Thor Energy - the Norwegian thorium initiative
|April 2013: Thor Energy's test rig containing six thorium fuel rods shown here as it is being installed in the IFE Halden Research Reactor. CEO Øystein Asphjell (front left) observing closely. Photo: T.Tandberg|
Thor Energy's technology development activities are undertaken with the vision that thorium-based fuels will be an attractive option for both light water reactor (LWR) operators and nuclear energy policy makers alike.
The reasoning for thorium-MOX fuel draws on a number of key nuclear fuel cycle imperatives:
Uranium resources are secure for a long time, but prices are likely to be substantially higher at some point – probably after 2020. An alternative nuclear fuel will be more attractive at this time.
|Thor Energy's Lise Chatwin Olsen (left), Saleem Drera and Øystein Asphjell with the thorium fuel rig ready for testing . Photo: T.Tandberg|
- The light water reactor is here to stay as the nuclear power generating workhorse for the rest of the century.
- Fast reactors are meritorious, but have proven slow to license and deploy. It will be at least three decades before there is a sizable fast reactor fleet. Thorium-MOX LWR fuels can be designed to meet actinide management or fissile conversion goals expected of fast reactors, but without the difficulty of licensing a new reactor type.
- The absence of workable waste management strategies and solutions will be a bottleneck in the development of nuclear energy in numerous countries. Thorium-MOX fuel offers a credible plutonium management option that leads to more sustainable nuclear fuel use th an current modes of using UOX and uranium-MOX fuel.
- Thorium-MOX fuels utilize/destroy plutonium in spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and do not require enrichment services. Some proliferation concerns will remain, however, the use of thorium fuel will reduce these radically.
In the long-term perspective, thorium fuels can provide avenues to improve the credentials for nuclear energy by:
- Achieving more sustainable energy generation in which mined nuclear material is used more effectively. This draws on the possibility for high conversion or even breeding of fissile U-233 from thorium fuels.
- Employing fuels that generate smaller problematic waste streams, and that can also transmute (destroy) actinide components in current-generation thermal reactor systems.