11 Jan (NucNet): The second test round of a five-year thorium based nuclear fuel irradiation project has begun at Norway’s Halden research rector, southeast of Oslo, the International Thorium Energy Organisation (ITheO) said. The second phase of the project will verify test results from the first round, carried out in 2013, and is “a further step” towards the eventual commercial use of thorium as a supplement fuel in conventional nuclear reactors, a statement said. The second phase is expected to produce unique data that shows how the fuel ceramic behaves during long periods of operation in a reactor core under various conditions, ITheO said. The thorium fuel irradiation project began in 2011 under an international consortium led by Norwegian thorium fuel developer ThorEnergy and including partners such as Norway’s Institute for Energy Technology (Ife), Westinghouse, Finland’s Fortum, the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory, the EU Institute for Transuranium Elements, and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute. Thorium, a naturally occurring slightly radioactive metal, is more abundant than uranium, and research is being carried out into its potential use in nuclear reactors in a number of countries, notably China, India, Russia, Norway, Canada, the US and Israel. The thorium fuel cycle has several potential advantages over a uranium fuel cycle, including thorium’s greater abundance, superior physical and nuclear properties, better resistance to nuclear weapons proliferation and reduced plutonium and actinide production. Thorium-based fuels and fuel cycles have been used in the past, but have yet to be commercialised.