March 30, 2007 / 5:02 PM / 13 years ago

Norwegian firm proposes thorium nuclear plant

OSLO (Reuters) - A Norwegian energy company, Thor Energi, has declared its interest in building a nuclear power plant based on thorium, a radioactive metal seen as a safer alternative to uranium.

Norway had never had nuclear production, as legislation bans nuclear power, but Norwegian energy authorities are now studying the prospects for exploiting the country’s thorium reserves.

The plant could be built by using existing technology to convert a regular power plant into a thorium burning plant. A makeover is expected to cost $4 billion, Thor Energi said.

“If we can define the fuel cycle and get the right permissions, it will not take many years to build a thorium plant,” spokesman Sven Roest told Reuters on Friday.

He said a thorium-powered plant could within a decade produce 2,000 megawatts of power, or 15 percent of Norway’s energy needs, if quickly approved by authorities.

Thorium production is regarded as more expensive than a conventional nuclear plant fired by radioactive uranium, but thorium has a shorter half-life and cannot be used to develop nuclear arms.

Norway is estimated to hold the world’s third largest reserves of thorium. Roest said Norway has enough thorium to cover all of its energy needs for the next 10,000 years.

India is seeking to buy thorium technology from U.S based Thorium Power in order to exploit its thorium reserves.

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