In the last couple of years the world has seen a paradigm shift and the need for energy has increased many fold. With climate change acquiring global importance, the search for viable alternative energy sources has become more urgent.
The nuclear energy as a source of energy got set back with the accident at Chernobyl in the erstwhile USSR and Three Mile Island in the USA but in recent times there has been a revival of interest in nuclear power because of its potential to combat climate change. It has also the capacity to solves the problem of over-reliance on oil and is capable of generating power on a large scale other sources like solar and wind energy are other options but much work is required for adopting them as viable source of energy.
The increasing oil prices in the world market also turning back to nuclear power. Britain had now called for a huge expansion of nuclear power and have planned to collaborate with France which generates 79% of its electricity by nuclear power station. Turkey has also opened bidding for the construction of nuclear power plant. United States of America also working for expansion of nuclear power.
India has also initiated various nuclear projects to meet its energy requirement. For this India has visualized three stage nuclear power programmes. The three stage programme of pressurized heavy water reactor, fast breeder reactor, and thorium based reactor, will be integrated into one. India has also vast source of thorium which is processed from the beach sands of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Indian thorium is considered to be of high grade and India has five times more thorium than uranium and the energy content in thorium reserves is about 4000 times the energy that can be generated from Uranium. But thorium by itself is not a nuclear fuel and is required to it turns into U-233 an excellent nuclear fuel.
The U-233 is chemically separated from irradiated thorium and is called thorium derived uranium. The thorium utilization is the long term core objective of the Indian Nuclear power programme for providing energy security on a sustainable basis. A beginning has already been made by introducing thorium in a limited way in research reactors and in pressurized heavy water reactors.
The research reactor Kamini operating at Kalpakkam using Uranium- 233 fuel which is derived from thorium. The BARC is also engaged in developing 300 Mew Advanced Heavy Water Reactor for thorium based power generation. Mixed Thoria-Urania and Thoria-Plutonia are the fuels for the Advanced Heavy Water Reactors.