Friday, May 09, 2008

"Breeder reactors can never be built, so nuclear energy is a lost hope"

Answer : Without breeder reactors, the nuclear resources in earth will not last for more than 600 years. And without breeder reactors, there will be enormous amounts of nuclear waste awaiting disposal. But breeder reactors lie at the heart of nuclear hope. This is because these reactors use 60% of the Uranium fuel instead of the 0.3% used in the current light water reactors(LWR). With breeders, nuclear resources will last for several millions of years ! There have been several efforts in the world to construct breeder reactors, but most of these reactors have been abandoned now. Sly anti-nuclear activists look upon this fact as a proof that breeders can never be constructed.

The truth is more intriguing. Firstly, breeder reactors have been successfully demonstrated, and we have 300 reactor-years of experience in operating them worldwide. India has been operating an experimental breeder reactor since 1985 ! Indian nuclear scientists have demonstrated a revolutionary design in 2005 of 'A Thorium Breeder Reactor' that can produce 600 MW of electricity for two years 'with no refuelling and practically no control manoeuvres.' This has been dubbed as the world's safest nuclear reactor. With such highly efficient designs available, why do we not construct breeder reactors ?

As it currently stands, reprocessing spent Uranium in breeder reactors is more expensive than mining fresh Uranium from earth. As long as shallow reserves of Uranium are available (for the next 60 years), breeder reactors will be economically unfavorable.

An MIT interdisciplinary panel has discouraged breeder reactors for not making economical sense currently, but this anti-nuclear activist has quoted this to say that the breeder design itself has been termed infeasible. This type of reporting is extremely dishonest.

Even though breeder reactors are currently uneconomical, we do well to construct them because they are essential for securing our energy's future.

Breeder reactors have also drawn a lot of political ire due to the fact that they produce high grade plutonium, which can potentially be used for bombs. The India-US nuclear deal had been in hot water for a few months due to the perceived US objections against breeder reactors. These objections have later been resolved in the current version of the deal.

The most visible example of a discontinued breeder reactor is the Superphénix reactor in France. The reason it stopped working was because of a missile attack by a radical environment group !

Technically speaking, ther are absolutely no hindrances for constructing breeder reactors. However, there are several political hurdles that need be overcome.

1 comment:

George Carty said...

You're wrong about Superphénix. AFAIK the missile attack of which you speak happened in 1982 during the reactor's construction.

The closure was in fact ordered by the French Green Party, who had been put into this position of control because the ruling Socialist party had lost its majority in parliament.