Don’t throw away U233!
When I learned that the entire National Defense Stockpile of thorium (3216 metric tonnes) was slated for burial in the Nevada desert, that was bad enough. But the destruction of our U233 really breaks my heart and hurts so much worse.
Uranium-233 is the ideal fuel to start a liquid-fluoride reactor, and there is a very little bit in the world, left over from different attempts to get a thorium-powered future going. Now the DOE is taking great pride in the fact they are going to throw it away. I can only comfort myself with the idea that if they knew how valuable this material is for starting a liquid-fluoride reactor, they would never do this.
It gets even worse–the $128 million that they plan to spend to “blend” down this little bit of U-233 could be used to progress liquid-fluoride reactors, which currently get about $40K a year under the DOE Gen-4 program. The fellow that gets the money tells me it’s enough to “answer the phone”.
And once blended with U-238, the U-233 will be unrecoverable (I’m sure this is what they want). We could not isotopically separate it like natural uranium, since it will be far, far too radioactive to introduce into a diffusion plant. So it’s gone–thrown away when it could have started a thorium reactor.
What a tragic loss and waste…