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India's Nuclear Breeders: Technology, Viability, and Options

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journal contribution
posted on 01.12.1997, 00:00 by Rahul Tongia, V. S. Arunachalam
India's nuclear power program is based on indigenous materials and technology, with the potential for providing energy security for many centuries. This paper examines the technical validity of this plan, specifically the role of breeder reactors for extending the domestic uranium supplies. Our study shows breeding is unlikely to occur at anywhere near the rates envisioned, leading to a slow growth of fast breeder reactors. In addition, domestic uranium reserves restrict growth of Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), which are likely to be the main contributors to nuclear capacity in the short-term. The Th-U233 cycle in fast breeders does not appear attractive, and, for the U238-Pu cycle, only metallic fuel offers hope of rapid increase in available fissile material. To increase the share of nuclear power in the coming decades, India should consider the construction of a number of large thermal reactors based on indigenous and imported uranium.