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When the United States committed decades ago to uranium fuel and pressurized-water reactors for its nuclear program, other viable technologies were set aside. One, the liquid thorium fuel reactor with molten salt coolant, is re-emerging as potentially the safest, most cost-effective solution to future energy needs in the carbon-containment era. Thorium is abundant, produces far less toxic fission products than uranium and may soon compete with coal for cost per kilowatt-hour. The chemistry of thorium fission is compelling, and the engineering of thorium reactors, with a longer history than most people realize, appears to be seductively manageable.
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