Homi Bhabha developed India’s three-stage nuclear power program in the 1950s to ensure the nation’s long-term energy independence through the utilization of uranium and thorium reserves discovered in the monazite sands of coastal regions in South India. The program’s main goal is to make it possible for India to use its thorium supplies to meet the nation’s energy needs.
Three stage nuclear power program:
Stage 1- Pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR):
In the initial phase, natural uranium was used to power PHWRs, which also produced plutonium-239 as a byproduct. In the 1960s, India possessed the most effective reactor design in terms of uranium utilisation, hence PHWRs were chosen for the initial stage.
It was a prudent and logical choice to use Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors rather than Light Water Reactors. Light Water Reactors needed enriched uranium, whereas Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors used unenriched uranium.
In addition, as contrast to LWRs, India could domestically make the parts of PWHR. Additionally, the second stage would make use of the byproduct plutonium-293.
Stage 2- Fast breeder reactor (FBR):
In the second step, fuel for Fast Breeder Reactors would be created using plutonium-239. Energy is created from the fission of plutonium 239 Thorium will be used in the reactor after there is enough plutonium-239 to make uranium-233. The third stage depends on this uranium.
Stage 3- Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR):
Stage 3’s primary goal is to create a nuclear fuel cycle that is sustainable. Uranium-233 and Thorium would be combined to form the advanced nuclear system. India has a large amount of thorium that would be used in a thermal breeder reactor.
Thorium utilization was postponed until the very end because, despite its high availability, it has been fraught with difficulties in the creation of energy. It can’t be used straight up.
Thorium absorbs the neutrons, allowing the Fast Breeder Reactor to create more Plutonium more quickly and more efficiently.
Thus, the ultimate goal of the aforementioned initiative is to equip India with the ability to utilize thorium for the generation of sustainable nuclear energy.
Challenges in 3 stage program:
1.Safety and waste management are nuclear technology’s two biggest challenges. Chernobyl and Fukushima are grave causes for concern. Catastrophic incidents are less likely if nuclear energy is produced in accordance with the greatest safety requirements.
2.Fissile material’s accessibility is another worry. Nuclear fuel is hard to come by and requires diplomatic efforts.
3.Another significant issue in the nation is the decision of the location for nuclear power plants (NPP) and the acquisition of land. NPPs like Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu have had numerous delays as a result of difficulties with land acquisition.
4.The supply of nuclear weapons is severely constrained by sanctions against India because it is not a member of the NPT or NSG. After the waiver in 2009 and bilateral nuclear energy agreements with many nations, the situation has changed.
5.India also needed to increase its capacity for reprocessing and enrichment. India needs cutting-edge technology for this in order to properly utilize the spent fuel and increase its enrichment capability.
Maintenance of the skill base and ongoing, efficient safety control are required to assure the safety and security of using nuclear power. Consideration must be made to advancing waste management and disposal infrastructure. Maintaining and strengthening international non-proliferation agreements is also crucial.
By – Samiksha Shewale