Science: Thunder at Chalk River

When Swedish Scientist Berzelius in 1828 named his newly discovered element thorium—after Thor, god of thunder—the choice was perhaps more portentous than Berzelius guessed. Last week in Ottawa, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King told the House of Commons that Canada's huge atomic-energy project at Chalk River, Ont. is exploring the use of thorium as a source of atomic energy. This was the first public hint of large-scale atomic experiments with elements other than uranium.

A close relative of uranium, thorium is another radioactive, heavy element (atomic number 90, atomic weight 232.12) that disintegrates into lower-weight elements and eventually becomes lead. Of...

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