In this age of sustainable energy, no stone is left unturned as every conceivable source of power is explored. Even the nuclear industry, a pariah of sorts to many clean-power proponents, has been exploring alternative fuels.

The drawbacks of nuclear power are widely known: high costs, radiation, waste and the relationship to nuclear weapons top the list. What is not common knowledge is the availability of an alternative-fuel source that could offer a solution to all these problems. If uranium is the bad seed in this family, thorium is the good one.

Thorium has a number of advantages over uranium. It is more plentiful, is less expensive, produces almost no waste, and is much harder to make into nuclear weapons.

The atomic element has received a lot of attention lately. Earlier this year, the website India Today Online posted pictures of what it described as the design of the world’s first thorium-based nuclear reactor. It is being developed at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) in Mumbai, India.

BARC is a facility in the Indian government’s Department of Atomic Energy. The country is pursuing a much greater role for nuclear power in its overall energy strategy. Like in the United States, coal and hydropower are the country’s two largest energy sources, but planners envision a diminishing role for both of them.

India is in the unique position of having the world’s largest supply of thorium, so it’s a natural choice to help lead the country’s push for more nuclear. According to the BARC website, natural uranium deposits in India total about 70,000 tons. Thorium deposits are more than five times that amount at 3,600,000 tons.

India is not the only country taking an interest in thorium. Last year, the Norwegian-based company Thor Energy began to generate electricity at its test reactor using thorium.