Closing nuclear fuel cycle important to meet climate change threat

Chennai, With the threat of climate change looming large, it is important to close the nuclear power fuel cycle so that the base fuel could be used more efficiently. With a closed fuel cycle, nuclear power is almost akin to renewable energy, said a senior official here.

"If the fuel cycle is closed with plutonium and fast breeder reactors, the same amount of uranium will give 50 times more power. If thorium is included in closing the fuel cycle, as India is planning to do, this will be increased to 600 times," said R. Chidambaram, principal scientific advisor to the union government.

He was speaking at a two-day international conference on "Advancement in Materials, Health and Safety towards sustainable Energy and Environment-MHS 2014" that started near here Thursday.

The conference is being organised by Indian JSPS Alumni Association (IJAA) in association with the Government of India, and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). The event is sponsored by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Japan and co-sponsored by Bio-Nano Electronics Research Centre, Toyo University, Japan.

Chidambaram said solar and wind power can be used for some applications like desalination of sea water or hydrogen production. Expecting continuous power from these sources to the grid is a problem.

Addressing the gathering, former chairman of the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission Yoichi Fujiie called for closer cooperation between India and Japan in the field of fast breeder reactors.

The fast breeder reactor, called so because it breeds more material in a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes, is one of the key projects of India's three-stage nuclear power programme.

Speaking to IANS on the sidelines, Fujiie said India has the experience in building a commercial-scale fast breeder reactor (500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu).

Stressing the importance of material sciences in combating the climate change threat, Baldev Raj, president, Indian National Academy of Engineering said only four percent of the materials used by humans are renewable.

Pointing out that thermal power plants cannot be wished away, he said the only option is to develop such materials for power plant boilers and turbines which can tolerate high temperature.

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