Japan is struggling to come up with sensible rules under which they can re-launch the nuclear reactors that had provided 30% of their electric power prior to the Fukushima FUBAR.
However! Japan has an earnest advocate of thorium in Takashi Kamei of the International Institute for Advanced Studies in Kyoto, and he told a conference last summer that Japan will be putting money into alternative nukes:
Speaking at the Thorium Energy Alliance Conference in Chicago on 31 May 2012, thorium advocates made it clear that the meltdowns at Fukushima's nuclear power stations have underlined the need to move away from conventional designs to other nuclear technologies. Japan, unsurprisingly, has taken the lead after energy provider Chubu Electric Power recently launched a $1.2bn research programme that aims to strengthen the safety of nuclear plants - also through the use of thorium.
International Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS) researcher Takashi Kamei told attendees at the Chicago conference that the utility, which serves about 16 million people in central Japan, is specifically looking into an alternative reactor design which would use liquid thorium as fuel in a molten salt reactor - a U-turn from the solid uranium, water-cooled reactors such as the ones used at the Fukushima plant.
India has a vast amount of thorium and has been studying thorium reactors ineffectually for decades. China, on the other hand, is committed to trying everything to meet its energy needs. And let us not omit Norway, which is testing a retro-fitted uranium design powered by thorium.
The good news is that, with Japan and China both pushing hard and India interested, progress in understanding and adopting thorium reactors should be rapid. Closer to home, Bill Gates and Google are also interested in the clean nuclear alternative. The Department of Energy is dusting off old research and helping the Chinese, but, like fracking, this looks like an idea that will proceed in spite of Obama rather than because of him.