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The use of thorium as a new primary energy source
- Thorium is more abundant in nature than uranium.
- It is fertile rather than fissile, and can only be used as a fuel in conjunction with a fissile material such as recycled plutonium.
- Thorium fuels can breed fissile uranium-233 to be used in various kinds of nuclear reactors.
- Molten salt reactors are well suited to thorium fuel, as normal fuel fabrication is avoided.
The use of thorium as a new primary energy source has been a tantalizing prospect for many years. Extracting its latent energy value in a cost-effective manner remains a challenge, and will require considerable R&D investment. This is occurring preeminently in China, with modest US support.