According to the American (commercial) Thorium Energy, Inc.
- Thorium is a superior nuclear fuel and has several important advantages over uranium:
- Thorium powered nuclear reactors are more efficient and produce less than 1% of the waste of today's uranium nuclear reactors.
- Thorium reactors are safer, less expensive, smaller and can be configured to eliminate the possibility of melt downs or accidents.
- Thorium does not produce plutonium and thus, could effectively eliminate further weapons production in volatile regions and reduce proliferation on a global scale, thus ending stalemate arguments over dubious nuclear programs such as exist in Iran and North Korea.
- Proprietary thorium technology, capable of safely and efficiently dismantling nuclear stockpiles and eliminating spent uranium, now exists.
Thorium is a very common element in nature. It occurs in Earth’s crust, statistically, with three to four times the abundance of uranium, and approximately as abundantly as lead. The chief mineral hosts for thorium are monazite, carbonatite, bastnaesite, thorite, thorianite, apatite and uranothorite.
Australia probably possesses the world's largest quantity of economically recoverable thorium resources, followed by India which is supposed to have about 25% of the world's thorium reserves. Norway is estimated to hold the world's third largest reserves of thorium.
Of these three countries India has come very far with its plans and efforts to develop and build thorium power plants. Because India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons program, it was for 34 years largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials, which has hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009. Due to these trade bans and lack of indigenous uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium.
Norway seems to be more hesitant, although it has enough thorium to cover all of its energy needs for the next 10,000 years. The most promising thorium prospecting area is probably the Fen Carbonatite Complex in southern Norway (Telemark). The Fen Area is the the world type locality for carbonatites (magmatic limestones, and thus whitish). An unusual volcanic event about 580 million years ago (during a Baltica rifting event), is the background for the Fen Carbonatite Complex. All surface signs of the old volcano are eroded now, and today we have only remnants from the volcano feeder. Some dikes and diatremes (breccia-filled volcanic pipes) related to the volcanism have intruded the surrounding Precambrian basement. The only place in the world where volcanic carbonatites are erupting today is at the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano in Tanzania. Carbonatites are, almost exclusively, associated with continental rift-related tectonic settings.
Thorium is in fact enriched in magmatic processes, and the highest concentrations are found in alkaline or silica-rich rocks such as granites and especially associated pegmatites are usually the most enriched phase. The great advantage in exploiting pegmatites is that they are coarse-grained rocks, hence with larger grains of monazite. The thorium content of monazite is variable and can be as high as 20 – 30 %, although commercial monazite sands typically contain 6 – 12% thorium oxide. In Norway the major alkaline rock is situated in the Permian Oslo Province. The thorium level is enhanced in the whole Province, but mostly in the southern part.
Google map of southern Norway with the Fen area at the red F marker:
Location of Fen Carbonatite Complex 59.27, 9.27