NRG, a nuclear research facility in Petten in the Netherlands, has begun the first experiment in nearly half a century on next-generation molten-salt nuclear reactors based on thorium.

Thorium has long held promise for safer nuclear power.  The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States designed and built a demonstration molten salt reactor and operated it from 1965 to 1969. (See our description of the technology here.)

There is now renewed interest in thorium technology around the world.

India’s Department of Nuclear Energy is developing an experimental fast-breeder using thorium at Kalpakkam which is planned to be able to generate 500 megawatts by the end of 2017. The only other commercial fast breeder nuclear reactor is located in Russia but this uses uranium instead of thorium. India has the world’s second largest reserves of thorium after Australia.

In the United States, a startup called Alpha Technology Corp is proposing to develop a 30 megawatt test reactor and a consortium of eastern Utah counties is exploring whether to participate in the project.

Thorium Power Canada is planning to build a 10 megawatt reactor for salt water desalination in Chile and is proposing a 25 megawatt reactor in Indonesia.

China has entered into an agreement with a Canadian nuclear technology company to develop improved CANDU reactors using thorium and uranium as a fuel.