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back to article India uncloaks new thorium nuke plants

India has revealed its plan for a new nuclear reactor design using the thorium fuel cycle. The Advanced Heavy Water design differs from China's molten salt or liquid fluoride designs. But Indian scientists expect the AHW reactor to be operational before China's, certainly by 2020, and are confident enough to seek buyers for …

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+1 to petition

as above

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Re: has acquired just 50 signatures. ®

51 now.

Come on Commentards, get your twitters out.

^_^

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Boffin

+1 too

The cynic in me, however, suspects that the UK gov is less interested in thorium tech than it should be in part because it produces no 'nasty' isotopes of things like uranium and plutonium than can be refined and made into bombs.

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Wam

Good to see the number of signatures climbing now ...

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+1

This'd be a good time to get all boring on Facebook and the like, wouldn't it? ;)

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Yup, just did.

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About thorium supplies

Interestingly, there is always throium as a by product of rare earth mining. And there will almost always be rare earths as a by product of thorium mining.

That two birds one stone thing.....

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Great to see investment in Thorium - not least because the Thorium cycle cannot be weaponized.

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"the Thorium cycle cannot be weaponized."

At the moment. Heck, trees can be weaponized, come to that.

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Mushroom

"Cannot be weaponised" - tee hee

ITYM "is hard to weaponise".

The US did make one 233U bomb just to see if it was possible. It went BANG as expected.

Its expected that it would be easier for inspectors to check whether a thorium reactor was being de-fueled for bomb making, but of course India isn't in the NPT, so there are no inspections.

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Black Helicopters

Cannot be weaponised easily without somebody noticing.

I understand that it is difficult to work with the hard gamma radiation in order to make a bomb and repositories of 233U are very difficult to conceal.

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Mushroom

U233 is relatively nice for weapons

As other posters have pointed out, "U233" has a high gamma output from the U232 that comes as part of the U233 production process, much the same way that Pu240 is produced in conjunction with Pu239. The main gamma line from U232 is relatively low energy and is thus easy to shield to the point where it isn't a major threat to personnel (not so easy to shield from an isotope identification survey).

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+1

The e-petition is now up to over 270 signatures...

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Flame

This all sounds like

..a rip-off of the THTR-300 design. They have the same electric output and (from what we can learn out of the Guardian article), they use a Thoium-Uranium oxide fuel, just as the German reactor.

Meanwhile we pay 20 eurocent/kWh to subsidize all the solar cells and windmills.

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Joke

Burn all the windmills

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THTR-300? No.

Not a lot of heavy water in the THTR-300.

That was (as the name implies) a hot, gas cooled pebble fuel design.

Just at a guess this is a CANDU running with thorium instead of natural uranium.

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The Government of Canada simply lacks the independent ability to act that GE has.

Yes it is based on the CANDU (according to Wikipedia), but the Government of Canada and AECL did not participate in pushing the CANDU system to the next level.

Apparently we (Canada) didn't sell enough CANDUs to make the design profitable, and AECL being a crown corporation meant constant foreign policy headaches as the US government told our government who we could and could not sell to.

The Government of Canada simply lacks the independent ability to act that GE and other US-based corporations have.

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Anonymous Coward

+1

+1 signeture from me

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The Decline Of The West

Germany had a 300 MW (electric) Thorium reactor running in the 80s. The Greenies killed it off. I assume their paymasters did not like the fact it could have been used for coal gasification (coal->petrol). After all, who would pay for Saudi and Russian luxury if we didn't need their oil ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THTR-300

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Anonymous Coward

Ahh..

Is that the one that had issue with stuck pebble and radioactive leak ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor#Thorium_High_Temperature_Reactor

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Decline - bit gentle

Think the term fell off a cliff edge is most appropriate. Of course the rich 0.1% who pay the slightly less rich but certainly very comfy politicians are getting their way. And they don't care when us pathetic little guys have cold hovels, can't travel and can only envy them on the bit of the internet they don't censor to oblivion.

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+1 to petition also. Really liked the summary of UK Energy policy at the end as well. Top stuff!

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Coat

I misread that as pants not plants

I'll get it on the way out.

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Anonymous Coward

Methinks the government has taken a bung the size of the ozone hole from windmill manufacturers.

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Big Brother

Did I do something wrong

Went to petition to add my vote upon visting there were 90 votes and after I cast mine there was 82.

It appears I'm classed as a negative when voting clear BB is watching :)

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Mushroom

+2

The post is required, and must contain letters.

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Me too :)

Signed, for all the good it will do.

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Anonymous Coward

Or is this an old Empire attitude - rather than " "very interesting, now go away – we have windmills to build" it really means " "very interesting, now go away – you're Indians, what can you possibly teach us about Nuclear technology"

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+1 to petition

Me too.

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Petition...

...duly signed.

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Another +1 to petition here as well!

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Good to see thorium designs being pushed again

My understanding is that in the early days of nuclear thorium was the preferred route among many engineers and scientists as the reaction is inherently safe - it will shutdown unless you actively keep it going, unlike a uranium pile - and the fuel is more abundant than uranium and requires less processing.

However the uranium/plutonium cycle won the race for research funding as it was more suited to use on things like nuclear subs, and of course resulted in material suitable for use in weapons.

Thorium reactors are inherently safe (in the sense that you can't have a meltdown) and don't put nasty stuff in the hands of nasty people.

Of course I'm sure someone with more knowledge of these things will probably correct me on some of that IANANS.

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Holmes

Thorium...

named after its discoverer Thora Hird. The ore from which it is derived is called Compo Simmonite.

100% of FACT*

*may be a lie.

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Bombs

Apparently thorium reactors are an old idea whose time would have come soone had uranium not been so useful for killing people.

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indian thorium reactor

Their design is much more like a conventional uranium reactor and forfeits some of the benefits of the LFTR (or TMSR as the Chinese call it) design: the "not much nuclear waste" benefit and the "inherently safer" benefit specifically. On the other hand it's much more like conventional technology so their development timescale is shorter.

Still it's good news if they get it right. And let's hope they pay good attention to safety (more than the UC plant in Bhopal anyway). Nuclear power is great in potential and the yields are so high that every reasonable step should be taken to make it safe. Note i'm not saying "every possible step" like they have for protection from radiation where thresholds are ridiculously low, which kind of denies any potential economic benefit.

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+1 signers

Thanks for the heads-up about this petition.

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says:

"Very interesting, now go away – we have windmills to build" can be otherwise interpreted as "Very interesting, but it will have to wait until sufficient MPs and their relations have managed to grab controlling interests in the production companies to make it worthwhile."

+1 to the Thorium Reactor here. If they want to build one in my otherwise too small garage they can, as long as I get the power to the house for free and they leave a bit of room for the mower.

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Mister

Signed, FB'd and +'d

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I for one welcome our new Indian overlords

The next decade or so will certainly be interesting.

The West has been napping on the job for far too long.

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Anonymous Coward

Indian priorities

It's great India sorted out their huge slums and poverty of half a billion people before spending money on satellite launches and nuclear power plants.....oh.

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Well if you want the power to bring a billion odd people a decent standard of living windmills aren't going to cut it are they so they might want to look at building some nukes. Or would you rather they built lots of coal powered stations?

And when they start selling satellite launch space to us they should have developed the engineering know how to help improve their countries infrastructure. Plus some worthless foreign currency I'd imagine.

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+1

And faceclothed!

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Mushroom

Andrew, are you sure you are not from Texas?

Sorry for the flame, but you really appear to be from the states.. well, from the lone star state ;)

I would prefer breeder nuclear plants + the renewables you dispise so much.. I would really like to convince you..

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The only thing "renewable" about green energy will have to be the subsidies. Without those, the whole scheme falls apart.

It speaks volumes about the technology's viability, IMO.

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WTF?

I don't think Andrew's against "renewables" in principle.

The problem is that they're very context-sensitive technologies, and haven't lived up to expectations. (Also, fossil fuels are, almost by definition, "renewable" sources: the renewal cycle just happens to take a very long time. In a scant few million years, our distant descendants may well be refining *us* for fuel!)

If there's no wind over your land, where do you get your electricity from? Solar power? What if the air is still, and it's night-time? You could lift water into a holding lake when you have an excess of power, but that does rather rely on there being a convenient bit of uninhabited geography to flood for said purpose. The UK already has such installations in mountainous regions like Wales, but you need a lot more of them to supply all the country's energy needs.

You need a _baseline_ supply that can be relied on to be there no matter what. And you simply cannot get that from most so-called "alternative" sources. ("So-called" because Italians and Americans—among many others—have been using wind-powered pumps to extract water from wells for generations. It's hardly a new energy source.)

Furthermore, solar energy systems are also location-sensitive. Italians are already used to high energy prices and very low mains supplies—3 kWh at the door is *normal* here; it's why the Italians didn't invent the electric kettle and toaster!—but they are blessed with lets of sunshine, so solar energy is, in fact, catching on in rural Italy in a big way. It's not a runaway success by any means, but you won't find it hard to spot installations. (Italians live primarily in apartments in urban areas, which makes solar panels harder to justify due to the limited roof space caused by such high density housing.)

The UK has a long history of cheap electricity thanks to its own coal and natural gas resources. This is only now starting to change, but it means people still think nothing of having a toaster, an electric oven, a power shower, and any number of TVs and other gadgets all running at the same time. A supply of 10 kWh at the door is still considered normal. Photovoltaic panels simply aren't going to make as noticeable a dent in British electricity bills as they do in Italy.

Solar heating may have some benefits, but it does require additional infrastructure in your hot water system—you need a large hot water tank, for example. British housing stock is primarily still of Victorian construction, so there are a lot more maisonettes and split houses that make fitting rooftop infrastructure difficult to justify: each flat usually has its own, separate, heating and electrical systems, for example. These can cost thousands to adapt—and that's on top of the panels themselves.

There is no magic wand. No "one size fits all" solution. And this point has been behind many of Andrew Orlowski's posts.

The visual and aural news media simply don't have the luxury of explaining all this, so they tend towards soundbites and oversimplification; everything is binary: black or white, yes or no, with us or against us. There's never much exploration of the subtle grey areas in between and the narrative invariably attempts to portray science as Panacea or Pandora's Box, but never as it truly is: a tool.

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Anonymous Coward

Just needed to know that a petition existed...

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The Nay Sayers

Are a bit quiet!

Whats wrong? Too much logic in it?

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Petition signed

394 now! Wow.

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Anonymous Coward

Good for the world

Nothing negative about Thorium coming to the rescue of an energy deficient emerging nation. If France produces 75 % of its Electricity from Nuclear, surely India and China can achieve higher growth potantial with Nuclear (and more safely). They can even export these reactors to other third world countries to meet their leccy needs!

Dependency on oil will only bring chaos and recession cycles to these developing countries.

About time they accelerated nuke power manyfold and save us from this oil price fuelled recessions.

My guess : 5 thorium reactors in UK will bring anough electricity to actually bring prices down and reduce dependency on oil, which means oil only for petrol and cars.

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