Nuclear Technology / Volume 189 / Number 2 / February 2015 / Pages 152-162
Technical Paper / Fuel Cycle and Management / dx.doi.org/10.13182/NT14-19
A long-standing concern about the future implementation of thorium fuel cycles has been the availability of a thorium fuel cycle infrastructure, including thorium mineral recovery. Globally, while thorium is known to be a relatively abundant element, there is currently little commercial demand for thorium, leaving many of the world's largest thorium deposits unexploited. However, adoption and subsequent expansion of the thorium fuel cycle may not require “thorium mines” because a number of mining operations (notably titanium and uranium) already extract considerable amounts of thorium, which is presently discarded. Nearly 100000 tonnes of thorium per year could be recovered from active mine sites, with most of this coming from titanium mining (∼80000 tonnes/yr of thorium) and uranium mining (∼9000 tonnes/yr of thorium). This output would be sufficient to satisfy even the most optimistic demand for thorium resources in the near future.