Q&A: Thorium Reactor Designer Ratan Kumar Sinha

The head of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre's reactor design updates IEEE Spectrum on India's progress with an alternative nuclear fuel

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Given its limited reserves of natural uranium and its abundant supply of thorium, India has chalked out a unique three-stage nuclear program. In the first stage, pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs)--similar to those used in advanced industrial countries--burn natural uranium. In the second stage, fast-breeder reactors, which other countries have tried to commercialize without success, will burn plutonium derived from standard power reactors to stretch fuel efficiency. In the key third stage, on which India's long-term nuclear energy supply depends, power reactors will run on thorium and uranium-233 (an isotope that does not occur naturally).

Scientists and engineers at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, in Mumbai, have designed a novel advanced heavy water reactor to burn thorium. They say that because no reactor in the world today uses thorium on a large scale, they will be breaking new ground. The head of the Mumbai reactor design and development group, Ratan Kumar Sinha, spoke to IEEE Spectrum's Seema Singh in July about the challenges of and prospects for this new thorium reactor technology.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

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