Institutions Developing Thorium as Fuel

Brad Hakes
February 24, 2015

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2015

Fig. 1: Thorium. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Thorium is receiving increasing attention as a nuclear energy option for the future. Many institutions have or are currently developing various forms of Thorium based fuel. There remain immense uncertainties in the technologies, the viability of implementation, and proliferation dangers of various Thorium based reactors. [1] Still, many institutions are enthusiastic about development. This page presents some of the interesting institutions and their development plans. The information below does not represent any claim as to the likelihood of success or failure of the various enterprises. I will focus outside India and China, as developments in those nations are most frequently discussed due to their high degrees of commitment to thorium, and are already covered elsewhere within this archive. [2]

China and India Links

Both China and India have high degrees of development due to strong political commitment in both nations. However, Thorium development in India and China has been covered within the archive of Ph241 work. [3-6]

Oak Ridge MSR and China Academy of Sciences

In the 1960s, under Alvin Weinberg, Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed a Thorium Molten Salt Reactor, or a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor - LFTR. [7] However, in the years since, the US has focused on uranium fuel. [7] A resurgence of interest in LFTR has led to Oak Ridge teaming up with the Chinese Academy of Sciences to develop an MSR. [7] Initially, the program aims to construct a reactor fueled by thorium in solid pebbles, then eventually construct a fully liquid fueled thorium reactor. [7] Oak Ridge will advise them in the process, while the two reactors are developed at the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, a branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. [7]

Fuji Reactors

The Japanese organization IThEMS - International Thorium Energy & Molten Salt Technology Inc. - initiated development of two MSRs back in 2010. These included one 'mini Fuji' 10MW reactor and one 'Fuji' 200MW reactor. [8] Work is continued by the firm Thorium Tech Solutions. More on MSRs and LFTR has been written. [9-10]


Light bridge Corporation, based in Virginia and led by CEO Seth Grae is developing Thorium fuel based on Alvin Radkowsky's thorium reactor plans. [11] Lightbridge has collaborated with French and Russian groups in the past, namely Areva SA and Russian Limited Liability Research and Development Co. [11] The goal of the collaboration was to discover how Lightbridge's thorium fuel would function in Areva's Evolutionary Power Reactor and in Russian VVER-1000 reactors. [11]

Thor Energy

Thor energy, a Norwegian company led by CEO Oystein Asphjell, began a thorium-plutonium mixed oxide fuel test in April of 2013, using the Halden test reactor in Norway. They aim to develop fuel that can be substituted into existing Uranium based reactors. Notably, the project was partially funded by Westinghouse, the nuclear energy firm. [12]

Steenkampskraal Thorium Limited

The South African firm, Steenkampskraal Thorium Limited owns 15% of Thor energy and the rights to several thousand tonnes of Thorium in the Steenkampskraal mine; it is developing a pebble based Thorium reactor. [13]


Other firms and public institutions that appeared in my research as developing thorium as fuel but are not directly covered above: Flibe Energy, Thorenco, Ottawa Valley Research, Transatomic Power, X-Energy, Northern Nuclear, TerraPower, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Terrestrial Energy.

© Brad Hakes. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] S. F. Ashley et al., "Nuclear Energy: Thorium Fuel Has Risks," Nature 492, 31 (2012).

[2] A Micks, "Thorium Reactors, an Improvement over Uranium?, PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2013.

[3] K. Bhattacharyya, "Indian Thorium Breeding Technology," PH241, Stanford Univeristy, Winter 2011.

[4] P. Bordia, "Thorium in India," PH214, Stanford University, Winter 2012.

[5] D. Davis, "Thorium and Nuclear Energy in India, PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2015.

[6] Khabir, "Thorium Energy Development in China," PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2013.

[7] M. Halper, "The U.S. is Helping China Build a Novel, Superior Nuclear Reactor," Fortune, 2 Feb 15.

[8] J. A. Seneda and P. E. O. Lainetti, "Use of Thorium in the Generation IV Molten Salt Reactors and Perspectives for Brazil," Instituo de Pesquisas Energéticas e Nucleares, 24 Nov 13.

[9] D. Berryrieser, "Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors," PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2012.

[10] Y. Keliata, "Molten Salt Reactors," PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2012.

[11] S. Disavino, "Lightbridge Sees Nuclear Power Future in Thorium," Reuters, 11 Dec 09.

[12] D Lague, "Thorium and the Dream of Clean Nuclear Power," Reuters, 20 Dec 13.

[13] P. Du Plooy, "Seductive Nuclear Power of Thor," Mail and Guardian, 2 Mar 12.