Thorium plays a pivotal role in Indian Nuclear power program. In fact, right from the beginning of India's nuclear power program, use of thorium as an energy source has been contemplated. Work has been carried out on various aspects of thorium utilization-mining and extraction of thorium, fuel fabrication and irradiation in rectors, reprocessing and refabrication. In addition studies are underway for utilization of thorium in different types of reactors. This information was revealed by Minister of State in PMO V. Narayansamy in reply to a question in Lok Sabha on 21 March.
The Minister said that India has vast reserves of Thorium. Total estimated reserves of monazite in India are about 10.7 million tones (containing about 0.84 million tones of thorium metal) occurring in beach and river sands in association with other heavy minerals. Out of nearly 100 deposits of the heavy minerals at present only 17 deposits containing about ~ 4 million tones of monazite have been identified as exploitable. Mineable reserves are ~70 % of identified exploitable resources. Therefore, about 2,25,000 tonnes of thorium metal is available for nuclear power program.
Stating further on the question,V. Narayansamy revealed that the third stage of Indian nuclear power program contemplates making use of Uranium-233 to fuel Uranium-233 –Thorium based rectors, which can provide energy independence to the country for several centuries. This will avoid the dependency on coal and natural gas.
The Minister informed the members that the use of Thorium as an energy source has been contemplated during the third phase of our nuclear power program. Right from the inception of Indian nuclear power program, work has been carried on various aspects of thorium utilization-mining and extraction of thorium, fuel fabrication, irradiation in reactors, reprocessing and refabrication. In addition, studies are underway for utilization of thorium in different types of reactors.