Skip to comments.New Age Nuclear (Thorium is safer & cleaner)
Posted on 06/15/2007 11:33:29 AM PDT by BlackJack
Nuclear energy produces no greenhouse gases, but it has many drawbacks. Now a radical new technology based on thorium promises what uranium never delivered: abundant, safe and clean energy - and a way to burn up old radioactive waste.
What if we could build a nuclear reactor that offered no possibility of a meltdown, generated its power inexpensively, created no weapons-grade by-products, and burnt up existing high-level waste as well as old nuclear weapon stockpiles?
And what if the waste produced by such a reactor was radioactive for a mere few hundred years rather than tens of thousands? It may sound too good to be true, but such a reactor is indeed possible, and a number of teams around the world are now working to make it a reality. What makes this incredible reactor so different is its fuel source: thorium.
(Excerpt) Read more at cosmosmagazine.com ...
Please bump this article so as many Freepers as possible can get a chance to read it!
If what the magazine says is true I’m all for it. But if the piece on thorium reactors is as “accurate” as its comments about Gore”bull” warming I’m afraid I don’t put much stock in it.
Dr. Strangelove knew all about thorium 40 years ago.
We must not allow a thorium reactor gap!
Where does the thorium fuel come from?
Unfortunately, baby seals and spotted owls.
Kewl, I hope this works.
India to build prototype thorium reactor
The Indian Union Cabinet cleared the Department of Atomic Energy’s proposal to set up a 500 MW prototype of the next-generation fast breeder nuclear power reactor (FBR) at Kalpakkam, thereby setting the stage for the commercial exploitation of thorium as a fuel source.
Although uranium is the only naturally occurring fissile element directly usable in a nuclear reactor, the country only has 0.8 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves and may have to depend on imports in the future. On the other hand, India has around 32 per cent of the world’s reserves of thorium, and with a carefully planned program, indigenously available uranium can be used to harness the energy contained in non-fissile thorium to be used in the FBRs. Though the country’s atomic power program had produced only a little over 2,000 MW of nuclear energy over 34 years, the Indian Planning Commission has set an ambitious target of producing around 20,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020.
India has a so-called “three-stage nuclear program”. In the first stage, plutonium is created in its pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) and extracted by reprocessing. In the second stage, fast breeder reactors (FBRs) use this plutonium in 70-percent MOX-fuel to breed uranium-233 in a thorium blanket around the core. In the final stage, the FBR’s use thorium-232 and produce uranium-233 for other reactors.
The first stage has been realized with India’s 10 nuclear power plants. The second stage is only realized by a small experimental fast breeder reactor (13 MW), at Kalpakkam. This reactor has a history with a lot of problems (as has been the case with the 10 nuclear reactors). This reactor is on top of a list of dangerous reactors in the country, according to a safety assessment of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. The reactor has a lack of safety measures and cooling systems.
Unfortunately the U.S doesn’t really have any. Australia is abundant with it.
|Tarapur units 3 and 4 -PHWR 540 MWE each||2X1000MWE VVER reactors under construction at Koodankulam||
Inside view of Kamini reactor, critical in Sept 96, using U-233 fuel
AEC Chairman Dr. Anil Kakodkar addressing the IAEA
As the US Congress debates the Indo-US agreement on nuclear cooperation, a key aspect from the American viewpoint is that India has certain inherent strengths in the area of nuclear technology, which would enable India to forge ahead, albeit slowly, even without US cooperation.
Central to this argument is the availability of huge reserves of thorium in India. Thorium reserves have been estimated to be between 3,60,000 and 5,18,000 tonnes. The US estimates the economically extractable reserves to be 2,90,000 tonnes, one of the largest in the world. Our uranium reserves, by contrast, are estimated to be at a maximum of around 70,000 tonnes.
India currently has 15 commercial power reactors in operation, most of which are pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) which use natural uranium. Two Tarapur reactors are boiling water reactors (BWR) which need enriched uranium, which has to be imported.
Together they generate about 3300 MWe (Mega Watt Electrical) of power, about 4 per cent of that generated from all sources. Another six PHWRs are in construction, and along with the two VVER Russian built 1000 MWe reactors which use enriched uranium, they would add about 3960 MWe by 2008. The goal is to reach at least 20,000 MWe by 2020.
India's uranium reserves are low. Obtaining enriched uranium for the two Tarapur reactors and VVER type reactors requires the consent of the Nuclear Suppliers Groups countries, including Russia. This is where the agreement with the US is expected to be beneficial to India.
Also central to India's success in achieving these goals, is the harnessing of thorium, for which India has developed a three-stage nuclear programme. India has already developed and tested the technologies needed to extract energy from Thorium, but large scale execution has not yet been possible, mainly because of limited availability of Plutonium.
Stage one is the use of PHWRs. Natural uranium is the primary fuel. Heavy water (deuterium oxide, D2O) is used as moderator and coolant. The composition of natural uranium is 0.7 percent U-235, which is fissile, and the rest is U-238. This low fissile component explains why certain other types of reactors require the uranium to be enriched i.e. the fissile component increased.
In the second stage, the spent fuel from stage one is reprocessed in a reprocessing facility, where Plutonium-239 is separated. Plutonium, of course, is a weapons material, which goes towards creating Indias nuclear deterrent.
Pu-239 then becomes the main fissile element, the fuel core, in what are known as fast breeder reactors (FBR). A test FBR is in operation in Kalpakkam, and the construction for a 500 MWe prototype FBR was launched recently by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
These are known as breeder reactors because the U-238 blanket surrounding the fuel core will undergo nuclear transmutation to produce more PU-239, which in turn will be used to create energy.
The stage also envisages the use of Thorium (Th-232) as another blanket. Th-232 also undergoes neutron capture reactions, creating another uranium isotope, U-233. It is this isotope which will be used in the third stage of the programme. Thorium by itself is not a fissile material, and cannot be used directly to produce nuclear energy. The Kamini 40 MWe reactor at Kalpakkam which became critical in Sept 1996, using U-233 fuel, has demonstrated some of these technologies.
India is currently developing a prototype advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR) of 300 MWe capacity. The AHWRs, which use plutonium based fuel, are to be used to shorten the period of reaching full scale utilisation of our thorium reserves. The AHWR is thus the first element of the third stage. AHWR design is complete but further R and D work is required, especially on safety. It is expected to be unveiled soon and construction launched.
In the third phase, in addition to the U-233 created from the second phase, breeder reactors fuelled by U-233, with Th-232 blankets, will be used to generate more U-233.
The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre has estimated that India's thorium reserves can amount to a staggering 3,58,000 GWe-yr (Giga Watt Electrical - Year) of energy, enough for the next century and beyond
BARC scientists are also looking at other designs, like an advanced thorium breeder reactor (ATBR) which requires plutonium only as a seed to start off the reaction, and then use only thorium and U-233. Here the plutonium is completely consumed and this reactor is thus considered proliferation resistant. A Compact High Temperature Reactor also under development at BARC . This reactor is designed to work in closed spaces and remote locations.
Success in harnessing thoriums potential is thus critical for the Indias future energy security.
India has put in place mechanisms for ensuring safety and security of nuclear facilities. The regulatory and safety systems ensure that equipment at India's nuclear facilities are designed to operate safely and even in the unlikely event of any failure or accident, mechanisms like plant and site emergency response plans are in place to ensure that the public is not affected in any manner. In addition, detailed plans, which involve the local public authorities, are also in place to respond if the consequences were to spill into the public domain. The emergency response system is also in a position to handle any other radiation emergency in the public domain that may occur at locations, which do not even have any nuclear facility.
Regulatory and safety functions of Atomic Energy in India are carried out by an independent body, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). The AERB was constituted on November 15, 1983 by the President of India under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 to carry out certain regulatory and safety functions under the Act. The regulatory authority of AERB is derived from the rules and notifications promulgated under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986. The mission of the Board is to ensure that the use of ionizing radiation and nuclear energy in India does not cause undue risk to health and the environment.
(Source: The Tribune, Chandigarh; Deptt of Atomic Energy)http://www.indembassyathens.gr/India-nuclear%20energy/India_nuclear%20energy_thorium.htm
Yeah it's called a fast breeder reactor. Uses mainly U-238 and "burns" plutonium. If this country wasn't a complete moron when it comes to reprocessing spent fuel rods etc. then Yucca Mtn. wouldn't need to be built to last millions of years. Thank you Jimmah Carter.
Thorium is a mineral in the ground....you mine it.
There is 550 times more thorium in the earth
Yes the US has lots of thorium.
More on Thorium as nuclear fuel:
Cobalt Thorium G.
It hasn't been pursued because those countries that developed enrichment technology already had the means to make a fissile form, 235U, from uranium ore. That was an easier go than breeding 233U from 232Th, for which you need an operating reactor anyway. So it was easier to stick with the uranium fuel cycle than switch over to 232Th-233U. As the article notes, you have other complications, either the need to use Pu and U in a mixture to juice up the neutron population, or one heck of a heavy duty accelerator. Speaking as one who spent a considerable amount of time dealing with accelerator physics in an "earlier life", I can tell you that the headaches associated with keeping a high beam current accelerator running are in some ways worse than dealing with fission products.
Breeder reactors burn U235 and produce plutonium as a by-product.
Thorium burns up the plutonium. No weapons application.
It’s a bi-product of trilithium mining.
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