India designs new version of AHWR for thorium use

India has designed a new version of Advanced Heavy Water Reactor which will use low enriched uranium along with thorium as fuel, chairman of Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar announced on Wednesday in Vienna.

Mumbai: India has designed a new version of
Advanced Heavy Water Reactor which will use low enriched
uranium along with thorium as fuel, chairman of Atomic Energy
Commission Anil Kakodkar announced on Wednesday in Vienna.

"A new version of AHWR named Advanced Heavy Water
REactor-Low Enriched Uranium (AHWR-LEU) that uses low enriched
uranium along with thorium as fuel has been designed
recently," Kakodkar said at the International Atomic Energy
Agency`s General Conference.
The reactor has a significantly lower requirement of
mined uranium per unit energy produced as compared to most of
the current generation thermal reactors, Kakodkar said.

"This version can also meet the requirement of medium
sized reactors in countries with small grids while meeting
the requirements of next generation systems," Kakodkar said
indicating that India was ready for export of such reactors in
the near future.

"While we strongly advocate recycle option, AHWR-LEU
would also compete very favourably even in once through mode
of fuel cycle (where spent fuel is stored without
reprocessing)," he said adding that the Department of Atomic
energy has circulated a brochure of AHWR-LEU at the Conference
for the benefit of potential customers.

The already designed and developed 300 MWe AHWR by Bhabha
Atomic Research Centre, which is expected to start production
soon, is mainly a thorium-fuelled reactor with several
advanced passive safety features, Kakodkar said.
AHWR has high level of fault tolerance and provides for a
much greater immunity even from inside threat. These features
therefore, offer enhanced intrinsic proliferation resistant
characteristics and high security strength, Kakodkar said.

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, he said.

The reactor is manageable with modest industrial
infrastructure within the reach of developing countries. Also,
for the same amount of energy produced, the quantity of long-
lived minor actinides generated is nearly half of that
produced in current generation Light Water Reactors.

"Importantly, high level of radioactivity in the fissile
and fertile materials recovered from the spent fuel of AHWR
and their isotopic composition preclude the use of these
materials for nuclear weapons," he said.

Kakodkar emphasised the need for global attention on
radioactive waste disposal issue.

While India considers recycle option backed up by
immobilisation of residual waste in inert matrices as a proven
technological option for safe geological disposal, there is
perhaps a need to develop partition and transmutation
technologies, Kakodkar said.
"This will reduce the radioactive half life of the waste
to a level wherein most of the radioactivity is lost within a
practical time frame comparable with life span of institutions
that are required to manage them," he said.

"Clearly this necessitates intense research and
development. Given the level of understanding and development
that we have reached today, it seems to me that this is a
realisable goal," he said.

Highlighting India as one of the few countries in the
world with experience in the ageing management of nuclear
power plants, he told the conference that recently the Indian
nuclear engineers have completed the Enmasse Feeder
Replacement (EMFR) for the unit 2 of Rajasthan Atomic Power
Station with a highest degree of safety.

"This complex and technologically advanced project was
carried out with entirely indigenously developed technology,"
he said.

Announcing that India`s indigenous programme is set to
accelerate, Kakodkar said "India looks forward to mutually
beneficial two-way nuclear cooperation with other members of

"After the last year`s intense diplomatic activities,
currently we are in the process of reformulating our plans for
the larger scale programme implementation taking advantage of
new possibilities that are emerging with the various
inter-governmental cooperation," he said.
As the Director General of IAEA Mohamed Elbaradei will
be leaving office after 12 years of leadership, Kakodkar said
his contribution to the agency was immense.

"Through his (El Baradei) tireless efforts, the IAEA
has been able to meet the many challenges before and apart
from being the chief navigator of the Agency, he has also been
a friend, philosopher and guide to its members states at all
times," Kakodkar added.

Bureau Report