Indian reactor for thorium nuclear power will soon be ready (translation to english)
India invests heavily in a hi-tech nuclear program to provide power to hundreds of million people who currently lack electricity. India has small reserves of uranium, but large amounts of the element thorium, which is expected to last for thousands of years. Swedish Radios reporter Johan Bergendorff has visited the building of the country's first major fast-breeder reactor that will soon be ready.
Most things are already in place in the new reactor building of the nuclear power plant at Kalpakkam south of Chennai at India's east coast. The cooling system with liquid sodium, and the reactor's fuel rods is expected this summer and next year the plan is to start supplying power to the grid.
Few countries have managed to build a breeder reactor that really produce more new nuclear fuel while burning old. The Indian technology used in the breeder reactor is advanced, but the floors are swept nevertheless free of construction dust by village women with handmade brooms.
A third of India's population currently lack electricity, and the rest are used to constant blackouts due to electricity shortages that are threatening the country's rapid economic growth. Today, nuclear power accounts for only 3 percent of electricity production, the rest is mostly from coal and hydropower. But in 40 years, the number of reactors are planned to multiply.
- India is looking forward to have about 25% nuclear power in 40 years, says the director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Nuclear Research IGCAR dr. Subhash Chender Chetal.
Thorium is a silvery-white radioactive metal with low radiation. Thorium can´t be used as fuel before it is converted into fissionable uranium-233. This is done by irradiating thorium inside the breeder reactor while the reactor is fed with spent uranium from other nuclear power plants.
India has the second largest thorium reserves in the world in the sand along the beaches in the south. Thorium energy is expected to last for thousands of years and has some advantages in terms of nuclear waste and safety risk. India's goal is large scale thorium nuclear power and a first advanced heavy water reactor that runs on only thorium fuel will be completed by 2020.
- Ministry of Atomic Energy has designed a 300 MW reactor, known as "advanced heavy water reactor", which I hope will be completed in 2017-2018, says dr. Chetal.