The United Arab Emirates (UAE) energy chief Suhail Al Mazrouei recently stated his support for nuclear power, two years after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.  Mr. Al Mazrouei urged other nations to join the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Convention on Nuclear Safety, a set of nuclear policy benchmarks ratified by 76 nations in 1994, with the goal of “harmonizing” civil liability regimes for nuclear damage, allowing energy producers recourse to file claims in the case of an accident while limiting the total financial burden on the operator. 
There are many obstacles facing nuclear energy including public concerns about safety, competition from low gas prices in North America, and reduced access to credit to fund expensive reactors. Some have forecasted that renewable energy sources such as solar and hydro will produce double the amount of electricity generated by nuclear in the coming years. Yet there are 434 nuclear power reactors already in operation, 69 reactors under construction and many more on the drawing board.  Despite the ongoing challenges, the development of atomic energy is progressing just fine, says Mr. Al Mazrouei. 
“The reality is nuclear is indispensable as part of the global energy mix today,” Hamad Al kaabi, the UAE permanent representative to the IAEA, told The National.  The United Arab Emirates will be home to the Arab world’s first civilian reactor in 2017.
The first shipment of nuclear fuel since the 2011 Fukushima meltdown has arrived at the port of Takahama, Japan greeted by a group of anti-nuclear protestors.  Japanese power company Kepco originally ordered 20 fuel assemblies of mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel in 2010, but the order was delayed after the Fukushima meltdown. 
Nearly all of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been offline since March of 2011 when a tsunami caused meltdowns and explosions at a nuclear generation station in Fukushima. The government recently announced updated regulations that, if met, could see Japan’s nuclear reactors back online.  At present, the government has not approved the restart of the reactors at Fukushima or the use of MOX fuel in any Japanese reactors. 
This situation doesn’t sit well with the protestors. Carrying signs with messages like “No nukes is good nukes!”, they are concerned that new regulations don’t go far enough and that the nuclear fuel will sit unused in Japanese power sites posing a safety risk.  Both parties await the government’s progress on restarting Japan’s reactors.
This week at Norway’s Halden research reactor, Norwegian company Thor Energy began testing a promising fuel that could dramatically change the way nuclear power is generated.
Thor Energy and other companies are in the process of developing thorium as the nuclear fuel of the future. It is much more plentiful in nature than uranium making it cheaper.  It is also highly versatile and can be used in many existing reactor types including heavy water reactors, high-temperature gas cooled reactors, boiling (light) water reactors, pressurized (light) water reactors, and fast neutron reactors.  It is also a candidate fuel for new types of reactors including molten salt reactors and accelerator driven reactors. 
However, the wide-ranging benefits of thorium will have to wait a while yet. The test is scheduled to run for five years before the fuel will be studied to determine its performance and safety.  This test may be the first of many. Companies around the world are working on thorium fuel including Candu of Canada and China National Nuclear Corporation who are leading a research program to use thorium mixed with recycled uranium as a fuel in a modified Candu reactor. 
While it is still years away, the industry will be keeping a close eye on Thor Energy and others as they work to make thorium fuel commercially available.