Thorium as uranium replacement studied

Sept. 13, 2012 at 5:28 PM
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LONDON, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The benefits of thorium as an alternative nuclear fuel representing a safer and more abundant alternative to uranium are "overstated," a British report says.

The report from Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change said the country should continue to investigate the technology but downplays claims by proponents that using thorium makes it impossible to build a bomb from nuclear waste, creates less hazardous waste and would result in more efficient nuclear reactors, The Guardian reported.

"Thorium has theoretical advantages regarding sustainability, reducing radiotoxicity and reducing proliferation risk," said the report, prepared for the DECC by the National Nuclear Laboratory. "While there is some justification for these benefits, they are often overstated."

"Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that worldwide there remains interest in thorium fuel cycles and this is not likely to diminish in the near future," the report said. "It may therefore be judicious for the U.K. to maintain a low level of engagement in thorium fuel cycle research and development by involvement in international collaborative research activities."

Interest in thorium goes beyond Britain, and in the United States Flibe Energy is developing a thorium reactor based on designs developed in the 1960s by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, The Guardian reported.

Thorium is a mildly radioactive element that occurs naturally around the world with abundant reserves in Australia, the United States, Turkey, India, Brazil and Venezuela.

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