Of these, only monazite, torit, torianite and allanite are used in thorium production. These minerals are also often found with rare earths (NTE). Globally, monazite is mainly produced for rare earth element content and only a small part of the by-product produced is thorium. Thorium is a nuclear fuel raw material waiting for its turn. The biggest reason for this is the problem of the nuclear fuel cycle. Thorium-232 can be converted to uranium-233 by some processes. Thorium-233 is also a degradable substance such as uranium-235. As a result of this fragmentation, a great energy is released. Due to the fuel cycle problem, although there are no commercial-scale power plants operating with thorium, prototypes of these power plants have been tried for a long time in the UK, Germany and the USA. In addition, thorium-based nuclear researches continue in Russia, India, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechia, France, Israel, Japan, Netherlands and Norway.
Thorium is considered to be the cleanest fuel in nuclear power plants because it produces less plutonium and other trans-uranium elements than uranium, when thorium is used in the fuel cycle. In order to increase the resistance of magnesium at high temperatures, it is used in the coating of tungsten laminates in alloys, electronic devices and lighting, in the construction of high temperature resistant crucibles, in high quality camera lenses and in nuclear technology. Electrodes with 1% thorium added in gas tungsten arc welding are used to increase arc sensitivity. In addition, since thorium has a high melting point, it is also used in gas lamps, camping lamps and projectors in cinemas.
There is 6.37 million tons of thorium in the world. Thorium production is mainly made from monazite sands.
In Türkiye, the studies carried out by the General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration in the past years show that, in addition to the 380,141 tons of 0.02% grade thorium reserve in Eskişehir-Sivrihisar, 3.8 million tons of 2.032 ppm grade thorium source was discovered by MTA in Malatya-Kuluncak field in 2020. 694 million tons of 788 ppm ThO2 source was explored by ETİ MADEN in Eskişehir Beylikova-Sivrihisar. No study has been conducted on the affordability and technological gain for MTA discovery. It is expected that the thorium reserves of Türkiye will increase as more detailed exploration studies are conducted in Malatya-Hekimhan-Kuluncak, Kayseri-Felâhiye, Sivas, Diyarbakır and Burdur-Çanaklı sites, where thorium beds have been identified. Provided that the technological problems are resolved, Türkiye has an important potential for thorium, which is a raw material for nuclear energy.
Thorium prices remained stable for 3 years after approximately a 10% increase in 2017. In 2019, thorium was traded at 72 US$/kg. Price information for 2020, 2021 and 2022 is not available.
Date of Update: 22 June 2023
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