SECOND REGULAR SESSION

House Concurrent Resolution No. 40

97TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY

INTRODUCED BY REPRESENTATIVES SCHATZ (Sponsor), BARNES, FREDERICK, KORMAN, RIDDLE, SCHARNHORST, HOUGHTON, ELMER, HINSON, HOUGH, REDMON, WHITE, DAVIS, SOMMER, BERRY, KELLY (45), HAMPTON, NEELY, CURTMAN, WIELAND, MCGAUGH, WOOD, GANNON, PFAUTSCH, LANT, KOENIG, PIKE, LYNCH, FITZWATER, FRANKLIN AND HICKS (Co-sponsors).

6235H.01I

 

            WHEREAS, the United States and the world find themselves dependent on China for a group of minerals and metals known as “Rare Earth Elements” (REEs) that are critical to many commercial, environmental, and defense applications; and


            WHEREAS, REEs represent the only known bridge to the next level of improved performance in the material properties for many metallurgical alloys, electrical conductivity, radio-active shielding, and instrument sensitivity; and


            WHEREAS, thorium is a naturally occurring companion element to the REEs which can be extracted as a by-product of rare earth mining at no additional expense and without creating additional mining waste; and


            WHEREAS, thorium can be used as a highly effective, non-polluting fuel in a fission power plant (Molten Salt Reactor; MSR) because it is a slightly radioactive material, five hundred fifty times more abundant than uranium-235 needed for nuclear power; and


            WHEREAS, thorium is not harmful except through extreme long-term exposure or unless it is inhaled as a very fine dust; and


            WHEREAS, thorium emits alpha rays which have no penetrating strength and cannot pass through human skin or thin plastic film; and


            WHEREAS, thorium emits less harmful radiation than sunlight, radon from a gas stove top, potassium in a banana, X-rays, frequent air travel, and TSA full body scans; and


            WHEREAS, the United States has two permitted world-class rare earth mines – the Pea Ridge Mine in Washington County, Missouri, and the Mountain Pass Mine in California; and


            WHEREAS, Missouri’s Pea Ridge Iron Ore Mine has all sixteen of the recoverable REEs and would produce rare earths as a by-product of iron ore mining. Mountain Pass, currently the only operating U.S. rare earth mine, only has eight of the sixteen recoverable REEs, will be shipping all of its high value rare earths to China for refining; and


            WHEREAS, the United States has no refining facilities to process the rare earths from the Pea Ridge Mine or manage the thorium by-product; and


            WHEREAS, other U.S. mining operations, like Pea Ridge, have a history of dumping valuable rare earths into tailings lakes because no rare earth refining and thorium storage facilities currently exist; and


            WHEREAS, the amount of rare earth dumping in the U.S. mining industry alone, due to thorium disposal vs. thorium storage options, exceeds U.S. demand by as much as five hundred percent; and


            WHEREAS, by aggregating all available rare earths into a single facility the U.S. can end China’s monopoly control and safe storage of thorium; and


            WHEREAS, this facility could offer guaranteed rare earth supply contracts to technology companies currently forced to relocate to China for guaranteed supply contracts, this centrally located facility could attract technology companies and manufacturers of high value goods into the region; and


            WHEREAS, this centralized rare earth facility could pass all of the thorium liabilities to a thorium bank, a separate entity charged with safe storage and the authority to develop uses and markets for thorium, including energy; and


            WHEREAS, this thorium bank could commercially develop the thorium MSR; and


            WHEREAS, this reactor technology was developed and proven in U.S. National Laboratories during the 1950s to the late 1960s; and

 

            WHEREAS, President John F. Kennedy requested a report from Glenn Seaborg, acting as Head of the Atomic Energy Commission, about the future of U.S. nuclear energy policy in the context of a broader national energy policy based on sustainability. In his letter to the president and in the Atomic Energy Commission report entitled “CIVILIAN NUCLEAR POWER … a Report to the President – 1962” the commission called for the ultimate transition from the prevailing forms of nuclear power to the thorium MSR; and


            WHEREAS, a thorium reactor does not require carbon-based fuels, does not emit any greenhouse gasses, does not need water for cooling, requires minimal setbacks and minimal space to create hundreds of megawatts of energy that can be distributed near or within load-consuming areas, and eliminates the need to construct large-scale energy projects that interfere with the natural environment due to its abundance thorium would not require any direct mining and could supply the world’s energy needs from current mining waste for thousands of years, and thorium reactors would have less environmental impact than any alternative source of energy, including coal, natural gas, ethanol, wind or solar; and

 

            WHEREAS, a thorium MSR could utilize nearly one hundred percent of all available energy from its nuclear fuel, resulting in less than one percent of the fuel becoming spent fuel – also called nuclear waste; and


            WHEREAS, current civilian LWR technology utilizes less than three percent of the available energy from its nuclear fuel, resulting in the creation of hazardous trans-uranic fission products that contaminate all of the fuel, resulting in the accumulation of over seventy-seven thousand tons of spent fuel; and


            WHEREAS, the United States Congress, the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have failed to develop an agreeable storage site or any long-term plan for the remediation of spent fuel; and

 

            WHEREAS, while the waste of a uranium powered plant is toxic for more than one hundred thousand years, the spent fuel that is produced by a thorium powered plan is benign in less than three hundred years; and


            WHEREAS, a thorium MSR power plant can be used to burn current stockpiles of nuclear waste – utilizing the ninety-seven percent energy availability to create energy while transmuting the hazardous fission products into safe, stable, short lived isotopes and even useful isotopes, thus greatly reducing the amount of spent fuel requiring geologic storage; and

 

            WHEREAS, thorium MSR power plants cannot “melt down”, blow up, or produce widespread radioactive release; and


            WHEREAS, thorium cannot be used to make nuclear weapons, thorium does not require any enrichment for energy use, and there is enough thorium in the United States alone to power the country at its current energy level for more than ten thousand years; and


            WHEREAS, a thorium power plants can substitute or supplement aging power generating facilities and utilize existing turbine technologies without the need for laying a new grid; and


            WHEREAS, through the development of a centralized rare earth refinery cooperative facility, the region could lead the free world in rare earth refining, metallurgy, component manufacturing and advanced technologies providing the only alternative to sourcing rare earth products from China by forced relocation of related technology facilities inside China; and


            WHEREAS, through the development of a centralized thorium bank all thorium by-products resulting from rare earth production can be managed and controlled in an environmentally safe manner; and


            WHEREAS, China’s monopoly on production of REEs is poised to capture all emerging technologies and manufacturing facilities from around the world, in exchange for supply contracts; and


            WHEREAS, Molycorp’s integration into China’s monopoly shows that China’s National Industrial Policy cannot be challenged by private investment alone. The United States must develop a national domestic centralized rare earth refinery to survive; and


            WHEREAS, absent any new production, Asia will soon consume one hundred percent of the world’s production of REEs; and


            WHEREAS, unless the United States Congress creates a centralized rare earth refinery, China will continue to dominate the full value chain of rare earths, our rare earths will be sent to China for processing and they will not come back for use in the United States; and


            WHEREAS, unless the United States Congress ensures that the rare earth cooperative can pass all thorium and related actinide liabilities to a thorium bank, private investors will not fund the rare earth cooperative and these resources will continue to be dumped into the environment; and


            WHEREAS, unless the United States Congress empowers a thorium bank to develop uses and markets for thorium, including energy, China will lead the world in the commercial development of this U.S.-based technology and further undermine our economy and national security; and


            WHEREAS, with its Pea Ridge Mine, central location inside the U.S., Mississippi River access to the rest of the world, Missouri is an ideal location for the centralized rare earth refinery, making the midwest region the primary producer of rare earths outside of China, and the U.S. the new high tech center for companies from around the world:


            NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the members of the House of Representatives of the Ninety-seventh General Assembly, Second Regular Session, the Senate concurring therein, hereby:

 

            1) Strongly support the development of a centralized REE refinery, as this will assist the Pea Ridge Mine in Washington County, Missouri, and many other U.S. mines rationally utilize rare earth resources historically disposed of due to thorium, with the object of ending China’s rare earth monopoly, attracting technology and jobs to the region, and enhancing U.S. national security; and

 

            2) Strongly urge the United States Congress to support the creation of a thorium bank that is fully authorized to store the thorium by-products related to rare earth production and develop uses and a market for thorium, including energy so as to challenge China’s development of thorium energy; and

 

            3) Strongly support any legislation establishing a national rare earth refinery cooperative to combat the strong-arm tactics of the Chinese government and protect the United State’s national defense, intellectual property, and economic interests; and


            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chief Clerk of the Missouri House of Representatives be instructed to prepare a properly inscribed copy of this resolution for the Majority and Minority Leaders of the United States Congress and each member of the Missouri Congressional Delegation.