India must establish thorium-based nuclear responses as an alternative source of energy: specialist

India should start developing thorium-based nuclear reactors as an alternative source of energy, said A S ivathanu Pillai, President, Task Management Associates, and former CEO & MD of BrahMoS Aerospace.

Thorium is a weakly radioactive metal chemical aspect. India’s reserves of thorium are at least 3 times larger than its uranium reserves. Its exploitation needs a correct sequencing of reactor-fuel cycle innovations in the total program, he stated at the 9 th edition of TANENERGY S ummit 2019 organised by FICCI and the Tamil Nadu State Council on the style: Emerging Energy Scenario in the Existing Financial Pattern.

Abundant supply

Nearly 25 per cent of the world’s thorium ore is readily available in India, especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Thorium has high thermal conductivity and higher melting point. For instance, 6 kg of thorium metal in a liquid-fluoride reactor has the energy equivalent of 66,000 MW hr. This is equivalent to 230 train vehicles (25,000 tonnes) of bituminous coal or 600 train cars (66,000 tonnes) of brown coal, he stated. With schedule of abundant thorium, India can take the lead in thorium-based reactors, he included.

According to the World Nuclear Association, out of the 63,55,000 tonnes of thorium resources available globally, India has 8.46 lakh tonnes, followed by Brazil with 6.32 lakh tonnes and Australia with 5.95 lakh tonnes. Other major nations that have thorium resources include the US, Egypt, Turkey, Venezuela, Canada, Russia, South Africa and China, the association’s website stated.

Thorium is discovered in little amounts in most rocks and soils, where it is about 3 times more abundant than uranium. Thorium is extremely insoluble, which is why it is abundant in sands but not in seawater, in contrast to uranium. Thorium is not itself fissile and so is not straight functional in a thermal neutron reactor. However, it is ‘fertile’ and upon taking in a neutron will transmute to uranium, which is an exceptional fissile fuel material, the association said.

Power from solid waste

Pillai also suggested generation of power through municipal strong waste. This is already being done in Salem, and can be duplicated in other places. The contamination in Delhi, for instance, can be suppressed by turning the waste into power. It is possible to generate nearly 5,000 mw of power through the 900 plants throughout India, he included.

On getting energy from oceans, Pillai stated uranium seawater extraction makes nuclear power totally sustainable. Almost 4 billion tonnes of uranium in seawater could fuel 1000 of 1,000 MW nuclear plants for 100,000 years, Pillai stated. It gets continually renewed and is as unlimited as solar and wind, he pointed out. This is a big job and countries should sign up with hands in this, he said.

India should invest in developing clean coal innovation; lower oil imports and promote alternative solutions such as electric cars and tap ocean thermal energy and uranium, he said.