WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, today introduced the Thorium Energy Security Act to prevent the destruction of Uranium 233 (U-233), a critical element used to produce clean energy.
“Thorium and U-233 hold the promise to produce clean, safe power and are vital to our national security. Energy will continue to be at the heart of global conflicts, so the United States must invest in energy technology,” Senator Tuberville said. “China clearly saw the value in our thorium research—they’ve taken up where we left off, and we may soon see thorium-powered Chinese aircraft carriers and thorium reactors on the Belt & Road courtesy of American technology.”
“Uranium-233 is too valuable and too useful to just be thrown in the trash, a fact that the Chinese Communist Party understands but our Department of Energy clearly does not. While we are spending millions of dollars to destroy U-233, the CCP is investing in it by preparing to build a new generation of advanced aircraft carriers and nuclear reactors powered by U-233,” said Senator Marshall.“The United States needs to lead on advanced nuclear reactors and not leave the future of innovative clean energy technologies in the hands of China. Preserving this valuable national resource is the first step on that path.”
In the 1960s, the United States pioneered thorium molten salt breeder reactor technologies at Oak Ridge National Labs. This promising technology, which employed uranium 233 (U-233), produced clean, safe power, but did not produce plutonium like other reactor designs. As our country was focused on growing our nuclear arsenal, the U.S. shelved thorium and U-233 for decades.
In 2001, the Department of Energy began the process of destroying our stocks of U-233. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Energy transferred our thorium technology to China in a cooperative agreement with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. As a result, China just tested their first molten salt thorium reactor and is believed the be using the thorium to power their newest aircraft carrier.
The Department of Energy’s “next generation” reactors are reliant on Russian highly-enriched, low-assay uranium (HALEU). Recent events show the error of that judgement. Fortunately, America has the technology and U-233 material to produce energy that doesn’t depend on Russian HALEU. Moreover, molten salt breeder reactors based on the thorium cycle cannot melt down and are capable of consuming nuclear waste, solving the two most pressing problems of nuclear power.
Further, U-233 is also the source material for two essential isotopes, actinium-225 and bismuth-213, which are essential in the treatment of multiple types of cancer, including leukemia, prostate, breast, lymphomas, multiple myeloma, and brain cancers.
Given its many benefits, the case to preserve the United States supply of U-233 is of national importance. The Thorium Energy Security Act will immediately halt the Department of Energy’s program to destroy uranium 233, saving this vital national asset for future study, medical research, and clean energy.