Private players in n-power may be allowed: scientist

October 3rd, 2008 - 7:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Oct 3 (IANS) The country can allow private players into nuclear power generation if the issues of safety - of plant and materials - are taken care of, a leading scientist has said. “The Atomic Energy Act will be amended to allow private players. There are two main issues - operating the plant safely and the safety of the sensitive materials - in operating a nuclear power plant,” R. Chidambaram, principal scientific advisor to the government, told IANS here.

Agreeing that private players lack experience and may face shortage of skilled hands, he said, “Perhaps the private sector can initially partner with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, and may later go on their own.”

He said there are sufficient sites in the country to locate nuclear power plants.

According to him the signing of the nuclear deal with the US and opening up of the market for overseas reactors will not in any way affect the country’s three-stage nuclear power programme.

Nuclear energy is the sustainable mitigating technology in the context of global climate, he said.

“With the same amount of natural uranium, 50 times more power can be generated if the nuclear fuel cycle is closed. And fast breeder reactors are key to that,” he remarked.

India has adopted three-stage nuclear power programme which would close the fuel cycle.

Two other fissile materials that can fuel nuclear reactors are plutonium and U233, which are manmade and not available in nature.

The first stage is the setting up of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) powered by natural uranium. Besides generating power, PHWRs will convert a part of U238 in natural uranium into plutonium, which is separated from the spent fuel in plutonium reprocessing plants.

The second stage is fast breeder reactors (FBR) powered by plutonium (obtained from the first stage PHWRs) and U238. The fast breeder reactors will fission plutonium for power production and at the same time breed more plutonium from the U238.

The surplus plutonium from each FBR can be used to set up additional FBRs and grow the nuclear capacity in tune with India’s needs. Consolidation and further growth of the nuclear electric base is planned too by means of thorium breeders, which will form the third stage of the programme.

With the US COngress passing the India-US civilian nuclear deal, it is ready to be signed and will open up the doors of global nuclear commerce with India after more than three decades.

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