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Price is right for better nuclear fuel.

Scientists have long known that uranium is not the best fuel for an efficient, inexpensive nuclear reactor. Thorium is a more abundant material, and a ton of it can produce as much energy as 200 tons of uranium or 3.5 million tons of coal. Unfortunately, producing this slightly radioactive metal in to compounds that can be used in a reactor can cost up to $5,000 a kilogram and often involves high temperatures and hazardous chemicals.

A new technology from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M., circumvents these hazards and cost issues to produce a new thorium chloride reagent, Th[Cl.sub.4] [(DME).sub.2]. Th-ING: Thorium Is Now Green technology begins with thorium nitrate, which is reacted with aqueous hydrochloric acid under mild conditions. The 100 C process can be performed using conventional glassware in a traditional laboratory setting without using hazardous chemicals such as chlorine gas or carbon tetrachloride.

The reaction produces Th[Cl.sub.4]([[H.sub.2]O).sub.4.] A novel combination of anhydrous hydrochloric acid and trimethylsilyl chloride removes the coordinated water molecules, replacing them with dimethoxyethane (DME) to make the new thorium chloride reagent.

The developers estimate the total cost at just $30 per kilogram. The process can be used to extract thorium from existing nuclear fuel waste stockpiles.

* Los Alamos National Laboratory, www.lanl.gov

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Title Annotation:Energy Technologies; Los Alamos National Laboratory's Th-ING: Thorium Is Now Green
Comment:Price is right for better nuclear fuel.(Energy Technologies)(Los Alamos National Laboratory's Th-ING: Thorium Is Now Green )
Publication:R & D
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2011
Words:227
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