Abundant, mixable with plutonium and uranium, and able to create a self-sustaining reaction that can run for years, Thorium as a nuclear fuel has the potential to reinvigorate the global nuclear energy industry. Though it remains an unproven technology, China and India — whose energy demands are continuing to skyrocket — are both investing in research reactors designed to utilize Thorium as the primary fuel. India already has a small research reactor in Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, and is hoping to follow up with a thorium-powered heavy water reactor early next decade. China is running the world’s largest research effort on Thorium and is employing a team of 430 scientists and engineers. The team plans to begin operation of its solid fuel reactor in 2015 and a liquid fuel reactor soon thereafter in 2017.
For more information, see “Asgard’s Fire” in the April 12 issue of The Economist.