JavaBear writes "Thorium is gaining interest, with research happening around the world, but it pales compared to the research and funding going into conventional nuclear power, and into updating outdated power stations. The interest is just not shared by the US government, as there are too much money at stake continuing the current dead end. The main problem is that of regulation, the US could be self sufficient in rare earths, and even export it, if not for regulation designating thorium found with these as nuclear waste. A small rare earth mine would get about 5000 tons of thorium a year as a byproduct, enough to generate power equal to the estimates total annual power consumption of the planet.
From the petition:
"Of the 104 nuclear reactors currently active in the US, 69 are pressurized water reactors and 35 are boiling water reactors. Both of these designs for nuclear reactors are sixty years old and as such are outdated, not to mention past their projected lifetime of 40 years. The Fukushima plant in Japan used boiling water reactors and the ensuing tragedy was a wake-up call for nuclear power.""
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