Friday, November 09, 2012

China Plans 58 GW Nuclear Power; India Plans 20 GW w/ Thorium Reactors on the Way

China has returned to a routine nuclear reactor approval process, after revising its nuclear reactor guidelines following the Fukushima earthquake / tsunami caused nuclear reactor damage.
The Chinese plan set a new 2020 capacity target of 58 gigawatts (GW), and while it was higher than an original target of 40 GW set in 2007, it was still far lower than 80-100 GW figure the industry was anticipating before Fukushima. China's current nuclear capacity stands at 12.57 GW. _Reuters
This announcement suggests plans to build about 45 GW of new nuclear power capacity by 2020 in China.

India has announced plans to build to 20 GW capacity of nuclear power generation, with some of that nuclear power generation coming from thorium reactors eventually.
"India has plan to produce 20,000 mega watt of nuclear power. It is important because it is clean energy. We have lot of thorium reserves. Of course we are now using uranium based nuclear reactors. Another decades time we will be thorium based. _bnlive
India's announcement last week of a groundbreaking next year for a new 300 MW thorium cycle AHWR, has been greeted with some skepticism outside of India:
Last week, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) put out statements to the Indian press touting the safety of its new Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR), which could break ground near one of the country's conventional reactors next year. Once operational, they claim it will fulfil the vision of India's 60-year-old blueprint for thorium-based nuclear energy production, generating 300 megawatts of power from thorium more safely than nuclear energy has ever done. NPCIL's technical director, Shiv Abhilash Bhardwaj, told the press that such reactors will be so safe they can be built right inside major cities like Mumbai.

The rhetoric is familiar: for decades, thorium has been repeatedly held up as a cheap, clean way forward for nuclear power. Compared with the uranium-based fuel cycles, thorium produces far smaller amounts of radioactive waste elements - including plutonium, which remains dangerous for tens of thousands of years.

...Ralph Moir, a nuclear physicist at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California, suggests that India's devotion to thorium is driven more by ideology than science. India's nuclear road map was laid out by nuclear pioneer Homi Bhabha in 1954. His primary goal was not safe nuclear power but energy independence based on the sheer abundance of thorium in the country - as much as one-quarter of the world's supply.

...Meanwhile, China has raced ahead. Not distracted by thorium, China built uranium reactors at a furious pace and its nuclear capacity now stands at three times India's, despite having only completed its first power plant in 1991. _NewScientist
The New Scientist article linked above ends with a snide comment that "nuclear power is not necessarily safe."

But in reality, nuclear power is historically the safest form of power generation by far -- including when compared to wind, solar, and hydro.

Green anti-nuclear activists are well placed in the governments of the US, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and elsewhere. The long term effect of their actions to delay development of safer, cleaner, more affordable and reliable forms of nuclear reactors will have a damaging effect on the safety and quality of life of the citizens who are unfortunate enough to be living under their ideology-driven influence.



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