New Delhi: Amid a raging debate on atomic energy, scientists are busy designing nuclear reactors that can be located in the heart of the city and construction on which may begin within the next five years.
The much-delayed 300 MW Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR), which has been on the design table for nearly a decade, has several in-built safety features that would allow the power plant to be located even in densely populated areas.
"The AHWR has a number of in-built safety features that would require very little exclusion zone and can be built right in the heart of the city," Shiv Abhilash Bhardwaj, Director (Technical), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) said here.
He said the construction of the AHWR was expected to start during the 12th Plan period.
The safety features in its design would enable meeting next generation safety requirements such as three days grace period for operator response, elimination of the need for exclusion zone beyond the plant boundary, hundred year design life and high level of fault tolerance, officials said.
The AHWR also has high level of fault tolerance and provides for a much greater immunity even from insider threat.
A site for building the AHWR, designed by a team of nuclear scientists led by former Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar and incumbent Ratan Kumar Sinha, is yet to be finalised. The AHWR uses thorium as fuel.
The AHWR is also expected to ease the land acquisition worries of the nuclear establishment as the reactor may not require any exclusion zone beyond the plant boundary.
In conventional nuclear plants, the exclusion zone extends to 1.6 km radius from the reactor, which is followed by a sterilised zone which extends upto five km from the reactor and an emergency planning zone which is the area in a radius of 16 km from the reactor.
The exclusion zone is directly under control of the nuclear power plant administration, the sterilised zone is a low population zone, where the growth of population is limited by administrative control.
The outer-most zone defines the minimum distance to a high population centre.
Land acquisition for nuclear reactors has run into protests in Haryana, Maharashtra and West Bengal and the AHWR may allow the nuclear establishment some flexibility in handling the vexed issue.
A typical nuclear power plant requires acquisition of 600 acres of land, most of which forms the exclusion zone.