence O'Hagan on January 20th, 2013

Ex-MIT and nuclear expert Peter Reinhardt mines the viability of thorium fuelled molten salt reactors in his latest blog on thorium reactors.

An informative, digestible and compelling argument; offering up the ‘crazy’ idea that, in the face of  US congress impotence, why not crowd fund an MSR?:


China blazes trail for ‘clean’ nuclear power from thorium:  The Chinese are running away with thorium energy, sharpening a global race for the prize of clean, cheap, and safe nuclear power. Good luck to them. They may do us all a favour.

So opens a highly informative, persuasive and notably located article in Monday’s Daily Telegraph by its international business editor, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

His blazing trail has been quick to attract a wide reaching followers:

US Mother Jones:

Cons of thorium reactors shouldn’t stop development:

China needs thorium reactors to quench its thirst for energy: China sets eyes on thorium for ‘clean’ nuclear power generation:


Examples of global baton runners:

Australia: (heartbreakingly timely)






This timely report is tangibly fuelling a global groundswell of interest in thorium-fuelled nuclear energy. We have the technology and the energy to change minds – we must run with it now.

Laying firm foundations in 2012

Posted by Laurence O'Hagan on December 23rd, 2012

To a backdrop of unprecedented environmental and humanitarian disasters, the end of 2012 seems like a fitting milestone to reflect on some of the highlights of the Weinberg Foundation’s push for a safer, cleaner global energy future:

In February we established the world’s first cross-party group of legislators dedicated to thorium, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Thorium Energy. In its first year the APPG has hosted world-renowned scientists, authors, journalists and policy-makers, making it a focal point for political and scientific debate.

In September we organised a landmark trip with APPG members to the National Nuclear Laboratory at Sellafield; where we found fertile ground resulted in the NNL sending a delegate to Shanghai – the first time the organisation has attended a thorium and new reactor technology event.

 November saw our chairman John Durham and Baroness Worthington addressing the Thorium  Energy Conference 2012 in Shanghai. (Watch Baroness Worthington’s presentation here.) In establishing relations with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, we were privileged to get the inside  track on China’s much-discussed Thorium Molten Salt Reactor programme and a tour of the CAS MSR R&D facility. Watch Dr Jiang Mian Heng’s insightful presentation on MSRs and the future of sustainable energy in China.

Closing the year’s speaker platforms, Baroness Worthington gave a compelling case for new nuclear and thorium at the Nuclear Industry Association’s annual conference, and kicking off 2013 Laurence O’Hagan is to speak at the Conference on Molten Salts in Nuclear Technology in Mumbai

Much research, networking and intelligence gathering peppered the year, including a roundtable at the Cambridge Forum where academics, scientist and leading UK industry heads made real headway in understanding the benefits and challenges of a thorium-fuelled economy; we supported  the UK launch of Rick Martin’s SuperFuel and built a database of some 700 supporters (and sceptics!).

Thanks to the too-numerous-to-mention global influences who have worked with hope and energy to change minds in 2012 – there’s much work ahead of us and time is clearly of the essence.





We have the energy to change minds

Posted by Laurence O'Hagan on December 20th, 2012

Choice cuts: thorium not on the menu at NIA conference

Posted by Laurence O'Hagan on December 9th, 2012

Last week’s NIA Energy Choices conference clearly highlighted the fact that the old guard doesn’t see thorium as a ‘choice’ in preference to uranium – and the status quo  – despite the WNA’s recognition of the benefits of thorium, the organisation used the platform to support the vested interests.

Some more insightful speakers, such as CANDU, the NNL and others thankfully take the longer view.

See Mark Halper’s blog on the day’s proceedings:

Nature blazes the Thorium Trail

Posted by Laurence O'Hagan on December 7th, 2012

Molten-salt reactors would be impervious to catastrophic meltdown; instead of producing nuclear waste laced with plutonium and other long-lived radioisotopes, they could destroy those isotopes almost completely.

So reads a new article in Nature US by M. Mitchell Waldrop: Nuclear energy: Radical reactors, an articulate report on thorium-fuelled MSRs, with insight from Flibe Energy’s Kirk Sorensen: “For decades, one design has dominated nuclear reactors while potentially better options were left by the wayside. Now, the alternatives might finally have their day.”

The impact of this report in one of the US leading environmental science publications should not be underestimated – provoking the oil lobby to fight back; stirring up the debate on the risks of thorium’s proliferation properties.

Thou does protest too much?

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