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Dr. Arjun Makhijani Interview - MSR Thorium Reactor Fort St. Vrain Power Station and Monju Liquid Sodium Breeder LFTR Reactor Failures - Helium Cooled Pebblebed Thorium Reactors Also Expensive Boondoggles - Thorium Waste Used To Build Nuclear Bombs - Nuclear Waste, Safety, Cost Issues

Dr. Arjun Makhijani on the downsides of the proposed thorium reactors and why solar power will save money and save lives
VIDEO: 57 min

In this program, Dr. Caldicott interviews plasma physicist and electrical engineer Dr. Arjun Makhijani is the President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER)

A recognized authority on energy issues, Dr. Makhijani is the author and co-author of numerous reports and books on energy and environment related issues. He was the principal author of the first study of the energy efficiency potential of the US economy published in 1971. Recently, he co-authored Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (2007)

Dr. Caldicott and Dr. Makhijani primarily address the hazards of the proposed thorium reactors, which nuclear scientists are now advocating. They also touch on how much less expensive a program to solarize rooftops would be. Near the end of the interview, Dr. Makhijani gives his perspective on the ramifications of the Fukushima meltdowns. 

He refers to a May 2012 article he wrote for the U.S. and Japanese press, May 5 could mark new beginning for Japan with reactor shutdown .


To listen to Dr. Caldicott's earlier interviews with Dr. Makhijani, click  on


In the video above, Dr. Helen Caldicott MD interviews Dr. Arjun Makhijani (a plasma expert) who explains the downsides of the proposed MSR and LFTR thorium reactors and why renewable solar or other renewable energy sources such as wind, water, tides, geothermal and hydrogen will save money and save lives long term.

Contrary to the claims made or implied by thorium proponents, however, thorium doesn’t solve the proliferation, waste, safety, or cost problems of nuclear power, and it still faces major technical hurdles for commercialization. 


The pro-thorium lobby claim a single ton of thorium burned in a Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) – typically a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) – which has liquid rather than solid fuel, will operate safely, efficiently and profitably. However, the investment industry is turning a cold shoulder to the idea that Thorium is anything but a boondoggle. Why? Maybe because these investors are putting their money on the line, and they do their due diligence. Maybe, just maybe, these investors have looked into this fantasy to see what the actual facts are behind the pro thorium lobby claims. 

These investors are refusing to put their money into either nuclear power, or this supposedly 'new' thorium idea, which is actually a very old idea being recycled from the 1960's when it was found not workable. So why should the public put their tax money into thorium reactors?


Nuclear experts have examined and analyzed Thorium claims and found them to be lacking. Read about the Ten Myths About Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power, By Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd, A Fact Sheet Produced by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Physicians for Social Responsibility. 


As one example of a failed liquid sodium and thorium reactor, we present The Fort St. Vrain Power Station. It was converted from a failed thorium and sodium nuclear reactor experiment to a natural gas power plant many years ago. 

At this site, they tried for many years to make this thorium powered reactor work both financially and technically, but the Thorium experiment just never worked. Here are pictures of this abandoned thorium nuclear power plant today, after it was converted to a gas powered plant.


“…A converter reactor, it used U235 and Thorium as fuel. Thorium is non-fissionable and less costly than other nuclear fuels, but when combined with U235 it is converted into fissionable U235….The plant operated during December 1976 and August 1989, in between a series of reactor shutdowns…The plant was last shut down in August 1989 to repair a stuck control rod discovered during routine safety testing. During the repair activities, hairline cracks were discovered in tubes that supplied heated steam to drive the turbine….”

The nuclear fuel from this disaster of a nuclear power plant is being stored until at least 2030. The 'spent' fuel is being air cooled and has to be treated the same as the spent fuel from any other 'normal' nuclear reactor. 

According to Wikipedia at the Fort S. Vrain Power Station; “the primary coolant was helium which transferred heat to a water based secondary coolant system to drive steam generators. The reactor fuel was a combination of fissile uranium and fertile thorium microspheres dispersed within a prismatic graphite matrix….The typical steel-reinforced, pre-stressed concrete containment dome structure was omitted in favor of a steel-frame containment structure while the reactor core was partially contained within a prestressed concrete reactor pressure vessel (PCRV)…. 

Three major categories of problems were experienced at Fort St. Vrain: 

1. water infiltration and corrosion issues 

2. electrical system issues 

3. general facility issues 

Exceedingly close tolerances were needed to ensure that helium did not exfiltrate through the circulator while in use. Moving surfaces, in particular, were hard-pressed to provide the kind of seal required to keep the helium coolant in. Thus a water-lubricated bearing design was used to provide an adequate solution to the potential issue of helium exfiltration….Unfortunately, in satisfactorily preventing helium exfiltration, the designers caused another issue: water infiltration…By these mechanisms, water entered the sealed volume of the PCRV and caused havoc with numerous operations-critical systems. Though safety was assured to a substantial level by the design, numerous severe operability problems emerged quickly….” 


According to nuclear expert Anne on Enenews; the Thorium "232Th–233U fuel cycle, much lesser quantity of plutonium and long-lived Minor Actinides (MA: Np, Am and Cm) are formed as compared to the 238U–239Pu fuel cycle, thereby minimizing the radiotoxicity associated in spent fuel. However, in the back end of 232Th–233U fuel cycle, there are other dionuclides such as 231Pa, 229Th and 230U, which may have long term radiological impact…

The melting point of ThO2 (3 3500C) is much higher compared to that of UO2(2 8000C). Hence, a much higher sintering temperature (2,0000C) is required to produce high density ThO2 and ThO2–based mixed oxide fuels. Admixing of ‘sintering aid’ (CaO, MgO, Nb2O5, etc) is required for achieving the desired pellet density at lower temperature. 

“ThO2 and ThO2–based mixed oxide fuels are relatively inert and, unlike UO2 and (U, Pu)O2 fuels, do not dissolve easily in concentrated nitric acid. Addition of small quantities of HF in concentrated HNO3 is essential which cause corrosion of stainless steel equipment and pipings in reprocessing plants. The corrosion problem is mitigated with addition of aluminium nitrate. Boiling THOREX solution [13 M HNO3+0.05 MHF+0.1 M Al(NO3)3] at ~393 K and long dissolution period are required for ThO2–based fuels. 

In the conversion chain of 232Th to 233U, 233Pa is formed as an intermediate, which has a relatively longer alf-life (~27 days) as compared to 239Np (2.35 days) in the uranium fuel cycle thereby requiring longer cooling time of at least one year for completing the decay of 233Pa to 233U. Normally, Pa is passed into the fission product waste in the THOREX process, which could have long term adiological impact. It is essential to separate Pa from the spent fuel solution prior to solvent extraction process for separation of 233U and thorium. 

“The three stream process of separation of uranium, plutonium and thorium from spent (Th, Pu)O2 fuel, though viable, is yet to be developed. The database and experience of thorium fuels and thorium fuel cycles are very limited, as compared to UO2 and (U, Pu)O2 fuels, and need to be augmented before large investments are made for commercial utilization of thorium fuels and fuel cycles. 


"A fundamental characteristic of the room temperature Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) fuel is that the radiation from the retained fission products and actinides interacts with this fluoride salt to produce fluorine gas. The purpose of this investigation was to identify fluorine-trapping materials for the MSRE fuel salt that can meet both the requirement of interim storage in a sealed (gastight) container and the vented condition required for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). 

Sealed containers will be needed for interim storage because of the large radon source that remains even in fuel salt stripped of its uranium content. An experimental program was undertaken to identify the most promising candidates for efficient trapping of the radiolytic fluorine generated by the MSRE fuel salt. Because of the desire to avoid pressurizing the closed storage containers, an agent that traps fluorine without the generation of gaseous products was sought." 

Thorium based nuclear power production is nothing new or fantastic, as some pro nuclear apologists are representing it. It does not solve the cost over run problems. It does not solve the nuclear radiation toxicity problems. It does not solve the fact that this form of nuclear power DOES NOT WORK. It does not solve the storage of left over nuclear and radioactive garbage, as proven above. This supposedly 'new' technology has been around since the 1960's. It has been tried all over the world, and has consistently FAILED every time, from then to now. 

“At Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s, the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment used 233U as the fissile fuel as an experiment to demonstrate a part of the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor that was designed to operate on the thorium fuel cycle. Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) experiments assessed thorium's feasibility, using thorium(IV) fluoride dissolved in a molten salt fluid which eliminated the need to fabricate fuel elements. 

The Molten Salt Reactor MSR program was defunded in 1976 after its patron Alvin Weinberg was fired.[9]....... studies assume some actinide losses and find that actinide wastes dominate thorium cycle waste radioactivity at some future periods.[18]…” 

What does that say about the strength of the thorium for power idea, when just ONE patron disappears, and the entire thorium program is then cancelled? This reactor at Oak Ridge, was not really a true thorium reactor, but rather a plutonium, uranium, thorium mixture, which as it turns out, is what all Thorium reactors HAVE TO BE. 

How many times does the public need to dump BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars into something that is expensive, toxic, and does not work? According to the pro nuclear apologists, this process of transferring wealth from the taxpayer to those who 'believe' in the fifty year old nuclear 'dream', must continue on and on and on and on, FOREVER, despite increasing costs, increasing numbers of deadly accidents, decreasing interest by investors, and escalating numbers of EXPENSIVE problems. 

One of the 'dreams' of thorium proponents, is to convert fast breeder reactors into thorium powered sodium cooled reactors. Here is an example of how well THAT thorium powered and liquid sodium cooled idea works. 

The Monju Nuclear Power Plant in Japan is a liquid metal sodium cooled fast breeder reactor. It is designed to use radioactive plutonium for fuel, one of the most deadly substances on the planet. How dangerous is plutonium? Click on the following links to get some idea of how toxic and deadly this substance is.... 

But forgetting or ignoring the problem and toxicity around plutonium in fast breeder reactors, just how well did this reactor work, and how profitable was it? 

It turns out, that in the twenty years since the Monju liquid sodium fast breeder nuclear power plant has been built, it has been in profit making operation for ONE HOUR TOTAL. From then until now, over 1.08 Trillion Yen has been spent and LOST on this toxic, deadly, and dangerous nuclear power generating experiment, with NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT, other than coverups, denials, lies, propoganda and lots of money spent on PR, or public relations, plus tons of nuclear waste products. 

To read more about the details of the failure of sodium cooled fast breeder reactors, such as Monju, click on the following links below this article..... 

Pro thorium apologists say that thorium is somehow very 'clean' and does not produce waste, compared to a standard nuclear power plant, but nothing could be further from the truth. 

"Thorium cannot in itself power a reactor; unlike natural uranium, it does not contain enough fissile material to initiate a nuclear chain reaction. As a result it must first be bombarded with neutrons to produce the highly radioactive isotope uranium-233 – 'so these are really U-233 reactors,' says Karamoskos.


This isotope is more hazardous than the U-235 used in conventional reactors, he adds, because it produces U-232 as a side effect (half life: 160,000 years), on top of familiar fission by-products such as technetium-99 (half life: up to 300,000 years) and iodine-129 (half life: 15.7 million years). Add in actinides such as protactinium-231 (half life: 33,000 years) and it soon becomes apparent that thorium's superficial cleanliness will still depend on digging some pretty deep holes to bury the highly radioactive waste. 


"Thorium reactors use Thorium as a fertile fuel that transmutes into fissile U233. While the spent fuel does not contain the same ratios of elements as a uranium fuel cycle, it does indeed contain bomb worthy isotopes as well as some longer lived fission and daughter products. In fact, the thorium cycle was used to produce some of the fuel for Operation Teapot in 1955." This means that the last claim from pro thorium apologists is also busted. 

What have we learned so far? Thorium powered and liquid sodium cooled nuclear plants are failures in all ways. The liquid sodium that is most often proposed as a coolant does not work because it burns on exposure to either water or air, and that combined with a radioactive thorium fuel that is ALWAYS mixed with either deadly uranium or even more deadly plutonium, thorium power claims are punctured like a pin into a balloon. Thorium does not magically create a 'safe' way of doing anything nuclear. 

As we have seen, the waste produced from a thorium powered reactor is NO BETTER than any of the toxic, deadly, and hazardous stuff coming out of the average nuclear power plant, because it remains deadly for MILLIONS of years. 

As far as cost, the thorium reactors are no different and quite possibly WORSE and MORE EXPENSIVE than any nuclear power plant. In case after case, the Thorium 'experiments' have had cost overruns, accidents and failed to produce a profit. In every case, they needed taxpayer money to even get going. No investor yet has decided to put money into this boondoggle and come out making money. 

Thorium reactors DO PRODUCE WEAPONS GRADE byproducts, that can be used to make nuclear bombs, if that is the intent. Thorium reactors are no safer than other reactors when it comes to making nuclear weapons.


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Index, Table Of Contents


Dr. Arjun Makhijani Interview - MSR Thorium Reactor Fort St. Vrain Power Station and Monju Liquid Sodium Breeder LFTR Reactor Failures - Helium Cooled Pebblebed Thorium Reactors Also Expensive Boondoggles - Thorium Waste Used To Build Nuclear Bombs - Nuclear Waste, Safety, Cost Issues

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