In 1992 Radkowsky Thorium Power Corporation (RTPC) was formed to develop nuclear fuel designs invented by Dr. Alvin Radkowsky, one of the founding scientists of the U.S. civil nuclear sector. Dr. Radkowsky, former Chief Scientist of the U.S. Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program, was a key member of the design team for the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the world's first full-scale commercial nuclear power plant. He supervised numerous nuclear fuel core designs that were implemented and successfully operated in the U.S. Navy and in commercial nuclear power plants.
A true pioneer, Dr. Radkowsky also sought to develop thorium-based nuclear designs that would produce more highly proliferation-resistant spent fuel and dispose of existing weapons-grade plutonium stockpiles. To help realize Dr. Radkowsky's vision, RTPC in 1994 began collaborating with nuclear scientists and engineers at the prestigious Kurchatov Institute research center in Moscow. Following the original invention by Dr. Radkowsky, his thorium-based nuclear fuel technology underwent extensive scientific and engineering development and evaluation, including several years of irradiation testing in a research reactor. In 2001 RTPC changed its name to Thorium Power, Inc. In 2005, the US government provided funding to analyze the benefits of Thorium Power Inc.'s nuclear fuel technology, particularly to dispose of plutonium in Russian light water reactors. The resulting study showed promising results.
In 2006, Thorium Power, Inc. was acquired by Novastar Resources, Ltd. which had been exploring commercial uses of thorium in nuclear power plants. In this reverse merger, the stockholders of Thorium Power, Inc. became the majority shareholders of Novastar. Thorium Power, Inc. became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Novastar Resources, Ltd. Novastar then changed its name to Thorium Power, Ltd. In 2008 the company began providing consulting services to the government of the United Arab Emirates for its planned nuclear power program. The company formed an international team of nuclear generation and regulatory experts and continues to provide advisory services in the UAE and also in other countries.
In 2009 the company's shares were listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, and Thorium Power, Ltd. changed its name to Lightbridge Corporation. Thorium Power, Inc. remains a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lightbridge, holding the intellectual property rights to the nuclear fuel designs being developed by Lightbridge. Lightbridge expanded its unique, world-class nuclear fuel design team.
In the meantime, the US and Russian governments moved away from joint work to dispose of plutonium; to-date neither country has disposed of any. After the 2011 accident at Fukushima, the nuclear power industry moved to an even greater focus on safety. Complying with new safety regulations increases the cost of nuclear power generation. With the abundant supply of natural gas due to the advent of hydrofracturing, the wholesale price of electricity in the United States has fallen overall, and utilities in the US and worldwide are seeking to improve the economics of generating electricity from nuclear reactors.
Presently, Lightbridge has two operating divisions. In the fuel technology division, Lightbridge expanded the fuel offerings beyond thorium-based fuel to include metallic fuel developed by Lightbridge's world-class nuclear engineers. The metallic fuel is designed to address crucial issues facing the nuclear power industry by improving the economics of existing and new reactors by providing increased power output and longer fuel cycles, as well as by enhancing safety and reducing spent fuel volume.
Lightbridge's consulting business unit advises governmental and commercial entities developing new nuclear power programs or expanding existing programs. Lightbridge wrote the Roadmap for the United Arab Emirates nuclear power program and continues to advise the program. Lightbridge also provides consulting services in the Republic of Korea and several other countries. The company’s nuclear consulting expertise is in both the commercial deployment of nuclear generating capacity and in the safe regulation of nuclear power programs.