Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Materials

Uranium Production Cycle


Technical Meeting on the
Thorium resources and provinces

24 - 27 September 2013,
IAEA Headquarters, Vienna, Austria

INFORMATION AND CALL FOR PAPERS


A. INTRODUCTION

Increased demand for carbon-free energy and accelerated growth of global nuclear power makes it possible that thorium will be used as a nuclear fuel in the foreseeable future. The thorium fuel cycle offers several potential advantages, including greater abundance of thorium versus uranium, superior physical and nuclear properties of fuel, enhanced proliferation resistance, and reduced plutonium and actinide production. Thorium utilization in Light Water Reactors, High Temperature Reactors and Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors has been well demonstrated. Recently, new initiatives have been announced in many Member States on utilization of thorium.

The crustal abundance of thorium is between three and five times that of uranium. It occurs as oxides, silicates and phosphates, often with rare earth elements (REE) and other critical materials including niobium, tantalum and zirconium. A common REE mineral is monazite in which the thorium content can reach 26%, but commonly is 10% or less. Geologically, thorium deposits are found in various settings with wide geographic distribution, such as alkaline complexes, pegmatites, carbonatites and heavy mineral sands. Worldwide thorium resources are estimated to total about 6.5 million tonnes. Major resources of thorium are known in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Norway, South Africa and the USA.

Most thorium resource estimations correspond to potential resources, because specific exploration and comprehensive resource estimation of thorium deposits have been reconnaissance studies or never been really undertaken, expect in few countries. Published estimates of thorium resources date mainly from exploration for uranium and other commodities made in the 1950s-1980s. Hence, detailed investigations of the resources, as well as ore processing tests, are necessary before decisions on their economic relevancies can be made. Presently, due to renewed interest in REE and other critical materials, thorium resources are also being evaluated and reported in many projects.

However, thorium geology and mineralogical associations are presently not widely studied as they were in the past. As in the case of uranium, thorium occurs in provinces; these are defined as a region of the Earth’s crust in which rocks of one or more successive ages are enriched in thorium and related elements above normal abundance, generally occurring as distinct deposits. An in-depth understanding of the thorium provinces is not available today; however, as more and more exploration and research are being carried out presently, better clarity is expected in the future.

The purpose of the Technical Meeting (TM) is to provide a forum for experts from Member States to exchange information on the latest developments regarding the status and policies on thorium utilization, geology, mineralogy, exploration, resources, metallogenic aspects and production of thorium. Additionally, recent research in ore processing, environmental studies, safety and social licensing aspects will be discussed.

The target participants of the TM are researchers, professionals engaged in thorium exploration and production, safety experts, researchers, energy planners and officials from Member States interested in thorium resources and its utilization.

The Technical Meeting will be held in the IAEA’s Headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

B. TOPICS TO BE COVERED

The following specific topics are identified as being of particular interest, and shall be considered in the papers to be presented:

  • Thorium utilization scenarios and policies;
  • Thorium geology, mineralization and genetic models;
  • Concepts on thorium provinces and regional metallogenic aspects;
  • Aspects of REE, niobium-tantalum, zirconium, phosphate and thorium related metallogeny;
  • Current status of thorium exploration and case histories;
  • Recent developments in thorium resource evaluation;
  • Advances in co-extraction of thorium, REE and other critical material;
  • Long-term storage of thorium; and
  • Safety, environmental and social licensing issues related to thorium resource development.

C. ORGANIZATION

Scientific Secretary:
Mr Harikrishnan Tulsidas
International Atomic Energy Agency
Vienna International Centre
1400 Vienna, Austria
Phone: +43 1 2600 22758
Fax: +43 1 26007 22758
Email: T.Harikrishnan@iaea.org

Administrative Secretary:
Ms Michaela Neuenhaus
International Atomic Energy Agency
Vienna International Centre
1400 Vienna, Austria
Phone: +43 1 2600 22765
Fax: +43 1 2600 29671
Email:M.Neuenhaus@iaea.org

D. PARTICIPATION

Each person wishing to participate in the meeting is requested to complete the attached Participation Form (Form A), indicating whether he or she intends to present a paper, and this must be sent to the IAEA through the competent official authority by 1 June 2013.

Participants are required to prepare a paper on the topic related to thorium resources and provinces which may be one of the topics listed in Section B above but does not have to be restricted to these. Each presentation should have a duration of approximately 30 minutes and should preferably be prepared in Microsoft PowerPoint format. Contributed papers and presentations should be submitted in English with an electronic version provided to the Scientific Secretary prior to the meeting.

E. VENUE

The meeting will be held at the IAEA’s Headquarters in M0E1 Press Room, Vienna International Centre (VIC). Participants are advised to arrive one hour prior to the convening time of the meeting to allow for timely registration. They should present an official photo identification document in order to be admitted to the VIC premises.

The following web page on the IAEA Meetings and Conferences website: http://www-pub.iaea.org/mtcd/meetings/vicservices.asp can be accessed for more detailed information on Vienna and the VIC.

F. VISA ARRANGEMENTS

Participants are also advised that they may require a valid passport and Schengen visa for entry into Austria. Accordingly, it would be advisable to begin the immediate preparation of travel arrangements and necessary authorizations. The Secretariat should be contacted as soon as possible if a formal invitation letter is needed in order to facilitate the visa request. We recommend that participants apply for visas in a timely manner, if necessary.

G. EXPENDITURES

In accordance with established rules, Governments, national authorities, private companies or individual sources are expected to bear the travel and other costs of designated participants in the meeting. Limited funds are, however, available to help cover the cost of participants from Member States eligible to receive technical assistance under the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme. Such assistance can be offered, upon specific request, to one participant per country provided that, in the IAEA’s view, this participant will make an important contribution to the meeting. The application for financial support should be made at the time of the designation of the participant.

It should be noted that compensation is not payable by the IAEA for any damage to or loss of personal property. The IAEA also does not provide any health insurance coverage for participants in meetings, workshops or training courses or for consultants. Arrangements for private insurance coverage on an individual basis should therefore be made. The IAEA, will, however, provide insurance coverage for accidents and illnesses that clearly result from any work performed for the IAEA.

H. WORKING LANGUAGE

The working language of the meeting will be English. All communications, abstracts, and papers must be sent in English.

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