Russia nuclear chief asks global community to develop n-fuel cycle tech crucial to India’s energy programme

Crucial for implementing the Indian atomic power programme, the closed nuclear fuel cycle is the future of the global industry, according to a Russian expert.

By: IANS | Abu Dhabi | Published: November 2, 2017 7:44 pm
Russia nuclear power chief, International Atomic Energy Association, India's nuclear programme, nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear fuel closure technology, Rosatom, Kundakulam Nuclear Power Plant Project, uranium-plutonium fuel, pressurised heavy water reactors, fast breeder reactors, advanced heavy water reactors, uranium-233, plutonium-239, nuclear power reactors Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom’s Director General Alexey Likhachev said in his address at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) ministerial conference. (Image Source: Flickr/IAEA)

Crucial for implementing the Indian atomic power programme, the closed nuclear fuel cycle is the future of the global industry, according to a Russian expert, who has called for stakeholders to cooperate in developing nuclear fuel closure (NFC) technology and fast reactors.

“We are convinced that the future of the global nuclear power industry is going hand in hand with NFC closure, with the core represented by fast fission reactor technologies,” Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom’s Director General Alexey Likhachev said in his address at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) ministerial conference here that concludes on Wednesday. Rosatom are the builders and equipment suppliers of the Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu, the first two units of 1,000 MW each have already been operationalised.

“At Rosatom, we are now creating industrial facilities to recycle spent fuel in Russia, and we are also working on new uranium-plutonium fuel to help return spent fuel back to the nuclear fuel cycle. In view of the above, we urge all interested parties to get involved in cooperation in developing fast reactors and NFC closure,” he said. “This is not a technology of the distant future. There are good reasons to think that the complex products in this field will be offered to the market within the next 10-12 years. In nuclear power industry it means that these are the technologies of tomorrow,” he added.

The closed nuclear fuel cycle technology is crucial to India for implementing its three-stage nuclear power programme with the long-term objective of tapping the country’s vast thorium reserves. NFC technology involves reprocessing and re-making the spent fuel from nuclear reactors. India’s three-stage nuclear electricity programme consists of building Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRS) using natural uranium as fuel, fuelling fast Breeder reactors (FBRs) using plutonium and depleted uranium from the PHWRs, and construction of reactors using the rich thorium resources.

Russia nuclear power chief, International Atomic Energy Association, India's nuclear programme, nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear fuel closure technology, Rosatom, Kundakulam Nuclear Power Plant Project, uranium-plutonium fuel, pressurised heavy water reactors, fast breeder reactors, advanced heavy water reactors, uranium-233, plutonium-239, nuclear power reactors Rosatom are the builders and equipment suppliers of the Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu, the first two units of 1,000 MW each have already been operationalised. (File Photo)

India’s thorium deposits, estimated at 360,000 tonnes, far outweigh its natural uranium deposits of 70,000 tonnes. The country’s thorium reserves make up 25 percent of the global reserves. India is currently developing the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) which will be fuelled by a mix of Uranium-233, converted from thorium, and plutonium. Uranium-233 is the reactor fuel for this third stage of the Indian nuclear power programme.

The key to the AWHR’s development is the second stage of nuclear power generation that envisages the use of Plutonium-239, obtained from the first stage reactor operation, as the fuel core in fast breeder reactors (FBR). Pu-239 is the primary fissile element used in the FBR. According to the IAEA here, 30 countries currently operate nuclear power plants and around 30 others are considering or preparing to introduce nuclear power. Fifty seven power reactors are currently under construction around the world.

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    Eva
    Nov 8, 2017 at 12:45 pm
    The concerns regarding nuclear power in India cannot be ignored. There are several accidents in the realm of safety and security which questions the reliability of the india's nuclear establishment and its very cooperation with other states. Despite the high level of sophistication of the safety systems of nuclear power plants the human aspect has always an impact. Two good examples are Chernobyl and ushima. Increasing the capacity of nuclear power plants and reactors in a country which has poor disaster management system would be quite illogical.
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    1. Rabia Javed
      Nov 3, 2017 at 6:41 pm
      Nuclear power is not a gateway to a prosperous future. Although peace and brinksmanship cannot co-exist in the modern era, yet India seeks to destabilize Asia through its aggressive designs, activated with new arms race.
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        Arvind
        Nov 3, 2017 at 6:20 pm
        A leading Indian nuclear scientist has indicated that India should scrap its nuclear energy program. MP Parameswaran, a former scientist with the Atomic Energy Commission, while acknowledging that India has invested heavily in nuclear power, stressed that the country "will be forced to spend (a) thousand times more than that in the eventuality of a nuclear disaster." Parameswaran said the reactors at Kudankulam should be redesigned so they could be operated either with coal or natural gas.
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        1. Sanatanan Shambu
          Nov 3, 2017 at 4:11 pm
          To convert even 232 gms (imagine a small lemon-sized solid sphere) of metallic Th-232 to 233 gms of U-233, a very very large number of neutrons at the most optimum energy are required. While Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) are good for Th-232 to U-233 breeding in significant quan y, Thermal Spectrum Reactors such as the one at Kudankulam are not ideal. Large number of neutrons can also be produced by bombarding targets made of certain elements (eg. tungsten, tantalum, lead etc) with high energy protons in "Accelerators" for which purpose nuclear reactors are not essential. This technique is called "away from reactor breeding" of U-233 from Th-232. What is required is urgent INDIGENOUS development of such Away From Reactor Breeding systems DEDICATED to convert significant amount of Th to U-233 even as PHWRs and FBRs are being developed in parallel in India and deployed. Subsequently Th Breeder Reactors can take over once a significant initial quan y of U-233 has been bred from Th-232.
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