- Russia has a storage facility of nuclear material in Krasnoufimsk.
- The storage was created in 1941.
- The nuclear supply is not safe for the environment.
Russia is planning to send 82 tonnes of monazite from the Ural region to China. The proposal was discussed on November 6. Monazite is a reddish-brown phosphate mineral containing rare-earth metals. It occurs usually in small, isolated crystals. Since the start of atomic projects in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, Siberia has been one of the regions where monazite in the river sands was extracted for its Thorium, a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder.
It is found in small amounts in most rocks and soils, where it is about three times more abundant than uranium. Additionally, a reserve storage in Krasnoufimsk containing thorium was created in 1941. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the storage facilities came under control of the government entity specifically created for it.
Monazite is radioactive, hence in large concentrations it can be dangerous to human life. Also, monazite breakdown leads to the formation of Thoron gas, which can cause lung cancer, if ingested for a prolonged time.
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China does not pay attention to the environment. The air quality is poor in China and usually at dangerous levels. Therefore, the arrival of the new nuclear supply will have a negative impact in the area, already straining areas with other chemical manufacturing facilities.
In order,to ship the monazite to China, all of the stored supply has to be repackaged following a very rigorous protocol of handling due to the radiation risks. The process is supposed to be done via automation. The wooden containers, where monazite is stored, will be punctured at the bottom via Hydraulic Press falling into tubes and repackaged in special bags with 2 tonnes capacity each. India does not allow export of monazite and keeps all its reserves.
The market rate is $230 dollars per tonne, but thus far no price for the deal has been announced, nor has there been any proof China is actually buying it and Russia not just transferring it there for Putin’s own strategic interests in the region.
So, what would China be doing with the supply? China is supplying about 80% of the world’s rare earth elements and the US defense industry has a heavy reliance on China’s rare earth resources for military technology. The trade war between the US and China at this time is making the US look for a domestic supply. So, it would be plausible to assume China will be exporting less of the product. So, why the sudden interest in getting a 82 tonnes supply of nuclear material from Russia? Could it be that Russia will start building some of their defense arsenal in China or will be opening a base in China?