CHENNAI: As India is preparing for the third stage of Indian nuclear power programme which contemplates making use of Uranium-233 to fuel Thorium Uranium-233 based reactors, work has already begun to explore insitu resources of monazite.
India has abundant quantity of thorium resources contained in the mineral monazite occurring in the beach sand placer deposits along the eastern and western coasts of the country as well as the inland placers in parts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) through its Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration & Research (AMD) has established in situ resources of 11.93 million tonnes of monazite as on February 2016 in the country.
Indian monazite contains about 9-10 per cent of Thorium oxide ( 1.07 million tonnes of Thorium oxide).
The t hree stage nuclear power programme has been devised to efficiently utilise this large reserve of thorium.
The energy potential of this thorium reserve is estimated to be more than 155,500 GWe-years.
The three stage nuclear power programme aims to multiply the domestically available fissile resource through the use of natural uranium in Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, followed by use of plutonium obtained from the spent fuel of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors in Fast Breeder Reactors.
Large scale use of Thorium will subsequently follow making use of the Uranium-233 that will be bred in Fast Breeder Reactors, when adequate capacity has been built in the country.
The Union government has earmarked Rs 3,000 crore for nuclear power generation in this year’s budget and some of the funds could be availed for fast breeder reactors 1 and 2 in Kalpakkam , said sources in the nuclear industry.
Meanwhile, 500 Mega Watt Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in Kalpakkam, which is an important milestone for three-stage nuclear power programme, is slowly getting ready to be commissioned under the watchful eyes of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
Chairman and Managing Director of Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), P Chellapandi, said that a portion of sodium system of PFBR has been commissioned. The results are being analysed by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.
“Once it gets clearance after which the entire remaining part of the sodium system would be commissioned,” said Chellapandi.
After this we will apply for fuel loading and criticality following which we will sychronise the power with the grid,” he said.
Once the PFBR is ready, it is likely that the nuclear establishment would seek government sanction for the two 600 MW nuclear reactors in Kalpakkam.