Jakarta (Indonesia Window) – In addition to uranium which may have been known to contain radiation, another radioactive element that can be used for power generator is thorium with Th as its chemical symbol.
According to a researcher at the Nuclear Reactor Technology and Safety Center, Alim Mardhi, like uranium, the thorium element is also found in Indonesia.
“A used tin mining site in Indonesia’s province of Bangka Belitung, for example, contains a lot of thorium in mineral monazites associated with tin deposits,” he said last weekend on the sidelines of the Science Expo held by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in Tangerang, Banten, on October 23-26, 2019.
Information from the BATAN website mentions that the content of thorium found in monazites could reach 4.738 percent.
The total world thorium reserve is estimated at 6,355,000 tons. As many as 16 countries are known to have high thorium reserves, with India having the largest one reaching 846,000 tons.
Thorium is potential as an alternative nuclear fuel as it has several advantages, but is somewhat different from uranium because the former cannot directly produce nuclear reactions.
Thorium can only produce nuclear reaction if it is triggered by other nuclear elements, such as uranium-235, plutonium-239, and uranium-233. The three nuclear elements are fission materials which when they react with neutrons will be divided and produce elements as fission-products, neutrons, and heat.
The heat is used to generate electricity, while neutrons are used to react with thorium to fission U-233.
Alim added that the National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN) has the ability to process thorium ores, especially to separate thorium and uranium from monazite deposits.
In addition, BATAN has also built a pilot scale extraction facility.
A report in 2015 showed the volume of thorium reserves in Indonesia was recorded at around 130,974 tons and uranium at 74,397 tons.
Meanwhile, the 2007 Geological Resource Center balance sheet indicated that the amount of monazite ore resources was recorded at 185,992 tons.
Thorium potentials in Indonesia are found among others on Singkep Island (Lingga Regency, Riau Islands), Bangka Belitung, West Kalimantan, and Mamuju (West Sulawesi).
“We have also been able to operate nuclear power plants that are clean and safe,” Alim said, adding that the Nuclear Reactor Technology and Safety Center applies the latest methods and technology to safeguard nuclear power plants that allows any possible errors in the operation to be early prevented.
Until now, there has been no thorium power plant operating on a commercial scale.
Reporting by Indonesia Window