Norway has one of the greatest unused thorium resources in the world. According to Aftenposten’s report, FrP politician Ketil Solvik Olsen has long fought for greater research into how this element can be used to form uranium-233 and used in nuclear fission reactors. The waste from the use of thorium is less radioactive and safer because the chance of melting of thorium reactors is unlikely.
– Wind, solar and hydro power can never fill the need for increased energy production in the world. To reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, uclear power has a central place. Until we have developed cost effective, global energy solutions based on renewable energy that can be deployed on a large scale, it will be beneficial to focus on nuclear power. In Germany, nuclear power is unfortunately replaced by coal and gas power. In a climate and local environment perspective, it is unfortunate, says Solvik Olsen.
Conservative Party politician Nikolai Astrup supports Olsen’s idea by suggesting Norway should do more research on thorium properties as fuel in nuclear power plants. But he adds that commercial production of energy based on thorium is not needed in Norway.
– We already have a surplus of renewable energy and has a significant potential to produce more renewable energy in the future. There is thus no reason to create new challenges with storing waste in Norway, says Astrup.
Liberals and Socailists Disagree
Liberal Party (Venstre) leader Trine Skei Grande finds the proposal by the two politicians skeptical. She notes that they highlight the beneficial aspects of nuclear power on climate but udnerestimate the long-term and unexpected consequences of storing nuclear waste from reactors.
Socialist Left Party (SV) ’s environmental and energy politics Lars Egeland agrees with Grande. He thinks that attempts to show nuclear force “green” is futile considering many deaths and diseases due to nuclear accident and he adds that the renewable energy sources are to replace both fossil fuels and nuclear energy in the near future.
– This is not an environmental dilemma, nuclear power is part of the environmental problem, not the solution, says Egeland.
About Thorium and Its Use in the World
Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element. It was discovered in 1828 by the Norwegian mineralogist Morten Thrane Esmark and identified by the Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius and named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder.
Thorium produces a radioactive gas, radon-220, as one of its decay products. In nature, virtually all thorium is found as thorium-232, which undergoes alpha decay with a half-life of about 14.05 billion years. Other isotopes of thorium are short-lived intermediates in the decay chains of higher elements, and only found in trace amounts. Thorium is estimated to be about three to four times more abundant than uranium in the Earth’s crust, and is chiefly refined from monazite sands as a by-product of extracting rare earth metals.
Thorium was once commonly used as the light source in gas mantles and as an alloying material, but these applications have declined due to concerns about its radioactivity. Thorium is also used as an alloying element in nonconsumable TIG welding electrodes.
Canada, China, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have experimented with using thorium as a substitute nuclear fuel in nuclear reactors. When compared to uranium, there is a growing interest in developing a thorium fuel cycle due to its greater safety benefits, absence of non-fertile isotopes and its higher occurrence and availability. India’s three stage nuclear power programme is possibly the most well known and well funded of such efforts.