A nuclear power plant in Bolivia using lithium instead of uranium?

npa/bha. In March this year, the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” informed it’s readers that the Bolivian Government has issued an agreement with the Russian state corporation Rosatom, after which Rosatom will build a nuclear research center in El Alto. There was talk among others of a nuclear research reactor supporting Bolivia in using nuclear energy. Bolivia would be the third country in South America using nuclear energy besides Brazil and Argentina. But was the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” really uninformed of what the type this reactor will be? Nothing has been specified in more detail, the reader has to speculate, if he wanted to.
Meanwhile, several news agencies report about the groundbreaking ceremony and the signing of the treaties that regulate the nuclear research center and nail down its financing. Xinhuanet reports: Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera stated on July 8, 2016 at the signing ceremony “that as an exporter of lithium used in nuclear fusion, Bolivia should learn how to make the most of the natural resource. We can’t have the world using lithium over the next 20, 30 or 50 years, while we Bolivians remain incapable of using lithium for our own benefit. We have lived like this for 500 years. For 500 years we have used Bolivia’s raw materials so that other countries around the world would develop science, technology and industry, and we don’t want to repeat that history. That’s why we have made a decision: to plant today so we can harvest in 2025, 2030, 2040”
A Belarusian news Agency reported that it was remarkable that Rosatom dares such a research reactor project that requires cutting edge technology. The project was connected with very ambitious tasks.
Current Concerns wants to bring up some background information.
In March 2012, Current Concerns published excerpts from a brochure of the German author Dipl. Ing. Heinz Werner Gabriel. Title: “Nuclear power without radioactivity - no dream: From uranium to lithium fuel”*.
It concerns the principle concept of a nuclear reactor which operates on the basis of splitting of lithium by means of hydrogen isotope “Deuterium”. This produces two inactive helium nuclei and per gram lithium-6 an energy equivalent of up to 10,000 kg oil (this is three times more than energy out of one gram of uranium). The worldwide available lithium reserves exceed those of oil many times over. Heinz Werner Gabriel took up again attempts in England and Germany from the time before Otto Hahn (1938). He looked back and reappraised them, updated them technically and made them available to an interested audience.
Only a few media, such as for example, ADN, Klagemauer TV and PravdaTV took the theme up. Although Switzerland and the EU probably have technologically a leading position and have sufficient financial resources, professionals and knowledge, there were no adequate responses. But the Bolivian Embassy in Berne had invited the expert Gabriel to a detailed conversation.
The energy debates run high in the aftermath of Fukushima (2011), the “phase-out of nuclear energy” and the “energy revolution” have been discussed again and again … but there was surprisingly no understanding for a nuclear technology that has no uranium and harmful radioactivity. Well, as a renewed “exit from exit” would make the professional incompetence of the political decision makers too evident. Comments were limited to subtle defamation.
Meanwhile, Bolivia’s Government has adopted the approach. In October 2014, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales announced the construction of the first nuclear power plant for 2025. Bolivia is extraordinarily rich in lithium, in particular from the Salar de Uyuni. The “golden” natural resources should according to the will of Evo Morales not mined and taken out of the country, like the silver at times of Potosi. It was agreed that the lithium resources should be processed in the country, to bring an advantage to the entire population. Rosatom took up the concept, it probably underwent a feasibility study and it was concluded, that this constituted a very energy-efficient technology. One can assume that Rosatom wouldn’t do a blind bargain...
Dipl-Ing. Gabriel mentions 3 points concerning the further development of nuclear lithium technology:

  1. the Bolivian initiative is welcomed. There is hope that results secretly achieved since years in dominant countries, can be reproduced in Latin America under democratic principles. It is useful to back up the project by BRICS countries.
  2. Some comments on the lithium fission showed that depth and breadth of nuclear knowledge greatly decreased in the last few decades in Germany. Economy and science should not accept, to be competed out of a major technological and economic activity.
  3. it is satisfying, to be able to fantasize detached from constraints about the unusual perspectives of this light metal. To name are space engines, energy for secluded areas of life (how much lithium would be needed for a human to survive?) and defence systems.         •

*    After 20 November 2016 an extended edition of the brochure can be ordered at Current Concerns.