Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has asked state nuclear corporation Rosatom and the Kurchatov Institute national research centre to prepare a proposal by 1 March 2017 on the prospects for using thorium for nuclear fuel, the Kremlin website said.
The Kremlin said it wanted to establish a “coordinated position” on using thorium. Thorium, a naturally occurring slightly radioactive metal, is more abundant than uranium, and research is being carried out into its potential use in nuclear reactors in a number of countries, notably Russia, China, India, Norway, Canada, the US and Israel.
The thorium fuel cycle has several potential advantages over a uranium fuel cycle, including thorium’s greater abundance, superior physical and nuclear properties, better resistance to nuclear weapons proliferation and reduced plutonium and actinide production. Thorium-based fuels and fuel cycles have been used in the past, but have yet to be commercialised.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, existing estimates of thorium resources total more than 4.5 million tonnes (reserves and additional resources). US mining company US Rare Earths has said deposits of highly concentrated thorium in the US would be large enough to supply the power needs of the entire country for centuries using thorium-fuelled nuclear reactors