U-233: key to the second nuclear era

Senator Roger Marshall, M.D., of Kansas, a Republican, serves on the Energy and Natural Resources; Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committees.

Will U.S. or China hold keys to the 2nd nuclear era?

With Weinberg’s departure from the lab, the seed of the thorium fuel cycle, Uranium-233 (U-233), sat at Oak Ridge National Lab mostly forgotten. With the discussion on a closed fuel cycle dimming, the Department of Energy deemed the U-233 waste and transferred ownership to the Office of Environmental Management DOE’s trash collectors. However, it has become clear that U-233 is a very unique and valuable material. It has the potential to revolutionize both clean energy and cancer treatment, a truth that is not lost to our geopolitical adversaries, most importantly China. Aggressively pursuing thorium molten-salt reactor technology, China’s next-gen aircraft carriers, now under construction, will be powered by American thorium-reactor technology. Making matters worse for America’s prospects, the CCP claims they will be deploying commercial-scale thorium reactors by 2030. Considering the TMSR program to be one of the “perfect technologies” for their Belt and Road initiative, China plans to own the future. Meanwhile, America doesn’t even have the capability to create High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (or HALEU) for the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) recipients, who are reliant on Russia. Moreover, we do not research alternative fuel cycle reactors, like plutonium and thorium for peaceful purposes, nor do we recycle our nuclear fuel like many other countries.

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