Skip to main content

Nuclear Power from Thorium: Some Frequently Asked Questions

  • Conference paper
  • First Online:
Thorium—Energy for the Future

Abstract

From the inception of the nuclear power programme, the role thorium will play in sustaining supply of clean, safe and affordable nuclear energy for several centuries to come is being deliberated. The question is often raised why no commercial energy production unit utilising thorium has become operational till today. The present paper will essentially address this issue using a rather simplified language. The advantages offered by the Th-U233 fuel cycle in reducing the radioactive waste burden of the spent fuel and making it proliferation resistant are well known. In spite of these advantages, the absence of any fissile nuclide in the natural thorium makes it essential first to convert thorium into U233 by transmutation, and then, to utilise the latter as a fuel. It is for this reason thorium has all along remained as the nuclear fuel for the “future”. A fairly steady value of η (above 2) of U233 in a wide range of neutron energy spectrum makes it usable in different types of nuclear reactors—thermal, epithermal and fast. It is argued here that utilisation of thorium for energy production can be initiated without much delay using essential technologies available today provided a sufficient inventory of fissile material as a driver fuel is made available. However, some challenging technological tasks such as remote fabrication of U233-based fuel and industrial scale reprocessing of the corresponding spent fuel need to be addressed for operating a sustainable Th-U233 fuel cycle.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 169.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD 219.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  1. (a) Uranium 2007: Resources, production and demand. A Joint Report by Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 2008, p. 28, https://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/pubs/2008/6345-uranium-2007.pdf (b) United States Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries (2014), p. 167, https://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/thorium/mcs-2014-thori.pdf. Accessed 27 April 2017

  2. Uranium 2016: Resources, production and demand. A Joint Report by Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (2016), p. 40, https://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/pubs/2016/7301-uranium-2016.pdf

  3. Wikipedia, Occurrence of thorium. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occurrence_of_thorium. Accessed 27 April 2017

  4. Reserves of Uranium and Thorium. http://www.dae.nic.in/writereaddata/parl/winter2016/lsus2377.pdf

  5. P.G. Boczar, et al., Thorium Fuel Cycle Studies for CANDU Reactors, vol. 1319 (IAEA-TECDOC, 2002), p. 25

    Google Scholar 

  6. P.G. Boczar, et al., Recent Advances in Thorium Fuel Cycles in CANDU Reactors, vol. 1319 (IAEA-TECDOC, 2002), p. 104

    Google Scholar 

  7. H.P. Gupta, S.V.G. Menon, S. Banerjee, Advance fuel cycles for use in PHWRs. J. Nucl. Mater. 383, 54–62 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. A.R. Sundararajan, L.V. Krishnan, P. Rodriguez, Radiological and environmental aspects of Th-U fuel cycle facilities. Prog. Nucl. Energy 32(3–4), 289–295 (1997)

    Google Scholar 

  9. G. Olson, et al., Fuel Summary Report—Shippingport Light Water Breeder Reactor, INEEL/EXT-98-00799, Rev. 2 (2002)

    Google Scholar 

  10. R.C. Briant, A.M. Weinberg, Molten fluorides as power reactor fuels. Nucl. Sci. Eng. 2, 797–803 (1958)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. P.R. Kasten, et al., Summary of molten salt breeder reactor design studies. ORNL-TM-1467 (1966)

    Google Scholar 

  12. R.C. Roberson, Conceptual design study of single—fluid molten—salt breeder reactor. ORNL-4541 (1971)

    Google Scholar 

  13. P.K. Wattal, Recycling challenges of thorium based fuel, in International Thorium Energy Conference (IThEC-13) held in Cern, Geneva, 27–31 Oct 2013

    Google Scholar 

  14. A. Rajora, et al., Generating one group cross-section for isotope depletion and generation calculation for thorium, in A Paper Accepted for Presentation In International Thorium Energy Conference (ThEC-2015), to be held in Anushaktinagar, Mumbai, India, 12–15 Oct 2015

    Google Scholar 

  15. Status and prospects of thermal breeders and their effect on fuel utilisation. Technical Reports Series No. 195, IAEA, 1979, p. 7

    Google Scholar 

  16. S. Banerjee, H.P. Gupta, S.A. Bhardwaj, Nuclear power from thorium: different options. Curr. Sci. 111(10), 1607–1623 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. H.P. Gupta, Use of thorium in PHWRs, in National Conference on Power from Thorium: Present Status and Future Directions, Mumbai, 22–24 Dec 2014

    Google Scholar 

  18. H.P. Gupta, R.D.S. Yadav, S.V.G. Menon, S. Banerjee, Utilisation of thorium in different reactors, in German Annual Meeting of Nuclear Technology-2009 Dresden, 12–14 May 2009

    Google Scholar 

  19. C. Grove, Comparison of thorium and uranium fuel cycles. NNL (11) 11593(5), 9 (2012)

    Google Scholar 

  20. A. Radkowsky, A competitive thorium fuel cycle for pressurised water reactors of current technology. IAEA-TECDOC-1319 (2002), p. 25

    Google Scholar 

  21. R.K. Sinha, A. Kakodkar, Design and development of AHWR—The Indian thorium fuelled innovative nuclear reactor. Nucl. Eng. Des. 236, 683–700 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. K. Balakrishnan, A. Kakodkar, Preliminary physics design of advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR). IAEA-TECDOC-638, March 1990

    Google Scholar 

  23. A. Thakur, et al., Fuel cycle flexibility in advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR) with the use of Th-LEU fuel, in International Conference on Future of HWRs, Ottawa, Canada, 2–5 Oct 2011

    Google Scholar 

  24. R. Ramanna, S.M. Lee, The thorium cycle for fast breeder reactors. Pramana- J. Phys. 27(1&2), 129–157 (1986)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. D.K. Mohapatra et al., Physics aspects of metal fuelled fast reactors with thorium in blanket. Nucl. Eng. Des. 265, 1232 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. N. Hirakawa, et al., Molten salt reactor benchmark problem to constrain plutonium. IAEA-TECDOC-1319 (2002), p. 25

    Google Scholar 

  27. Trans atomic power, molten salt reactors. Technical White Paper, vol. 1.0.1, March 2014

    Google Scholar 

  28. H.P. Gupta, Preliminary design of molten salt converter reactor, in Conference on Molten Salt Nuclear Technology (CMSNT), BARC, Mumbai, India, Jan 2013

    Google Scholar 

  29. C. Rubbia, et al., Conceptual design of a fast neutron operated high power amplifier. CERN/AT/95-44(ET) (1995)

    Google Scholar 

  30. S.S. Kapoor, Accelerator-driven sub-critical reactor system (ADS) for nuclear energy generation. Pramana- J. Phys. 59(6), 941–950 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Introduction of thorium in nuclear fuel cycle, short to long term considerations. NEA No. 7224, Nuclear Science, OECD, 2015

    Google Scholar 

  32. J.B. Dee, J. Kupitz, International status of HTGRs. IAEA Bullet. 26(4), 5 (1984)

    Google Scholar 

  33. B. Babu, V. Ramanathan, B. Rajendran, P.V. Ramalingam, B. Raj, Proposed modernisation and refurbishment of instrumentation and control system of the FBTR and Kamini reactors of India. IAEA—TECDOC-1625 (2009), p. 95

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences (BRNS) of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), India, for providing the financial assistance.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Srikumar Banerjee .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

About this paper

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this paper

Banerjee, S., Gupta, H.P. (2019). Nuclear Power from Thorium: Some Frequently Asked Questions. In: Nayak, A., Sehgal, B. (eds) Thorium—Energy for the Future. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-2658-5_2

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-2658-5_2

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Singapore

  • Print ISBN: 978-981-13-2657-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-981-13-2658-5

  • eBook Packages: EnergyEnergy (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics