In the midst of a stormy debate on atomic energy, Indian scientists are now designing nuclear reactors that can be positioned in the middle of a metropolitan, or any large city. Construction of the reactors might possibly get underway within the next five years.
A conventional nuclear plant requires an exclusion zone that extends for 1.6 kilometers radius around the reactor, directly under control of the nuclear power plant administration. It is followed by a low population sterilized zone up to five km from the reactor where the growth of population is limited by administrative control. And finally, an emergency planning zone within a radius of 16 km from the reactor The outermost zone defines the minimum distance to high population centers.
Safety Features of AHWR Reactor
The much-delayed 300 MW Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR), the latest Indian design for a next generation nuclear reactor, now on the design table for close to a decade will burn thorium in its fuel core. Globally, thorium is three times more abundant than uranium.
The scientists designing this third stage in India’s 3-stage fuel cycle plan claim that it has several inbuilt safety features to allow the plant to be located even in densely populated areas.
Officials said these safety features would it make it possible to meet the next-generation safety requirements like three-day grace period for operator response, elimination of the requirement of an exclusion zone beyond the plant perimeter, hundred-year life duration, and high-level of fault tolerance. Designed with a high-level of fault tolerance, the AHWR provides for a much greater immunity even from an insider threat.
Mr. Shiv Abhilash Bhardwaj, director (Technical), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) confirmed this. He said: “The AHWR has a number of inbuilt safety features that would require very little exclusion zone and can be built right in the heart of the city.”
He further said that they expect to start construction of the AHWR during the 12th Plan period.
A site for building the AHWR, designed by a team of nuclear scientists led by former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Mr Anil Kakodkar and incumbent Mr Ratan Kumar Sinha, is yet to be finalized.