Intelligent Energy

Watch replay of nuclear's future, with dash of rare earth, political intrigue

Watch replay of nuclear's future, with dash of rare earth, political intrigue

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Holiday viewing. A short film that pieces together long-ignored thorium, rare earth minerals, and why China could win, including secret talks between son of China's former leader and Oak Ridge lab.

Dr. Jiang Mianheng, son of China's former leader Jiang Zemin, led a thorium delegation in non-disclosure talks at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tenn. Image from EnergyFromThorium.

If you have 15 minutes over the holiday break and you want to connect all the dots you've spotted about nuclear, thorium, uranium, China, and their relationship to rare earth minerals, then I give two thumbs up to ThoriumRemix.

Jiang Mianheng's father, Jiang Zemin, led China in the 1990s. Image from Wikipedia.

This short film is a series of excerpts from a conference earlier this year about thorium, the element that could replace uranium as fuel and turn nuclear power into a safer affair than it is today. It stars Kirk Sorensen, CEO of Huntsville,  Ala. thorium reactor company Flibe Energy; James Kennedy, president of St. Louis iron ore mining company Wings Enterprises; and Kim Lawrence Johnson of St. Paul chemicals firm Cheminnovar. The trio serves a fine alternative to DiCaprio, Pitt and Depp.

The film sums up a lot of what we've chronicled in recent months on SmartPlanet, where we've noticed China's emerging lead in nuclear, and the connection between thorium and rare earths, which are themselves of huge international economic consequence.

Watch an impassioned Sorensen describe how America has squandered a thorium route conceived at Berkeley Lab in 1942, how the son of China's former leader Jiang Zemin met recently with the U.S. Department of Energy at Oak Ridge National Laboratory - under non-disclosure, Johnson tells us - and how China could trump the world in thorium reactors.

A steeled Kennedy supports those themes, wondering, in regards to conventional weapons-prone uranium-fueled nuclear power,  "Why are we sustaining an energy system that was the byproduct of the Cold War?" Kennedy also describes how thorium comes from rare earth minerals-- and how Western rare earth policy could hand the thorium lead to China. That, adds Johnson, could mean that China will get all the royalties from licensing reactor designs to growth countries like Brazil.

Wow. Lots of intriguing pieces that fit together. Step aside John le Carré. Let's go to the video. If nothing else, it will be cheaper than the trip to the bad movie at the multiplex:

Just in case the click-thru fails, use this link. And thanks to SmartPlanet reader Gordon McDowell for alerting me to this video in the first place, in his comment after my recent thorium/rare earth story. Great recommendation, Gordon.

More nuclear future on SmartPlanet:

And further afield:

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure