About Rare Earths and Thorium
There is no shortage of rare earths in the U.S. if existing production of Thorium bearing rare earths that are typically discarded every year due to misguided regulations are utilized. Thorium and rare earths are linked at the mineralogical level and Thorium is a proven and safe alternative to the existing cold war fleet of Light Water Reactors using solid Uranium or Plutonium fuels.
Rare earths represent the only bridge between legacy technologies of the past and the advanced performance of current technology. Currently China controls 97% of the value chain for rare earths and 99% of the value chain for heavy rare earths.
The U.S. has no future in the modern economy if they cannot establish themselves as a viable producer of the full rare earth value chain. The U.S. cannot look to deposits such as Molycorp’s Mt. Pass deposit to fill this gap because Bastnaesite deposits can only fill the light, low value, half of the Lanthanide series (there are 15 Lanthanides that when grouped with Scandium and Yttrium are referred to as rare earths). The heavy half of the Lanthanide series must come from Monazite and Xenotime deposits. Monazite deposits typically contain Thorium so ‘western’ mining companies dump this material into tailings lakes.
The U.S. dumps about 200% of our annual rare earth resources into tailings lakes each year. These resources could be used to make the U.S. self-sufficient for all of our National Security and industrial needs. Regulatory issues related to the companion element Thorium force U.S. mining companies to dump this valuable resource into tailings lakes.
Currently Thorium is seen as a mineralogical liability. However, Thorium is a proven alternative to solid fuel fissile nuclear energy systems. Thorium Homogenous Liquid Nuclear Fuels Reactors, also called Molten Salt Reactors (Th-MSR) were developed in the 1960s as a safe alternative to solid fuel fissile base Uranium or Plutonium reactors. The U.S. dumps enough Thorium into tailings lakes every year to assure the U.S. 100% energy independence.
To learn more about Thorium, Rare Earths and Regulatory policy see ThREEConsulting.com.