NEWS | August 9, 2023
The Ukraine conflict truly shocked us all. Honestly, it hit deep. Many feared we would run out of gas in winter and have to endure freezing temperatures. Fortunately, none of that happened because our government acted promptly. Nevertheless, even though everything turned out fine this time, Germany has learned something from this situation: never again expose ourselves to such coercive dependencies on energy resources from other countries.
That’s easier said than done. Robert Habeck’s energy-saving plans, which we listened to while closely monitoring gas storage levels, require a massive amount of new raw materials. Over 90% of the technological metals and rare earth elements used in wind turbines and solar panels come from China. However, China, much like Russia, is known for not taking the territorial independence of other states too seriously. Given the situation with Taiwan, Germany and other EU countries have a strong interest in becoming less reliant on technological metals and rare earth elements.
Against the backdrop of these intensifying dependencies, on April 15th, the German government shut down the last three operating nuclear power plants. This exit might have come at a high cost. It not only makes us more dependent on China and liquefied natural gas imports from Qatar but also forces us to import coal from Colombia to compensate for the nuclear phase-out. We’re moving backward!
Certainly, there are many arguments against nuclear power as it has been used so far. However, research is advancing in this field as well. In the 1970s, Germany conducted an experiment with thorium liquid salt reactors, which have many advantages. While earlier reactors only utilized 2% of the energy from uranium, liquid salt reactors make 90% of the thorium used available. This results in much less waste, which also has a half-life of only 300 years, a significant improvement compared to the 100,000 years for the uranium waste from old reactors. Above all, thorium liquid salt reactors are much safer. A second Fukushima is therefore highly unlikely. Why wasn’t this technology even mentioned during the Anne Will show on the nuclear phase-out?
According to the Öko-Institut e.V., the reasons for this silence are complex technical and financial risks. More specifically, there was an “incident” with the thorium liquid salt reactor experiment in 1987. The reactor was shut down because forced and improper insertion of a fuel rod caused fuel pellets to break, generating graphite dust. When attempts to remove it failed, a small amount of radioactivity was released into the environment. However, this was far from being a Fukushima-level catastrophe. The timid silence around this technology is therefore unjustified.
Thorium is extracted from monazite ore, which often also contains significant amounts of rare earth elements. The Noble Group’s team recently visited a mine in South Africa where thorium and rare earth elements were previously extracted. If this mine becomes a European contracting partner and resumes operations, it could significantly advance Europe’s supply of future-relevant raw materials.
In summary: Disasters like Fukushima and the Ukraine conflict can serve as incentives for creative thinking. However, how about adopting a proactive approach with a focus on research and technology openness? For example, consider upgrading old reactors with thorium technology.
Planning for self-determination also creates a sense of calm and security. This way, we stop being in constant reaction mode. Actively shape how you want to live and invest in rare earth elements. They offer good opportunities for attractive returns, along with tax-free purchases and tax-free gains after one year of holding.