Monday, September 17, 2012

Despite International Research, Thorium Fluctuations Unlikely To Threaten U.S. Nuclear Power Supply Over Next 3 To 5 Years

Executive Summary:
It is unlikely that thorium will threaten United States national security by way of critical infrastructure over the next three to five years. Key factors include lack of advantages over uranium nuclear power, minimal domestic demand, and the abundant thorium reserves in the U.S.

Countries such as India and China are
conducting research with molten salt
reactors, technology the US developed
over 40 years ago.
Thorium nuclear power is not significantly better than uranium power. Solid thorium reactors are comparable to uranium reactors in terms of waste, vulnerability, and efficiency. Numerous countries are currently conducting research on molten salt reactors using thorium, but these reactors lack real-world testing and are not commercially ready. Although the molten salt method poses advantages over traditional systems, the U.S. has discarded it. Experts say that proponents overstate the advantages, suggesting a switch to thorium nuclear power is not economically viable.

Thorium currently is of limited value to the U.S.  In 2009, the U.S. spent USD 150,000 on thorium imports, suggesting there is little interest in using the mineral. Thorium nuclear reactors create no weapons-grade byproducts, and thorium is less versatile than uranium. 

Experts estimate that the U.S. holds 8 percent of the world’s total thorium reserves. The U.S. has two high-grade thorium resources in the west. More than ten states also have reserves of a lower grade content of thorium. These deposits are highly exploitable if needed and cover 13 separate regions of the country.

Analytic Confidence:
Analytic confidence for this assessment is medium. Source reliability ranges from medium to high. Sources could be corroborated. Analysts were of low expertise and worked as a team of two. The subject is highly complex. Time available for the task was adequate.

Methods And Processes:
Analysts communicated via Gmail and Google Docs to share independently collected sources, information, ideas, and to create the document. Analysts continued to develop and refine the document  as they found more information.

With Google Docs, it was extremely easy to seamlessly alter the document, improving it and shaping it as the analysts proceeded in research. As analysts discovered further information, analysts were forced to reassess the original scope. The Google Docs chat and comment functions were of great use in facilitating easier communication.

Sara Marinello (email - Google+)
Laura Suprock (email - Google+)

1 comment:

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