What is Thorium?
Thorium is a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemict Jons Jacob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of war.It is found in small amounts in most rocks and soils, where it is about three times more abundant than uranium.Soil commonly contains an average of around 6 parts per million of thorium.
Thorium, as well as uranium, can be used as a nuclear fuel. Although not fissile itself, thorium-232 will absorb slow neutrons to produce uranium-233, which is fissile. Hence like uranium-238 it is fertile.
Domestic Production and use:
The primary source of the world’s thorium is the rare-earth and thorium phosphate mineral, monazite.Monazite was not recovered as a salable product during domestic processing of heavy mineral sands in 2001. Past production had been as a byproduct during processing for titanium and zirconium minerals, and monazite wasrecovered for its rare-earth content. Essentially all thorium compounds and alloys consumed by the domestic industry were derived from imports, stocks of previously imported materials. About eigth companies processed or fabricated various forms of thorium for nonenergy uses, such as high-temperature ceramics, catalyts, and welding electrodes. The value of thorium metal, alloys, and compounds used by the domestic industry was estimated to be about $100,000.
World Refinery Production, Reserves, and Reserve Base:
Reserves and reserve base are contained primarily in the rare-earth ore mineral, monazite. Without demand for the rare earth, monazite would probably not be recovered for its thorium content. Other ore minerals with higher thorium contents, such as thorite, would be more likely sources if demand significantly increased. No new demand, however, is expected. Reserves exist primarily in recent and ancient placer deposits. Lesser quantities of thorium-bearing monazite reserves occur in vein deposits and carbonatites.
2000 2001 Reserves Reserve Base
Australia —- —- 300,000 340,000
Brazil NA NA 16,000 18,000
Canada NA NA 100,000 100,000
India NA NA 290,000 300,000
Malaysia —- —- 4,500 4,500
Norway —- —- 170,000 180,000
South Africa —- —- 35,000 39,000
United States —- —- 160,000 300,000
Other countries NA NA 90,000 100,000
World total NA NA 1,200,000 1,400,000
Domestic mine production of thorium-bearing monazite ceased at the end of 1994 as world demand for ores containing naturally occurring radioactive thorium declined. Imports and existing stocks supplied essentially all thorium consumed in the United States in 2001. Domestic demand for thorium ores, compounds, metals, and alloys has exhibited a long-term declining trend. Thorium consumption in the United States decreased in 2000 to 2.0 tons; however, most material was consumed in a nonrecurring application. In 2001, thorium consumption, primarily for use in catalyst applications, is estimated to decrease. On the basis of data through August 2001, the average value of imported thorium compounds decreaes to $36.58 per kilogram from the 2000 average of $47.76 per kilogram (gross weight).
Year Price Year Price Year Price Year Price
1978 33.07 1979 33.07
1988 NA 1989 NA
Tenor(U O )
Köprübaşı 2852 0.04-0.05
Uşak-Fakılı 490 0.05
Aydın-Küçükçavdar 208 0.04
Aydın-Demirtepe 1729 0.08
Yozgat-Sorgun 3850 0.1
Total Uranium Reserves 9129
Total Thorium Reserves 380000