India Has Almost Finished The World’s First Advanced Thorium Nuclear Reactor

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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India’s nuclear scientists expect to complete an experimental fast breeder nuclear reactor in Kalpakkam by the end of 2017.

The Kalpakkam reactor will generate 500 megawatts of electricity by using the element thorium instead of uranium, which is rare in India. The only other commercial fast breeder nuclear reactor in history is located in Russia, but this uses uranium instead of thorium. Fast breeder reactors would revolutionize nuclear power because they’re capable of generating more nuclear fuel then they consume while generating less nuclear waste.

“[F]ast reactors can help extract up to 70 percent more energy than traditional reactors and are safer than traditional reactors while reducing long lived radioactive waste by several fold,” Yukiya Amano, Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the Times of India.

China is pursuing a similar program, but experts suspect that its technology is more than a decade behind India’s. Japan and France also attempted to build their own fast breeder reactors, but failed due to unexpected technical issues.

India has a rapidly growing nuclear power program and the country plans to get 25 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors by 2050.

America currently gets 20 percent of its power from nuclear energy, but this could fall to less than 10 percent of its electricity from by 2050 due to exceptionally slow construction rates, according to the IAEA.

Getting regulatory approval from the federal U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build a conventional reactor can take up to 25 years, while building a new plant by itself only takes about 10 of those years.

The NRC requires so much paperwork from the nuclear power providers that the average plant requires 86 full-time employees just to go through it all.

NuScale Power spent $500 million and 2 million labor hours over eight years to ask the federal government for permission to build an advanced nuclear reactor. The energy company had to file a 12,000-page application to build an advanced nuclear reactor.

NuScale had to pay NRC officials $258 per hour to review the lengthy application.

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