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Towards sustainable, secure and safe energy future: Leveraging opportunities with Thorium

Anil Kakodkar

Growing economic empowerment of a larger part of world population and little carbon space available necessitates a quick shift to non-fossil energy sources.

Climate Change Stabilization Scenarios

Source: IPCC (2007), Table 5.1, p. 67

If total primary energy consumption doubles by 2050, 85% of energy must be supplied by clean technologies in order to attain a 70% GHG cut from 2000 levels.
Source: WNA Nuclear Century Outlook
Source IEO2013

We do not know how close we are to the tipping point. However we need to act now to secure survival of our future generations.

What we should do?

Business as usual approach is unlikely to work Apart from electricity we need energy in fluid form derived through non-fossil means This would need high temperature capability Since time is running out we need to explore what can be done by reconfiguration of available technologies even as we develop new technologies

Sustainable development of energy sector

Transition to Fossil Carbon Free Energy Cycle

Fossil Energy Resources

Carbon/ Hydrocarbons Electricity

(In storage or transportation)

H2O Other oxides and products


Fluid fuels



(hydro-carbons/ hydrogen)

Nuclear Energy Resources

Fluid Hydro carbons


chemical reactor


DERIVE MOST Nuclear Recycle OF PRIMARY ENERGY Sustainable Waste Management Strategies THROUGH SOLAR & Urgent need to reduce use of fossil carbon in a progressive manner NUCLEAR

Other recycle modes

In spite of such strong motivation, what has slowed the growth of nuclear power?

Irrational fear of radiation caused by LNT logic Potential for large scale displacement of people following a severe accident Panic potential following a terrorist action Unresolved spent fuel disposal & constraints on recycle

Regulatory delays

Evidence of threshold
Colorado ,USA has a population over 5 millions residents. According to LNT model Colorado should have an excess of 200 cancer deaths per year but has a rate less than the national average. . Ramasar ,Iran, residents receive a yearly dose of between 100-260 mSv. This is several time higher than radiation level at Chernobyl and Fukushima exclusion zone. People living in Ramsar have no adverse health effect , but live longer and healthier lives.
Crosses show the mortality of Chernobyl firefighters (curve is for rats). The numbers show the number who died/total in each dose range.

. We also know that China , Norway, Sweden, Brazil and India have similar areas where radiation level is many times higher than 2.4 mSv/yr world average.

In spite of evidence for no health consequences below a threshold, mindset driven by LNT logic has caused irrational fears in public mind with regard to potential accident impact in public domain. This has led us to a situation where significant off-site impact in a severe accident is no longer acceptable.

Can we eliminate serious impact in public domain with technology available as of now?

Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) is an innovative configuration that should nearly eliminate impact in public domain using available technologies.
Major design objectives

Several passive features

grace period > 3 days No radiological impact in public domain

Top Tie Plate Displacer Water Rod Tube Fuel Pin

The design enables use of a range of fuel types including LEU, U-Pu , Th-Pu , LEU-Th and 233U-Th in full core

Passive shutdown system to address insider threat scenarios. Design life of 100 years. Easily replaceable coolant channels. Significant fraction of Energy from Thorium

Bottom Tie Plate

AHWR Fuel assembly

AHWR 300-LEU is a simple 300 MWe system fuelled with LEU-Thorium fuel, has advanced passive safety features, high degree of operator forgiving characteristics, no adverse impact in public domain, high proliferation resistance and inherent security strength.
Clad temperature (K)
600 590 580 570 560 550 0 200 400 600 800 1000
Peak clad temperature hardly rises even in with extreme postulate of complete station blackout and simultaneous failure of both primary and secondary systems.

10 sec delay 5 sec delay 2 sec delay

Reactor Block Components

Time (s)

AHWR300-LEU provides a robust design against external as well as internal threats, including insider malevolent acts.

Reactivity change from hot standby to full power (mK)

> Higher thermal conductivity and lower co-efficient of thermal expansion compared to UO2. Melting point 3500o C as against 2800o C for UO2. > Favourable reactivity coefficients > Fission product release rate one order of magnitude lower than that of UO2. > Relatively inert. Does not oxidise unlike UO2 which oxidizes easily to U3O8 and UO3. Does not react with water.

ThO2 has better physical, chemical and nuclear properties to enable better safety
Thermal Conductivity (W/mK)
6 5 4 3 2 800
8 6 4 2 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 0 20 40 60

ThO2, BARC ThO2, INEEL ThO2, Bakker UO2

1200 Temperature (K)

Ref. case LEU LEU+Th LEU


For a Typical PHWR

Pu(RG)+D.U. Pu(RG)+Th U(WG)+Th Pu(WG)+Th

Lower fuel temperatures Less fission gas release Better dimensional stability Stable reactor performance Good stability under long-term storage

Burnup (GWd/te)

PSA calculations for AHWR indicate practically zero probability of a serious impact in public domain
Plant familiarization & identification of design aspects important to severe accident PSA level-1 : Identification of significant events with large contribution to CDF
Level-3 : Atmospheric Dispersion With Consequence Analysis
SWS: Service Water System

APWS: Active Process Water System

ECCS HDRBRK: ECCS Header Break LLOCA: Large Break LOCA

Release from Containment

Level-2 : Source Term (within Containment) Evaluation through Analysis

SWS 63%


Level-1, 2 & 3 PSA activity block diagram

Contribution to CDF

MSLBOB: Main Steam Line Break Outside Containment

Frequency of Exceedence

-10 -10 10 10

-11 -11 10 10

-12 10 10


-13 -13 10 10

-14 -14 10 10

110 mSv

10 0.1 Sv

10 Sv 1.0

10 Sv 10

Thyroid Dose (Sv) at 0.5 Km

Variation of dose with frequency exceedence (Acceptable thyroid dose for a child is 500 mSv)

Iso-Dose for thyroid -200% RIH + wired shutdown system unavailable (Wind condition in January on western 12 Indian side)

How can we address issues related to long term waste (legacy as well as new arising), proliferation concerns and realisation of full potential of nuclear energy?

At high burn-ups considered achievable today, Thorium requires lower fissile content

Discharge burnup (GWd/te)

Discharge burnup (GWd/te)

100 80 60 40 20 0

Discharge burnup (GWd/te)

Performance potential vs 100 fissile topping in PHWR

80 60 40 20 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Thorium-U fuel LEU


Performance potential vs fissile topping in BWR

LEU Thorium-U fuel

120 100 80 60 40 20 0 0

Performace potential vs fissile topping in PWR

Thorium-U fuel LEU

Fissile enrichment in initial fuel (%)

10 12 14

8 10 12 14 16

Fissile enrichment in initial fuel (%)

Fissile enrichment in initial fuel (%)

Indicative results for a set of case studies with U 235 as fissile material
Better fertile to fissile conversion Smaller reactivity swing with burn up Greater energy from in-situ generated fissile material Better Uranium utilisation






LEU-Thorium fuel can lead to better/comparable utilisation of mined Uranium

AHWR300-LEU provides better utilisation of natural uranium, as a result of a significant fraction of the Energy being extracted from fission of 233U, converted in-situ from the thorium fertile host.

Mined uranium per unit energy produced (Tons/TWhe)

Amount of Plutonium in spent fuel per unit energy (kg/TWhe)

Disposal of used Uranium remains an unresolved issue

There is already a large (~200,000 tons) used Uranium fuel inventory. Another 400,000 tons are likely to be generated between now and the year 2030 (as per WNA estimate). Permanent disposal of used Uranium fuel remains an unresolved issue with unacceptable security and safety risks. We need to adopt ways to liquidate the spent fuel through recycle.



Total Fissile

Thorium provides an effective answer to safe recycle of spent nuclear fuel.

Much production. lower Plutonium






238Pu 239Pu 240Pu 241Pu 242Pu 232U 233U 234U 235U 236U 238U

3.50 51.87 23.81 12.91 7.91 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.82 0.59 98.59

% % % % % % % % % % %

9.54 41.65 21.14 13.96 13.70 0.02 6.51 1.24 1.62 3.27 87.35

% % % % % % % % % % %

Plutonium in spent fuel contains lower fissile fraction, much higher 238Pu content which causes heat generation & Uranium in spent fuel contains significant 232U content which leads to hard gamma emitters. The composition of the fresh as well as the spent fuel of AHWR300LEU makes the fuel cycle inherently proliferation resistant.

Uranium in spent fuel contains about 8% fissile isotopes, and hence is suitable for further energy production through reuse in other reactors. Further, it is also possible to reuse the Plutonium from spent fuel in fast reactors.

Thorium, an excellent host for disposal of excess plutonium

Options for plutonium disposition

Initial fuel



Discharge fuel
0 0 20 40 60 80 100

Discharge burnup (GWd/te)

Plutonium destruction in thoriumplutonium fuel in PHWR

Uranium-based fuel: Neutron absorption in 238U generates additional plutonium. Inert matrix fuel (non-fertile metal alloys containing Pu): Degraded reactor kinetics - only a part of the core can be loaded with such a fuel, reducing the plutonium disposition rate. Thorium: Enables more effective utilisation of Pu, added initially, while maintaining acceptable performance characteristics.

Fissile plutonium content in the fuel (kg/te)

Adoption of Thorium fuel cycle paves the way to elimination of long lived waste problem
While AHWR300- LEU enables comparable utilisation of Uranium in a safe manner, issues related to spent fuel disposal can be eventually addressed through recycle of fissile and fertile materials. Production of MA lowered with Thorium MAs : fissionable in fast neutron spectrum.

Difficult power control system of critical reactor due to: - Reduced delayed neutron fraction (factor called beff) giving lower safety margin to prompt criticality. - Safety parameters: (1) Doppler coefficient, (2) reactivity temperature coefficient, and (3) void fraction- all would not be benign in TRU incinerating critical fast reactor.

We thus need accelerator driven subcritical molten salt reactor systems with P&T working in tandem to be developed rather quickly. Growth of nuclear power capacity should however pick up immediately through innovative reconfiguration of existing technologies as time is running out

Thorium is a logical choice for fuel cycle in both present and future systems

Detectability of 233U (contaminated with 232U) for all the cases, is unquestionable
6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 0 20 40 60 80 100
232U 233U

concentration in ppm

14 12 8 6 4 2 0 120
concentration (g/kg of HM)

6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 0


Exposure time for lethal dose









1 120

Burn up GWd/te

Burn up GWd/te

Case of Pu-RG+Thoria in AHWR

Lethal dose: LD 50/30( =5 Gy) for 8.4 kg Sphere of 233U one year after reprocessing, at 1 m distance

Exposure time (hr) to acquire LD50 at 1 m for 8.4 kg 233U


concentration in ppm




IAEA is not concerned with the tenth or the thousandth nuclear device of a country. IAEA is only concerned with the first.

- And that will certainly not be based on a thorium fuel cycle

- ---------Bruno -Bruno Pellaud, Former Deputy Director General,IAEA


Present deployment Of nuclear power




Enrichment Plant


Thermal reactors

Reprocess Spent Fuel

Fast Reactor


LEU Thorium fuel

For growth in nuclear generation beyond thermal reactor potential

Nuclear power with greater proliferation resistance




For ex. AHWR

Safe & Secure Reactors

Recycle Thorium

Thorium Reactors
For ex. Acc. Driven MSR

To Conclude:

Thorium is a good host for efficient and safe utilisation of fissile materials. It can support greater geographical spread of nuclear energy with lower risk Thorium can facilitate resolution of waste management issue and enable realisation of full potential of available Uranium. Fast breeder reactors would however be necessary for growth in nuclear power capacity well beyond thermal reactor potential Fast reactors as well as uranium fuel enrichment and recycle needs to be kept within a more responsible domain

Thank you