Next stage for thorium

3 May 2002

India is preparing to start construction of a 500MWe prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) which will inaugurate the second of three stages in its thorium programme. The PFBR will be a pool type, sodium-cooled reactor with mixed plutonium-uranium oxide fuel and with a thorium blanket to produce U233. The reactor-grade plutonium for the MOX is produced in the stage 1 commercial heavy water reactors. Design life of the PFBR is 40 years, and both the project proposal and environmental documentation are awaiting government approval.

The third stage of the programme, using the thorium-derived U233, has not yet been defined, but the objective is to be able to utilise India's substantial thorium reserves.

A small Fast Breeder Test Reactor has been operating for some years at Kalpakkam, up to a level of 13MW, with high burn-up. It is cooled by liquid sodium, and uses indigenously-designed plutonium-uranium carbide fuel of 70:30 Pu:U.

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