Design of the world’s first mainly thorium-based nuclear reactor is ready. Indiatoday.in
brings you the first look of the design and prototype of the Advanced
Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). It is the latest Indian design for a
next-generation nuclear reactor that will burn thorium as its fuel.
design is being developed at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in
Mumbai and is an important step towards the third stage of Indian
nuclear power programme, which envisages use of thorium fuel cycles for
commercial power generation.
The AHWR is a vertical pressure tube
type reactor cooled by boiling light water under natural circulation.
The unique feature of this design is a large tank of water on top of a
primary containment of vessel called gravity-driven water pool (GDWP).
This reservoir is designed to perform several passive safety functions. Dr
R.K. Sinha, chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, in an exclusive
interview to Indiatoday.in said: “This reactor can continue to cool its
core after passive shutdown without an external source of cooling water
and electricity and even without any operator action for nearly 110
The AHWR will be fuelled by a mix of uranium-233 and
plutonium, which will be converted from thorium and uranium-238
respectively by previously deployed and domestically designed fast
breeder reactors. Another version of the AHWR called AHWR-LEU will use
low enriched uranium along with thorium.
Thorium is an element
that is three times more abundant globally than uranium. India’s
reserves of thorium constitute 25 per cent of the world’s total
Earlier, India had set up KAMINI – a 30 kWth
experimental reactor at Kalpakkam which incidentally is the world’s only
reactor fuelled by U-233 derived from thorium.
AHWR, a technology demonstrator, is supposed to be launched during the
12th five-year plan and will take seven to eight years for completing
the construction. Thus generation of electricity from AHWR is expected
to be somewhere in 2025.