Thorium plays a pivotal role in Indian Nuclear power programme. In fact, right at the beginning, a 3-stage Indian nuclear power programme has been chalked out and use of Thorium as an energy source has been contemplated during the third stage. Right from the inception of Indian nuclear power programme, work has been carried out on various aspects of thorium utilisation- including mining and extraction of thorium, fuel fabrication, irradiation in reactors, reprocessing and refabrication. Internationally too, certain new designs have been proposed to use Thorium.
The third stage of Indian nuclear power programme contemplates making use of Uranium-233 (obtained from irradiated thorium) to fuel Uranium-233 – Thorium based reactors, which can provide energy independence to the country for several centuries. This will avoid the dependency on coal and natural gas.
Thorium will be introduced on a large scale at an optimal point during operation of Fast Breeder Reactors in the second stage of Indian Nuclear Programme and it will become the mainstay for nuclear power generation in the third stage. The time of large scale thorium deployment is expected to be 3 – 4 decades after the commercial operation of Fast Breeder Reactors with short doubling time.