A recent BBC News report provides a good overview of the current status in thorium research as a nuclear fuel, views of its supporters and voices of criticism.
'I'm a lawyer, not a scientist but in my opinion we should be trying our best to develop the use of thorium. I realize there are many obstacles to be overcome but the benefits would be great', tells Mr. Hans Blix, the former UN weapons inspector and former Swedish foreign minister to BBC News.
BBC News reporter Rober Harrabin visited the Halden reactor in Norway, where the Norwegian Thor Energy, together with its international partners such as Westinghouse, Fortum and the British National Nuclear Laboratory, is testing the use of thorium as a nuclear fuel. They hope to get thorium licensed alongside uranium in current water-cooled reactor plants.
The news piece also mentions other similar tests being carried out in India, China and Japan as several nations assess the potential of thorium. 'Despite public criticism, politicians still depend on nuclear technologies. They think thorium bears further inspection', states BBC's Robert Harrabin.
Harrabin also visited an old unused iron mine in southern Norway, which is now interesting due to another reason - the amount of rare earth and especially thorium it contains. 'We have maybe billions of tons of iron ore here containing one gram of thorium per kilo of rock, so it's millions of tons of thorium available', states the environmentalist Bard Bergfald guiding Harrabin. Indeed, thorium is believed to be three times more plentiful than uranium. 'There is lots of thorium in the world, very well distributed all over the globe', confirms Oysten Asphjell, CEO of Thor Energy.
After the Fukushima accident, discussions on nuclear energy safety have gained new momentum. Thorium might provide a solution for this. Like professor, ADS inventor and Nobel laureate Mr. Carlo Rubbia puts it:'Thorium will be able to shut itself off without any human intervention... you just switch off the beam'.
Read the BBC News article here.
Watch BBC News visit in the Halden reactor here.
Watch BBC News visit in the abandoned iron mine here.