Thorium, an element named after the Norse god of thunder, may soon contribute to the world's electricity supply.

Well begun; half done. That proverb--or, rather, its obverse--encapsulates the problems which have dogged civil nuclear power since its inception. Atomic energy is seen by many, and with reason, as the misbegotten stepchild of the world's atom-bomb programmes: ill begun and badly done.

But a clean slate is a wonderful thing. And that might soon be provided by two of the world's rising industrial powers, India and China, whose demand for energy is leading them to look at the idea of building reactors that run on thorium.

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